I get my morals from philosophy, history and rational discussion. I start from the basic premise that I won't consciously, negatively impact your life if you'll do the same for me. Cooperation makes life easier than competition. I'll let you sleep while I stand guard against lions, then we switch. Morals start from there.
Imagine a society where ALL things are permitted, including senseless murder. I don't want to be murdered, neither do you. We could join forces to protect each other and define one moral - don't murder each other. Over time, we'd gain more members and eventually develop more morals (don't steal, don't hurt, etc.). We don't need an 'authority' to tell us morals, we can, over time, figure them out.
philos71 responded to my answer with this:
You can't say this with authority. Every time an authority is taken out of the picture chaos takes over. The problem with atheism (and SPECIALLY atheistic humanism) is that you think man is basically and intrinsically good. Man is indeed CAPABLE of doing good things, but left alone is fueled by his innate nature to sin. I'm sorry if I sounded arrogant, your replies have been very cultured and refined.
See, he is actually quite pleasant! I responded to this with:
Yes, chaos might ensue but it takes time for complete anarchy. In the meantime, the process will restart - people will begin to gather in common groups, then groups combine. Religion served the purpose of codifying the laws. However, when religions collide we have two (or more) unalterable doctrines trying to coexist. Eons of strife led to the idea of secularism - global rules that protect basic rights and allow religious groups to apply laws to themselves only (membership must be voluntary).
I mention voluntary membership because I agree with Dawkins that it is wrong to indoctrinate children into specific religious rules before they have a chance to decide for themselves. Remember, my hypothetical world allows people to choose to be in the society (and a religion) or not (if not, they generally go to prison - too bad we can't just send them to Australia like the good ole days! - I jest).
He also wants to know how morality could evolve. I think he's thinking in terms of non-thinking organisms. Here's how I reponded to this one:
We start with a simple moral and add more. Those who agree, stay in our group, those who don't, leave. We pass our morals on to our children. They make further changes eventually creating laws (and, sigh, lawyers). Even simple cells can do this. They create a large sphere colony. The outer ones try to work their way inside but many are killed by predators. The protected ones inside reproduce causing the sphere to grow larger. 'Outer cells sacrificed for inner ones' morality.
Posts on YouTube have character limits so I couldn't go further. However, the idea is that simple cells create a 'morality' that helps them survive. Is sacrificing cells a 'good' moral? Defining 'good' is very hard but if we assume 'goodness' is that which enhances survival, then the cell morality is, indeed, good! Over time, a collection of cells can become a multicellular organism. Over more time, this organism can defend itself without sacrifice. Morality evolves...