Thus it's in arguing with secularists and having to define my faith for people who honestly don't get it that I have some ideas to share:
First of all, when it comes to faith, it is merely the way to make sense out of things that don't, and can't make sense when you examine them rationally. The specific beliefs don't necessarily matter in that sense, only that you are faithful to those beliefs and true to yourselves. And the secret to determining if something is good or something is bullshit is to look at it from the point of view of the golden rule. (not the one that says: 'He who has the gold Rules) In essence, that which helps and unites people is good. That which divides and hurts is bad. And rules of morality must be fairly applied to all people. It's one of the reasons I've gone more libertarian on the political front, by applying these ideas to my political views. Many religions should remember that when they find evils to rail against.
Now, as for questions I've heard as to why God has allowed the world to be what it is, I have an answer there as well. This is the irony of an omnipotent Deity. In that I refer to this, put forward by one of them there secularists:
The biggest question for me is why? Why would God bother. IF he knows everything, he already knows who is going to do what and who will be faitful and end up back in heaven. Just skip the middle man. It doesn't make sense. Why did he need to send his "son" down to die for our sins, why couldn't he just be a nice guy and forgive us? Why sit around for billions of years doing nothing before you decided to make the earth? And why make life so shitty for the majority of the planet? Send us here to suffer? What kind of bullshit is that?This is where faith comes in to make these natural contradictions make sense. But here is the answer to that that doesn't require faith:
Making a meaningless life have meaning is the point.
Now I know that doesn't answer everything in terms of God's role in the world. I don't have the space (or the time or the energy or the sanity) to get into all the metaphysical details of how God and prayer and faith may work. there simply has to be a leap of faith at some point in the discussion or it will never make sense. Something has to be just accepted as true, as there are no rational proofs for anything here.
In the end (and I know you more fundamentalists will have to pounce on this one, so hop to it and prepare for painfully good thought) your worthiness before God will be determined by your words and your works, not by being "saved" or baptized into the right faith. For if God is that picky, then I will willingly be going to Hell. In that, if we seek good according to our faith (or reason) then we are on the right path.