"As for morality, it has nothing to do with the above in any way shape or form."
It seems to me that what Anthony Blair is stating is the religious position that if you don't believe God made the living world, you believe evolution made it, and I think this does have real and central implications for morality. If evolution made us, then there is no central governing force, in the religious sense. This matters in theory, and also in practice as it used to be religion that governed society.
When religion governed our morals, before there was an effective police force, society was in relative chaos. (In the UK at least.) Probably a combination of the two is the most effective way to go. For example, religion emphasises the need to behave oneself even when nobody is watching. On the other hand, this also comes from a secular "love of goodness and the effects of good behaviour" and the idea that "no good comes from no good" - a love of virtue for its own sake.
"when you compare the religions of the prison population, against the general population, you find religious people are extremely over represented..."
- surely this is largely because people "find God" in prison, as a way to put their lives on the right track.
Or it's just to bullshit the parole boards
Prisoners DO pretend to "find god" because they DO think it will go over better with parole boards, etc...but, what they "find" is almost always whatever god they say they had all along, they just pretend its more meaningful to them NOW, because they had a vision/felt his presence/realized the error of their ways, etc.
That doesn't mean however that ALL of them were atheists. In fact, statistically, about none were atheists...they were practicing whatever they were raised with, and, committed crimes anyway...even though they believed in god.
Arch-typically, they assumed they would go to hell...and, the idea of "being saved", was a "get out of purgatory for free card"...and they find that attractive for obvious reasons.
So, the parole boards are quite aware of the BS, and ignore it for the most part, as everything most of these inmates says is assumed to be a lie as the default anyway.
The boards mostly look at actions not words. IE: Did they keep their noses clean when in, or were they dealing or fighting, etc....do they have a written job offer, family who signed off that they'd take them in, etc.
Most inmates, if asked why they committed the crimes that landed them there, respond "I didn't think I'd get caught".
The Judaeo-Christian morality taught them that being good for its own sake was not the issue, and that being good to go to heaven, and to not be bad to avoid hell WAS the issue.
So, rewards and punishment for behavior from third party monitoring so to speak.
That has a statistical and historical tendency for those raised that way to assume, bizarrely, that people would commit a crime if they thought they would get away with it.
IE: No God = Kill people if you won't get caught, etc.
When an atheist, etc, says, wait, I would not commit the perfect murder even if I could, because it would cause pain to the family and friends of the victim, etc...and they know how that might feel, and, that it would be a bad thing to do, and, it would feel bad to do it, etc.
People KNEW it was bad to kill or steal way before bibles or stone tablets distributed by burning shrubberies, etc.
When codifying morals, they didn't invent the morals, they just wrote what they thought at the time morals should consist of, based upon the conditions at the time.
People invented morals for themselves, and, those morals changed as the times changed.
How to treat a slave morphed into slavery being bad...so a moral person who treated his slaves more humanely was a good person at the time, and, would be considered evil today...because he had slaves in the first place.
Raping captured girls was normal...and not immoral, in biblical times. Now, capturing girls w/o even raping them is considered immoral, and raping is not considered moral.
BEING raped was considered immoral, and as having disgraced her family...and still is in parts of the world...but the rapist was considered to sort of be along the lines of "Boys will be Boys..." etc.
That too is slowly changing.
And so forth. We make our own morality. That means "Anything goes, and you might as well kill and rape and steal because there's no god to punish you for it"...to those raised to not be good because its right, but only to avoid punishment.
To the rest of mankind, raised to be good because it is right, it means "We have collectively decided that the following is wrong".
So, the prisoners who were Christians from birth are there mostly because they have poor judgement and a poor sense of consequence...hence risking Hell...and not having empathy for their victims, and being raised to think that if there was no god, or way to get caught, they SHOULD commit the "perfect crime".
Essentially, the over arching mindset is along the lines of, after they commit the first crime/bad deed..."Well I'm going to hell anyway, so fuck it...I can do whatever I want to now because I'm already fucked".
Instead of seeing each opportunity to be good, or bad, as a free standing choice unconnected to what came before.
"The Judaeo-Christian morality taught them that being good for its own sake was not the issue, and that being good to go to heaven, and to not be bad to avoid hell WAS the issue."
- somehow, I think it teaches both, or perhaps they are related. If I displease God, He may forgive me instead of sending me to hell. But I just don't want to displease God, so I will behave myself even if nobody (apart from God) is looking.
I certainly find with the Christians that I usually meet that they are sincere in being good for its own sake.
It's interesting that Michael Tomasello has found that humans are far more interested in how they are seen by others than are chimpanzees. From this paper: "Five-Year Olds, but Not Chimpanzees, Attempt to Manage Their Reputations" - Jan M. Engelmann, Esther Herrmann, Michael Tomasello, we see these results: I hope they are self-explanatory.
Study of 5 year-old children:
Study of chimpanzees:
The interesting question to ask is why do humans care so much more about their reputations than chimpanzees? I don't think it's just that we can talk, and therefore have reputations. I think it's also, ultimately, to do with interdependence - we are more valuable to each other than chimpanzees are to each other, because we cooperate more closely in order to survive.
All morality is local. What is wrong varies from place to place. So, there really is no such thing as a morality, if by that you mean some universal fount of right and wrong. Sure, because we are human with human concerns and fears, you find some commonalities from place to place like "don't kill people" and "don't steal" and "don't tell self-serving lies," but a lot of it is just local customs.
As far as I know, there are a lot of universals and there are local variations as well. I think the main difference between the West and the rest of the world (maybe you could say, the tribal world) is in the dimension of individual liberty and personhood versus respect for one's place within the rigid scheme of society. In the West, each person is an "I", in the "old world" each person is more of a "we".
This dimension influences how the universals are played out.
I can go along with "universal" in a kind of statistical sense, but not if it implies a metaphysical level somehow dictating ethics.