I saw this conversation in a chat room between an atheist and a Christian back in 2006. The atheist, hereon known as Jim, was trying to show that morality was inspired by religion whereas the Christian, hereon known as Jack, found his reasoning to be flawed.
Jim: "Morality is religious in inspiration and situational in application. No self-respecting Freethinker should even consider such a concept. Theistic notions such as "good" and "bad" are based on their pet superstitions without rhyme or reason."
Jack: "What you said makes no sense to me. Morality is not solely based on religious precepts (though virtually all religions have a set of rules for one to follow) and the precepts of good and bad are not solely theistic in nature, but based on experience and common sense. If we look back on man's history all over the world and in every culture, there has been a group of wise elders (government) who have come up with a set of rules based on the principle "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Think about it. If someone kept robbing from you, would you say it was a good thing or a bad thing? Of course you would say it was a bad thing. So logically if you saw this happening to a good neighbor / friend, you would feel the same as if it had happened to you, since you had experienced it. So you make up a rule that stealing is wrong ... that it is immoral. So morality is humane, immorality is inhumane. What separates and distinguishes us from the lower form of animals on this world is that we can use our mental powers of reason and make intelligent choices based on our experience and the experience of our elders, peers and teachers. However it is just as true that a human being must be taught to be human from birth by his parents and peers. If a human baby is raised by wolves, it will run on all fours and bay at the moon. This is why a parent's roll is so important in the development of a child. Children cannot become fully human unless those who teach him are fully mature humans. I base someone’s maturity on their moralistic values. The more immoral and debase someone is, the less human they are. Immoral people are anti-social and self-serving. I find it offensive, and I am sure many atheists would find it offensive, if someone says that if you choose to be an atheist, you can do whatever you want and not fear any consequence for it. That kind of thinking is devoid of human reason and more along the lines of basic survival instincts of a lower life form (I'm thinking of the suicidal march of the lemming)."
Jim: "Ethics which are absolute in application and based on reason alone should be our credo. For example: Under my system of Ethics it is wrong to take another life. Period! It is to be shunned at all cost. Justifications are not a part of the formula."
Jack: "By your code of ethics, this would mean that if you accidentally took someone’s life you would be treated the same as if you did it deliberately. So this means that on the a battle field, a comrade who had his arms & legs blown off and his guts were hanging out and is begging you to shoot him and end his suffering, you would just watch this man suffer and not act on his request? It is easy to say what you would not do so now that you are in your "comfort zone", but what if you were thrust into that scene ... I think you would (if you were humane) end his suffering. It is easy to judge, if you have never walked in the shoes of the one you are judging."
Jim: "Under the Judaeo-Christian system of morality thou shalt not kill unless someone really, really pisses you off and does something you don't like. See: the US system of Capital Punishment. See: Abortions in cases of Rape and Incest."
Jack: "Actually I don't think this is true at all. Jesus taught that you are to turn your back to the smitters ... that you are to love your enemies and do good to them, and not repay evil with evil. You may say that Jesus was a sissy-wuss and that all those who follow Him are spineless cowards. Well I see it differently. It takes a real man to take the abuse from an enemy and show kindness and love in return. It is far easier to lash back, to do the eye for an eye thing. That is Old Testament, where the Jews were under the Law. Christians are under the new testament ... we are under grace. Big difference … like NIGHT & DAY. Many atrocities have been done in the 'Name of Jesus', by people who thought they knew His will. Well, rest assured that on judgement day they will stand before Him and say 'Look at all the 'good' things we have done in Your name', and He will turn to them and say 'Depart from me you evil doers, I NEVER knew you. I was starving and you did not feed Me, I was thirsty and you did not give Me a drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not cloth Me, I was sick and/or in prison and you did not visit me'. And the self-righteous 'goats' (Matt 25:32) will answer 'When did we see you in these situations Lord?' And the Lord will answer, 'Whatever you have done (or not done) to the least among you, you have done it to Me'. Matthew 7:21 - 23; 25:31 - 46
Jim: "If it's wrong, it's wrong all the time in my book. As a Christian I was a chronic justifier, my morality shifted with the prevailing winds of my opinions and judgements. Ethics which are ruthlessly applied has been my personal salvation."
