Morals, Ethics and Spirituality
Too many people believe that morality was born from religion. Such is an ignorant attitude, but that's okay, ignorance can be replaced with knowledge and perhaps even wisdom.
The basis of morality consists primarily of empathy/compassion, awareness impulse control or self control and social standards.
The Golden Rule best exemplifies the component of empathy and various expressions thereof can be found in almost every religion, wisdom tradition, and culture throughout the world. Morality preceded religion as did spirituality in a variety of forms. Science has proven that many animals display empathy and behave with compassion. A simple web search will produce abundant examples. No such definitive evidence exists warranting an assertion that animals are religious.
Empathy may be inherent, but pioneering researchers like Piaget, Kohlberg and Gilligan brilliantly demonstrated that there are stages of development that should be considered. But we can't consider these factors until we become aware of them, can we?
Empathy may be essential, but it is not sufficient for moral development. Empathy can easily be overpowered by other desires or emotions. This is when impulse control becomes necessary. We all have ample experience with others and ourselves to understand this, so enough said about that.
We also understand that social standards of behaviors are the metrics by which we gauge morality, so this author will not further elaborate at this time.
Awareness is essential for moral development. We cannot be empathetic without being aware that other beings share the same variety of emotional experiences as we. Awareness of ourselves is also essential as well as awareness of social standards.
In the bestseller, Willpower, the authors ask (page 112), what good is self-awareness in a context of evolution for survival and reproductive selection? and then cite an insight of Charles Carver and Michael Scheier : Self-awareness evolved because it helps self-regulation.
May this short essay be sufficient to demonstrate that morality is no mere product of religion.