Via Machines Like Us, I came across this article by researchers Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman that challenges the view among some religious people that atheists have poor ethics.
A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious. [My italics]
As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are, and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. They value freedom of thought.
Atheists may not be the most ethical people around but we can make a strong case that we are much more ethical than a certain prominent Christian theologian who likes to claim that without a god there can be no objective morality, and then proceeds to justify genocide and rape because his god commanded it.
If that is where objective morality takes you, then I am really glad to be a moral relativist.