Is there actually a basis for values like compassion, empathy, etc.? Or are these just values that seem good to us because of the way our culture evolved. Do we only follow these values because we "feel" like we should?

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Morality is essentially pragmatic; in our best interest as social animals.

Of course the Jews complicated matters by inventing guilt,which the Catholics made an art form.

A recovering Catholic, I retain a vestigal Catholic conscience. This is often irksome, and sometimes downright inconvenient.
Compassion and empathy are evolved behaviors. Humans aren't the only species that has them. We feel like we should because evolution is pragmatic.
But why should we behave like this? Aren't we just rationalizing our altruistic behavior?
The thing I don't get is this: We can explain our behavior, and it sounds good to say we should be compassionate, altruistic, etc., but why should we actually behave compassionately?
Again, you're explaining reasons why the behavior exists, but not why we should actually follow our nature. I don't understand why we should be altruistic. We are programmed to be altruistic just as we are programmed to be aggressive and selfish. Both are programmed into us because they are useful for our survival. If altruism was never advantageous to humans (or other animals), we would not see altruism or compassion as good things.
You're right in that if altruism had never been advantageous, we might never have developed these feelings. But the fact is that we did develop them, and we would not have survived without it.

But after this initial altruistic instinct, we developed this intelligence. It doesn't diminish in any way our primal instinct for altruism. We not only have this instinct, but our intellectual capacity allows us to feel emotion and to reason. We have something that other animals with this instinct do not: we remember pain and understand how others of our species feel. We can feel sympathy because of this, which is much more complex.

It is in our nature to fear the people of other "tribes", which is why people used to slaughter each other endlessly (and still do far too much). It is why chimpanzees are some of the most violent creatures to other chimpanzees. But we don't follow this nature anymore because of our capacity to reason.

The same capacity to reason and think allows us to enhance our original altruistic nature. We can use our intelligence to abandon our violent nature towards others just as we can enhance our altruistic nature to something far more: compassion and sympathy. Our intelligence forces us to take responsibility for our actions, to ourselves and to each other. That is why we should and do follow these innate feelings and to use our reason and emotions to enhance them.

You ask some good questions though! Very thought-provoking.
"If you don't feel like being compassionate that is your choice. You have to live with how you feel."
Your reply is disturbing. The whole point of my question is to ask why we should be compassionate. Basing your actions on your feelings isn't justifiable when it comes to any other behavior, so why should it be when it comes to being kind to others?

Don't you dare assume I feel a certain way because of a question I'm asking.
Yes, I know what Humanism is. What I'm asking is this: why should we be compassionate? Because it makes us feel good? Because it makes others feel good? Should our actions really be based on endorphins and whatnot?
By your logic if torturing non-human animals felt good to everyone, and we didn't get a sense of guilt from it, it would be just as good for us to torture animals as it would be for us to be compassionate to one another.
So it would be OK to kill people, provided they didn't suffer, if it gave us pleasure and we didn't feel guilty about it?
I'm not a troll, and you're a fool for assuming my questions have anything to do with how I think people should behave. My own views on morality are Humanistic, but that should be irrelevant.
The values change per generation. There's the tech-know-how to live with a lower-Earth-signature; in-turn ideal, green, prosperous life.

And then there's the fascist opposite; for example whatever right or left, wasteful, fraudulent and abusive corporation (or religion for that matter) you wanna put into the mix




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