There is a weird notion that atheists have no moral compass.
This is simply not true.
Will atheism always fail to find a universally convincing secular moral compass or “slogan” to offer its followers? Writer thinks he can clearly show this.
The notion that there is a single moral compass that all mankind should follow is an entirely religious notion. The fact of the matter is that atheism has a variety of different moral models but most are based on the notion that humanity is responsible for it’s actions.
“Humanism”, the “Golden Rule”, “increase the well-being of conscious creatures”. These secular attempts at an objective moral compass or “slogan” will always fail if atheism is true. Why? In short: Justification. There exists no simple and convincing justification for these moral compasses if atheism is true. But more than that, Writer would seek to show why one would also never be found…
Except the notion that all humanity is vital and that in order to run a fair and just society where all are valued you require such rules. There is no objective moral compass here, each decision must be weighed out carefully and analysed to determine if it is a moral choice or not.
But Writer think he can also show that a simple yet convincing justification outside of atheism does indeed exists for these moral compasses – one that is not based on the coercive power of “fear for the hereafter”.
Okay let’s look at them.
1. No Justification
If there is no simple and convincing justification for secular moral compasses, then they would always merely be discarded in desperate times. Indeed it is in the most desperate of economic or political times that moral values need to prevent the types of ideologies that caused the atrocities of an Adolf Hitler**, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot or communism in general. And it is at all times that they need to prevent the next Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. Complicated philosophical justifications might exist, but in the end only a convincing and easily understood justification would work.
Adolf Hitler was Christian to begin with. Joseph Stalin and Mao did not commit atrocities because of their lack of faith. They did it for ideological reasons.
Torquemada and St. Xavier though. Those guys killed people for religion. As did a lot of Hitler’s friends. Gott Mitt Uns and all that.
The Atheists on that list? Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and the like were not killers because they were atheists. They were killers because they believed in stupid ideas or we corrupted by absolute power.
Communism’s problem was that it suddenly removed the entire existing power structure. Throughout history most nations undergoing such marked revolution were often followed by periods of massive brutality. The ideas of Revolution were great, but the result led to the Reign of Terror. The Oktober Revolution was for the purpose of alleviating starving peasants but lead to a brutal civil war. Even India, the freedom of India came at the price of the biggest riots in human history resulting in a million deaths. The partition…
Communism can be run as a pure democracy as seen in Kerala where communists keep winning elections because they are a positive force. The state of Kerala has some of the best social outcomes in India.
Mao was a good soldier and a charismatic general. He was also not very well educated in the art of being a politician nor did he understand how to run a country. Mao’s ideas were a fundamental flawed concept and a problem in the thinking of many people at the time. That any man can do any job irrespective of what their training is.
Pol Pot just believed in some very strange ideas. At no point does atheism suggest you have to kill people who wear glasses. People who wear glasses are people who cannot see well. Not intellectuals who are enemies of the state.
Atheism is merely the lack of belief in a god.
What you do with your atheism is subject to other ideas that you hold dear to you. Now not every atheist thinks that these ideas are important. However most people aren’t just atheists. They have other ideas empowered by their atheism. So for instance?
The fight for evolution in schools is a non-atheist topic. It’s a pure skeptic/science topic with a twist of separation of church and state. Yet we have no problem in involving ourselves in it because we all see it is a religious push. We are however less interested in things like dealing with religious racism (see Mormons) and religious sexism (take your pick). Quite possibly because it would mean having to deal with those issues within our own “community”. AKA the group of people who call themselves atheists and hang around talking about atheist stuff.
It is easy to say “well it’s not our problem, atheists only don’t believe in gods” but that’s easy to say if no one is out there not accepting your “atheism” or your religious issues.
But what could be universally convincing for man? We all know that at the root of what man follows in the absence of God is selfish worldly motivations. Altruism is done for recognition, love is for reciprocal love, and kindness is for admiration. So if we could find a simple Justification that appeal to man’s Selfishness, this could indeed Convince man to follow some noble secular ideology!
Altruism is not done for recognition.
Seriously? I write under a pseudonym. I have not asked to go spend time at any convention. In fact most people don’t know what I look like. Many people still think I am a woman. Many people don’t realise I am Asian.
Religious people do good things to kowtow before a god for eternal reward. That’s possibly more selfish than mere “altruism”. Love for love? Well it’s rather hard to be in love without someone loving you back. Now you may romanticise it but it is just tragic. We are not kind to be admired. We are kind because it is the necessary thing to do.
You do a great disservice to humanity to portray us as naught but vapid, vain and selfish. We are capable of those things.
We are also capable of doing something extra ordinary. A hero is merely someone who does the hard thing at the right time. The one who is willing to do what needed to be done. It is not divine nor is it empowered by genetics. Everyone is capable of doing it.
There is no eternal reward for our atheist view. Let’s leave secularism out of it. The religious conflate the two. Secular views don’t mean no religion. They just mean “Keep it in your own pants”.
But the problem is that no two people are the same. So if you do not need recognition, reciprocal love or admiration, then you would merely reject altruism, love and kindness.
Recognition of your actions is nice. It is nice to be appreciated and we must appreciate those who do things for us. To claim that being recognised is inherently wicked is bloody stupid. We want to be loved. In fact a lot of religion converts the lonely and oppressed by offering reciprocal love. And admiration? Why should we not seek admiration? Humility is knowing what your achievements are and not taking credit for things you have not done. Humility is not hiding your achievements if they are relevant and urbane to the conversation.
And in that simple example lies the crux of the dilemma. The diversity of man might very well make it totally impossible to find a universally convincing justification for Any moral compass if atheism is true.
The argument is that since everyone is different we should not live to the same rules?
The moral compass of religion has repeatedly proven to be barbaric and indeed subjective. Point in case? Christianity was used to prop up slavery for centuries! It had no moral compass if it propped up institutions and practices that are considered abominations to humanity.
But could this truly be right? Is there really nothing else than selfishness and reason that could propel us to follow a moral compass? Writer can think of nothing else if atheism is true.
Immoral people make society harder to survive. Moral people do not. Afghanistan is unlikely to produce great works of research or literature if we look at the tribal warfare. While the USA is. Why? Cooperation. Why? Artificial Moral Codes.
Remember. We consider the Aztec to be bloodthirsty but they probably saw themselves differently. Their moral code was different to ours. And in turn we think of the Christians who went there as savages who’s morality is inferior to ours. Maybe one day we will be mocked by our descendants for our racism and hatred of the GLBT.
But morality progresses.
But should we really conclude that man differ too much to use reason and selfishness to inspire him to be good? Do reason and selfishness really pull man into too many different directions to serve as a grounding of Any secular moral compass?
No. Because discussion makes us better. If we never discussed the notion of universal human rights (something NOT Biblical but Humanist) then we would not have various ideas that we take for granted.
And reason may not be the best grounding for a moral code, but it is a damn sight better than a blind obedience to 2000 year old books.
2. Atheism’s failing attempts
It does indeed seem that all well intended secular moral compasses: Humanism, the Golden Rule, “increase the well-being of conscious creatures”, suffer from the same fatal flaw, namely the lack of a simple and universally convincing Justification. They all lack the answer to the question of “why” they should be followed. If you are poor and can improve your family’s plight through murder and theft, then you would ask why..? If you enjoy inflicting pain like the sadist, then you would ask why..? If you only live for pleasure and for yourself like the hedonistic egoist, then you would ask why..? If you are one of the leaders everyone look up to to improve the plight of your nation, then you would ask why…?. Why follow these moral compasses? Who decided that they are true? Why are they true?
So the only reason for a god to exist for you is so that it props up a moral code because you cannot see any other way for people to behave? That’s sad.
Because not following the laws of the land mean that society is weakened. A weak society is not a libertarian paradise but a place like Somalia or Afghanistan. Where might makes right. Where most people are terribly oppressed. No real progress can occur. The rules ensure we get along so that we don’t argue over stupid things and can go on to build things that push society forwards because humans are less worried about survival but more worried about survival with style.
Indeed it seems that all secular proposed moral compasses can Always be Successful argued against. For instance from the egoist: “Ants live and even die for the improvement of their species. This is purely due to socio-biological evolution. So it being “noble” is no justification of a certain moral compass – we are surely more evolved than ants are we not!”
Because the individual ant is not capable of breeding. The workers are solely designed to protect the breeding female. There is no morality in their actions because they are amoral creatures. They do what they do to survive. Only humans ascribe morality to our actions because we can think about the repercussions of what our actions are.
Ant workers and soldiers and even drones die for the queen to live not due to altruism or self sacrifice but because they are compelled to do so by biology in order to perpetuate the species.
And you are no more evolved than the ant. The exact same period of evolution has occurred.
