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Does a person need to believe in a religion to be essentially good?
OP, you answered your own question by citing the life you now lead and that you aspire to.
The real issue here is the guilt you continue to feel for having been 'the troublemaker' for asking questions early on. It's fascinating how long a childhood guilt trip can hang on... and how asking questions is somehow heresy; it's the antithesis of a free society and a true religion wouldn't shun questioners.
You might be interested in Joseph Atwill's theory that the Romans invented Jesus to circumvent their problem with the Jews that were actively fighting Roman rule: