As I continue to delve into and discuss with others the meaning of "organized religion" (see this previous post) there is one theme that continually surfaces. Often someone will say, "religion is responsible for most of the war and suffering in the world, both now and through the ages." I have argued against this, realizing that chances are I will not sway those who do believe that.
Jon Carroll, a favorite SF Chronicle columnist of mine, wrote a column to that issue in today's paper, which I encourage you to read. Carroll believes that the war and suffering are not religion's fault, "human nature is responsible for war and torture and intolerance . . . every institution we set up reflects our bestial nature." But there is more to our human nature, "there are good works, plenty of them--selfless behavior, charity, devotion . . .religion can serve as an organizing principle to make these virtues manifest on Earth." Carroll also points out that religion provides rituals that give comfort and solace to many people. So while you don't need to subscribe to any set of religious beliefs, there should be room to understand the good those beliefs bring to others.
In my previous post I started this discussion by trying to define religion, and Jon Carroll's column helps in this endeavor. I realize that this still doesn't address the problems with the organizational aspect of religion. Which gives us more to talk about through the year . . .