On the opposite side the fanatical craziness of eugenics can be arrived at by rejecting the well-being of the individual for the “more important benefit of the group”. From the genocidal leader (or war lord): “It being a “human right” is no justification for a certain moral compass – we surely need to improve mankind (or our nation) through natural selection (or war and genocide) to get rid of social problems!” 
GODWIN? More like Godlose!
Except that eugenics does not function through genocide. No animal breeder would tell you that the best way to increase the health of an animal is to simply inbreed it. It figures that someone who thinks Adam and Eve and Noah’s Family were real would think that a single genetic code is the best but frankly diversity is what makes us survive better.
If you wish to build an ideal race you have to break down the barriers of race and stop seeing humans by the colour of their skin. We don’t pick race horses on the colour of their skin but on their statistics. Why can’t we judge humans the way we judge horses for once?
Want to know a simple way to get rid of a lot of social problems? Give women the right to control their reproductive cycle. Poor mothers aren’t “Stupid”. They understand that the more children they have the more difficult their life is going to be and the less chance each child is going to have.
Laissez Faire Eugenics. Where we control our own futures because we understand what it means to not do so.
This has helped create the artificial surplus of the West.
It seems that any secular moral compass can always be called either the result of “socio-biological evolution” or mere “noble lies”. 
Yes. If you don’t have rules you cannot have society. Watch kids play around. After a while they develop rules. Don’t teach them a game, just watch them play without any rules and see how quickly they establish them. Because to be social, you need rules.
3. A Moral, Simple and Convincing Justification for moral compasses
But it may surprise the reader to learn that a universal and convincing justification does indeed exist. One that is grounded neither in the coercive power of fear of punishment in the hereafter (as offered by most religions), nor in man’s selfishness (as attempted by some secular ethicists). One that is already available to approximately a third of the world’s population. The secular inability to justify the various secular moral compasses is in stark contrast with this moral, simple and extremely convincing justification.
Most of the world once believed that the world was just a few thousand years ago and that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
Just because 2 billion people believe in an unprovable entity that is capable of magic doesn’t mean they are right. There are 5 billion who don’t believe in this same magical entity.
And one can easily look at these 2 billion to realise that they often enjoy secular moral compasses.
For instance? Slavery. Exalted and proscribed by Jehovah (Why should we call him God? There are others? Why must I treat your god are real and other ones as not?) is mentioned explicitly in the Bible. If the Bible were a Universal Moral Code then it would NOT be a pro-slavery document.
There is genocide and rape there too. It’s not a moral book. It is a testament to historical perspective and to show us how much we have changed from those early barbaric days.
What is this justification if not heaven or hell, you may ask? What is able to thoroughly justify an unselfish moral message of neighbourly love? One that promises no selfish reward, yet seems capable of propelling many of its followers to selflessly disregard their own well-being in their efforts to improve the lives of the poor, the ill and the downtrodden in the most backward parts of the world? What if not the fear of hell or the reward of heaven can propel one to act in this way? Why ever disregard your own wellbeing for the benefit of others?
Atheists don’t do charity.
I am afraid this is where the little premise breaks down.
I am constantly amazed by the notion of “Slacktivism”
Amazed because it’s bandied around quite lightly. Particularly if you do blog here.
I have been accused of it (possibly by someone who doesnt’ read the damn blog) and Christians regularly tell me that they are in parts of Africa Doing The Lord’s Work (Why? Let him do his own damn work! Lazy Bugger!).
Atheists aren’t doing things like this because our “goodness” is not measured by how many people we convert to atheism.
We don’t HAVE to travel to the savage lands and enlighten and uplift the poor with Hitchens and Dawkins.
We give them the tools they need to fight and survive. Seeds, Technology, Education, Medicine.
We just don’t need to do so under a gigantic A banner.
Point in case?
Missionaries open missions that never “end” really. For many there is no “end point”. There is always more work to be done they say.
My job is to make sure there is no more work. In an ideal world I would be out of a job.
This non-coercive, moral, simple and extremely convincing justification seems unique to none other than the Christian message and faith. The primary justification of the moral compass from the Christian message seems neither to be fear of God nor that of hell. This makes Christianity quite distinct from other religions that usually hold this coercive type of justification only.
You mean you don’t fear the god who tells his followers to rape, murder and enslave and who kills vast quantities of people for no adequately explained reason?
