Religion's Problem Starts Young

I went to my brother's high school graduation today and was in attendance for the first three speeches. One of them managed to piss me off. He attends a Catholic school so I expected some religious overtones in the words spoken. But there is a point where Christianity starts to exclude and negate other people and the second speech exemplified this very clearly.
The speaker pointed out that only in a Catholic school, where everyone is bound by the holy spirit can there be a good community. She cliamed that other ordinary public institutions with no focus on religion makes it difficult to reach out to peers. She shone a spotlight on religion that would make any zealot proud. Many in attendance nodded their heads and whispered in agreement. Do her words have any truth to them? No. There is no conclusive proof that a focus on God is somehow going to bring people closer together. I get an image of a cult, with people undeniably following a path that invloves excluding homosexuals and, largely, women. Of course a focus on a single idea will bring people together. That's why soccer teams are often close knit on and off the field. Fashion editors spend time amongst other stylish individuals. The Christian God is not the only thing that brings people together to form a strong community. If anything, it condemns some of its members, allowing entry only to those that fit the mold.
From my own experience, I have found that private Catholic schools breed a deeper sense of community, but this had everything to do with the limited amount of students in my class (50) and nothing to do with the spiritual. Because many of the students in these schools hail from middle-class to wealthy parents, there is already a segregation in play. A community that does not even open its doors to would-be-members is already an unsuccesful one.
With this closeness also comes many hardships, however, such as cliqueness, and a tendency towards drugs and alcohol. The cramming of religious views down our throats left many needing an escape. This often came on the form of anything illegal. Our parties were some of the most dangerous. Hard drugs were often present and experimented with by many. Alcohol flowed until people passed out. Many people I knew turned to sex, violence, and occasional shoplifting. For some reason, students at my high school craved an escape from our strict monotonous days at a religious private high school.
Now as an agnostic and a skeptic, I view the Christian church as more of a social institution than as representing something to be believed in. It is something that keeps hope alive in members of a society. It is needed in hard times to keep up morale. The ancient Greeks and Romans had their gods and deities to pray to during the worst possible time: war. This reliance on the supernatural echoes today, with people flocking to churches after the 9/11 disaster. Everyone thought the world was going to end and they wanted some assurance that they would atleast live on in a next life.
Religion, to me, is not the "guiding path to righteousness" or a guarantee for harmony within any given community. If the holy wars or suicide bombers are anything to go by, religion can be seen to cause more harm than good. In the end, however, it is up to an individual to decide what they wish to believe- or not to believe.

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