Monicks: Unleashed

Thinking Critically


Atheists have no moral compass

One of the most perplexing, and recurring misconceptions about nonbelievers is that we have no moral compass. It has happened to me countless times, and if you’re like me, I’m sure it has happened to you, too. This inane idea that presupposes that atheists are unethical, horrible people, for morals can only come from god, and that ultimately atheists have no reason to be good, for they have no one to whom they must answer for their evil deeds…


What is actually ironic is that atheists prove this assertion wrong every step of the way.

OK, before you people get all literal on me, let’s define moral behavior, shall we? In my opinion it boils down to two basic considerations: Always minimize actual and potential suffering; always maximize actual and potential happiness.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this is a characteristic exclusive to atheists — Nor am I saying that religious people are immoral. In fact, this is a feature common to all human beings, there are plenty of reasons for my assertion. Let’s explore a few of them:

Neuro-chemistry — Oxytocin: It’s been scientifically studied that it affects our moral behavior. Paul Zak explains it on his TED Talk Trust, morality — and oxytocin.

Empathy: You have most likely heard about empathy, haven’t you? It is what allows us to infer how other people feel in a particular situation. Unless you are a troubled individual with a history of abuse, or some specific psychological disorder, it is not in you to see anyone suffer, let alone would you want to ever be the cause of his or her affliction.

Self-esteem: Let’s face it, nobody wants to feel like a pariah. It makes us feel good when we do good things for other people.

Morality is a function of society, it comes from reason which precedes religions and best-selling-book author/gods, or supernatural constructs. They may have worshiped the moon and the sun, but they didn’t have the set of rules that religionists claim to be the absolute moral guide. Think about it — hadn’t it been for evolution and reason, humankind wouldn’t have been so successful. The first humans in Africa didn’t have anyone to teach them about gods and morality, it was how these early communities thrived — helping one another.

We have no need for an external moral compass. We are moral because it is truly in us to be so. We are ethical because it is an inherent part of our character.

This is precisely why atheists are bewildered by the recurring question believers pose to us on how will we know not to murder and rape without religion telling us not to do it. When you use this argument, to me it is terrifying. Basically what you are saying is that what stands between you and a serial killer is a fragile belief in a supernatural deity made up by illiterate people trying to figure out why the sun hid at night. The irony here is that believers use this argument supposedly from a position of moral superiority. No, this doesn’t go over well, theists.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this thought: If you think an ancient book is the ultimate guide of morality, think again. This is a book where slavery is condoned, where rape is a matter of property, and where the main character demands of us that we murder people for imaginary crimes, like witchcraft.

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12 Responses to Atheists have no moral compass

  1. Alex Ford says:

    Great article. One of my favorite episodes of Penn’s Sunday School podcast is one where he tells a story about someone who asked him “What is stopping you from raping and pillaging if you don’t believe in God?”

    Penn said, “Let me tell you something……..I have raped and pillaged everyone that I want to. Every single person that I wanted to rape or pillage, I have done it. Do you know how many people I have wanted to rape and pillage? ZERO. WHY THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE A LIST OF PEOPLE THAT YOU WANT TO RAPE AND PILLAGE???”

  2. Dipo says:

    This is a good write up .We atheists have morals because we are not obliged to any god. Like i tell people morality means different things to different people. For example homosexuality ,to some it is a immoral but to others it is not. Morality depends on the environment that you live and your experience in live. It has nothing to do with any god

  3. Alex Ford says:

    @Dipo, morality is also an evolving human concept. As we progress through time we build on our morality and learn from the past. This is why it was once perfectly alright to condone slavery but no longer.

  4. Tim Goral says:

    Thank you for this.

  5. Kwame says:

    Morality is in the eyes of the beholder. A great analogy was made in pointing out that indigenous peoples (with no indoctrination of a biblical or relgious god) lived relatively peacefully with each other and the environment. However, once a system is established -like a government that controls the society- then there would be a need to place rules and regulations. Atheists living in such societies may not adhere to the ‘god’ concept, but they must adhere to the ‘gov’ concept.

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  11. Mary Ann says:

    My care for the suffering of others has NO basis in a belief of a god. I care deeply about other beings. I work actively to help others. I am a vegetarian and I capture bugs in my house and take them outside. None of this has anything to do with a god!
    I volunteer to help the poor. I am a retired social worker. I attempt to do the right thing not because I fear punishment! I want to do the right thing because it is the RIGHT thing to do. My compassion and morality come from the inside- not the outside.
    Sorry, had to vent!

  12. If you are interested in a Secular Moral Compass, try The Moral Compass Foundation.

    The Moral Compass

    Never instigate the use of coercive force.

    Accept responsibility for personal actions and the consequences of those actions.

    Practice a duty of care.

    Affirm the individual’s right to self-determination.

    Put the truth first.

    Never use a person as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even if the end benefits others.

    Be honest.

    Honour agreements.

    Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.

    Leave a positive legacy to future generations.

    © MCF


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