Let's look at this for a moment.
Do these people really believe that, before their holy book was written down and people heard about their god's laws, people simply went around killing, raping, stealing and abusing children and it didn't occur to anyone that it was wrong in any way? Do they really believe that suddenly people heard of these new laws and thought, "Ah! In that case I had better stop this killing, raping, stealing and child abuse, or a god will punish me"? Is it realistic to assume that, before the Bible or the Qur'an were taken outside the Middle East to Europe and Asia, society consisted of people raping, murdering and stealing and that no child was safe?
And what does it say of the person who is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly telling you that they see no reason not to murder, rape, steal and molest children other than the fear that a god will punish them; that they have to continually suppress an urge to do these things by reminding themselves that a judgmental god is watching them and taking note?
Who exactly has the morals here? The person who does right and avoids wrong because they know right from wrong, or more precisely, can work out what's right and what's wrong in a given situation because they can empathise with others and understand what it would be like to have a wrong done to them, or the person who is only hoping for a reward or avoiding punishment and needs to try to remember what an old book says and try to apply it to the situation at hand?
This article outlines a psychopathic personality. Take what theists tell you at face value and assume they really wouldn't know right from wrong without their hand book and wouldn't behave well if there wasn't something in it for them, and compare how they would behave if they didn't have their hand book and god, with the items on the check list.
So much for the claim that religious people are more moral, eh?
Now let's look at the reality. If religious people were really more moral and better behaved than non-religious people you would expect the rates of crime and violence to be inversely proportional to the number of religious people in a society.
What are the facts?
Here is an interesting answer on Yahoo!
To this can be added the indisputable fact that the USA has one of the highest percentages of people saying they are religious (86%) with the fact that they also have the highest per capita prison populations in the developed world. By contrast, Sweden has an atheist/agnostic population of up to 86% and yet has the lowest crime rate in Europe at about half the European per capita average.
Areas of the world today where violence is endemic tend to be religious, or at least the conflict has its origins in religious differences. In the Balkans, genocide and ethnic cleansing were conducted by religious people for religious motives, and often with the tacit, if not overt, support of the different churches. In Northern Ireland a civil war raged in all but name for some 30 years between peoples having allegiance to one Christian church or another. In Iraq people from one sect of Islam frequently blow themselves up in suicide attacks on members of the other Islamic sect. In London, Madrid and New York, supporters of one of the world's major religions killed innocent people in murderous attacks intended as a punishment for people having the 'wrong' religion.
Throughout history, people have killed people with other religions, in the Crusades, in the expansion of Islam out of Arabia, in the conquest of New World peoples by European Christians, in the invasion of India by Islamic people from Iran and Central Asia and in the conquest of Moorish Andalucia by northern Spanish Catholics.
One reason, and probably the main reason, that the Abrahamic monotheist religions have been so successful is because they were so violently aggressive and culturally arrogant, believing they had the right, the duty even, to impose their culture by any means available, on lesser peoples, and that those who opposed them or refused to give up their own culture, were abominations to be slaughtered for their own good.
The Balkans and the Caucasus are a patchwork of remnant populations of one religion or another as one people swept through the area, to be beaten back by another, each leaving small pockets of people surrounded by others and destined forever to be a minority within a majority which was itself a minority within some larger majority. And all of it based on one religion or another; each committing its wrongs in turn in revenge for earlier wrong or to impose their god's 'mercy' on those too ignorant or evil to accept it voluntarily.
Now let's look at the people who claim to be the upholders of morality; to occupy the moral high-ground. The people who claim for themselves the right to be consulted on all matters of ethics, law, education of children, the form and nature of our society, etc. What of THEIR personal morality?
Sure, there are some outstanding examples of good done by some of these people; people like Chad Vara who founded the Samaritans; people like the Quakers who founded Oxfam; and those who earlier built model towns for their worker in places like Bourneville in Warwickshire and New Lanark in Scotland; lovely people like Desmond Tutu and the late Donald Soper. But for every one of those it's easy to find a dozen clerics whose behaviour was or is sadistic, avaricious, gluttonous and down-right abusive.
Examples of clerical abuse of children are rife in the press and the Roman Catholic Church is still embroiled throughout Europe, North and South America and Asia in scandal after scandal of priests and bishops involved in the sexual abuse of children over a prolonged period. And this to the complete indifference and often complicity of the church hierarchy, right up to the Vatican and almost certainly with the knowledge of the Pope himself.
But what is the morality of which Christians speak? What does a slavish obedience, not to basic human compassion and common decency but to the principles established in a religious book like the Bible lead to? Does it lead to a better society where all may pursue the goal of maximum happiness?
This is what a modern leading Christian 'thinker', William Lane Craig, has to say on the matter of the genocide and child murder supposedly ordered by his god and, presumably, in accordance with some high moral principle being handed down by it:
Responding to a request to comment on some verses from the Bible where the god of the Bible supposedly told the Hebrews:
When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
This is what the odious William Lane Craig had to say:
But why take the lives of innocent children? The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel's part. In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, 'You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods' (Deut 7.3-4). […] God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. […] Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God's grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli [sic] soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalising effect on these Israeli [sic] soldiers is disturbing.
