Mitt Romney stated in a speech Thursday, "Freedom requires religion. Religion requires freedom." He has also supposedly stated that the separation of church and state should not be absolute.
The first statement is just blatantly stupid. Freedom requires a sense of fairness. A sense of fairness is notoriously overlooked in many religions. Be fair to the faithful, but screw the other guys. So eventually you fall afoul of either the fundamentalists or the compromisers. You end up where we are now. So get over it.
The assertion that religion has a role in government just opens the door to theocracy. Put one religion in charge and the others get jealous. Religious civil war ensues. Put them all in charge and the fundamentalists fight the compromisers.
Religion does one thing. It manipulates people through their fear of death to concentrate power among a self-appointed elite. It's no different from aristocracy or Corporate America. Aristocracy and Corporate America have made good use of it throughout history.
Religion does empower the common people by incorporating their helpless, directed mass into the base of the pyramid supporting the religious power brokers and decision makers. But, as in the unions that came along later, the regrettable corruptibility of those decision makers renders the whole body less effective or ineffective to represent the best interests of the vast majority of the members.
Religions have a major advantage because most of them don't have to pay off until after the chump is dead. Did the poor schmuck go to heaven? Of COURSE he did.
Religion benefits some people because it stimulates their better impulses. Doing good things causes a rush of pious good feelings. By tying this feeling to a specific cosmic entity and philosophy, a religion gives the believer a framework in which to set feelings they would have had anyway. It feels good to do good.
Unfortunately, it can also feel good to do bad. Religious leadership can use those feelings to command their darker minions to do religion's dirty work in the name of [insert deity here].