Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether or not something is good or bad for you. Take packaged powdered donuts, for example. They are so sweet and tasty and make you feel all fluffy and cozy, yet in fact they offer no nutritive value, are filled with nasty chemicals, and will sit like a lump in your stomach for hours while it puts fat on you. Sometimes you have to rethink your choices.

Following a religion is a very popular choice -- most people across the globe, when queried, will state that they are religious. Religions can and do offer people lots of positives: a social network and support, a sense of belonging to something big and important, lessons of grace and service and humility, answers to the Big Questions of Life, and pretty good basement potlucks. But what if your religion is just like those donuts? What if it seems to be offering you everything you need and want, but is actually just terrible for you? What if your religion is using your good faith to guide you into bad thinking? How can you know if you've been had? I have made up a super-simple checklist so you can know if your religion is telling you the wrong things so the wrong people can control you and your brethren for suspect purposes:

1. Does your religion tell you that you are a worthless sinner and born bad and must strive to earn your way into God's graces/heaven?

2. Does your religion tell you that you should be ashamed and guilty most of the time?

3. Does your religion tell you to not trust or even hate those people who follow a different religion or have no religion?

4. Does your religion tell you to have as many children as you can, even if you do not want to have children or cannot afford them?

5. Does your religion tell you to shame other people?

6. Does your religion tell you to shun or hurt those outside your religion, or who might disagree with your religion?

7. Do your religious leaders ask you for money to help the poor, but they themselves lead lavish lifestyles?

8. Do your religious leaders threaten you with Hell, excommunication, social banishment, or worse if you question its tenets or wish to leave the religion?

9. Do the legends and stories that your religion is based upon quickly fall apart under the microscopes of reason, logic, and science, and if you mention this you are told to "have faith" or "believe that God has a plan we can't understand" or that "you are the Devil's doing?"

10. Does your religion ever make you feel angry, anxious, depressed, fearful, frightened, or hateful?

How many did you check? Any one of them is cause for concern. If a religion is used to generate the worst that is in people rather than the best, you can be sure that the organization isn't there whatsoever for your well-being or enlightenment, is telling you a big bunch of lies, and is wasting your precious time on earth, all to gain power and control.

Can we have a powdered donut every so often and be just fine? Indeed we can. But one doesn't really approach religion in the same way -- you should be in or out, otherwise you are simply picking and choosing which rules you want to follow or stories you want to believe rather than adhering to its overall principles. Compartmentalizing is such a human trait, is it not? It's how we can say, "Oh, I'm fine with gay people, my stylist is gay!" yet still attend a church that actively discriminates against homosexuals. It's how we can blame one religion for all the evils of the world, while turning a blind eye to the death and destruction caused by our own. It's how when you grow up, you know that your religious instruction was damaging to you, yet you go ahead and instruct your children in the same way so they have "a good foundation" and you don't have to disappoint your social set. Infinite ways to rationalize, yes? And there are infinite measures taken by some religious leaders to keep their follows right there, spinning away.

It is something to think about.