Quote was taken from a Guardian article by Richard Dawkins. The full article can be read here
So there we have Biblical, 'God-given', morality for you. Genocide and ethnic cleansing. Actions which would rightly bring the perpetrators before a war crimes court if enacted nowadays, and Lane Craig can see no immorality or inhumanity in it. It's all the victims' fault and you should feel sorry for the poor soldiers who had to carry out these atrocities. Genocide and child murder are just fine and dandy if you blame a god for them. Murdering children? No problem! Didn't you know? It's good for them. It makes them happy! (Yes! He really DID say that! Read it again.)
And if you're tempted not to believe it, here is William Lane Craig saying it:
And therein lies the major problem with morality from on old book. The 'principles' established were established, in this case, in the Bronze Age, by people so technologically backward they hadn't yet invented the wheel.
In defence of those who wrote this book, if it can be called a defence, there is at least the possibility that they were trying to justify retrospectively something they knew was wrong, even if they needed to blame a god for it to avoid taking personal responsibility for their crimes. At least it hints at a conscience.
People like William Lane Craig, of course, have no such defence. They are going full on defending genocide and upholding it as some high moral principle. It's not as though they've personally gone out and committed genocide or slaughtered innocent children en masse. No, they just provide others with a spurious rationale for so doing and hand out something for them to blame later. And they get paid good money for doing it.
They trumpet their views with pride, and proclaim themselves to be occupying the moral high ground. In reality, they occupy the sewer which runs beneath the moral gutter. In reality, they exemplify the amorality they claim to be warning us against.
Does a god say it's wrong to kill babies because it is wrong, or is it wrong just because a god says so? Evidently, William Lane Craig would say it's only wrong because a god says so; there is no objective morality. Morals are merely the arbitrary and capricious whim of a god. Presumably, if Jesus had told us to be unkind to old ladies and to rob banks, William Lane Craig would be holding up bank robbers and granny-bashers as examples of good upright, god-fearing moral citizens and his church would have services dedicated to torturing old people and would be financed on the proceeds of bank heists (which would of course be legal, if not obligatory, and taught in schools).
You might well ask what is to stop a religious person who holds to the repugnant views of William Lane Craig and his school of inhuman morality, from deciding that their god is telling them to kill a child, to open fire with a machine gun on a shopping mall or stadium full of people, to blow up a plane or train or fly a plane full of people into a building full of people.
You might well ask...
And of course, there is the one question which you can never get people who argue that our knowledge of right and wrong comes from a book, to answer - how do you know Satan didn't write it? (If you believe in Satan that is.) Clearly, if your knowledge of right and wrong is from the book, you have no external references by which to judge the morality of the author.
If you have such external references, the book is merely confirming what you already know and is telling you nothing new...
Human cultures evolve and evolve sets of ethics and accepted standards as they do so, indeed as part of the process of developing. Think back only a couple of generations to see how standards and accepted norms differed then from today. As they say, the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
My great great grandparents took it for granted, as a social norm, that Africans could be bought and sold like cattle, as slaves; that their lives were only worth the price we could get for them in the marketplace and the wealth their labour produced for us.
My great grandparents took it for granted that children would work in the fields and factories and shin up chimneys to sweep down the soot; that if they were convicted of stealing even a loaf of bread they could expect to hang for the crime.
My grandparents took it for grated that women would have no legal right to property if married; that they would not vote; that they would expect to be beaten by their husband for bad behaviour, and at his whim, with no expectation of help from the police or courts. My grandparents also took it for granted that black people should not vote; that they were not capable of reaching measured decisions on matters political, and in any case, the trappings of civilisation were not for them; their lot was merely to labour for white masters.
My parents took it for granted that white people were racially superior to other peoples and we had a duty to 'teach them civilised ways'; to run their countries for them and to exploit them as cheap labour.
Only in my generation did we fully accept the women have the same rights to sexual freedom as men have always enjoyed, free, if they so wish, from the burden of motherhood, and that they have the right to plan the size of their families. Even this is not yet accepted in many parts of the world, most notably those parts where it is proving difficult to shake off this superstition-based 'morality' still with its medieval notion of female inferiority to men.
And only in my generation did most of the Western world accept the idea that black, brown and yellow people are the equal of white folk and that they should enjoy full civil rights too, though there are still a few culturally backward people, and not all of them white, who still refuse to accept this. Significantly, these people almost invariably quote a holy book to justify their cultural immaturity.
So we can see recent history as progress being made against the drag of religious 'morality' trying to hold us back in the Bronze Age. The history of the past 250 years has been one of slowly but surely dragging society into the 21st century and out of the barbaric, brutal Bronze Age where William Lane Craig and his ilk would have us remain, the better to control and abuse us.
The history of the last 250 years has been the gradual triumph of decent, humanist principles over primitive barbarism and the gradual expression of decent human values which have been evolving with us for the last 2 million years and maybe longer, ever since our remote ancestors learned to empathise with their fellows and realised that doing unto others that which you would have them do unto you, gives a better society and helps bring home dinner, build shelters, fight off predators and rear the children.