This might be a bit long..., who am I kidding of course it's long and it might also be a bit muddled so I apologise for any ensuing confusion as I try to address some aspects raised.
...as I do not see a direct conflict between the two because they are, as I see it, diametrically opposed concepts.
I'd disagree, they are very much in conflict as at a basic level they both seek to provide explanations for the same thing, the world we live in, its origins and where it's going if anywhere. It may be dressed in a variety of ways but it is essentially the same effort. It was much easier in the past when science knew less or practically did not exist, but that has changed. Resulting in a much more direct conflict as various faiths find their theologies in direct opposition to science, so much so that faith actively fights against the findings of science; none more obvious today than the ongoing struggle over evolution. Lately, given our ever increasing library of knowledge, more moderate interpretations have accepted the frankly undeniable facts and claim now to only answer the "Bigger Questions" whatever those may be and that these are beyond science. However, they still promote a thoroughly incorrect manner of viewing our world even if only in relation to these ephemeral big questions, a view based not on observable reality but on subjective inner desires to merely believe, to have faith in whatever. A position antithetical to science, reason and critical thinking and that's supposed to be okay. But I think that any suspension of reality is not a good thing, it sets a bad precedent and can lead to further suspensions of reality for wishful thinking; vast swathes of the alt-med industry depend on such for instance.
Of course if your point is that all other concerns aside religion cannot credibly challenge science what with it being based on evidence-less wishful thinking and thus unable to explain anything about our objective reality, I can see that.
It's perhaps a natural prejudice to treat religion and Christianity or the organisation "The Church" as synonymous concepts...
It is a common idea encountered - at least to me - that the organisations are somehow not religion but some unfortunate corruption of it*, the problem is that they are more synonymous than may be appreciated. At their core they suffer from that same issue I mentioned above, the suspension of reality. Sure one may have stripped away all the dogma but their fuzzy conceptions have no more evidence to support them than the established organisations do, they both require and validate belief without evidence. Now it is better to jettison the often divisive and hateful doctrines that come packaged with the established faiths, but it in essence still holds to a belief in something that's not there, or at the very least has no evidence to indicate that anything has ever been there. It's exactly the same thing that the more structured faiths do, they just have more certainty in the stuff they're making up.
Reality should matter, there should be evidence for a position whether it is the complicated theologies or the fuzzy notion that something is just out there. Because even the allegedly harmless fuzzy conceptions and moderates place belief without evidence as a virtue, that suspending reality is a good thing. This leads to faith being ubiquitous in society and provides a societally acceptable place for the more extreme views to live. If merely having faith in nebulous concepts is okay, if actual evidence does not matter, well, the same argument gets deployed by the more certain interpretations. They have faith in their version and that's all that matters to them.
What is outside our Universe? i.e. From whence did it camest?
We do not know.
I agree, we don't know but that's where it should stop until we are in a better position to know. That unknown is not an invitation for filling it with whatever fancy pleaseth someone most, not a gap to hide an increasingly harried deity in, it's an unknown and nothing more. Whilst it may technically leave room for a creator of some description, until we have evidence to suggest the existence of something for which there is no provenance, then the only reasonable option is to provisionally conclude that there are none. It is also a simpler answer. If there is no way to distinguish a verse in which a non-interfering creator deity exists from one in which there is none, then we have no need and no reason for adding that extra variable.
As for why does faith persist. Well to begin with, even though temporal power and control of the faithful is intrinsically linked to organised religion it was probably never formed for that specific reason. Religion is primitive in genesis, the result of early cognisant peoples with next to no applicable tools attempting to explain the very big, often frightening world they inhabited and were controlled by. They had no idea why the ground shook, why the rains and crops failed, why the sun came and went and so many other phenomena. They suffered with the same cognitive issues we experience today, confirmation bias, confusing correlation with causation, cognitive dissonance, tribalism and so on. Without checks on these or even a knowledge of what they were it is unsurprising that whatever happened were viewed as manifestations of unseen entities and it behooved these peoples to understand these unseen forces better if they wished to prosper. These concepts evolved with society and led to specific priestly castes employed to interpret the will of the divine. Of course if the divine is the creator and master then those who form the bridge between mortals and their masters are obviously important and favoured by the divine, hence to be listened to and obeyed. Needless to say if your livelihood depends on remaining relevant then you must maintain influence and actively combat any encroaching alternates; not all that dissimilar to endless iPhone model updates and spurious litigation. It's not a conscious act but an exercise in self-deception and from it sprang greater levels of organisation, doctrinal cohesion and convoluted theological edifices as the holes become evident.
