Religion has the potential to be among the most powerful motivations in the human experience. We've seen that expressed for good in gigantic figures such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His courageous stand against injustice led to long overdue changes in our laws and in our lives.

I wonder if Secretary of State John Kerry has been briefed that some religious forces are not so beneficial. Last week, Kerry had a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. After the meeting both men spoke with reporters on the substance of their discussions.

Kerry shared that addressing worldwide poverty was a topic of mutual interest between our country and the Vatican. He added, "We have a huge common interest in dealing with the issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet."

I wish I could ask Kerry whether he thought the terrorists who attacked Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, were motivated by poverty, a video or religious inspired hate.

In civil war-torn Syria, I'm sure there is a lot of poverty, but the core of that three-year-old conflict is a religious war. The dictator of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, leads a Shia Muslim faction in that country. The rebels in Syria adhere to the Sunni Muslim faith.

A former official of the Assad regime has recently escaped to western Europe. His job, according to a Jan. 21 report on "CBS Evening News," was to photograph the results of systematic torture and murder in Syria. He managed to bring with him photographic evidence of this brutality.

There are also numerous accounts of the Syrian rebels abusing and killing Christians in Syria. Reuters recently cited a report from Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians, which documented 2,123 martyr killings in 2013. The report found over half of these deaths occurred in Syria alone.

The policy of our government is to support the Syrian rebels. President Barack H. Obama has called on Assad to step down.

Syria is supported by Iran, which is controlled by clerics of the Shia Muslim faith. The Syrian rebels obtain arms and other support from Persian Gulf Arab states. The governments of those Gulf states adhere to the Sunni orientation.

I'm not claiming to know any easy answers to any of these problems. I do find the statements of Kerry to be, shall we say, on the naive side.

In theory it is good to have diplomatic options when dealing with the international challenges. Part of me hopes the Obama-Kerry initiatives to curb Iranian nuclear weapon ambitions turn out well for our country and our allies.

The realist in me, however, believes that Iran is playing our president and secretary of state for absolute fools. The Iranian leaders do not see things through the same set of assumptions that our leaders seem to maintain.

Obama and Kerry seem to think that there is some magic formula of carrots and sticks that will entice Iran to drop their goal of obtaining nukes and the means to deliver them.

I sense that the Iranians in power view themselves as heirs of the mighty Persian Empire and the truest keepers of the Islamic faith. They envision a world in which they hold power or influence over a good deal more territory than the current status quo.

In order to achieve such power, they will need to overcome the nation of Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

May our leaders be blessed with wisdom as we continue to live in a world filled with injustice and cruelty.