Human Morality

A frequent accusation from theists is that atheists cannot be moral because they don't believe in god. This stems from the concept that god is the author of morality and thus the two are intrinsically tied.

Another similar (but more condescending) accusation acknowledges that most atheists are moral but claims that atheists have no basis for morality. Again, this stems from the theistic concept that morality is based on god.

Thus, the Argument from Morality. And I think that the entire concept is flawed.

Euthyphro Dilemma
The problem with god as the moral authority is condensed into the following question:

Is that which is good commanded by God because it is good,
or is it good because God commands it?

In the former, god essentially has nothing to do with morality. If an action is morally correct, god, being good, commands it. If an action is morally incorrect, god will not command it. As such, god is simply being a messenger. He does not set the moral standards - he merely following them. If this is the case, morality has nothing to do with a belief in god. One can be moral if they investigated the principles behind them.

In the latter, god dictates morality. He is free to decide what is good or bad - there is no standards to adhere to. As such, morality dictated by god would be arbitrary.

Hypothetically, god could have easily commanded that rape or murder is morally correct. At this point, theists jump to their deity's defense by claiming that "God is righteous/good and will not command like such." Really? The god of the old testament did command rape and murder. In fact, he also set laws for slavery. Are they then morally correct?

If one acknowledges that rape, murder and slavery are morally incorrect, that would seem to go against the old testament account of this "righteous/good" god. If this is the case, isn't this judgment made based on some other standard that is not the bible? Which brings us to the conclusion in the former question in the dilemma.

See the Iron Chariots Wiki - Euthyphro Dilemma.

Morals from an evolutionary perspective
Before I continue, I should clarify a frequent misunderstanding about evolution and morality. Science and the Theory of Evolution makes no claims on what is moral. The consequences of Social Darwinism is frequently heaped onto the theory as if they were related. They are not.

Explaining how stuff works does not dictate how we should act. The theory of gravity says that jumping off a building will result in falling to your death but it does not imply that we should all throw ourselves off buildings. Same with the theory of evolution - Survival of the fittest does not imply we should kill weak people (and even this is a misunderstanding of the theory).

Using the theory of evolution, the emergence of basic rules in morality can be explained. For example, animals in general do not run around committing murder.

Think of two hypothetical tribes of animals - One with no desire to commit murder and the other with an inclination to murder another tribes mate. Naturally, the tribe with the inclination to kill its members will decline rapidly. Organisms that show no inclination to kill its own species will stay alive to propagate.

That's just a simplistic example. For more complex concepts such as how altruism may arise by evolution, I'd recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.

Empathy and Rationality
One does not require a god to dictate morality. We have the tools to understand morality and to act morally. They are essentially empathy and rationality. A bit of "heart" and a bit of brains is pretty much all you need to start investigating moral issues.

While atheists are sometimes accused of having no reason to be moral, it seems that the position that theists hold is even shakier when we dig deep into that claim. In essence, such theists are saying that god is the only reason to be moral. If they ever knew for a fact that god does not exist, nothing would stop them from committing crimes. And if that is the case, I'm glad they go to church or [Insert place of worship].

Apart from god, one of the most powerful reason to be moral is our empathy. Apply the Golden Rule - Just ask yourself: Would like having your stuff stolen? Would like to be murdered? Would you like to be raped? Etc. I am sure most of us would prefer to keep our stuff, stay alive and not be raped. It does not take a lot of reasoning to realize that everyone should act morally for everyone's sake.

Law and Morality
Today's secular laws safeguard the survival and orderliness of the society so as long as they are enforced. Apart from representing the moral stance of its people, laws also ensure the smooth flow of daily activities, prevent abuse and etc.

In essence, the laws of a society are simply the rules that the people of the society agreed to live by. This would be how those laws came into being in the first place.

To establish a cohesive society, its people must agree with the rules. These rules embody the morality of its people. As beings with empathy and reason, these rules would include that which is moral. If, for example, an individual disagrees and believes murder is moral, the society as a whole would disagree and remove that individual should he commit the crime. The logic behind this is the basis for our laws, enforcers and prisons.

One last thing
An unusual claim by theists is that even non believers are moral because god "placed his moral laws in our hearts." This can be disputed on several levels. The Euthyphro Dilemma still applies. The fact that, for example, even christians do not adhere to the 613 commandments in their bible disputes the claim (there's a defense to this objection - but it fails as well).

I for one do not and will not adhere to the "morality" of the old testament god - he's utterly disgusting.

I'd recommend this series by holysinecure which questions biblical morality