I like the direction Sam Harris
has been taking lately with a talk on TED
(also at YouTube
) and a new book coming soon, both about the idea that morality can and should be studied by science.
It has long bugged me that religious people so often spout the untruth that religion is the source of morality. It is so clearly wrong that it hardly needs explaining. I have many good and moral atheist friends and many good and moral religious friends, clearly religion has no monopoly on goodness. But when you compare potential for evil religion wins easily. Most of the truly evil things have been inspired by religion -- some are even celebrated in the bible and koran.
Religious people try to rewrite reality by saying that Hitler was an atheist, but that's certainly untrue. He carried a bible with him always, was brought up a catholic, and was never shy to admit his belief in god and his admiration of Luther. He was enthusiastically supported in his anti-semitic views by the pope and the catholic church, who ordered their flock to obey Hitler's commands.
Gregory S. Paul became so annoyed at religious people saying that religion is the source of morality that he did something about it
(as the original's layout makes it somewhat difficult to read I reformatted it and uploaded it to a hidden directory on my own site
). He correlated the available statistics for several social ills in the most advanced nations on Earth. What resulted was a pretty clear indictment of religion. The more religious a society, the more social ills they festered with. The more secular a society, the more enlightened and socially healthy.
The ills examined were: homicide, youth suicide, child mortality, shorter life expectancy, sexually transmitted disease, teen abortions, teen pregnancies.
The countries examined were: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Italy, United States, Sweden, New Zealand.
(I should note that only youth suicide did not correlate with religion or atheism.)
If you are interested, Phillip Adams interviewed Gregory Paul on Australia's Radio National. You can find it at http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2005/10/lnl_20051004.mp3