Religion as a moral compass?

By Helen Neubauer, July 6, 2009

Sometime early Tuesday morning, someone shattered my car window with a BB while it was parked in front of my house. Two weeks ago, I was finally able to afford to replace my car that was totaled by an inattentive driver in September 2007 (he was on his cell phone), and now I am faced with finding the money to replace the window.

The first thing that crossed my mind was our so-called morality. I wondered whether the person who did this stopped to think about the consequences to me: the fact that having to now come up with $200 to replace my window means that once again I have to put off my long overdue eye exam and new glasses — or the fact that since my “new” car is actually quite old, finding a replacement window wasn’t that easy.

I wondered if that person would feel even the tiniest twinge of remorse if he or she knew my circumstances?

It occurred to me that religious people like to tout the fact that there are more “believers” than “non-believers.” Christians make up about 80 percent of the U.S. population — and 80 percent of the people incarcerated in the U.S. federal prison system, according to the most recent release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Atheists make up approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population, and 0.2 percent of the U.S. federal prison system. So the odds of the person who vandalized my car being someone who, if asked, would say he consider himself “Christian” are very high.

It seems rather ironic to me that we live in a country where the vast majority consider themselves “religious” — and question the morality of non-believers — yet statistics prove that our country’s moral compass is out of whack. If religion is supposed to be a moral compass, why has it failed so horribly?

Perhaps it is time for people to take a long hard look at what actually constitutes being a decent, compassionate human being and strive for that, rather than giving half-hearted lip-service to religious morality.

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