When I first encountered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster several years ago, I thought it was a brilliant satire over religions. Through their own obviously absurd beliefs and rituals, they highlight the often equally absurd beliefs and rituals in different religions. And they also highlight how society often silently agrees to not point out the absurdity.
And yes, I know that religions serve many functions. They give people a community and sense of belonging. They serve to regulate behavior. They give power to small groups of people. They instill fear and/or hope in people. They create problems (f.ex. original sin) and solutions to these problems.
Some of these functions may be partially helpful and some certainly are not (apart from for the small groups of people benefiting from it in a limited way).
People sometimes complain that Pastafarians mock religion. But that’s their whole reason for being. And religions, let’s face it, often deserve to be mocked – or, at least, have their inconsistencies pointed out.
As with most things, I think religions are mostly OK and that it’s not a problem to belong to one. (I have variously been involved with Unitarians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Zen.) But it is a problem if we are not honest about what’s really going on, at least to ourselves.
For instance, if we are honest we may admit that we chose a particular religion because we were born into it. That the beliefs are just something we (try to) hold as true because we are told to. That we don’t really know. That we are involved for social reasons or emotional comfort. That parts of religions reflect a particular culture at a particular time more than any universal truth. That the purpose of any religion perhaps is to perpetuate itself more than anything else. That we are involved only to explore certain practices and their effects and don’t care about the rest (as was the case for me with Buddhism). And so on.