There was an online debate yesterday between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens, the topic of which was “Resolved, that religion is a force for good in the world.” I did not watch it but I do, for the most part, rather enjoy Hitchens. I don’t think I could have stood that much Tony Blair. I don’t doubt that it was a lively debate.
Consider rain. Rain is a “bad thing” if you are having a parade or a picnic, but it is a “good thing” if you are a farmer. It is, in actuality, neither good nor bad, and it is both. Rain is just rain. “Good” and “bad” are labels that we apply to it, and we apply those labels based on how it affects us. Those labels are, therefor, value judgements.
There is no question that much harm has been done in the name of religion, but one cannot deny that much good has also been done, much comfort has been offered. I would suggest that religion is much like rain; it is just religion. When it is used for good purpose, that good work is not done by religion, it is done by people and when it is used for bad purpose that bad work is done by bad people.
We in America like to think that democracy is a “force for good,” but is that still true when we invade a country and occupy it by military force in the name of “spreading democracy” abroad?