In the Middle East, Iraq, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland, and many other places in the world, religion has been so divisive that people have killed one another, believing they were doing the work of God.
I think a lot of us share a fear that we and people we love will lose control of our own destinies at the end of life.
Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves.
The problem is not that Christians are conservative or liberal, but that some are so confident that their position is God's position that they become dismissive and intolerant toward others and divisive forces in our national life.
We are seekers of the truth, but we do not embody the truth. And in humility, we should recognize that the same can be said about our most ardent foes.
The Senate is indeed a deliberative body, and that quality serves the nation well. A slow-moving government helps us maintain a stable government. But slow moving is not the same as immobile.
Many, if not most, Americans can imagine a fate worse than death, and it is a seemingly interminable process of dying. For them, it is frightening that politicians can find ways to interject themselves into this sad process.
The starting point is the recognition that throughout history, religion has been a cause of bloodshed, and it remains so today. Because religion has contributed to the world's problems, it must develop specific and practical ways to help solve those problems.
Most of all, faith brings recognition that our quest never leads us to certainty. We are always uncertain, always in doubt that our way is God's way. That self-doubt makes it possible to be reconciled to one another. It is faith that makes the reconciling work of politics possible.
We have a God-given commission, but it is not a commission to be self-righteous know-it-alls- quite the contrary. Our work in God's world begins with the acknowledgment that we are not God, and that our most bitter rivals are made in God's image.
When we vest our personal opinions with the trappings of religion, we make religion the servant of our politics.
The old adage that polite conversation should not include talk of politics or religion is understandable because both subjects are so heavily laden with emotion that discussion can quickly turn to shouting. Blood is shed over politics, religion and the two in combination.
It is concern that precedes and inspires agendas, and survives when agendas fail, and it causes us to try again, always trying our best, never certain about our own judgment. It is knowing that God's purpose exceeds whatever we can put in an agenda.