So the question that Atheists ask and that Theists claim to be true is: Do we need religion to be moral? The answer is no. So where does morality come from then? There are too alternative approaches to this question: Science and Philosophy. While I prefer the philosophical approach, people such as Sam Harris have turned to science for their answers. While I don't necessarily agree with all of it, Sam Harris makes a very good case for the scientific approach in this TEDTalk:
Something interesting to point out about Sam Harris is he originally earned a degree in philosophy from Stanford University but in 2009 returned to school to earn a PhD in cognitive neuroscience for the specific purpose of finding the answers to morality within the scientific realm. You can still see the philosophical approach in a lot of his points though. It just makes sense for a social species such as humans to have a general sense of morality. What is best for the species as a whole? Certainly killing each other, for the most part, doesn't benefit the existence of our species. Stealing from other people might help you in the short term, but ultimately it's only going to alienate you from the rest of the group once your are eventually caught. We don't need the bible to tell us these things are bad. Through our own personal experience (as well as what we learn from our parents, mentors, etc.) we can understand that certain things are just wrong. Just about every religion (including those that existed before the Abrahamic religions) has some form of the "Golden Rule" within it. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Well that just makes sense. If you wouldn't want someone to kill you, steal from you, and/or enslave you, then why would you do those things to other people? It's just common sense.
While Sam Harris and a lot of other people, including Christians, try to look at morality in an objective sense; I think it is really a subjective issue. Nothing is black and white, there are always gray areas. This is why we have different degrees of murder within our justice system. There's a difference between just walking up to a random person on the street and killing them for no good reason and killing someone in self defense to save yourself from getting killed by someone who just walked up to you on the street. Therefore killing, in itself, is not wrong in certain contexts. It is, for the most part, not a good way to propagate our species, however. So we can generally accept it as morally wrong to kill.
Okay, so Theists claim that without god (religion) we have no formal structure of morality for which to live our lives. Basically, they argue that if we don't follow god's word through the bible we are simply making it up as we go along. Well, what's wrong with that? Times change. Our society changes. Things happen that cause us to reassess our societal framework. Our founding fathers understood this when developing the basic principals of our government. This is why we are able to amend the laws. Sometimes a law which was once needed may no longer be relevant for current times. The same can be said for moral law. But Theists maintain that the archaic laws written in the bible should be followed today. These laws were written during a different era long before the complex societies we live in today were created. Some of these laws don't even have anything to do with morality. I'm talking about the 10 commandments. Take your pick as to which version you would like to use:
I would also like to point out that the punishments for breaking these laws contradict the very laws for which they uphold. Here's what I mean:
As you can see, disobeying the 6th commandment (which tells us we should not kill) is punishable by killing. Well then, that makes sense, right? We shouldn't kill, so if someone does kill, we should kill them. I would also like to point out that that is not the only law punishable by death. How many of these laws have you broken in your lifetime? More importantly, how many times have Christians, themselves, broken these laws? Should we put them to death because they worked on a Sunday? Of course not, but this is what they claim to believe in.
Okay, maybe we can all agree that the 10 commandments are outdated and shouldn't be followed verbatim. Still, the overall message in the bible is one that we should all model our lives after, right? The moral groundwork is laid throughout the entire book. While there are some good points made in the bible which do offer a good sense of how we should live our lives, there are bad ones as well. If you truly believe god's word as written in the bible is the basis for which we should model ourselves after you are strongly mistaken. Slavery, prostitution, genocide, pedophilia, rape, and murder are just some examples of the conduct that is excepted, even encouraged, throughout the bible. Here's your proof:
"As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you." - Deuteronomy 20:10-14
"Thus says the Lord: 'I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.' Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die." - 2 Samuel 12:11-14 NAB
These are just a couple of examples but there are many, many more. I encourage you to read the bible yourself if you don't believe this is true. If you need more examples as proof you can also check out my source for these quotes:
Theists also argue that that is the Old Testament. Things were much different when Jesus entered the picture. Really? I beg to differ. The New Testament is filled with contradictions as well. For an interesting breakdown of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount check out:
You don't have to take my word for it. Do the research yourself and you will find that the bible is probably not the best source from which to base our morality. Humanity itself is the ultimate source for moral judgment. Treating everyone with dignity and respect for the sake of simply being human should be all we need to know for what is right and what is wrong. Someday soon (hopefully) this will be proven without a shadow of a doubt through scientific proof and we will be one step closer to stomping out the wrongful, bigoted morality that exists within the bible. Theists claim that to be an Atheist and not live by the bible, I must be an evil, immoral person. Well judging by the bible's sense of morality I suppose that is true. And I wouldn't have it any other way.