So, I've been doing a job hunt and I came across an ad for a liberal arts christian univeristy, looking for a professor in my feild. I thought it was interesting and decided to check it out. I am a pretty active christian - I go to church every week, I sing in the choir and I am pretty active in my church community. However, when I looked further into the posted job, I realized that it was an evangelical christian university. That got me thinking about my feelings toward my own religion, my spirituality and how they relate to my career. This job wanted me to make statements of my faith (based on their interpretations of Christianity) and teach accordingly, as well as sign statements of my beliefs that they could hold me to. I have decided not to apply.
I really and truly believe that the best and worst of any religion is visited in some of the people who practice it. I am not in any way an expert on any religion, not even my own, so I'll only talk about what I do know from my experience. Churches can do wonderful things; they bring people together, they reach out to the community at large, and they provide support and comfort and guidance. In moving here I only truly found community when I joined a church, and through some of the darkest periods of my life, they have been there with support. But your church is also a microcosm of society, and I even within my own small congregation I have witnessed some of the worst backbiting and un-'christian' behaviour I could find anywhere.
I also find that Christianity in general suffers from this yin and yang. Generally, people I encounter on a daily basis, in Science particularly, associate someone who is involved in their chruch as a Bible-thumping fanatic. They are often surprised when I tell them that I am involved in my church, and feel that I believe that in my case, it enhances my appreciation of the science I study, not detract from it. My religion is a part of who I am, like a thread in a quilt, as opposed to a patch that I display. It makes me who I am, and thats how I present Christianity to the world.
I think many of the world's religions are typecast - judged on the basis of fundamentalist beliefs. I've learned through discussion with friends of many faiths that the tenents of all major religions are more similar than they are different - they talk of living a true and honest life and giving of yourselves to others. Its the 'us' versus 'them' that we hear more often (even within the same religion) that is counter to what our religions are truly about.
So, one of the things I enjoy about the academic environment I'm in now, is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, those who practice the same faith, different faiths, or none at all. In open and honest discussion, we all learn. And that's what its truly about for me.