Alderman argues that real "ethics, morals" etc. come from a foundation in belief in god. I find this offensive and respond:
Alderman's response to Harris' thesis demonstrates a lack of "American thinking"...
Harris doesn't go into the "deeper reasons" in his oped, but to the thinking man there are an abundance of reasons to be compassionate, moral and ethical. They are infinitely more "deep" than "because god wants me to".
Conceiving of such is no harder than realizing we are social creatures: who depend on one another for all facets of our existence. Evolution has built familial compassion into each of us -- and a social nature (as it has for many species). How successful would a colony of ants be without such evolutionary behaviors let alone mankind?
We also have reason: the ability to rationalize and realize that the golden rule is really a practical way to conduct our affairs if we wish to remain members of a society. It takes realizations no more "deep" to conclude that compassion holds very real "meaning" for every person.
However, attributing our sense of compassion to "god" is demeaning in the extreme. It places us lower (on the behavioral evolutionary scale) than most social animals -- it implies the only reason we behave somewhat socially is because of "His" influence. I need no such "patriarch" to keep me in line -- I have my brain.
The sooner mankind discards this crutch the sooner we'll be able to use our gray matter to make real progress in the areas of ethics and morals: areas that are now discussed in bronze-age terms revolving around sex and sexism instead of their real foundation in human suffering.