Many religious people love to claim that religion is the source of morality; that religious scriptures form the basis for living as a moral and good person.
To a creationist, this makes sense, as they are under the belief that we came about in a religious way. That a being created us, and therefore that religion proceeded creation (us). But since there is no reason to believe that we were intelligently designed and a plethora of reasons not to believe that we weren’t, let’s base this argument on evidence that we do have, and not on the folklore that people still hold very dear to them. There is no argument that we evolved from primates to be what we are today.
During that extremely long process, long before we had language abilities and cognitive skills to spin up ideas of how we got here and what we are meant to do here, we had quite a sound understanding of right and wrong.
A person, and even most animals, with normal mental cognition, understand that what is wrong and right. All social animals, even insects, have to modify or restrain their behaviours for group living to be worthwhile. Chimpanzees remember who did them favours and who did them wrong, and are more likely to share food with individuals who have previously groomed them. They do not need a book to tell them that it works to their advantage to treat their fellow chimpanzees in a way that they would like to be treated.
If you actually believe that Jesus was the first person to come up with this belief, to come to the realisation that peace between people is found in the reciprocality of gestures that give pleasure, comfort or help, then maybe you should do some reading, and even some thinking.
A recent study at Yale University has again proved the fact that babies, beings that have not been indoctrinated into any religion or fully understood any philosophies on morality , have a basic understanding of right and wrong. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09babies-t.html?pagewanted=all)
I saw this when I recently went to my baby cousin’s Greek Orthodox christening. As she was being dunked into the holy tap water, she (understandably) was screaming and wailing in distress. At the sounds of her screams, her older sister (two years old) ran over to the bath and began crying and looking around frantically for someone to help her little sister. She was throwing her arms up in the air doing the whole: “She’s obviously distressed! That man is hurting her! Why is everyone watching on and doing nothing about it!?” It’s obvious that the older older sister knew her little sister was distressed due to her cries, and this made her aware that some sort of injustice was happening. Something wrong.
Morality came before any religious thinking, and definitely before any religious scripture. The moral guides found in religious scriptures are based on being a fucking cognisant being. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or The Golden Rule was what chimps were living by.
If someone wants to enlighten me some more, or challenge what I just said, please do!