I wrote about this as a Facebook note a little while back. Here is an excerpt from it:
If morality has to be objective, it has to be real, which means that it has to be based on something that makes up reality. That thing is life, by which man experiences reality and defines the concepts that describe reality. That which sustains and advances life is moral and anything less than ideal sustainability and advancement of life is immoral to various degrees. Man's moral code is defended through the use of reason, which is the basis of man's ability to recognize morality. So, whenever you hear someone argue for God-given rights, correct them. Rights aren't given. That implies they can be taken away. They are an inseparable part of life. Rights are human rights.
I am a follower of Rand and I do think that selfishness is essentially the only virtue and every other virtue is a corollary of selfishness. Now, I consider selfishness as doing what's best for you, which means doing which gives you the most sense of accomplishment, which means not cheating yourself by cheating out others through unlawful force. I do not consider selfishness as doing what you want necessarily, because what you want and what's best for you can be different things.
To start with, off the top of my head, I'd aim for relative, subjective...If I was starving, I'd steal food, but otherwise theft of any kind is wrong. But lately, I've gotta wonder if stealing from a thief or lying to a liar or bullying a bully is wrong. Idealism is necessary, but we must play the cards we are dealt, not those we wish we were dealt or the way we wish we could play them without any harm coming to ourselves. Living up to our OWN morality/ideals is often very costly. I get tired of losing or trading gain for idealism.
I know there is morality in the animal kingdom, but what seems to be a animal's morality (kindness), may actually be a selfish (I help you, you help me).
This is one of my favorite topics.
Morals and ethics are not derived from theism, just as human rights are not derived from theism.
The world toiled for eons post ten commandments, post crucifixion in a dark unnatural hole.
The rights of man are the product of centuries of human thought, brought to fruition during the post-renaissance enlightenment by hundreds of people cultivating the notion of free will, a social contract and separation from religious overseers.
(And, let's face it, Moses wasn't chiseling down instructions for 40 days, he was trying to hold his people together. And desperately making the rules up for a social contract as fast as he could.)
Even now, leftists are trying to re-write the rights of man into being a push toward collective rights rather than individual. Whereas the rights of man are truly instead a series of individual, regulatory, positive leading notions for a better society of humans. Was some of the morality in the rights of man augmented by Jesus or Moses? In the sense of human experience, yes. Was it God's idea? There is no evidence for that as there is none for God at all.