One of the reasons I'm now an atheist after having embraced an Eastern form of religion for 35 years is that it eventually dawned on me that religions are trying to solve problems that don't really exist.
This isn't the case with other cultural institutions.
For example, health care agencies try to solve the problem of people getting sick. Environmental groups try to solve the problem of pollution. Educational advocates try to solve the problem of helping children learn.
It's possible to disagree with how these problems are being addressed, but not with the fact that these are real problems. By contrast, Christianity, along with other religions, sees a big problem with sin. Which raises the question, what are they talking about?
"Sin" is a concept. It isn't something real in the same way sickness, pollution, and a lack of learning are. It's an idea that sprang from the minds of humans. "God" is another concept that doesn't refer to anything real. It's another idea that sprang from the minds of humans.
Put those two concepts together, "sin" and "God," and you've got the makings of a religion -- Christianity.
Most religious people, though, fail to realize how thoroughly they've bought into the concepts of their faith. So thoroughly, they never question the reality of those concepts.
Notions like God, heaven, sin, karma, soul, spirit, and such are discussed as if they possessed the same reality as trees, air, sunlight, water, dogs, and other entities that clearly exist.
So my advice to religious believers is this.
Think clearly about what problem, or problems, your chosen faith is trying to solve. If all you can come with is a self-referential statement like "The Bible says humans have original sin that only Jesus can forgive," then you've embraced a bunch of concepts that have no grounding in reality.
An exception is Buddhism, which is why Buddhism often isn't considered a religion, but a way of living.
Buddhism says that life is suffering. That's appealingly concrete. We know that life exists. We also know that suffering exists. Finding a way to deal with the problem of suffering is the foundation of Buddhism.
Somewhat similarly, my take on Taoism is that the problem it addresses is how to live in a flowing fashion, not being bound by rigid rules or attitudes.
"Flow" is a bit more conceptual than "suffering," but having been an avid student of Tai Chi for sixteen years -- Tai Chi being a physical expression of Taoist principles -- I can confidently say that flow is something that can be observed by others and felt by oneself.
Contrast that with the central concept of the Eastern religion that I belonged to for three and half decades: God-realization under the guidance of a Perfect Living Master. There's no evidence that God exists, so no evidence that God-realization exists.
Likewise, there's no evidence that a Perfect Living Master (or guru) exists. As I've observed before, if you stuck a supposed Perfect Living Master in with a bunch of other people and asked someone to pick out the perfect master/guru, there would be no way they could do this, because there is no concrete reality underlying the abstract concept of "perfect living master."
A recent issue of New Scientist has a column by Graham Lawton called "The war against reality." It deals with the thoroughly absurd notions promulgated by those who embrace QAnon. As Lawton writes:
To cut a long story short, QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that contends the world is run by satan-worshipping paedophiles who traffic children for sex and for a life-extending compound that is extracted from their adrenal glands.
It is named after a shady character called Q, who posts "inside information" on internet message boards. While it is all total and utter nonsense, two US presidents loom large in the QAnon narrative: Obama as one of the controlling elites and Trump as Q himself or the leader of the fight against the elites and the "deep state", a shadowy organisation that really runs the US.
Totally crazy, right? There's no evidence of what QAnon believes in. Yet a disturbingly large number of people think QAnon speaks the truth. Likewise, there's no evidence of what religions believe in, yet billions of people are religious.
Here'a another quote from Lawton's column that is a great summary of what turns me off about religion.
On a good day, I think of QAnon as a fascinating case study of human psychology and behaviour, laying bare how far from reality our minds can stray, how social forces can drag people into parallel universes and how we can sustain beliefs in the face of what is irrefutable evidence to the contrary.