"How can you live like that? How can we be expected to be moral without religion? Is it just every man for himself otherwise? Is it just survival of the fittest? We couldn't possibly live like that."
Sound familiar? If you're out to any of your friends and family of faith, then at some point I'm sure you've gone through this tired old debate. No: social species like humans have developed codes of behavior (read: culture) that ensure our mutual survival and prosperity through cooperation; no, religion is not a necessary precondition for the ideology that in order to survive and prosper we must work for our collective good. Yes, a society built on selfishness and individual gain would absolutely crumble, but religion is not the only reason that people will work together for a common goal - and in fact has often had the exact opposite effect.
So far nothing new here.
But what I find the most hypocritical about this misguided belief is that the people who think that people would have no reason to play nice if it weren't for the constant surveillance and intervention of a great cosmic overlord are often the very same ones who think that regulation of the economy should be avoided at all costs.
How can someone possibly think that the strategy of "every man for himself and to hell with the rest of you" will create a healthy, well-functioning economy, but a chaotic and horrific society? Especially since white-collar crime feels so much more 'victimless' to the perpetrator than, say, assault and battery. Does that mean it's somehow easier to resist the temptation to shift a decimal place than it is to pull the trigger on another human being? "I'm completely above unscrupulous banking, and I would never dream of cooking my books -- but it's sure a good thing there's a God up there threatening me with hellfire, because otherwise I couldn't help shooting orphans in the face!" I don't know about you, but I would find it much more difficult to kill a man than to cheat on my taxes.
Can anyone out there sincerely believe that human beings would casually rape, murder, and pillage each other without God, but that we unfailingly exercise the utmost self-restraint and fiscal responsibility in our business dealings even if there are no serious consequences for dishonest dealing?
Make up your minds, right-wing christo-fascist wackaloons, because you can't have it both ways. Dishonest dealing and murder aren't all that different - people suffer both ways for the uninhibited greed and selfishness of others. So what's it going to be: are we inherently good people, or aren't we? Do we need someone or something telling us to mind all our Ps and Qs by fiat, or should we take Darwin to heart, take as much for ourselves as we can get and let the chips fall where they may?
Or maybe, just maybe, we can all come together and agree on a set of principles - a 'social contract' if you will - whereby we will agree to comport ourselves, in everyday life and in business dealings alike. Compliance with these principles achieves optimal benefits, harmony, and prosperity for all, and deviance is interpreted as a breach of contract and will be punished accordingly. Doesn't that sound nice?
Oh wait. We already have that. They're called laws.