In my most recent post Sean writes "Both religion and morality are both the result of evolution, they're genetic. The difference between religious and secular morality is superficial."
I have heard some variant of this point on countless occasions and have often wondered and asked why an adherent to the secular world view would be motivated to behave morally. After all, there is no higher authority than the government, so why not do whatever suits you so long as you don't get caught? Inevitably the response is that via our logic we conclude that, if we want to be treated well by others, we will first treat others well. The golden rule in other words. Let us for the sake of argument ignore any religious connection to the golden rule and let us assume it is simply a product of the evolution and logic of mankind.
The golden rule absent God will not work. Suppose you were in the market for a gold watch. Suddenly a man appears before you on the street with just the watch you were looking for. He offers it for $1,000, roughly 20% less than the sale price at the established jewelry store. Just cause he is a swell guy, he offers a 5 year warranty when the jewelry store offers only 3 years. According to the golden rule, if you want to be trusted you should trust others first. You should buy the watch, but you violate the golden rule instead.
Another example. You are a wealthy individual with good credit. You have just been diagnosed with an incurable cancer and have but a few weeks to live. You have no heirs to worry about. Similarly, since you are about to die, you have no concerns in the least about how others may treat you in the future that doesn't exist for you. The golden rule has been rendered pointless for you. Time to screw some people who have wronged you. So you burn down the house of an ex. You blow up a business. You buy a very expensive car or two on credit and you trash them. The golden rule was useful for a while but not anymore. Why not have some fun?
If someone can explain how the golden rule can work absent a higher authority that serves to constrain our base impulses, please have a go at it.