I'm a college student of an unconventional age, (I'm about 9-10 years older than my classmates) and I am working on starting a freethinkers club on campus, considering there are no less than three clubs which define themselves as "Christian."
I was discussing this prospect with some of my atheist classmates when the subject of my moral compass discussions with my best friend came up.
You know the drill, I'm an atheist, so therefore I have no absolute on which to base my morality. We all get it sooner or later and we all know it is absurd.
We go through the motions of pointing out the absurdity like some sort of secret atheist handshake before this little nugget pops out of one of their young mouths, "Christians don't have a moral compass because they all base their morality on a book of fairy tales!"
I called a time-out.
This was for a number of reasons, the least of which not being that I have quite a few Xtian friends and I know that they do have a moral compass, and thankfully it really ISN'T based on the book they think they are basing it on.
Let's face it, many religiosos are Cafeterians, meaning that they pick and choose what parts of the religion they want. Back when I was all nutty for god that would have upset me but now that I am an atheist I love it.
See, deep down I think that the logical part of them is telling them that the book is ultimately bullshit. They aren't going to stone someone for adultery, they love their homosexual friends and family and most of them would never DREAM of whipping their child with a cane.
They deny that stupid book at every corner, and it's because a moral compass actually exists outside of religion.
I have a theory (I think it's mine anyways, I may have read it and forgot and then later thought it was mine, so be gentle if you are correcting me in the comments section.)
My theory is this:
Being a good person is natural because human beings are terrible at survival outside of a group.
I mean look at us, we're slow, tender apes who give birth to offspring who have very soft skeletons during infancy. Our eyesight is shit and so is our hearing. We don't even have claws or long canines to defend ourselves with.
We do have societies though, and it's easier to form bonds with others when we aren't stoning them to death for sleeping with someone we don't want them to sleep with.
I'm not saying that morality is an evolutionary survival tactic, I'm saying that society, and the ability to develop that society comes from the ability to create a sympathetic and empathetic emotional bond with others.
We're social apes who are terrible at all the other stuff apes do, so we need more complex societies for our survival. Societies that can look at someone we may not like at all and not send them off to die in the wilderness.
Oh man I just fell asleep on my desk.