I've been thinking (a dangerous prospect, to be sure) while reading the current religion flamewar. One of the biggest raging questions since the dawn of human thinking has been "Is there a god?" Man different answers have been formulated over the years, and in trying to figure out which one I like, I realized something.
When asked that question, there are a handful of typical responses. The hard-line atheist says, "Definitely not." The hard-line theist will say, "Definitely yes." More middle-of-the-road atheists and agnostics withhold judgement. Hard agnostics say "We can't know."
I say: it doesn't matter.
To summarize my conjecture: The existence or non-existence of a particular deity/divinity/what have you does not affect the teachings of the religion attached to said supernatural power(s).
This means that the teachings of a religion still exist whether or not the deity in question does, and that their validity or lack thereof, and their applicability or lack thereof, does not in any way depend on the existence or non-existence of their alleged deity. Essentially, I'm calling out the atheism-agnosticism-theism debate and saying that, in all respects, the argument is pointless because the answer doesn't matter.
Consider this: we can accept that a religion is, at its core, a collection of philosophy that attempts to guide us in how we conduct our lives. Any religion is essentially a set of guidelines that attempts to help people in a given culture or cultural setting, if I may, attempt to peacefully coexist. Religions are a particular sort of philosophy concerned with morality and other difficult questions that prevent some people from getting along easily.
Those collections of philosophies bear consideration in any sort of discussion about societal conduct in any fashion; in essence, in any discussion about "the way things should be," the core teachings of religions almost always have something to say, and when taken as the philosophy, they can be useful tools for discussion.
Since almost every religion, however, involves some amount of teachings that tell you to go against what you want to do sometimes, it takes coercion to get many people to follow in line, and this is most likely from whence the concept of deities arose. Ancient priests sought to use their religions as ways to exercise control over the populace, as any religion involves behavior control. Creating superstition and the concept of an all-powerful being (or beings) helped to strike fear and awe into early believers, so that they would be inclined to listen to what the priests had to say.
As we've grown, I think we've outgrown the need for the mysticism and superstition associated with religion, much as one outgrows the idea of Santa Claus as one gets older. If we remove all the divine crap from the teachings of religions, we're left with philosophies on how to conduct ourselves based on the need to peacefully cohabitate. Being that humans are social animals, the need to have a stable social setting is evident, and as we've grown more interconnected and interdependent as a species, I contend that this fact has become more evident to more people. Therefore, we no longer need the mystical crap to show people the validity of a particular teaching about social conduct; instead, we can consider the teachings on their own, free of the mystical crap.
The way I see it, a deity is akin to a corporate mascot; it serves to iconify the religion and to have something that people can point to easily. However, much like a company mascot, it doesn't actually affect the product or service itself; Linux would still be Linux with or without Tux. The entire debate about the existence, or lack thereof, of any god or gods is totally pointless, because answering the question will not affect how we consider the fundamental teachings of any religion. If a deity exists, that doesn't excuse malicious teachings; if a deity doesn't exist, that doesn't mean that we can't still get usage out of the philosophies that form the foundation of the religion.
So, discuss. Again, to reiterate: The existence or non-existence of a particular deity/divinity/what have you does not affect the teachings of the religion attached to said supernatural power(s). Or, in other words, gods do not affect religions in any way.