I heard Randy Cohen, author of “The New York Times” ethical advice column, recently say on NPR that throughout human history, the conduct of “believers” has not been all that different from the conduct of “non-believers.” Intrigued, I found an interview with him on a website for clergy where he happily elaborates upon this point.

COHEN: As I think is apparent, I’m a secular guy, and I think the historical effect of organized religion on American life through the history of this country is pretty checkered. There are many examples of the church as a force for good, but there are 10 times as many examples where it is not. So I have not seen the clergy as a particularly virtuous coterie of people. It’s always especially striking if a policeman breaks the law, or a clergyman is caught in a love nest. Again, we all love hypocrisy. It’s as entertaining as anything you might watch on TV.

Cohen has a book out called “The Good, the Bad and the Difference: How to Tell the Right From Wrong in Everyday Situations.”

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