This Washington Post editorial uses information from various fields to argue that moral virtue does not have its origins in religion.
sector of world civilization is secular; that is, it emphasizes worldly
rather than religious values. This is especially true of Europe, which
is widely considered post-religious and post-Christian (with a small
Islamic minority). Secularist winds are also blowing strong in Asia,
notably in Japan and China. The United States has been an anomaly in
this regard, for it has suffered a long dark night in which evangelical
fundamentalism has overshadowed the public square, with its insistence
that belief in God is essential for moral virtue. This is now changing
and secularism is gaining ground.
The "new atheists" have attempted to balance the scales, for
religious dissent until now has been largely muffled. They have
appealed to science to criticize the unexamined claims of religion.
This has shocked conservative religionists, who respond that atheists
are "too negative." Perhaps, but this overlooks the fact that there are
varieties of unbelief and that secular humanists (the bete noire of
fundamentalists during the Reagan years) define their outlook
affirmatively in the light of positive ethical values, not by what they
are against but what they are for.