Why?... What has anyone ever seen that would lead them to believe there is anyone/thing to pray TO. What has lead anyone to believe that prayer does a damn thing?... (The closest thing prayer is to being "real" is as a form of meditation/introspection/focus... there is no evidence to suggest that any divinity is listening.)
^This. If the Divine does not exist, prayer is at minimum a calming thing, a form of meditation, de-stressing, whatever you want to call it. Given our control over nature and our health only really started 200 years ago, we've got at least 50,000 years of having to believe in something greater than our tribe and our campfire. (Ironically, given our new *lack* of control over nature and the financial system, uncertainty creeps back in).
I do feel rigid, structured Monotheism has in some way damaged the fundamental essence of prayer and faith by distorting it into a forced, guilt-driven, Angry-Father-As-God thing. It is up to the individual to reclaim faith and prayer in their own way and discard anything forced upon them. What sort of supreme God would want you to be a bound slave? What's the point in believing that?
If a loving, forgiving Divine does exist, it's bonus points... It's like that moment when you're playing a vertical scrolling space shoot-em-up, you're about to bite it, when suddenly the bonus token appears, you grab it, it's a super-bomb thing, and you wipe out your enemies with a nice ring of fire. (Of course, don't equate this video game "violent" analogy to religious brimstone-and-fire... I'm talking about the "bonus" aspect of Divine existence).
Indeed. Adverse effects are caused primarily by religion, not faith itself. You can separate the two. New Age, Wicca ("Witchcraft") and other belief systems are examples whereby it promotes faith without binding someone to a specific religion.
This is the crux of our modern day conundrum. On one hand, you have an innate desire to believe in "something". On the other hand, you have the major religions binding you to practices and beliefs that no longer fit with the modern world. Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism and Confucianism are examples of major religions that have some pretty darn anachronistic things in them. For example, Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day, and refrain from gambling, alcohol and pork. Catholics are still pounded (pun unintended) by the notion that contraception and "lust" during sex is wrong. Confucianists believe in "Kitchen" and "Monkey" Gods. A lot of Hindus believe cows are sacred. All this literally makes no sense to anyone of reasonable education. The key is to listen to an inner voice, not these rules devised millennia ago for forms of living common to society of that era.