I recently "came out" as an Atheist to my Christian family. They responded well, though they asked a lot of questions about why I decided to leave the church and reject God. I explained my various grievances with the Church which they all agreed were valid points, yet hey were willing to overlook them, something I could not do.
Then my mother threw me a curveball. she said "If you have no God to hold youself accountable to, why bother being a good person, why not lie, steal and cheat?" I tried to explain how the right thing is still the right thing and how I didn't want to only to make the right choice because out of fear of punishment. I wanted to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do.
She then went on to ask me why it was the right thing to do, who said so? I responded with my conscience told me what was right. She asked me what told my conscience that right was right and wrong was wrong.
And this was where I said something along the lines of: "Uhh...buhhh...meh?"
So my question to you all is: Where do you base your morality from, and how do you defend that morality against people who believe that morality can only be based off of a God?
"why not lie, steal and cheat?"
i'd ask her how would she like to live in a world where people are allowed to cheat, steal, kill, rape, and lie- without repercussions.
how would you like to raise children in that kind of world? open a business in that kind of world? hope your spouse comes home at night in that kind of world, heck, even leave the house...
you woulden't like it, would you?
we'll neither do atheists....
the reason to be good is to make life in THIS world possible.
The bigoted notion that morality has to come from belief in god is the rationalization the religious use to justify persecuting us.
It is religion itself that is evil:
The way that i approached this question when others asked me was to admit that there is a universal nature that corresponds to morals. That is why people in a given country/nation/community will typically respond the same way to most moral decisions. That said i think morals are mostly macro-structurally derived (that each individual impacts socially derived standards, and that those standards then in turn impinge themselves upon us). These then tend to be regulated through other standards, e.i. the media, the law, religious/a religious groups etc. While i know that this view might be more clinical or seem less personal, it does all stem down to the individuals that define the standards. Which is why individuals make different moral decisions. This also explains why different cultures have different social norms.
While this is not as simple as 'God makes moral standards', i do think that it is comprehensive and logical.
Read 'The Moral Landscape' by Sam Harris and you will know exactly where our morality came from. His conjecture is that morality is genetic and pretty much an indirect result of evolution; natural selection.
Think about it this way: those who get along in society and are nice to others tend to be those that make the most social connections and therefore are the most likely to help continue our species. Humans are competitive, but not violent by nature; that's an abnormality, to wish harm on others of your species on a regular basis. The fact is that morality was probably developed out of natural selection.
Morality is not merely about what one would voluntarily do or refrain from doing, but feel so strongly about that he/she would be willing to use force, social pressure or physical, to coerce even the unwilling into that behaviour. There are two categories in morality, the things one ought to do and things one ought to refrain from doing, many of the latter often being decreed so wrong that a strong deterrant is put in place in the form of punishment for doing so.
Is it possible to define morality, that one intends to enforce on others, without putting oneself in a special position in relation to others who disagree? If we believe something is objective, like the earth being spheroidal in shape, we will be convinced of its truth regardless of how many disagree with it, because we believe they too would be forced to come to the same conclusions as we do provided they take the time to consider the evidence. Specialists are not bothered about disagreements from non-specialists because they realise a certain degree of specialisation is needed for people to even understand what is being proposed and its objectivity is not suspect merely because some non-specialists do not agree with it nor can they be made to see the truth of the matter merely by presenting some evidence and asking them to consider it. So when we consider something to be objective the special position is accorded to the object and not the subject. A scientist claiming to have discovered a new principle is not considered to be speaking out of arrogance, because the only special position he is claiming is to have discovered it, it having an existence independent of the scientist claiming to have discovered it. However, if something is not objective, as non-religious morality is considered to be, it requires a tremendous degree of arrogance to not only claim that others respect one's preferences for behaviour but also to threaten them with punishment for failing to do so. Advocates of religious morality have no such problem because the only special position they are claiming relative to the rest is like the scientist who discovers a principle, that the dictates are that of an objective external entity and not the person espousing them.
So an atheist who claims to believe in morality is either a megalomaniac, not too critical in thinking, simply dishonest or some combination of them, exactly those qualities that religious people are accused of.
There is certainly a different possibility, but I will wait for some discussion on the above before mentioning it.
I am afraid you need to give this topic a little more thought and research. There are, in fact, objective criteria regarding morality and studies to prove that these criteria grow out of our nature and environment and have been around for a sufficient length of time to have become universal moral assumptions in the human mind via evolution.
This article below and the one by Stephen Pinker referenced in it are a good place to start: