For most people 'religion' is about ethics - indeed it is about nothing-but ethics... Ethical principles and rules, ethical behaviour...
It seems that everybody in the world is obsessed with ethics - governments, bureaucrats, corporate executives, the mass media, doctors, scientists, advertisers, soldiers and the police all speak publicly on ethical issues, and on all issues, in an ethical fashion... endlessly.
Implicitly, our world is ruled on the basis that The Establishment are ethical authorities - who tell us what is good, and make us do it.
Plus, of course, priests and pastors - their sermons and lectures are nearly always about ethical matters.
A Man's attitude to Christianity tends to be a product of pre-existing ethics.
Plenty of people who endorse Christianity, do so because they believe it validates, encourages and enforces good ethical behaviour. While those who dislike it and want rid of it, do so on the same qualitative grounds of ethics - but with the difference the dislikers believe Christianity is Bad for ethics: that it purveys false ethics, encourages immorality etc...
Whatever we approve or disapprove of - it always seems to be argued on ethical grounds.
It seems that our basic understanding of reality is nowadays ethical!
I can remember when I was an atheist puzzling over the mismatch between my own ethical focus and the fact that I officially believed in a wholly mechanical and non-ethical universe. I seemed to see these vast, swirling structures of 'ethics' floating around like coloured gas - but without being linked to anything real that was happening!
God was obviously absurd, because how could ethics be built-into The Big Bang?
It seemed that all mankind was living in a delusional system; enmeshed in absorbing and spouting ethical-stuff, 24/7 - and yet (with another part of the mind) knowing that it was all arbitrary, made-up, and without bearing on anything real.
Mankind had, it seemed, a compulsion to be ethical always and about everything - yet, in an ultimate sense, in a cosmic sense - it was all utterly futile!
It now strikes me that it has been a colossal civilizational error to try and base our religion, our society, our lives - on ethics.
An error because if ethics is not really the bottom line, then building structures which rest upon ethics Will Not Work: and experience shows that they don't work!
Vast, officially-endorsed - but free-floating, un-rooted - ethical 'structures' like the United Nations Universal (!) Declaration of Human Rights - or any other of ever-multiplying 'rights'; are deviously made and used by evil-motivated persons for the manipulation of the masses into new and greater evils.
The expansion and diffusion of ethical discourse has been, In Fact, a major instrument of evil.
Thus the rise of ethical discourse to colonize all of public (and much of private) life, has been accompanied by a commensurate rise in unprincipled power and short-termist hedonism. The endless ethical discourse apparently serves merely as a smokescreen for hypocrisy and selfishness on a scale which would have been impossible in 'less ethical' times!
Well OK. But If Not, then What?
If I am saying that we ought Not to put ethics as primary, then What should we instead put as primary?
I think it ought to be what I sometimes think of as the 'cosmic' perspective... 'Cosmic' being a more exciting way of describing 'metaphysics' - which sounds unutterably dreary to most people!
Our fundamental way of thinking ought to be a matter of imagining and picturing our-selves in a cosmic perspective - where we came from, where we are going; what are the real and eternal things and how do we personally relate to them.
Of course at first a cosmic perspective will probably fall-into that image we have passively absorbed for popular science - of ourselves as microscopic sparks briefly illuminating an infinitely large, empty, dead universe...
Well, it is a start!
And if we stay with it; continue to encourage ourselves to dwell imaginatively in whatever reality we regard as ultimate; and continue to ask ourselves what we really regard as really-real...
Then we may reach a properly 'cosmic' understanding of our-selves, reality and our lives; in time and in eternity.
And that is a much better basis for things than endless ethics-talk!
Note: The cosmic perspective is also the level at which Jesus Christ's teaching is primarily directed. He was not primarily an ethical teacher, nor was his work an ethical work. Jesus Christ came to enable us to receive eternal resurrected life in heaven; and Jesus's concept of sin was mostly death. Sin was primarily death - not ethics; and Jesus came to save us from death - not immorality. Until we can - this time consciously and by choice - recover that 'cosmic' attitude; it seems that Christ's message and offer will continue to fall on deaf ears; or merely be translated into the feeble and cowardly 'pseudo-faith' we see dominant among the leadership of all the major 'Christian' churches.