"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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"mpathetic morality comes from a physical part of your brain, which if damaged, prevents you from considering the harmfulness of your actions towards others. People suffering from this condition are called sociopaths...."

My experience with a man who seemed to lack a conscience, and the subsequent research I did, led me to the conclusion you stated so well.

Probably because the terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" have so many "street uses" the new DSM uses the term "antisocial personality disorder".

There are "real" moral compasses that people actually act upon and there are "artificial" moral compasses that people subscribe to but only act upon if it agrees with their real moral compasses. Yes, when I speak of artificial moral compasses I'm speaking of religion and other ideological belief systems.

In the entire Bible, there is not a single word uttered against the subjugation of women or against slavery. Men are top dog. Slaves and women need to be kept in their place. That's the way God wants it. Disobedient slaves are to be severely punished (New Testament) or even killed (Old Testament).

Morality has evolved along with mankind. Slavery and the subjugation of women are no longer kosher. Everybody (believers and non-believers alike) acknowledges this simple fact. And in so doing, they acknowledge that God's wisdom and morality are not absolute or objective: not timeless. They acknowledge that God is not perfect. We ALL overrule God with our own moral convictions.

I've repeated this often but it bears repeating: if we overrule God with our own moral convictions, why do we need him at all? Not just Atheists but everybody: Christians too.

Our morality comes from our humanity: empathy and experience. Through experience, I know what hurts me and through empathy, I know it hurts you too. Empathy is common to us social apes but humans take it to another, more sophisticated, level. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- because we need each other to survive.

The Golden Rule embody's empathy and cooperation. As social animals we evolved these capacities as survival mechanisms. And we still need them. Nature has only a prime directive: survive. There is no morality to be found in nature. Nature doesn't need it.

Humans do.

I believe morality is tied to human social structures like culture. Unfortunately, religion is a major part of most cultures. The separation of church and state is a protection against the morally absolutist and totalitarian inclinations of religion. Where church and state do unite -- as in the Catholic Church of the Dark Ages or in modern Islamic states -- morality goes out the window and dogma sneaks in to replace it.

Dogma and doctrine are artificial morality. They represent authority, not truth. And morality is nothing without truth.

The moral compass of the atheist is the moral compass of the freethinker on a quest for truth and understanding. The more we learn, the better decisions we can make. Our morality adapts to improved understanding. The dogma of religion is simply authority masquerading as morality. It's written in stone and immutable, like God himself. It is unyielding, even when it's wrong -- as slavery and the subjugation of women demonstrate without doubt.

Morality is what we believe makes us the best we can be as members of society and as individual human beings. It's something we have to decide for ourselves. It's not something that is handed to us.

Slavery and the subjugation of women are no longer kosher. Everybody (believers and non-believers alike) acknowledges this simple fact.


I've repeated this often but it bears repeating: if we overrule God with our own moral convictions, why do we need him at all? Not just Atheists but everybody: Christians too.

Exactly. Most Christians who argue for god as a source of morality do not get their morality from the Bible... that is to say, much of their moral compass (in terms of how to treat other people) would not change if they forsook their beliefs, and they actively reject many biblical (from the mouth of Yaweh/Moses/Jesus) views of morality (subjugation of women, slavery, ethnic cleansing, etc.), as you say.

If only believers could see that their are moral despite God . . . not because of him . . . a major hurdle to freethought would be overcome. But they've been brainwashed to think they would be awash in a sea of relativity if they lose sight of God's law. They've already swallowed the blue pill.

You're engaging in presentism, the judging of past times using the standards of today. In a state of nature, in mammalia (to which humans belong), females generally submit to males if only because most of the time males are larger and are driven by testosterone. The equality of women basically only became functional as humankind became civilized. As for slavery, sometimes (as with the Greeks) it was the alternative to killing an enemy, so it was an act of mercy, and slaves were treated with gratitude and kindness frequently, and were sometimes released from their bondage.

Be careful judging the past. Things are not necessarily as obvious as they first appear.


You've missed the point. If I were speaking of HUMAN morality -- arguing that it's better now -- then there might be an argument for presentism. I explicitly stated that human morality has evolved since those times. That doesn't necessarily mean better. Morality is, after all subjective and relative: the whole point of presentism.

It's not human morality I was challenging: it was God's morality. The point here is that God's morals are supposedly objective, immutable, timeless and perfect. But the Word of God plainly shows that his morality was a reflection of the era and region of Biblical Israel. It's ALL TOO HUMAN and anybody should be able to see that.

God didn't make us in his image. We made him in ours. God is our creation and so is morality.

Karma is the greatest behaviour-modifier in the world.

Call it what you will: repercussions, reaping what you sow, living and dying by the sword.

For every action there are reactions.

There is absolutely no need to bring the childish concept of God into it.

I emphatically agree with your idea that there is no need for god to formulate a morality.  However, if one leaves god out of the mix, one loses great swaths of colorful vengeance seeking,  smiting hip and thigh and various other nasty proclivities.  I say we should keep god in morality, because god is so goddamned entertaining.

True that.

Let's leave it as "What goes around come around" or "You meet the same people on the way down you screwed over on the way up." Karma is a specific belief of Hinduism and certain other Eastern religions requiring a belief in reincarnation.

I am atheist, but I do believe in the theory of "karma", not from a religous or spiritual point of view, but from a logical point of view. If you are nice to others, others are more likely to be nice to you, leading to more opportunities and ultimately more happiness in life. Karma is perfectly real and logical (minus the reincarnation part), and people should realize that it isn't just a religous philosophy.

A mass-murdering child rapist can ask for and be granted imaginary forgiveness, by fawning and grovelling in abject disgrace and unworthiness. However, a law-abiding atheist will rot in hell forever. Wow! and people actually believe this. 


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