"Where do you get a moral compass from if you don't have a god?"

I've been lurking around youtube tonight and found this lovely lady. She is incredibly ignorant. I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss our moral compasses, and how diverse our views really are. For example, I am an atheist, an animal rights activist (and vegan), a secularist,  among other things.  While my brother, who is also an atheist, has some pretty opposite views; he fishes and hunts, he's in the army (I don't agree with the war for MANY reasons, but I'm not going to get into that), as well as other things. 

Out of all the stupid, ignorant, and hypocritical things said by theists, this is the one that gets me the most. It's absurd to think that you need some higher power to guide you and tell you what is right from wrong. I actually got into an argument with a classmate about this, who is a crazy christian. I asked her what good she has done for our community or our world, she replied telling me how her and her mom raise money for their church. She reciprocated the question, and I gleefully answered telling her of the hundreds of hours of volunteering I've put into numerous charities and organisations. She was in shock, and needless to say she learned something new about atheists that day.

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Yes makes perfect sense..because YOU ABIDE BY THE WRONG LAW!!!!

Whether for personal gain or for some mythical code system, like to benefit all life on earth, one has a natural propensity to please others of our species. We please each other mostly by identifying stressors and not activating them in others. If you know you are speaking to your friend that doesn't eat pork, would you really harp on and on about the glorious pork sandwich you ate or maybe just refer to the sandwich? It helps to not make your friend feel....avarice or displeasure. Once on a pack scale, village sized group this behavior pattern makes the possibility of stable breeding, feeding and sheltering for our species. It is natural to be good to each other, I never eliminate the Buddhist school of psychological analysis on this, they argue it's not supernatural, we are faced with data that we can't even sort out, that is displeasing...that it isn't easily sorted...in our minds, so we want....something...different. The theist must confront that if it is natural to be good then it must be natural that there is no rhyme or reason to calamity. It is natural for one to want something different than the inevitable moment of melancholy or sadness...but talking to an invisible friend isn't half as helpful as having a community of like minded people. The Dalai Lama commented on a question about it being good or bad to say hello or not to a stranger in passing...he looked as if told a joke...it's an interesting expression, very genuine, 'of course you say hello, it's natural to say hello to a stranger you are human' Blam!

"I never eliminate the Buddhist school of psychological analysis"

Buddhism is a "religion" that I respect, not only due to the fact that it is atheistic, but that it also has good principles to live by.

Yah I'm saying that the moral compass exists from evolved necessity if I can call it that.  Its just easier.  We have figured out that it's easier to survive in numbers and being nice makes that easier to accomplish.  Pretty simple really.  To a theist I think it should be presented as, "I have a fantastic moral compass without the crutch of a god or religion, so why do you need such things to force you to behave?  Do you think that you are born evil by nature and need to be held in check?"  Probably gonna invoke some bogus free will argument or their head will explode.   Can't wait till we get to say I told you so.  I'll let go of my morals that day. 

I carved my moral compass out of the Golden Rule, something that was taught to me by my parents well before I ever set foot in a church. Once I had the framework of "Treat others the way you want to be treated", I strengthened it with the idea of "Do right because it is right, not because you are told to". After I had the base, I built from there. Reason and logic taught me that I gained nothing by being a complete asshole to those who didn't deserve it. They also taught me that life was a precious thing, and that it isn't something to be wasted, especially if we really do get only one life to live.

Morality may be easily taught in the churches, but it does not have to come with the threat of fiery damnation and the promise of eternal bliss. I know I'm not alone here when I say I feel that those who need morality to come from a cloud dwelling absentee father figure, a being that has killed more people since the conception of the human race than anyone else in history, are nothing more than spineless, amoral people who cannot bear the responsibility of true morality.

I agree with you completely

The Golden Rule assumes that you and I would want the same thing, to be treated the same way. However, not every woman wants a door opened for her, for example. And let's not even get into how masochists screw up the application of the rule!

It's a Goden RULE, not a Golden LAW. :-)

It's a valuable insight, not a system.

I believe that we are actually born with a "moral compass". I won't bore you with the studies of toddlers. Good and careing people will most likely raise good and careing childern. But, again I won't bore you with facts of personality, emotional,or mental disorders. We all have the ability to understand that others are in pain, unfairly treated or abused in some way. However, people over the ages have taught their childern to think that some people are more important than others; due to religion, color, gendner, or sexual orientation. So it seems to me that people make a choice about morality, what you have been taught, or what you feel in your heart. Some people feel deeper than others, some people are able to break free from  biase and think for themselves; others cling to fears that they have been taught. Your moral compass is what you allow it to be, with an open heart and an open mind.


Well, one probably should not blame the religious too much for arguing divinely inspired morality, though the concept has become extremely outdated in modern society. The monotheistic religions we see today is mostly a result of humans attempting to codify pro-social behavior into some type of system. The main vehicle for the behavior manipulation system commonly referred to as morals is law, and it's quite easy to track the progression of morals through time and across cultures by checking the letter of the law. It's no coincidence that these will match fairly tightly.

Instead of looking at religion today - especially the monotheistic religions - and their arguments about morality, it's more interesting to see how they fit into society during the time they were introduced. It certainly cannot be denied that Christian social moors were much less barbaric (by today's standards) than the Greco-Roman ones it replaced. Islam and Judaism for the most part replaced tribal traditions with far less regulation of social behavior. Add to this attempt of making the world a bit less brutal the fact that whatever central power existed at the time had little power to actually enforce secular law, and it is therefore much easier to threaten someone into civilized behavior by threatening them with eternal damnation of the soul rather than a pretty much non-existent legal enforcement system. One should perhaps not quite dismiss the positive role religion has played in civilizing the subset of mankind residing west of the Indus valley and north of the Sahara. (Has being the key word there.)

So, what's an atheist moral compass based on? Well, externally it is the law of the land which the vast majority of people follows the vast majority of time. Internally it is ethical concepts such as the golden rule and karma.

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