This was an open letter to a local Talk Show that was being guest hosted by a local State Rep. (whose opinions I generally agree with, but not that day) who kept wondering, on air, how anyone could get by without religion to shape their moral fibre; and what a shame it was that the importance of religion in American society was failing, since we are a 'Christian nation' after all.
[three guesses what set me off in the first place. Bet you don't need two of them]
The word you are struggling to find is 'philosophy'. Philosophy, even amongst the religious, is where morals come from. I say this as an Objectivist, Americans ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining a personal philosophy at their own peril.
It is the short-cutters, who turn to religion and superstition to answer their metaphysical questions, that are to blame for the degradation of the morals in our society; not a lack of 'faith' or 'prayer in schools' or whatever imagined slight the Christian Right wants to whine about today.
Contrary to popular opinion, the founders where not christians, they were Deists.
"The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, "Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom." Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry."
One of the most religious men in the continental congress was John Adams, and he was a Unitarian.
This is my answer to the question you posed. I only wish I could have called in to set you right in your confusion. Religion is a curse that will betray America to ruin; and that very soon. Philosophy needs to be taught to children as a part of their school curriculum. It is every bit as important as the 3 "R's". (so does economics need to be taught, but that is a different subject) Only with the mental tools for judging and abiding by morals of their own, will our children be able to stop the moral decline that this country is in.
I too had to turn off the program today. One more holier than thou phone caller trying to tell me how I needed to go to church would have sent me over the edge.
These days I just point people who ask these types of questions to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Society titled Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, that shows the impact of fervent religious belief on society as a whole is negative. Don't know what else needs to be said on the subject.