A while back, Zhubin swung a very broad sword at Christianity, cutting into religious faith more generally. Ben recently provided a quite substantial response, (in 2 parts) and there's been some fascinating dialogue over on his blog. If you've got any interest at all in the topic, I recommend reading the conversation. It's long, but it's worth it.
My response is going to be much more brief; Ben did a great job, and there's plenty of my response contained in the comments section of both blogs.
One of Zhubin's primary criticisms was that any faith that posits acceptance of that faith's beliefs as necessary grounds for entrance into a happy afterlife was, essentially, "ugly" and cruel, because wonderful people who were nonbelievers would be punished with Hell, despite their obvious goodness [this position is fleshed out more fully in the comments following Ben's second post]. The other primary criticism was essentially that faith is unscientific.
I've responded more fully in other places, but here I just wish to make a couple of simple observation in defense of faith:
First, if you don't believe in, or don't fear, Hell, then the threat of damnation cannot possibly be taken with any seriousness. And if damnation isn't actually viewed as a legitimate threat, then it seems to follow that religions cannot possibly be cruel for issuing it. They might come off sounding stupid, but certainly a non-believer would not have reason for finding the religion ugly or cruel.
Second, the greatest people throughout history have been people of faith, and their religion has been instrumental in making them wonderful people.
One of the primary concerns Zhubin posed was that religion facilitates a view among a community of believers that non-believers are going to suffer for their lack of belief. Thus, Christians would likely think that Gandhi was going to Hell. His conclusion was that Christianity was therefore cruel in their judgment; after all, Gandhi was by all accounts one of the greatest people to ever live, and if anyone lived up to a merit-based Heavenly reward, it would be Gandhi. What is missed here, in the attack on religion more generally, is that if not for religion, great people like Gandhi would not even exist.
If you look throughout history, the individuals who would most likely be viewed, throughout worldly eyes, to be worthy of Heaven are all individuals of faith. And not just faith, but also devoted to religion. Gandhi was a devout Hindu. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa were passionate Christians. Certainly, within the last 100 years, these 3 names stand out as the cream of the human crop. And I think that the same proves true throughout history; that those who devote their life to a religion have the potential to become truly great persons.
There's certainly nothing stopping an atheist or agnostic from becoming a similarly great person, but I don't see it happening. Being a believer in a religious community fosters a commitment to service, of a life dedicated to others. Too frequently we faithful persons fail to live up to call to serve. But therein is the rub: our religion lets us know that it is a failing. For a non-believer lack of service is simply an omission, without real consequence. For a believer, they have failed in the task set before them by their faith, and the result can be very dire (Hell, reincarnation as a lower being, etc.). Thus, religion enables greatness in a way that atheism/agnosticism cannot. Why is a non-believer concerned that religions might condemn great people when, without those religions, those great people would never exist?
Ok, so there you have it. I'm finally getting tired again (insomnia), so I'm going to bed. This isn't a great response, and I'm well aware of that. Deal.
You've got to fill her up with Jesus
You've got to fill her up with light