I agree with your propositon; life satisfaction comes from within.
You’ve said in other conversations that you refuse to discount direct experience as an inspiration for religious faith. I have had such an experience, but as it occured in a mental health ward, I have problems accepting it at face value. (Nor would I expect you to be convinced by it!) The essential difficulty is that I remain unsure if one can reason one’s way into faith, and unless I find a way to incorporate my ferocious intellect into religious practice, my position will be intollerable.
So I have to ask some more questions which my own search has led me to: given that a religious paradigm is not necessary for morality, nor is it a guarantor of moral behavior, can religion be classified as a cultural question rather than a moral one? Also, given my own background I have to wonder what effect early exposure to religion has on a child’s development. Outside of developmental concerns, I wonder whether a personal embrace of religion necessarily means forgoing those principles of free thought that are so important to intellectual rigor. I believe that this is the case in a number of sects, but I don’t have the knowledge of religious beliefs by sect to back up my belief.
My direct religious experience has added a sense of urgency to these questions. For reasons of community and understanding, I have been building connections with the Unitarian Universalist congregation in my area. I can’t deny that singing in the choir has a certain appeal which may outwiegh religious concerns, but the congregation seems to be most open and interested in helping its members puzzle through those moral and intellectual puzzles that faith presents.
It is definitely possible to reason one’s way into faith. For example, one could examine the facts and decide that a deity is the best explanation for the origin of life. I would disagree with such an argument and I don’t find it compelling, but I can’t discount it because it’s based on an individual’s level of comfort with certain evidence. moving from a faith such as this to a Bible-based faith is a big jump, but a reasonable individual might be able to do it if they are willing to accept certain kinds of proof as sufficient.
I’d say that religion is a part of culture, as is morality, and that they often overlap. I would also say that both have non-cultural components as well.
In my opinion, exposing children to religion has a wide variety effects, some good and some bad. Good effects would include the passing down of shared culture and knowledge and (hopefully) moral teachings. Bad effects might include emphasis on belief without thought, blind obedience to authorities, and belief in things that are not supported by facts.
Embracing religion does not require forgoing free thought (although it might be argued that some specific religions — particularly those popularly labeled cults — require this). It also does not necessarily require abandoning intellectual rigor. But unfortunately there are too many religious people who not only refuse to apply intellect to their religious beliefs, but also try and make this self-enforced ignorance sound like a sign of moral superiority.
Unitarianism may be a good choice for someone who is an atheist but enjoys the feeling of a religious community. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are many Jewish people in the United States to attend synagogue for cultural and social reasons even though they are openly atheists.