And the fear of hell is a driving force in a lot of Christian thought as is the reward in heaven. You cannot claim to be altruistic when you are offered eternal paradise as a reward for “being good”. In fact the ethos here is that the only reason you are good is because you believe in the rules of Christianity and that the only thing stopping you from being a total wanker is a belief in superstition.
You aren’t good. You are evil in a bottle.
So what is this “unique” justification? It is in two words: “Immense Gratitude”.
I don’t seek immense gratitude. I don’t really care if my patients thank me. It’s nice but not essential.
Unique to Christians is their believe that God being the source of “good”, literally became man and died for us. The humiliation and sacrifice that was made by the Creator through necessity of His nature is not only infinitely humbling to Christians, it also creates in Christians an infinite moral obligation. A moral obligation of Immense Gratitude. For nothing they do can ever repay that infinite gift of atonement. This is the moral, simple and extremely convincing justification of the moral compass from the Christian message (the Bible as interpreted by Christianity). 
Hindus have the 9 Avatars of Vishnu where he manifested as a mortal a grand total of 9 times and died “for our sins”.
Are Hindus 9 times as good?
Except there is no evidence for the existence of this Jehovah bloke and the historical veracity of the Bible is highly suspect. IF we are to accept the Bible as true then the Mahabaratha is equally true and Hindus fought a omnicidal war that killed Billions over “duty”.
Of course that’s silly.
But why are we accepting the Bible as somehow less silly than that? Any book with a talking snake in it isn’t real. Not even Harry Potter.
But the coercive power of the hereafter remains, you might say? Not at all. The Christian believes that salvation is immediately received when one truly regrets and sincerely repents of his/her immoral ways, when one truly believes in Jesus of Nazareth’s divinity, believes that He died for our sins at the cross 2000 years ago. If one accepts this Devine gift, if one accepts Jesus Christ, then he/she is saved. 
Pythagoras died around 500 years before that. He died for your Sines.
Yeah but that applies to every religion. If you accept Mohammed as the one true Messenger of Allah then you are Muslim and “saved”. IF you accept the divinities of all and worship them according to the rites of the Vedas then you are saved as a Hindu. If you adhere to the 8 fold path you are saved as a Buddhist and like the Hindu are on the path to Monksha/Nirvana.
It only sounds logical when you ignore the fact that this is entirely based on a book that’s 2000 years old and factually incorrect. And that there are other books like it.
Then there is no more good to be done to earn salvation, no more bad that can be done to lose salvation. No fear that motivates. The Christian is free to do whatever he/she wants to do. Indeed Christians believe only they know the true meaning of being free.
But that means you can do bad things and as long as you repent you get rewarded.
See Hindus have a nicer grasp of morality than Christians. You can be good and do evil things. You can be evil and do good things. Evil and good are not black and white but shades of grey. You do your best and you are judged by the repercussions of your actions and why you did them.
It’s a lot more nuanced than the simplistic morality of Christianity. And Christians don’t know what free is. Religious people telling me that they are free is like the caged bird claiming the world is just a foot across.
There are far greater things in the heavens and on earth than in your tired philosophy.
4. Can one be free yet be good?
So what happens when we see people’s lives turned around after coming to Christ? Why is it that newly converted Christians so regularly are freed from alcoholism, from drug abuse, from sexual immorality and from many other immoral slave masters. It cannot be fear of hell because they know that they were immediately and completely freed from hell when they sincerely repented and accepted Christ. No, it can only be the Immense Gratitude they have and (so Christians believe) the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit that regenerate true Christian believers.
I ran a drug clinic. No need for Jesus. And in fact by empowering people into being responsible for themselves we had better control than saying “I must accept a higher power”.
And I am afraid a lot of the sexual immorality of Christians is not immoral, merely not the “penis in vagina for babies only” sort of sexual act.
And yet every single person who fucked up and is guilty because they fucked up and are Christian says “they fear that they are going to hell”.
So the Christian message…
- provides its followers with total freedom
So why do your friends keep stopping women from getting healthcare?
- yet the will to do good
Which we have and if we are including charity then I put myself up as an example (you mate, should read the blog more!)
- without being coerced by fear or reward
I am not expecting hell or heaven and in fact so far the reward has been a complete absence of sex, money and me spending most of my days feeling rather lonely because I don’t share the interests with the people I work around.
