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?
I wanted to add something here.
It appears the goal of the morality you are proposing is reducing casuality figures in inter-society conflicts. And your method is appealing to emotions, not to reason or logic, because even you are not sure your proposed morality (whatever it is, since that hasn't yet been pronounced) will achieve that goal.
I am looking for nothing other than logic and reason. Immorality has negative consequences sure, but most often not for the actor or his/her ilk, but for some others. George W Bush (who both of us agree is a criminal) one a second term in office after obliterating a million lives and is retired and having fun on his ranch. His kin don't seem to be any worse off for his actions either.
If you are saying that being an atheist somehow makes a person abhor the negative implications of his/her actions on everyone else, I would like to know how that logically/reasonably follows.
Since the bible is not an authority for either of us, quoting from the bible is an unnecessary distraction.
That's a good one! Perhaps why anyone cannot trust a person to act morally who believes his/her sins are forgiven once he/she confesses them!
But seriously, George W Bush's confession of sins absolves him only of divine retribution in the after-life, according to his professed faith. Any guilt for such actions is something he still have to live with. If he doesn't have it when he is a Christian, there is no reason to expect he will have it if he were an atheist.
It is quite evident that the possibility of a divine retribution in the after-life is not sufficient grounds for deterring someone from immoral behaviour if it also comes coupled with guarranteed absolution upon confession. At the same time lack of the possibility of divine retribution itself doesn't become a deterrant against immoral behaviour either.
When you quote US prison statistics in support of atheist morality, you are really reaching.
Given the apparent bias against those who call themselves atheists in the general population, I am quite surprised anyone indicted of serious crimes that could lead to a possible conviction and prison sentence ever declaring himself/herself an atheist. In addition prison population reflects only those criminals who were caught and convicted. Smart criminals are most likely to avoid getting caught and convicted. If atheism on a large scale is a recent phenomenon, most would have reasoned their way into atheism rather than never indoctrinated into a religion, which would mean generally smarter than the average person anyway. A claim most atheists make and I find reasonable. So the chances of an atheist criminal getting caught and convicted are significantly lower than a religious one, because he/she represents a group that is smarter than the rest.
There is an offsetting consideration you should take into account. Our police and judges are almost uniformly (no pun intended) theists, and they discriminate--often quite openly--in favor of those who share their religious convictions (again, no pun intended--well, maybe a little). Furthermore, the religious protect each other in other ways, such as by refusing to tell the truth about what their fellows did or giving the guilty the piece of information they need to silence witnesses.
It was quite interesting to know how reliable the US "justice" system is! Just another reason why the US prison statistics shouldn't enter a discussion that is supposed to involve critical thinking.
Religious immoral people (in prisons or not) definitely prove that religion is not a deterrant against immorality. However the counter claim is rather funny. You are assuming that people can't live with harming others if there is no God/Church to forgive their actions. People actually have a bigger reason to not even fell guilt in the first place in committing such actions, their personal benefit. I don't find any logic or reason in assuming that godless people automatically become selfless.
As you point out, the primary lesson to be drawn from U.S. prison statistics is that the assertion that religion leads to greater morality appears to be untrue unless and until someone can explain the apparent gross over-representation of Christians amongst U.S. criminals. You are right to say that there is no obvious reason to assume godlessness will lead to greater selflessness. Yet, there seems to be a correlation between those two things for some reason as the crime statistics from godless countries show.
My personal belief is that the "win at all costs" attitude that drives religion is the underlying cause for both religion and the apparent increased crime rate amongst the religious.