You don't need fear of a sky daddy or a hell to be a moral person. I don't believe you do. I believe you need God to ground your morality but Atheists are very moral people on average. But if morals are decided by society and culture then they aren't objective, you can't really call anything another society or culture does wrong if they all support it within that system.
If God exists though there are some things that are actually wrong no matter what the public consensus is.
This is an interesting thought - that there's a certain baseline for human action that comes "through God". What makes it so interesting is that it has within it a very testable hypothesis, to wit: "Since morality comes from God, Godly people should be the most moral." This makes sense, doesn't it? After all, those most in tune with the Divine would be those who most fully expressed it in their lives.
There are several imperfect censuses (censi?) that place the prison population of the US as highly religious - that would seem to be enough to refute that hypothesis, but the studies are inherently flawed as prisoners will often say whatever will give them a perceived easier time of it in jail. There's a very valid question that simply asks: are prisoners who profess faith given preferential treatment? Sadly, that's often very true; social workers, judges, advocates, and even guards and wardens look upon a person's commitment to faith as a positive step toward rehabilitation, and often 'ease up' on prisoners who are especially devout. Given that phenomenon, it's not startling that most prisoners would claim to be faithful.
So, we'd have to look at other metrics. We can start sociologically - in the Western world, in most parts of developing Africa, the Church is the de facto
moral authority. It comes out of the african Shamanic tradition; "wise men" and "witch men" were the ones that directed the tribal mystical requirements. In the modern day, this reverence for the mystic has moved in response to the evangelical effort to convert the continent.
While there are many good Christian folk in Africa, Christianity is the root of Koney's Army, its prohibitions against witchcraft are used to slaughter children when bad things happen, and western evangelicals have convinced African governments to make homosexuality a capital offence. Let me reiterate that: American evangelicals went over to Africa and convinced several governments there (Uganda foremost) that they should make being gay
punishable by death.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Bill
- that'll give you a good start, and you can go from there. I'd suggest paying close attention to this NY Times article about the catalyzing events.
You can also look at the slavery issue in the US, where the bible was brought out to defend slave ownership
by good Christian folk who honestly thought they were doing the Lord's will:
"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." - Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America
Every hope of the existence of church and state, and of civilization itself, hangs upon our arduous effort to defeat the doctrine of Negro suffrage." - Robert Dabney, a prominent 19th century Southern Presbyterian pastor
"... the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." - Richard Furman, President, South Carolina Baptist Convention
Such moral men are these! ... but they were, at the time. Morals have changed over the intervening (nearly) two centuries; our culture has grown to embrace the concept that freedom is a universal right, independent of the color of someone's skin.
You see? Morals do
change - sometimes exceptionally rapidly.
It is a common bias to assume that the way things are is the way things always have been and always will be. That's simply confirmation bias at work - you've not experienced what people do or claim is 'moral' by virtue of their faith, and so you assume that the faithful are, in fact, like you. [Assumedly] good people, people who go to your church, who smile on Sundays, who are seen doing good works somewhere along the way. If, however, Christianity invariably led to moral behavior (as presupposed), where morals are defined by the western culture that prizes freedom, individual initiative, opportunity, and equality, then that is just... sadly.. not true. At all.
Atheist morality (for those that truly consider it) begins with the presupposition that this life is the only one existent, that there are no second chances, and that human life has value. If we take these as a certain baseline assumption, then the rest logically follows:
- People are valuable, therefore we must treat them as though they are valuable. People matter.
- People only have one life, and since that life matters, it behooves all of us to live the best life we can.
- Living the best life we can means experiencing all that we can, harming no one, and improving the lives of those around us to give them the opportunity to do precisely the same.
- Since there is no divine spark, there is no divine 'punishment' - this means that problems like starvation, poverty, slavery, opression, brutality, violence.. these are human
problems with human
solutions. We must act to address them, for if we do not, we will not be saved by some outside benevolence.
- No one "deserves" good or bad fortune; life is messy.
... well, you should try out some Bertrand Russell to see the core of Humanism. It's a bit too lengthy to go into here, but it certainly does not require a God, and most definitely actively seeks to improve the lot of the world rather than simply 'offering hope'.
Anyroad - the point is that you make an interesting assertion that has no basis in fact. Additionally, your assertion that morality comes from God exclusively misses the fact that entire worthwhile moral systems can be built without any reference to God at all... and, as those moral systems focus on action over prayer, they actually have a chance to make a positive difference.