- indeed the Christian Wants to be good because of the moral, simple and extremely convincing justification of “Immense Gratitude”
So then why is there a doctrine of hell? Then why not simply remove that bit. No one goes to hell so why be good? I mean plenty of badly behaved Christians are there. Including a certain Austrian who really liked Eugenics.
- the perfect justification of (they believe) the perfect moral message
The perfect moral message where god tells you to rape, murder and enslave people? I am afraid such a creature is not moral.
In contrast, without God many of us tend to:
- become slaves to our vices
Remind me again, how many times have we caught Priests being hypocrites? Now I know that the rate of priests misbehvaing is the same as the rate at which teachers do so.
OR yes. Doctors.
But I know we are held to a higher standard than those priests who are supposed to be perfect men of god.
Not only are they “as weak” as a normal man and indeed all that prayer and holiness means absolutely nothing in terms of morality then clearly the belief has no innate powers apart from the power of making these people into gigantic hypocrites.
- lack the Reasons to do the right thing
I was driven by a selfish need to find something to do that made me feel “alive” again. To challenge myself and to step out of what I knew I could do. I wanted to be a doctor and this was an opportunity. And only through challenge can we grow. If we do not challenge ourselves we will never see what we can really do.
If you have the will to grit your teeth and take discomfort and the pain and the knocks and still stand up. Then you can change and be something a bit more.
It’s not for everyone. I cannot expect others to be willing to suffer. This has pushed me to the limits.
But I know it’s right. I see it in the eyes of those who I help. It’s pointless gratitude and sometimes a joke.
I do the right thing now not to push myself but because I can and because if I do not I cannot expect others to do it instead.
- need the fear of the force of law to coerce us in being good and to avoid being bad
On the contrary. We don’t need a supernatural being with the threat of hell to be “good”. Nor do we excuse our bad behaviour through scripture. Dawkins doesn’t tell me to punch babies.
- all because a simple and convincing justification for doing good escapes us,
Because it helps other human beings and makes the world a better place.
If you cannot feel empathy without invoking the divine imperative to be good and nice then you are only good because you believe.
I am good irrespective of it.
- and so does a perfect moral compass
The same moral compass that forces women to undergo coathanger abortions, forced conversions, genocide, cultural destruction, slavery, sexism, racism and is responsible for a systematic oppression of the GLBT.
It’s a moral compass.
But lest we forget the needle may not be pointing the right way.
So if the Christian message is true, then we have moral hope. But if God is “dead”, then man is morally dead.
Or he never existed and you are creating a story to justify morality because you fear that mankind cannot be good for the sake of humanity.
Therefore on behalf of all mankind who wants to see secular moral compasses succeed (including Writer), we need to respectfully request atheism to hide their message  of un-believe in God until they find a simple convincing moral Justification for man to follow those pretty good secular moral compasses. For what other redeeming value or purpose could its message of godlessness have?
Without a secular morality you will see the depradations of religious morality.
No theocracy is moral. No theocracy has ever been moral. Let’s take the the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Look at how they execute minors based on hearsay and gossip. Are they moral? Let us take the Vatican? How many millions did they doom through their anti-Condom propaganda and pro-life sentiment? How many children’s lives were ruined and how many priests were protected to protect the image of the “Church” rather than their wards? How many women are dead at their pro-life hands? How many slaves at the Magdalene Laundries?
No these are not moral places. These are rules based on superstition.
Yet the reader might be surprised to learn that an increasing number of western philosophers are convinced that logical proofs or arguments exist for God’s existence. All proofs are purely from nature, science and the human condition.  Indeed, they assert, we can from pure reason clearly conclude that the existence of God is more probable than not. What would be better than to follow a God given moral compass if He truly exists..?
Yes but a logical proof of a god doesn’t mean that Jehovah exists. I can logically prove that arrows fired will never hit a moving tortoise but in reality all you would get is turtle kebabs.
Thought experiments are no substitute for empirical experiments. There is no factual evidence of a god. Any god. Let alone Jehovah. The man who discovers proof of a god will revolutionise science and reality. However none have ever stepped forwards.
From pure reason? How? We haven’t seen a single iota of god’s existence. Not one bit.
I am afraid you don’t quite understand your own faith and instead flog a very neutered version of it in order to seem more reasonable. Even the most lapsed of Christians understand the existence of Hell for breaking rules. To claim that it isn’t a punishment is just incorrect theologically.
You have made outright statements that are incorrect and invalid and misrepresented history.
In short? Your argument is eloquently incorrect.