This question was inspired by the Christopher Hitchens / Dinesh D'Souza debate on religion in society and whether religion is needed to create and maintain a civil society and as a basis for teaching morality. Hitchens argues against the need for organized religion and claims it does more harm than good, possibly leading to extremist theocracies where people lose their lives for being inadequate in their religious practice/belief. D'Souza counters with his claim that lack of religion leads to Stalin/Pol Pot-type regimes where lots of people lose their lives for speaking out against the government.
I think the common ground between Hitchens and D'Souza is a rejection of authoritarian political systems, be they religious or atheistic. A secular government where there is individual freedom to practice (or not practice) religion, have freedom of belief, etc. enables people who derive benefits from organized religion to do so without leading the society as a whole towards religious extremism.