One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. — Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer (1917-2008)
This quote was commended to me by Brother Dave.
The quote begs the question of what we mean by "morality". I suppose "morality" to be a set of commonly accepts principles a society agrees to live by. The best known is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Or to freely translate Hippocrates: “First do harm.”
And though we naturally mistrust "situational ethics", we have come to accept "situational morality". For example, it's immoral for an individual to lie or misrepresent his/her qualifications. It's not only moral for a corporation to lie, it's expected. It's expected business practice. It's also expected that politicians and their supporters exaggerate and lie. If a mailer goes out with the wrong date for an election, it's not immoral. It's not even gross incompetence. It's a typo.
Sir Arthur's quote also begs the question of what we mean by "religion". I suppose it to mean a set of codes, liturgies, rites, and rules intended to aid our relationship with the divine. Buddhism does not necessarily include divinity, but it is still a religion, with its very own variant on the Golden Rule. If we accept my definition of religion, it would of necessity include teachings about morality. I believe "religion" in this sense precedes humanist or existentialist morality.
What I suppose Sir Arthur meant is that religion has never fully lived up to the moral codes it promotes. An obvious example is the pederasty scandals in the RC church. The extreme wealth of most main-stream churches has been a scandal since at least the time of St. Francis. All I can say, is human organizations have human failings, often enlarged by the size of the organization. This is no excuse.
We all must have code we can live by, as Graham Nash said. If we're radically truthful with ourselves we know we will often fail to fulfill the highest aspirations of that code. Yet, we keep trying. With luck, we improve.
A basic application of the Golden Rule is that we forgive the failings of others as we would like to be forgiven.