: Well, since you asked...we could of course extend this discussion to all the other religions that believe in a Deity
, but let's stick closer to home since that's where this began.
"If you sin, you go to hell...What the hell is the spiritual value of that crap?"
Christians who say that sort of thing do so not because they think it has pragmatic value, but because they believe it to be an objective statement about the way the universe works. It sounds like an awful and heartless way to run Reality, I know, but please remember that it exists in the context of a much larger story that centers on forgiveness and grace.
"Be nice to save your own hide."
Face it: everything in this world has a carrot and a stick attached. Pretty much anything you do provides you with something you desire and prevents something else that you don't desire. (A famous paradox re: free will - can we ever truly act against our own interests?)
"Religious history is static, does one need to learn it over and over to be a good person?"
Well no, but if you don't care about religious history, don't take a religion class! I personally find it a fascinating subject but that's just me.
"Better yet, how about sitting in a church..."
Church can be a good thing, for several reasons. It provides a sacred space where you can focus on spiritual matters. It's a place where you can be around people who believe in the same things you do and support what you're doing (important in any endeavor, whether it's faith, art, coding, etc.). The sermons can provide information, inspiration, guidance, or simply a needed reminder about why we're here and how we're supposed to treat one another. Believe me, it's easy to forget those things in the course of daily life. Finally, it's the place where they hold Communion.
This is not to say that there aren't dysfunctional churches out there, or good churches with a few dysfunctional people in the mix. But we're all human, and most of those people are genuinely trying to do the right thing even if they don't always succeed.
"...with 200 bored, rich, white, old people..."
Are you suggesting that we should avoid people based on their finances, skin color, or age? :-) Keep in mind that you will be old yourself someday - and the fact that you are on the Web at all indicates that you are insanely rich compared to the majority of people on Earth.
"...people who spend the entire sermon thinking about what sort of doughnuts they are going to have at the reception."
What other people are thinking, during church or at any other time, is not your concern or your responsibility.
"I mean, the two young men I was speaking of in the beginning went on later to disect some Psalm while one of them calmy tried to justify pre-marital sex. I belive in pre-marital sex, but really..."
I think this confusion stems from the fact that you, as an agnostic, probably focus on the second part of the commandment you mentioned - the part about loving your neighbor as yourself. The first part instructs you to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. If you ever find yourself seriously giving that a try, you'll find out just how difficult that can be. If you love God, you'll naturally want to take the things he wants to heart, right? But what the Bible says he wants is not always clear to us. Because doing God's will is so very important to those two young men, and because life is full of all kinds of complex situations one never expects, they're hashing these issues out over coffee. Nu?
"I just find it sad that spiritual education lacks the spiritual so very badly and compensates by making it cerebral.
The map is not the territory. Learning about religion has its place, but it isn't the same as doing it.
So that's my take on the things you asked about. Hope it helps to clear the admittedly murky waters we tread.
Addnedum, after reading your response:
Jeepers. I'm really sorry to hear you say that I took what you said out of context, because I hate that too and I made a serious effort not to do so. Apparently I didn't succeed. Likewise, my goal wasn't to twist what you said in order to further my own agenda -- if I misrepresented your arguments in any way, it was the result of a misunderstanding of your argument rather than malicious intent. I can also see from your reply that one of our stumbling blocks is that you're coming from a dogmatic Roman Catholic background where what the Church says, goes, whereas I'm approaching the issues from a liturgical Episcopalian viewpoint where (I feel) there's much more leeway for personal belief.
So...yeah, maybe we should call it a day. It's been fun, though. Cheers.