Jack: " 'As a Christian I was a chronic justifier' ... are you saying that you are not professing to be one now? Many say they are Christians, when they are not. A true Christian is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and imitate Him and remain in Him until the end ... only then will they receive the crown of salvation and be clothed in the white robe righteousness. We can't do that in our own strength. If we try, we only get frustrated. I've been there myself, so I know. Our pride has to be swallowed hard before we can ever move forward in Christ. It isn't easy. It is an uphill battle all the way. It is easier to take the low road, through the valley of the shadow of death, but you know even when I felt furthest from God, He was always there to answer when I cried out to Him. So even if I go through the valley of the shadow of death He will never leave me or forsake me. I do agree with you that sin is sin ... but it is not for us to judge others ... we might be able to sit on a jury or sit in the seat of judgement and say that the person on trial is guilty of breaking the law ... and even call for the death penalty ... but we do not have the authority to pass judgement on that person's soul ... only God can do that. NO one can say that anyone is deserving of the eternal fires of hell ... for in truth we all stand guilty before God if we are not clothed in Christ's righteousness. Only those who are spiritually reborn ... whose spirits have been revivified by the Holy Spirit and are being conformed to the likeness of Christ will be redeemed from all their sins and live forever in His love. For those of you who have been called upon to serve on a jury ... if you do not love the person you have been called to pass judgement on and pray for them asking God that His will be done and your verdict on the person's guilt be God ordained ... then your judgement is biased."
Jack: "And peace I return to you. Okay, you are probably saying, 'If Christians are to be the way you have described, should there still be capital punishment? Should we turn the cheek when someone steals from a bank or kills someone in cold blood'? I think this is an area where church and state should not now nor ever be governed by true Christian ethics as long as the planet is governed by sinful men and ruled by Satan. It may be good for an individual Christian to "love his enemy" as a witness and part of his walk with Christ, but for the authorities to abandon the Law and not punish the wrong doers isn't what God had in mind at all. Remember... Jesus said He had not come to abolish the Law and that the Law would remain in force. Christianity is a personal walk. The only one who can decide where you go is you yourself. No one can force you to believe in a certain doctrine or ideology. The government's role is to protect the freedoms and rights of its citizens and to punish wrong doers, with the death penalty if necessary. Without the Law there would be anarchy. Without the Law, there would be no knowledge of wrong doing, no knowledge of sin. We would all be living in a totally inhumane world. Thank GOD this isn't the case. Even Jesus said that He had NOT come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (His sacrificial death fulfilled the requirements of the Law) and that the Law would be preserved until His return. Once the Lord returns, since He is the embodiment of the Law (Jesus is the Word made flesh) those who have chosen to remain faithful to Him will remain obedient to Him (The Law) for all eternity. They will be given new sinless bodies ... ones not cursed by the sin of the first Adam ... and will be like the angels ... neither male nor female ... so no more lust of the flesh to entice us to sin.
In addition to what Jack wrote I would like to point out that man was created in the image of God. God created intelligent beings like Himself with which He could share HIs love and who would be able to choose whether or not to return that love. God could have created obedient slaves unable to think freely for themselves or make choices for themselves ... like so many pre-programmed robots, but He made us into "Free-Thinkers" ... with the freedom of choice ... just like Himself. We cannot make anyone love us ... love is a free-will decision. The only difference between us is that God is the embodiment of Love and Truth and is true to Himself so cannot sin, whereas man is inherently sinful and imperfect because of the sin of the first man who first walked this earth. The apostle John states that God is the Word (the Law) and that He became flesh and died on the cross of Calvary so that our sins would be covered and communion with God would be restored. I do not know of any god who did that for us ... there is no god like Him. He is the only One. We are free to choose to believe or not to believe ... but must be willing to accept the consequences of our decision (though to be sure methinks there is not one unbelieving soul who will be willing to accept their awaited fate).
Receive this word from the Lord and live... "Behold I stand at the door and knock. He who opens the door to me I will never cast out. Now is the time for salvation" (See John 6:37, Revelation 3:20, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Romans 13:11).