In discussions I have had with Christians I have heard it argued that “How can there be morality without Christian values?” When I reply that I am an agnostic and feel that I have quite high moral and ethical standards the typical reply from those who know me well is that I got those values because I grew up in a Christian family.
There is some truth to this but some of the people I admire most for their beliefs, intellect, and moral convictions are agnostics and atheists. I have also met non-Christians whom I feel have quite high moral standards. My Golden standard for morality is the Golden Rule: Do no harm. Treat other as you would like them to treat you. This rule is what I use to compare the moral values of other individuals. As I said before I find some proud Christians the antithesis of the Golden Rule which is so fundamental to Christianity. It is my experience that I find as many good non-Christians including agnostics and atheists as I find Christians that seem to take my Gold Standard of morality to heart.
There is little doubt in my mind that the Golden Rule is not unique to Christianity or religion in general. It is a very simple rule that keeps social order and perpetuates thriving social systems. It is the Mother of all social laws. It takes us beyond the primitive caveman to civilized communities and nations. It neutralizes our tendency toward selfish actions and keeps us from self destruction. It is no wonder that such a rule should be found in such a broad range of religious belief worldwide. It is such a universal truism.
So morality can develop independent of religion, especially the Golden Rule because of its universal truism as a social enhancer. Being selfless is not an exclusively religious concepts. Compassion, love, and charity are universal values that can come within ourselves without being taught by religion. Empathy and compassion for others is part of the human condition. There is good and bad in everyone regardless of whether we have a religious upbringing or not.
Some of the most violent acts of man have been perpetrated in the name of religion. The Godfather and like people in real life are often devoutly religious people yet kill with little conscience. Most wars have been fought throughout history in the name of religion. So religious people don’t necessarily have the highest ethical standards or moral values. There is an abundance of history showing violence and killing being perpetrated by religious groups and individuals. Can the same be shown of agnostics or atheists? I make my case.
So the original question could be rephrased by agnostics and atheists: Why has there been such an abundance of evil and lack of morality among Christians and other religious groups throughout history? Why does the moral right wing strongly favor unrestricted gun ownership, weapons meant to kill other human beings? Why does the religious right wing favor more wars abroad, especially in the Middle East, than the intellectual left? Why do they overwhelmingly favor the death penalty? Yet they are staunchly against abortions. It seems that the religious right only cares for life if it is not yet born. The lives of thinking, feeling, and breathing human beings are less consequential. And this is only about the morality of killing. How about other aspects of morality such as sexuality and discrimination?