So in the 'Under God = Bullshit' thread we got into a nice conversation. One poster wrote:
'Can a society define it's ethics without some association to some religion? - Nope, I don't think so.'
I think that is an awesome place to start because, as I'm sure you can guess, I disagree. I think a large amount of people gather their ethics and morals from religion but I don't think it is required to follow a religion in order to be ethical.
Before I get into why, we need to define what we are going to call religion. Obviously anything that is inspired by some intellegent greater power that told some dude to write a book is a religion. But what about some of the middle eastern philosophies? Like Taoism or Buddhism. Budda was some fat guy that sat under a tree and came up with a way to look at the world. He was hardly devine. And Taoism is a philosphy that developed over a LONG time from stories and observations. I wouldn't consider either a religion in their pure form (although some people have taken them and turned them into a religion, dorks).
So taking Taoism, someone who has read about Taoism and believes it is a pretty spiffy way to look at the world and follows its tenents would have a common set of ethics that other Taoists have, but it wouldn't be from a religion, right?
I tell you that so I can ask you this, what about atheists? Some of these people are almost militaristic in their non-belief, yet they have ethics and morals...I don't see a group of crazy atheists running around killing people because they wroke up with a sore tooth or something.
I think ethics and morals are a learned behavior and are reinforced by society. Sure, if the family you grew up in is a religious family and if the society you hang with is mostly religious you can make the arguement that your ethics were religiously based. But I think you can also learn ethics and morals if you group up in an athiestic family and an athiestic society. Afterall, religion developed as nothing more than a codifed set of what the hell made sense back in the day to control the masses...social control. Whether you believe it devinely inspired or not, in the end that is what it boils down to.