Long post in response to Sandy:
Just so we're on the same page with the definition of mysticism: mystical experience is a totally personal experience, theophical in nature and unique to the individual experiencing it in as much as it exists outside of nature and the expressability that goes along with the physical world. Examples would be visions of spiritual beings. This, obviously, is an experience completely unreasonable. Thus, to say something like reason-based mysticism is a misnomer to a theologian. Mysticism is a mysterium tremendum to sum up in one tidy phrase.
When religion spills over into the physical world it is usually done by revelation. Revelations are testable and reasonable, such as the Biblical story of the Spirit visiting Mary, the mother of Jesus, telling her of her impending pregnancy. Thomas Aquinas would say that there are two forms of gaining knowledge, scientific and revelific. Science is what we use to reason about our world and come to conclusions about the way it works. Theological philosophy is the revealed nature about the way the world works, which can very often be confirmed via our own scientifically gained knowledge. Thomas Aquinas is the father of the current Catholic doctrine.
I would hate to think you believe that the hatred of homosexuals is a fundamental belief for many Christians. You say "most Christian faiths;" yet I can't think of any mainstream denomination that has doctrinized hatred of gays. Schismatics of course exist. Are you aware of the snake-handling tradition? You may claim that these people are blinding following the addition to Mark 16, but if you have ever talked to or had an interest in these traditions you would know that members infrequently handle the snakes unless they feel "called" to do so on a particular night. The entire point of handling the snakes is that the members know how poisonous they are and how dangerous it is, but handling them is a sign of God's power. It's not that they blindly do it because of faith, but it is a studied activity.
People that don't think, on the other hand, will find any reason to not think. It's a vulgarity to believe that religion is the REASON why these people don't think.
Those that have argued against religiosity simply don't provide arguments that work. Nietzsche, Freud ... They simply don't cover the root of what religion is about and from where it comes, but only what they see and think of it. But this was a pour and uninteresting point in the argument, so it doesn't really matter.
Christianity actually did begin as an universally inclusive religion. Ever hear of the Gentiles? Christianity was the Jewish sect that extended the covenants of God to all the people of the world. Not very exclusionary in my opinion. How do you think it went from a group of 11 disciples to the state-religion of the Roman Empire in about 200 years, especially when it came out of the highly exclusive Jewish practice?
Your comment doesn't make sense.
I'd like to say that I'm enjoying your use of the accusatory singular third person. It really adds that spicy liberalism that I was getting from "The End of Faith" book. Feels like I'm reading the Book of Revelation.
I'm pretty sure there are no "Official Church documents" -- I assume you mean Catholic -- that refer to homosexuality as a disease. If there are, then it's not specific to homosexuality. Sin is very oft refered to as a disease. The Orthodox Catholic view is that sin is a sign that the Spirit is not with someone, thus if the Spirit is not present then that person cannot be Christian, because to be Christian one must possess the Spirit. Other than that I can't remark much on that. If you could cite these documents you mention it would be helpful.
I would like to remind that the Catholic tradition was not codified until well into the Medieval period and was not the original Christian belief structure.
About my calling you out on your political analogy and your use of "Republican". I was wholy aware that it was meant generally. But the fact that you used specifics is why I commented, not because you think I'm a Republican and decided to make your argument poignant by using accusatory nouns and pronouns, but that it was an example of the generalizations that are being used which I find to be the root of the ignorant thesis provided by the "End of Faith" book.
And again you start talking in these generalized terms, Sandy: Whatever, Moose. We know how this works. Most "devout" followers of a religion are more than willing to deconstruct someone else's religion, but when the examination turns to theirs, they bristle. "Most devout followers" ... how more sweeping can you get? Liberals, for being concerned with individuals rights, are amazingly, but unsurprisingly good at this kind of communist thinking. "Most devout followers" ? That doesn't even mean anything it's so broad. Kind of like the word "spiritual".
The Christian faith is entirely about introspection. If you read any Christian theology it's glaringly obvious that you don't understand the things you talk about at all. Saint Augustine (of Hippo), the original Christian philosopher and theologian, wrote entire books like narrative diary entries talking about his trek through his own understanding of the world and how Christianity in particular, as well as Donatism, Manicheism, astrology, and atheism to name a couple fit into it. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote a 3000 page encyclopedia entitled Summa Theologicae, or Disputations on Theology, written wholy in thesis-antithesis style in which he took popular arguments against religious belief in general during the medieval period and argued against them using theological ideas. I don't know what other tradition there is that is more introspective. Do you think my study of Asian Religions, of Atheistic Philosophy, and general theology is because I'm unwilling to question my beliefs about Christianity? And to say that you know that I wouldn't convert to Christianity if I wasn't raised it ... are you now God? What kind of statement is that? I'm glad I took that trip to Delphi to see Sandy! ... And you criticize my logic two, three paragraphs up?
Your argument is apparently quite different from The End of Faith's.
Parsimony, aye? Anyone heard of the Efficient Cause? Because the world is in a chain of cause-effect events, there must be an initial causation that was not caused by something prior to it, nor that caused itself. What made the first metaphorical domino tip over?
Or the completely a priori argument: the mind can imagine and understand things that it doesn't experience or sense. Picture a horse. You understand what it is, how it looks, how it moves, it's accidental aspects, it's nature. There's not a horse infront of you. Now think about god: a perfect, formless being, wholy actualized, and outside of time, the foundation of ontology. You can imagine such a thing, right? Thus God exists. If we can imagine an entirely perfect entity, then it must exist, because it is not entirely perfect unless it exists, so existence has to be one of its qualities.
If the a priori argument didn't blow your mind then go take some PCP and think it over.