This has been going on for millenia so it is very, very ingrained in societies. It has created the complicated doctrines that we find in the successful faiths centuries of papering over cracks, jettisoning irksome texts and creating torturous theological constructs to finagle their way around thundering errors and offensive histories. It has created the many defence mechanisms to hide behind; of belief without question as a virtue; the common instruction to shun the apostate; the sense of privilege to silence any detraction to the faith; that as so many believe, the faith is owed a political voice and power; that faith is personal and should be left alone even though the same groups use it to justify altering their society; that a lack of faith is somehow intrinsically wrong; that speaking against a doctrine is also disrespecting the person holding it and rude; that evidence is not necessary but they'll take it if it's going. So many people are just born into whatever the significant faith is of their region or their ethnic background. It is then a lottery as to how greatly the parents indoctrinate their spawn in the relevant dogma, and how much they stunt that persons intellectual growth. All no more than an accident of birth. Whether committedly involved or blasé about their inherited faith they almost always carry the basic defences and at least a sense of belonging. So even the uncommitted can react with some sense of personal injury should contrary views be openly professed. More importantly though, they don't question, they just assume that whatever faith it is remains true and that questioning it is just wrong. Thus anything that inherently puts the lie to religious claims - ie. science - can thus be considered suspect and arrogant. Thought is not a virtue in our society.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I think that this in part feeds an all too common attitude of the arrogant learned elite, higher education is frequently and bizarrely looked down upon. Scientists and the highly educated are white coated boffins or eggheads and sometimes viewed as responsible for all societies ills, or the stuffy professors lost in musty piles of books closeted away from the world. So called "common sense" and uninformed personal beliefs are what matters most. Take the History Channel, the odd history program lost in a sea of truckers, fishermen, loggers and bombastic clowns bidding over abandoned lockers but the worst offenders? Ancient Aliens, Nostradamus and some D-lister on a credulous UFO hunt. Progs where every scrap of reason has been tossed out in favour of unfettered fantasy, evidence-less assertions for the whimsical world the proponents wish were true. Provided because that's what the audience has apparently demanded, demanded because they have been encouraged not to think too hard nor to question. Convinced that belief without evidence is a normal and good thing, heck, the less evidence there is the better! For instance, I have spoken to people who reject evolution because they object to the human connection with primates, as if reality is a matter of personal belief and evidence be damned! Given the seemingly endless ways that our modern civilisation indulges in self-deception from psychics, to alien abductions, to NWO conspiracies, to the alt-med industry. It is thus less surprising that the oldest deceptions are still around, being correct doesn't matter, what you would like reality to be is apparently more important.
Therefore, as far as I am concerned at any rate, religion simply cannot enter the arena of adding to our body of knowledge or science, for to do so it must enter under the rules of reason and science. However, this results in the respect vanishing, the privilege is not entertained, logic and reason will be mercilessly applied, evidence is required, faith is not a virtue nor an explanation and reason accurately applied simply results in the mists evaporating. Sure some scientists can be religious, however, that requires their faith being always carefully parceled far away from the science, never entering into the equation. If they don't parcel it away you get pseudo-scientific stupidity like creationist geology or ID. However, much of the debate around religion concerns internal contradictions, textual criticisms, the vile characters of their tales be they prophets or deities and historical debates about whether or not folks like Jesus ever existed; basically nothing to do with science per se. Like the Beige one says, it would be like discussing art on the forum, irrelevant. It is only where faith intersects with science, claims to be scientific etc. that may make it relevant here. Claims like ID is a better explanation than evolution, how does science explain X or what about the fine tuning argument for example. These can be conversations worth having if they should arise, but sweeping them under the carpet by virtue of the religious aspect we not only leave the door open to the charge of hiding from the truth. More importantly, it perpetuates the unreasonable pedestal of unquestioning respect that faith has appropriated to defend itself. However, the discussion will be on rational terms, religion does not get a say on its own special terms, it's not given a pass for the sake of amity and persons should not confuse criticising the idea with attacking the person holding the idea.
As I said somewhere way above, reality should matter to everyone and the only way to discern that is through science and reason.
* - This corruption angle also misses the fact that these organisations grew up from foundations in much older and very different societies where practices distasteful to our modern era were the norm, they merely adhered to the alleged pronouncements of their almighty from thereon rather than corrupt them. One could say that those dogmas which do not change are at least consistent, unlike those which change with prevailing popular opinion - though often grudgingly - and thus show an active human element in doctrinal formation or a confused, obviously lesser deity doing as humanity instructs it. Change is good but it would be best if they could realise that they were clearly making it up as they went along and drop the charade. Besides for religion to have a message, indeed, for religion to exist then someone has to create that message, it's not something outside of human existence that we can access and maybe corrupt in the retelling, we create it entirely and thus we shape it to whatever we want it to be.
The other facet of this view is that it implies the older versions pre-corruption were somehow benign and good. For example, Jesus is not the peace loving, sandal wearing hippy of unconditional love he is often portrayed as and modern faiths have forgotten, that nice version is the actual corruption as a much nastier version is to be found in the good book.
Hope is but the first step upon the road to disappointment.