I probably didn’t do this post full justice on my first attempt, so I’m going to rewrite it more thoroughly here.
The question arises far too often from people of faith:
How can you be ethical without the belief in God?
Or there are some other misconstrued variants:
…for if there is no God our existence is based not on the law of God but on the law of evolution.
From James Bell the First
I don’t think one can claim ethics or our existence is based on the law of evolution. The Law (I appreciate James’ use of the word law instead of theory and I think I’ll put it that way, it’s much more accepted than the word “theory” implies) of Evolution is merely a scientific way to explain the diversity observed in nature. Evolution has no inherent ethics or morals associated with it. If anything evolution is a cold, harsh selection process that would be horrible to choose your ethics from. The obvious example is of “ethical cleansing” or the Holocaust, where certain people believe themselves to be of higher genetic quality than others, and seek to unnaturally select others. I for one do not base my life on that principle.
So again arises the question, where do ethics come from? To examine this, I like to look to science to provide some insight (it’s treated me pretty well this far). It has been observed in nature that chimpanzees (and many other mammals, birds, and other animals) are altruistic by nature. They treat their kin with respect, follow the Golden Rule, and the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” principle. So to state that humans are only moral because of their belief in god is to leave the question of why are all of these animals ethical or altruistic? The reason for this can be explained by evolution (do not make the mistake to assume that evolution is what the animals are looking at to be moral) as follows: Animals that are more altruistic and moral with their kin tend to create a stronger and safer family unit. This close unit preserves its genes better (since the family is surviving well), and reproduces. This is natural selection at work. So we see altruistic genes develop in a group and flourish as the group becomes better adapted for working together.
If you accept evolution (which has yet to have even one scientific paper released doubting it), then its easy to see how our altruism and ethics could develop in our ape ancestors. This then gets passed down into us, where although we are not in as small of groups, still possess the general traits of our ancestors.
So it makes sense logically that we should be ethical by nature, without the requirement for any supernatural good buddy.
What we do tend to notice is that people who are heavily religious tend to find excuses to break from their genetic pre-programming and commit horrible sins: murder, rape, war, and any number of others you can think of.
I am an ethical and moral being without the need for any supernatural entity.