No, God is Not a Moral Compass


compassThere doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by without my seeing some believer on social media saying something about morality and how morality flows from God. Every atheist I know, including myself have addressed this at one or another time whether on social media, in a blogpost, or even face-to-face.

I often think these same people have no concept of what morality really means. If they’re referring to religious morality, then yes, I can understand to some extent, but in general, no.

Even if referring to a religious morality then who’s religion is the most moral? I’ve spent more than a little time in the Middle East and I can attest with certainty that Muslim adherents would say that God has endowed then, through their Prophet,  as the most moral of all. That’s right, a religion that here in the West is considered oppressive to human rights is considered by those believers as being moral.

Morality is more of a social and cultural compact. Those within that compact agree that certain things are good and ethical and others are bad as those considered bad or even evil, disrupt the harmony of a society. So where does God come into the picture?

Why am I writing about this today? A recent post at Atheist Revolution started this thought process, but looking at it in a wider context and viewing it from a personal perspective.

I wasn’t raised in a strict Christian family, although as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my family identified with the Christian religion. Identifying and practicing, as everyone knows, are two different things.

A younger cousin of mine took his own life 41 years ago because he felt it was impossible to live up to the expectations of his Christian parents. His older brother has been in and out of prison since he was an adult.

A lifelong friend, that I wrote about a few months ago, with two grown sons now has had to experience one or both of them being jailed or in prison since their teenage years. In fact, the oldest son is in prison now.

How did that morality, that comes from God according to each of these families, do anything for them?  Of course it didn’t have anything to do with how any of these turned out. In both cases, forcing a strict belief system only caused tragedy.

Each of these stories only proved to me as an atheist that I can be moral without being a believer. These two cases may be in the extreme, I don’t know, but I do know what it looks like to place all trust in a magical being.

One thought on “No, God is Not a Moral Compass

  1. There are two completely separate kinds of morality: basic and cultural.

    Basic morality is about preventing the kind of interpersonal violence and dishonesty that UNIVERSALLY destroys the trust needed for group living. It is universal, regardless of differences in belief or culture, because it derives from the question, “do I feel safe in the presence of these people.” If so, group living is possible. If not, the population disperses, reducing their opportunities for reproduction, reducing their chances of survival since they have no-one to watch their backs. Basic morality developed as part of our evolution.

    Cultural “morality” is about enforcing a particular tribe’s customs of worship, sex, dress, diet, etc. The rules of cultural “morality” vary widely from tribe to tribe because they are not derived from any universal imperative, like survival.

    In the writing of moral codes like the “ten commandments,” basic and cultural moral rules are usually scrambled together as a way of trying to make the tribe’s cultural rules seem as intrinsic as the rules of basic morality. It also leads some to believe that the rules of cultural “morality” should be legislated and enforced like basic morality (theocracy).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s