Spinning my moral compass.

Even though the big laugh from last week’s Bill Maher show was that line about “ammosexuals,”  something bothered me about his conversation with Ralph Reed.

When Maher posed the deliberately provocative question, “Why do you believe in a magic being?” the Christian conservative smugly replied with predictable answers, including something about needing a “moral compass.”

Surprisingly, Maher didn’t challenge him on that.  It’s become such a popular truism that it even blunts the response instincts of a seasoned combatant like Bill Maher.

How he should have responded was by pointing out that even atheists and agnostics have a “moral compass.” If they did not, we would live in utter chaos.

Why else would Vermont, the least religious state in the nation with the laxest gun laws, have extremely low rates of gun violence compared to other states, and at the same time, some of the most environmentally conscious and humanitarian laws in the entire country?

Sounds like we’ve got a pretty healthy “moral compass” guiding us here, with or without a belief in God.

‘Fact is, the moral compass of ethical atheists is arguably more authentic, since it draws not from some infantile concern with punishment or reward, but from a deeply seated understanding of right and wrong, justice and injustice, compassion vs. cruelty.

Of course that’s not to say that believers are all motivated solely by the threat of damnation. Most good people are simply that…good people.   Take away the threat of hellfire and brimstone and they will still be good; not because some deity has decreed that they should be, but because everything in their being tells them to be.

In contrast, one has to wonder where the moral compass has gone in the Taliban and Christian fundamentalists, whose attitudes toward women are profoundly unjust; truly “immoral” to most other civilized people.

Where was the “moral compass” in the Crusades or the Inquisition?  Where had it gone when Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants were murdering one another over territorial imperative?

Why is it that so many malevolent social movements seem to resolve themselves into cults of hate that use the bible or the Koran as weapons of control, even destruction?

What Maher should have said was this:

“My moral compass is just fine, thank you very much.  

Where is it among House Republicans who have so little love of their fellow man that they won’t allow immigration reform to move forward; or the minimum wage?  Why do they think their “moral compass” is superior to that of all women, who would like to have the right to govern their own bodies no matter which state they live in?”

One must logically conclude that ethics and morals have nothing whatsoever to do with theism; and if you need a supreme being to make you behave like a decent human being, your moral compass has a bent needle.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

5 thoughts on “Spinning my moral compass.

  1. Sometimes my husband and I feel like we’re “coming out” when we publicly acknowledge our atheism.  Thank you for reminding me how important it is to do that, and do it well.

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