Thank you for your response Stephen.
Since the teaching is the responsibility of the leaders of the church then that statement would seem to be in agreement. I certainly agree that if a religion teaches peace and love one should see it in practice in those that follow the teaching. As stated this is not always the case. IMHO I believe that regardless of the religion it can be used as a means to motivate good or bad by the leaders of a given church. Also that the acts of a church can be good or bad regardless of intent.
The idea of intent is an interesting one. I was somewhat taken aback by the idea that because the intentions were good that religion was a force for good. Way too many jumps in the logical flow for my liking.
Anyhow, if I intend to do good and my religion intends good but the results of my actions are bad am is it still a force for good?
Obviously there is a whole side argument in the subjective nature of good and bad, I could create a grey area example but let's create an obvious example.
I am a Christian who having spent months studying the bible on my own has come to believe that the people of New York are evil and responsible for the woes of the world. It is Sodom and Gomorrah and so destined for destruction unless someone acts. Then God tells me he has a mission for me to warn the people of New York by blowing up the Empire States building. I am excited that God has spoken to me and tell all I can, being an extrovert and charismatic person I find this quite easy, no doubt why God has chosen me as his messenger.
Although most people tell me I am a nut case there are those who realise the truth of what I am saying. Together we believe the destruction of the Empire States building will be a sign that will usher in a new beginning of enlightenment and peace. I am spured on by the idolation of my followers. Ultimately my followers attempt to blow up the Empire States beliving they are saving humanity and people die.
Clearly I am deluded, I may or may not be considered evil or capable to stand trial and my followers may be judged equally cupable or more so because they actually did the deed without much input from me. Either way the result of our actions were bad even though we all genuinely believed we were doing the right thing. Ergo good intentions do not automatically mean someone or something is a force for good.
I also posit that the religion itself, in this case Christianity, was not a force for evil. I was the force for evil. It was my delusional interpretation coupled with a charismatic charm that worked on some people to make them followers that resulted in the evil act. I could have just as easily interpreted the same from the works of Nostrodamus, the Koran or any other text or I could even have made up my own divinely imparted scriptures.
This may sound ridiculously extreme but consider the acts perpetrated by suicide bombers, believing they are going to heaven and 72 virgins or the branch Davidians who wanted only to be slaves to David Koresh or those who drank the cool aid and forced others to do the same believing they would rather die than give up their life in Jonestown.
Ergo religion is not in as of itself a force for anything since it clearly has no consistent effect. Religion is a catalyst for many different effects; although the teachings can be the same the results are down to interpretation.
This is understandible since human free will not only allows one to choose a path of righteousness but also to decide what righteousness is and how to pursues it; it also allows you to disagree on these matters too but the existance of disagreement is proof of the free choice one has in such matters. (The law is a different matter, you can disagree with the law but typically you loose.)
How religion is effected is down to how it is taught and how those teachings are percieved. All of which is down to the leaders and individual members of the church. Churches being defined in this instance as organisations built around a religion. I posit that it is churches that are forces. They can be forces for good or evil regardless of intent or the teachings upon which they are based.
This also explains how splinter groups come to exist, when one church's interpretation of the scriptures differs significantly from the others teaching the same scriptures they end up seperating from the original and in some cases end up spawning their own group of churches.
I believe a person must be judged by the results of their actions on Earth, not their beliefs and the same is true of churches or any organisation for that matter. I leave the determination of who is right or wrong with respect to intepretations, scruptures etc to the Divine.