Yes, it is good to be religious because such people appreciate the benefits of belonging to a community and generally lead quite ethical lives. No, it is not good to be religious because they swallow large amounts of dogma and can not think for themselves. What is the solution for this medieval sounding question?
In the case of philosophy there is a similar dichotomy. Some people are inclined to the view that philosophy is good for them: somehow philosophical education enables the student to break the chains of conditioning. Others tend to hold that philosophy is just so many words; it might even confuse fresh minds.
In spite of this likeness in how things stand with respect to both religion and philosophy, there is a major hurdle to the prospect of pairing them together at the present: the issue of God, which is excluded from the subject matter of philosophy. There are discussions of the existence of God in philosophical literature, but there is no proof which put an end to the disputes. Philosophy now relies on human resources and is not concerned with the divine.
The first yes or no question gives way to another: whether it is possible to defend faith in religious beliefs to a scrutinising philosopher. It is more fruitful to proceed in this manner. I would rather point out that in some contexts philosophy is just as questionable as religion rather than try to promote religion to a sphere beyond all doubt. Doctoring, marketing or farming are less likely to attract criticism about their value as do philosophising or subscribing to a faith. In other words, religion is one of many questionable activities and philosophy tolerates questioning. It is welcome even to question the worth of philosophy in philosophy.
There are possibly pragmatic reasons for promoting religious faith: it provides psychological and social benefits. Every once in a while it is publicised in the media that people cope better with particular circumstances, hardship, illness, etc. if they are religious, for instance. Curiously, the same type of arguments are sometimes given in defence of philosophy: graduates in philosophy acquire analytic skills and, in fact, philosophy has contributed to the development of computers via mathematical logic. Maybe the number of philosophy departments who use apologetic persuasion is greater than the number of religious studies and theology departments. A survey of catalogues, brochures, web sites, etc. could settle who relies more heavily on the method and this could be interesting research.
Pragmatic arguments are fine but the fact that they could be both positive and negative makes them vulnerable. Are the only reasons for justifying a practice themselves practical? I guess the answer is yes if one considers philosophy to be a practical discipline.
I suppose that philosophy mainly is not practical, like mathematics. Philosophy students are not encouraged to apply various philosophical views to their daily lives. One can imagine philosophy departments becoming more lively if there were students successively applying problems about the self or language or ethics and so on in their courses to actual situations. But what makes good philosophers is primarily in the thinking and not the doing.
The question then is, thirdly, agreed that philosophy is just as valuable as religion, whether there are non-factual reasons for the justification of religious activity. Religion is by its nature caught in the following dilemma. Philosophy engulfs all the non-factual reasons for its rationale and leaves none to religion. If one brings forth a divine reason, that will be ruled out. Proofs of the existence of God, as noted, are thoroughly criticised; none are conclusively convincing. It may even follow that there could be none forthcoming. The dilemma is whether to continue upholding philosophy or to give thinking up by making do with pragmatic, factual explanations in favour of religion.
Religious texts distinguish negative and positive theology, as it were. It seems that their negative way is a non-factual route to divine affairs. The misleading idea is that the negative way is a philosophical method: it is not. It is a religious way. Only people who already accept the religion in question could follow it. Philosophers who do not will object that they do not understand how the argument works. The positive way, on the other hand, is purely religious teaching and explication.
The lesson is not to draw conclusions from the fact that not a single non-factual and non-religious justification can be found pro religious belief. It is to consider whether there are other disciplines sharing the problems of religion if they were called to justify their existence: fine arts, music, dance, opera, theatre, sports? Has there been any non-factual convincing in their defence?
Philosophers must consider whether they wish to discard every discipline that has inconclusive factual evidence pro its benefits. In some places drawing, painting, sculpture, singing, dancing, theatre and some sports are seen to be restricted or totally banned. It is extremely difficult to come up with non-factual reasons for cultivating the arts or some sports because it seems that by their nature it is impossible to translate them into discursive language. Art critics are perhaps engaged in a sort of translating but critical translating does not replace art. Often artists complain that critiques are produced by people who could not do the art.
I think the conclusion to be drawn is to ask both philosophers and those with religious faith to be tolerant of each other; unless, that is, one is ready to argue for bigger and more destructive theses.
The point about destructiveness raises a corollary question, the ethical accountability of religion and philosophy. It is evident that religion is not so accountable if it denounces philosophy. On the other hand, there is a whole philosophical spectrum including some who ignore ethics and others who maintain that individuals make their own ethical rules.
One could object to the discussion of all three questions on the strength of the final corollary. There may be someone out there asking “What if religion is pure ethics, that is, ethics without any other area of philosophy?” Only a person trained in philosophy could reply to that by saying “No epistemology or social theory or logic? No doubts about the nature of ethical statements themselves? I don’t think ethics could be done like that.” Religion could perhaps be considered to be pure law without contradiction. If it has any further claims in the ethical sphere, the value of philosophy must have been granted somewhere along the way.