As regards religion and science - of course science has shown us many facts about the nature of reality which ancient cultures had no conception of. It is neverhteless culturally chauvinistic to assert that because of what we know now, we can write off the whole spiritual tradition of the West as supersition or backwardnesss. Of course this is a big bandwagon at the moment, but I want no part of it. What does have to happen is that the tradition has to be re-imagined, re-intepreted and understood again in terms of what we know now. Because it is a fact that no matter what we know, there will always be a certain layer of understanding that eludes us. Metaphysical questions will remain metaphysical, regardless of what we know about atoms, particles, genes, dna and the rest. It operates at a different level of explanation but to cling to science as the sole means of knowledge is not science, but scientism, which at the end of the day is just another species of fundamentalism.
I'll focus on your second paragraph while leaving the first perhaps for a later time. Ultimately, the metaphysical (and I'll focus on the Judeo-Christian god in particular), is described as "omni-everything". One of those omni's is ultimate mercy. If I were "infinitely merciful" there would be no act that could possibly circumvent my infinite mercy. The comparisons to humans don't ever work, even as an illustration, because theists insist on a perfect and ultimate and unlimited god. Infinite love and mercy should be what it is-- infinite love and mercy. Eternal damnation is a contradiction to those attributes, and there is no way to reconcile a god who establishes amorality as morality. Case in point:
I wouldn't set up a test for my children that was impossible for them to pass, purposely tempt them, and when they did fail it I wouldn't curse my children, and their children, and their children and their children and...
I wouldn't drown them all.
I wouldn't be the general of some of them and order some of them to put others to the sword -- but keep the female virgins for their pleasure.
I wouldn't create a Satan and allow him any power over my children.
I wouldn't create a hell and condemn my children to it forever, even if they did call me names and spit on me and hurt me or didn't acknowledge me.
I wouldn't allow vials to be poured out carrying disease and death and destruction.
The list of things this "loving father" does is horrifying in the extreme. You may think that bashes him, but I
didn't write the book that describes him doing such things, remember?
I'll be accused of "religion-bashing" by some more than likely, of being "prideful and vain" by pointing these things out, but it all comes down to what is more likely, so consider the following:
A god created existence in only 6 days, but did so in such a way to make it look immensely old and left massive clues to support that belief... and this god put forth a test to only two humans without(at least in terms of the Judeo-Christian god) giving them neither the ability to make a considered choice nor did he bother to tell them the consequences would extend to every person born after them... and this god then inspired a book but did not allow the original to last in case the condemned to damnation by definition humans worship those texts... and allowed copies of copies to multiply so that huge civilizations would clash with one another over interpretations... and this god then comes down to earth as a human to act as a mediator to experience human weakness and pain and sin that he created in the first place anyway, and he's letting billions upon billions of people suffer thusly and choose eternal damnation on an ongoing basis in order to satisfy this need to experience the aforementioned... and finally in a climactic battle wherein agony and suffering will spread over the globe this god will battle his nemesis that he himself created and could blink to make disappear if he really wanted to...
Existence is natural, patterns form out of the exchange of energy, life evolved in some places, competition for that life implemented social structures, sentience ignited that social structure to a more and more complicated degree... and allowed for technology to extend the perceptions of humans to further and further reaches, chipping away at old, perhaps poetic and elegant but nonetheless outdated beliefs created by a ruling class that knew the power of ignorance and fear in people made them vastly more controllable?
Just a side note - we see stars forming today by the way, in the Pleiades-- various stages of stars being formed are quite visible. Knowing the speed of light one can measure distances, showing billions of years is required to establish the size and distances we see.