To gain a position of power in the United States, our electorate calls for an individual who is a moral person. But what do we mean by "moral"? By demanding a moral candidate, we collectively demand, with our votes, that said individual display an indefatigable and universal obligation to a god, or toward a set of moral principles associated with a specific belief in a higher power. Morality, at least in the eyes of the average American voter, has become synonymous with religious faith.

However, this is a false equivalence. Rather than enabling us to find the best answers to moral questions, religious faith clouds and obscures difficult moral questions.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the debate over gay marriage. In what perverted society is the legality of sexual relationships between two consenting adults even considered to be a moral question? If we were to list all of the evils in the world—evils being those things that contribute to human misery—where would gay marriage fall? It seems self-evident that, even if you believe it is harmful to society, it would be pretty far down the list.

Religious morality demands universal answers to incredibly complex moral questions. Abortion, for example, is often cited as the clearest case. Consider the Catholic position: abortion is always wrong. Mother Theresa claimed in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech that abortion is the greatest evil in the world, and many religious individuals spend a great deal of their time attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade, or supporting legislation that bans specific types of abortions (for example, partial-birth abortion). According to the universal moral truths that the Catholic religion professes, this is a clear-cut issue with no exceptions.

But consider the following example. Your unborn child, due to a genetic defect, lacks a spinal column. If born, your child will die a horrifically painful death, and she has no chance of survival. You have a choice to let your child endure that pain or, alternately, prevent the child from suffering by undergoing a partial-birth abortion.

The above situation is tragic, but is the claim that "abortion is wrong" relevant? Is it so clear-cut that religious individuals have the right to prevent others from even making this decision? Yet it is this religious teaching that drives the policy-making when it comes to restricting families faced with the horrible decision faced above.

The way we as a society consider moral questions is of extreme importance. We must strongly consider what moral decisions we can let individuals make (as is currently the case with abortion), and which need to be regulated by government (as would be the case with murder or theft). These conversations are critical for our advancement as a society.

This is not to suggest that universal moral truths do not exist. I am a moral realist; by this I mean that I do believe that there are true answers to moral questions. I simply challenge the notion that the only sources of moral truth are the Bible or the Koran, books that were written by people, as the neuroscientist Sam Harris has pointed out, who would "have considered the wheelbarrow a breathtaking example of emerging technology."

The world is growing ever more complex. Humans who wrote religious texts could not have imagined the intricate moral issues that we face today. And yet, the claim that they possess a god-sanctioned universal code of morality goes relatively uncontested in American political discourse. In fact, it is a view that we require of anybody who seeks a position of power in our country.

It is time to completely separate religion from morality in public discourse. We must move into a new age of moral reason, where moral questions are discussed openly, and amoral questions are removed from the realm of moral debate. It is no longer sufficient to claim God, or the Bible, as an absolute moral authority and a basis for universal moral truth. We as a society can do better.

My argument is not about rights trumping morality; it is about what is truly moral defeating the forces of religious fanaticism and bigotry that masquerade as morals. Religious dogmatists in the United States have rejected many of the claims of religious texts or past religious authorities. For example, when was the last time you heard a biblical critique of interracial marriage?

To adopt a line of argument made famous by C.S. Lewis, either the Bible is the unalterable word of God or it is not. If one is to make the extraordinary claim that it contains universal moral truths, one cannot pick and choose which clauses of the Bible are to be followed and which are not. That such a selection process exists is sufficient evidence to negate the notion that religious texts offer universal answers to moral questions.

If we care about human well-being, then we must do everything in our power to end the Christian monopoly on morality in American political discourse. Otherwise, our society will never be able to properly address complex and important moral questions, and our only sense of morality will come from outdated (and often bigoted) religious dogma.