Grayling claims that “religion is, overall and by a large margin, a force for ill in today's world”. Norm stays agnostic on this but dislikes the way Grayling pushes his point, both in tone and in ignoring the other side of the coin: “the fact that religion has also been, and is, an influence for the good”.
I tend to agree with Norm on this, even though my judgement is that the overall balance sheet for religion isn’t good. But then he says:
there have been those who behaved with enormous courage in the face of grave danger, and those who made large sacrifices for others, and those who gave their energies to trying to make the world a better place, and those who tried to live good lives, because of their religion. The argument that they could have done such things without the religion may be true but it isn't relevant: if we are estimating what the effects of religion have been, then its beneficial effects are what they are even if they could have been obtained otherwise.
This seems to miss the point about cause and effect: if a religious individual’s act of heroism or lifetime of charitable effort would have happened even in the absence of their religion, then it isn’t a consequence of that religion. If Y would have occurred regardless of whether X had, then X didn’t cause Y.
Nonetheless, I do agree that religion can and does motivate acts both of good and of ill that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. Likewise, of course. for secular/political belief systems.