It is only fair, when considering the many ill effects of organized religion, to also consider the many positive aspects of the individual church. An organized religion is a highly political body led by primarily nameless, faceless group controllers with a REALLY big agenda; it’s just that most of us don’t pay a lot of attention, at least directly, to the leadership. Most people just listen to their one or two local union representatives, or perhaps marketing middle managers would be better, sent (or “called”) to keep the local flock in line.
A church, on the other hand is a group of real people (in most cases) who live near us and share a lot of our values, even if you subtract the organized religion from the equation. You may run into them at the gas station or the grocery store. Even after you (again) subtract the shared organized religion from these individuals, they still form part of an important support group, one which works both ways. In short, they are people that you often feel comfortable with, and you with whom you would feel comfortable whether the religion existed or not. It is just one of many shared values.
The leaders of an organized religion are analogous to the board of directors of Wal-Mart. Although they often refer to a distinguished past board chairman, they are actually the ones making the decisions, generally decisions pertainling to money and power. Their local marketing representatives, like Wal-Mart clerks, have their feet in two different places: on the one hand they try to sell you what the corporation has to offer, while on the other they are part of your local support group, often an important part.
The members of your local church are your neighbors, near and far. They are apt to help you when you are in trouble, and just as apt to accept your help if you offer it. They are generally something apart from family and friends, but with some of the qualities of both. They are members of your support network, your social club, your coffee group, your book club, your discussion group, and your babysitting circle, among other things.
The Grange was once a good replacement for, or an adjunct to, the local church, at the same time that the Sears and Roebuck catalogue was a good replacement for Wal-Mart. The members of local churches don’t start religious wars, though they are often talked into supporting them by the local marketing manager. The member of local churches have a lot more in common than they have differences. In fact, if religion was removed from the equation, different churches would have one less thing to bicker about.