My family was on-again/off-again protestants. My mom made my dad and us go to church on major religious holidays, and when she felt like they needed it (more of the "we're running low on good things in our lives, gotta go to church for a refil" mentality). I spent some time in Sunday school, and always loathed it. "Memorize the apostles and you get a candy bar." Whatever.
My dad always had issues with religion...the serialized offering envelopes were a particular problem for him. Came in neat little boxes, that "anonymously" allowed for offerings, but any moron could tell they were keeping track of who gave what.
Some distant relatives in the same area moved into a new home, and a new priest took over their local Catholic church (my wife's family is all Catholic). He called them to see when he could come by to talk to them about the church, and their family's 'obligation' to it. (I forget the actual term he used, but it was clear he was going to tell them how much money he wanted them to 'offer').
I spent time being agnostic, but I too have had experiences where, for a fleeting moment, I felt a sense of calm and clarity of thought and comfort - even in a very distressing time. One time, and I regret this completely, I'd just had a great meal with a co-worker in Florida, and we'd finished off at least a bottle of wine. I shouldn't have been driving, but I did. It was NOT easy to even find my hotel sober, which I had been to once, and I don't even remember the drive, but I remember getting in the car, and the next thing I know, I'm stepping out of the car at the hotel. The rest is a blur, but somehow I was lucid again, and knew that I didn't just drive that car.
I don't pray, certainly not for myself, anymore. I realized how selfish that act is, and that I shouldn't be afraid to give myself credit and blame for my actions. Most people don't understand the concept of "making your own luck", nor the concept of envisioning the reality you want to live as a method for making that reality come to be. Napoleon Hill had it right. THAT is what I've experienced. When I set a goal and envision it coming to pass, it does. Prayer-free. Usually a lot faster than I anticipate. THEN the trick becomes living bravely enough to wish for great things. Fear of greatness can be paralyzing. That's where I am now, unfortunately.
Well put, Q. I fall in the same group, for similar reasons - with the exception that I was raised a Catholic by parents who encouraged me, and my sisters, to understand we are the ones who have to live with our decisions most directly, so we should make sure we make those decisions for reasons we understand.
Being someone who has made a living in the ether between engineering and pure science for near 4 decades I cannot invest the energy needed to say there is no God, and cannot understand how religious people get the idea science is their enemy. Science does a nice job of discovering how our observed world is related, kind of behind the scenes, and engineering does a good job of exploiting those findings to produce mostly useful aids to our survival. God may have set the system up and be checking in on how his experiment is running, but "religion" in the organized state it exists is an economic and political device designed, engineered, built and operated by men. Same as the men who just screwed us over on Wall St. Greedy, power hungry, perverts.
Back to the question of "god" - science makes no pretense in answering the "why" stuff, like "Why was there a big bang that resulted in the existence of time, and light, and mass and all the other bizarre stuff we are discovering?" So, the odds that it could be the result of "god" exercising will is about the same as any other explanation that a human can conjure. And a good engineer or scientist will always be aware of the difference between what he "knows" and what he does not "know" - and avoid putting a lot energy into pushing one side or the other of a subject that falls into the "not know" category.
The best evidence I see for there being some "god" influencing things is the general progress of things in the world. In the overall struggle between "good" and "evil" it seems "good" is winning out. This seems to defy general "odds." For example, just look at WWII - Hitler was an evil guy and he came pretty close to succeeding. But he didn't. And he didn't get the A-bomb. And so on. Without something to influence the odds to favor "good" there is no real reason why one of the evil empires of the past isn't still running things.
I have zero belief that praying does a damn thing other than comfort those who believe it does. So, I don't do it and don't bother those who do. It falls in the category of jacking off - those who are doing it are enjoying it and it is not my job to stop them or make them miserable about it - that seems to be the job the Catholic Church wants. Again, religion interfering with god's work.