Can we be moral without religion?

Moral values and morality are a label that human beings have applied to a system of right and wrong that has its origins, at the end of the day, in the kind of animal that we are.

For example, if you put the moral code of every religion through a filter, you will find that it boils down to two simple truths:

  1. That which contributes to our well-being is moral.
  2. That which is detrimental to our well-being is immoral.

So stealing, which might make you rich, but will hurt the well-being of someone else in your community of humans, is immoral. Murder, if it is committed against a member of the community, is wrong as well. Same goes for disrespecting people (ends with enmity and therefore, uncooperative communities), rape (see murder), and even, in some cultures, atheism (undermines the authority of the ideal that the community is based around).

Of course, there are variations in this code from culture to culture because of the differences in the way the community is defined. In some places, human communities make a distinction between classes of humans based on their gender, the colour of their skin, their sexual orientation, the languages they speak, and their ideas regarding gods. Some of these discriminations are more or less behind us. Some are not.

The kind of moral judgement I am described is a part of our animal nature itself. And we are not the only animals that tell right from wrong in this way. It’s just that we formed brackets like religion to consolidate our understanding of these classifications so that passing this knowledge becomes easier.

It is safe to say that religion is not the source of morality. It is only an apparatus which human societies fashioned to hold societies together.