Imagine a young man, let’s call him Paul, living in Paris in the early days of the Nazi occupation in WWII. He lives, serving as caregiver to his ailing mother with Parkinson’s disease. While she is entirely dependent on him, he loves his mother very much and is happy to care for her, just as she did for him as a child. But every day, Paul wakes up and reads the newspaper, hearing each day about the German advance. Paul dreams of joining the Resistance. He isn’t Jewish himself, but he still cares for his fellow Frenchmen, regardless of their race or religion. He knows that if no one stands up to Hitler, his friends who were black, or gay, or Jewish, would be rounded up and sent to camps.
What was it Edmund Burke or John Stewart Mill who once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing?” Still, the young man knows that joining the Resistance means abandoning his ailing mother.
Put yourself in his shoes? What’s the right thing to do?
Maybe there isn’t always the right choice, and the wrong choice, but two good choices, or two bad choices.
Join us for a conversation about why objective morality is a myth, why subjective morality is more plausible, and why that’s a good thing for everyone.
John Figdor is the co-author of Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart, a book about the positive values and beliefs of atheists and humanists.
He is the humanist chaplain of the Humanist Connection and serves atheist, humanist, and agnostic community at Stanford University, where he organizes events and programs for both students and community members in the San Francisco Bay area. Figdor and his work have been discussed in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
He speaks regularly around the United States on humanist topics. He holds a BA in philosophy from Vassar, a master of divinity degree in humanism from Harvard Divinity School, and was previously a humanist chaplain at Harvard.