My answer to If religion had never been invented, what would humans have used as a moral compass?
Answer by Vijayendra Mohanty:
The question assumes that humans use religion as a moral compass. This is not necessarily true. Sure, people say they get their sense of morality from their holy books, but we all know Christians without compassion, Hindus without intelligence, and Muslims without human decency. Same goes for any follower of any religion out there. All we have are claims about religions being the source of morality.
So asking this is like asking: “If washing machines had never been invented, what would people have used as a cooking instrument?”.
Having said that, a sense of common decency is built into most people as a result of social evolution. The things we consider bad are usually bad for the well-being of those around us and things we consider good are usually good for everyone. We all largely subscribe to the idea that helping each other is a good thing and that hurting each other without need is bad for the collective. Such behaviour keeps social units in working order.
Religion is only a layer of stories that envelopes this inherent sense and helps societies communicate it to their members. We have religion because we have communication. If we didn’t have religion, we would have been communicating moral ideas to each other in some other ways.
Thing is, I am pretty sure these other ways of communicating morality would have turned into religions as well. Religion isn’t a thing in and of itself. It is a side effect of what we are.