For centuries now God and religion have driven people to do good deeds for primarily the wrong reasons. These reasons range from a fear of God to an expectation of compensation in the next life for all the good done in this world. To suggest that humans are incapable of doing good without being provided these incentives to direct them on the right path is an insult to the compassion and morals that form a part of the human existence.
A secular society can just as well formulate morals that guide its social and judicial system, based on the fundamental principle of minimizing suffering. The only thing it takes away from a religious system is the absolute nature of morals. The principle of judging whether or not something is wrong based on if it causes suffering for others has led to many practices such as fornication, homosexuality, and blasphemy to be no longer considered as immoral acts punishable by the government. The morals that guide atheists work in a very similar way.
Atheists better exhibit morals
In certain instances, in fact, atheists better exhibit morals contained within religions themselves. Principles of equality contained within religion still come with prejudice towards people of other faith or certain minorities, such as homosexuals, in most religions. This inequality does not exist in the mind of most atheists and certainly does not form part of the legal system of a proper secular society.
In essence, the relationship between atheism and morals can be better established by delving further into what exactly morals stand for. Morals derived from religion are meant to be an absolute set of rules which include the acceptance or performance of acts such as homosexuality, fornication and certain forms of childbirth to be immoral. For atheists and a society built upon secular humanism, there exists a greater acceptance for actions that do not cause suffering for others. Obligations and duties towards God do not take precedence over duties towards fellow citizens. Actions that cause suffering for others can not be morally justified in the name of God.
With an understanding of what morals stand for we also need to look at what inspires them. It is surely not simply a fear of God or an expectation for compensation in the next life that leads people to do good. Morals form an integral part of all humans. We derive comfort from helping others and our instincts guide us to help others in need. Morals which lead to the cumulative effect of minimizing suffering are therefore an integral part of the human existence, with or without a belief in the existence of God.