Let’s get this out of the way before we start: beliefs are a poor predictor of behavior. You can try to compare cherrypicked lists of wrongs committed by adherents of this religion or that philosophy all you like; actual scientific study of the question shows that our beliefs are predictors of the arguments we use to justify our behavior, not the behavior itself.
So that out of the way, it follows that there are really only two arguments for believing in anything: because it’s true, or because it’s not known to be false and will make your life better if you believe it.
So we can toss some religious beliefs out immediately because we know they’re not true. The world is quite a bit older than 6,000 years, and humans showed up way later than day six. Prayer and magic can alter the emotional state of the people performing them or who know they’re being performed, but have no nontrivial material effects.
But then we get into things like afterlives and spiritual realms and incorporeal universe-filling ethereal entities, none of which can be showed to be false. And around here is when your typical Internet atheist will bring up Russel’s teapot, which I’m going to assume you’re all familiar with.
So, here’s the point where I piss off my fellow atheists: Russel’s teapot is bullshit.
Here’s why: the teapot is a material object that exists within the material universe. What we could call the Teapot Proposition is a proposition about the existence, properties, and behaviors of objects within the material universe. It is a positive, scientific claim, and therefore rightly subject to the rules of the scientific endeavor. To be more precise, it is a statement with material consequences; that is, there are measurable differences between a universe where it’s true and one where it’s not. Quite difficult differences to measure, true, but nonetheless a universe with Russel’s teapot is not the same universe as one without Russel’s teapot. It is a claim at least theoretically subject to rigorous scientific testing.
Most religious claims aren’t.
Certainly some are. “The entire universe went from nothing to essentially its modern state over a six-day period 6,000 years ago” is a claim with material consequences, and thus one that we know is false. The claim that it’s possible to curse a person is one with material consequences, and thus we know it’s false unless the person both believes in curses and believes they’ve been cursed, at which point it behaves consistently with the placebo effect.
But the belief that after a person dies, their consciousness continues in some form outside the material universe? That’s definitionally not a statement with material consequences, thanks to “outside the material universe.” It is thus not subject to the rules of science, because–and this is important–such a statement cannot be false. Why because a false statement is one that fails to accurately describe the universe, and the statement in question isn’t talking about the universe. It’s neither true nor false, which means it can never be known to be false, which means the only reason to believe or not believe it is whether it makes your life better.
Your life. Personally, as an individual.
Typically, and tellingly, at this point some Internet atheist complains that this means any claim has to be accepted as long as it’s non-falsifiable. Which isn’t actually true, if you read closely, but also kind of makes my point about Internet atheists: that the real motivation for a lot of them is not a desire for knowledge or to avoid falsehood, but to win arguments and feel superior to religious people.
But also: yes. Accept all religious claims as being useful beliefs for the people who hold them, and don’t worry about it as long as they’re not being assholes. This is the philosophical position of apatheism, which I define as “I don’t care if there are gods, and I don’t care what you believe about it.” I’m interested in it, certainly, because I am interested in the beliefs and behaviors of human beings, but I’ve got zero interest in doing anything about it.