Conventional religion teaches: That there is a God--who loves us---sends prophets--inspires authoritative books or men--sometimes inspires us directly---establishes churches--has incarnated (became flesh)---expects obedience/adoration--will send us to hell if we don't believe.
Here's how I see the situation and what I recommend: We all wake up in the middle of a mystery---not really knowing any ultimate answers about ORIGIN or DESTINY. ( How the universe began and what is our place in it.)
Adults feed us their "take" on these two questions and most of us "buy into" their story. (or occasionally some other prevalent story.) And we then live our lives more or less within that version of reality.
I SAY IT IS A DISHONORABLE WASTE OF LIFE TO LIVE IT IN SERVICE TO ANY LOCAL MYTH. ( as inappropriate as grown-up birds still feeding on the regurgitation of their parents.) Here's my idea of a joyful alternative:
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE ORIGIN OF RELIGION. You can get the gist of it in minutes by googling the origin of religion. It becomes clear how it evolved from magic, superstition, animism, totems, traditional tales and finally into full blown metaphysical theories.
2. WAKE UP TO THE FACT THAT WE LIVE IN A MYSTERY. (Re:origin and destiny)
3. EMBRACE THE MYSTERY. Consider that it may have been designed that way--mysterious--as an intentional, possibly pleasurable, adventurous, growth producing, loving--gift to us. Get comfortable with not knowing any ultimate answers---develop an heroic tolerance for ambiguity.
4. USE EINSTEIN'S TECHNIQUE---THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS---to explore some possibilities. (he imagined himself riding a light beam and discovered a new "take" on physics.)
5. IMAGINE NEW POSSIBILITIES regarding our origin and destiny:
a. What if----God disappeared itself INTO THE UNIVERSE---condensing itself into matter--becoming galaxies, stars, planets, people---just for the grand adventure of slowly evolving matter back into spirit. Creation/evolution. (Hinduism? Pantheism?) Imagine your place in that scheme. (e.g., help push evolution forward)
b. Imagine that God bypasses Prophets and Holy books to personally guide each of us in our journey. (a subtle small voice within us) (Wayne's take on the matter?)
c. Imagine that there are not one but two primary forces at work in the world---at war with each other---each vying for your soul. (Zoroastrianism---my friend Gr?)
d. Imagine that there is no God---no human destiny. How would you spend your time?
e. Imagine that there is a God but he doesn't intervene in the world--no messages--no miracles--just watches the drama unfold. (Deism?)
EXPERIMENT WITH YOURSELF. Imagine a theory that appeals to you and try it on for size. Live for a time "as if" that theory were true. Does it feel right? Does it work for you? Does it need a bit of tweaking? Tweak it. If it doesn't feel "right" try another. Try living as if there were no God---How does that feel.
TWEET YOUR RESULTS: Share your experiences with your friends--with the world. Someone might have useful suggestions.
CONCLUSION: Believing is a cowardly cop out from the challenge of engaging mystery. The Joyful alternative to (conventional religion) is to create your own religion/philosophy. Join the rest of us freethinking/experimenters as we do for religion what wikipedia has done for data. We all join in the process of improving (or abandoning perhaps) metaphysics.
We have all been victimized by bad metaphysical/religious theories. Preachers, Prophets and Priest have lied to us with pretensions of certainty and "revealed" ethics. I say we can take these matters of ultimate concern into our own hands; that obedience to "Gods Will" is not as interesting a life as creative responsiveness to this dazzling mystery.