Religion and morality do not depend on one another, and our society has ethical values that do not depend on religion.
For example, nobody needs a deity to tell us stealing and murder are wrong. Most human and animal social groups consider it wrong to take things that belong to other members or harm other members of the same social group, and many societies from various religious backgrounds have included laws against stealing and murder in their code of laws long before the advent of the modern major religions.
Furthermore, religion has had plentiful opportunities to demonstrate higher, more ethical values during historical periods in which religions had absolute authority.
Rather than prove itself an important source of enlightened ethical values in an unenlightened and unethical world, religions have instead largely proven themselves to be full of prejudice and despicable values.
Christianity, for example, had nearly a millennium of almost absolute power in which it could have demonstrated that Christian values are more ethical and better for humanity than other religions or no religion, but that period of time in Europe is known as the Dark Ages and gave rise to unparalleled levels of ignorance, a decrease in education and scientific knowledge, religious inquisitions, holy wars, violence and poverty.
One could argue these negative effects were the result of institutionalized religion rather than religious values; however, if the values espoused by these religions are not even sufficient to improve the institutions that claim to follow them, how can they improve society as a whole?
Furthermore, the unethical influences of religion on society are not only due to the inability of religious people or their leaders to follow their own values, but also are the result of unethical, detrimental values that religions promote as good. Among these values are divisiveness, sectarianism, sexism, racism and homophobia.
Our innate values allow us to have a society that can live in harmony despite all the differences we have. The Pirahã, an indigenous tribe from Brazil, does not believe in any deities and is able to maintain a harmonious society.
We can live good, harmonious lives without gods and religions, but not without moral values. If our values depended only on religion or the Bible, for instance, how can we draw the line and pick and choose which religious values should guide our lives? Can we really trust in a book filled with contradictions and divinely inspired genocides and atrocities written millennia ago? The answer is short and simple: No we can’t!
Christians will say God exists; that he is a loving God who created us to worship him; that his word, the Bible, is true; and that his teachings are the only true teachings. Christians also will attempt to say that the values we have in our society are the result of the values taught in the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments. They argue that we must follow the perfect values given to us by the creator or our societies will collapse and violence will reign supreme.
None of these arguments is supported by evidence. No one has ever provided proof of the existence of any of the many thousands of deities people have imagined since the dawn of time.
Science has proven the universe does not require supernatural explanations for its existence. Scientific evidence of natural phenomena has consistently replaced the claims of supernatural religious phenomena. If these religions are wrong about the nature of reality, how could their imaginary deities correctly determine proper ethical values within that framework? If God is such an amazing being that teaches the highest of ethics, should society follow the Bible and once again allow slavery?
Perhaps we should abhor homosexuals and kill them as the Bible says in Leviticus 20:13, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Perhaps women should submit to their husbands as the Bible says in Ephesians 5:24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should be submissive to their husbands in everything.”
Maybe we can all have slaves, as long as they are from neighboring nations as the Bible says in Leviticus 25:44, “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.”
Perhaps we should follow the examples of patriarchs of Judaism and Christianity and practice polygamy again.
The values religion teaches people often are despicable and should not be considered a guide. Societies do not depend on religion to be moral; on the contrary, we are better off progressing beyond the unethical values espoused by the Bible or any other holy book that encapsulates the outdated and harsh cultural norms of millennia-old societies.