Today we bring you our second installment of “What Would a Humanist Do?”—offering multiple AHA staff opinions on the same question. As with our long-running “Humanist Dilemma” column by Joan Reisman-Brill, readers often ask what qualifies as a humanist problem. Our answer: Humanists are committed to being good without a God, but sometimes they need a little advice on how to pull it off.
A few days ago, I was prompted to play “Swipe Night”—an interactive, apocalyptic video game on Tinder that promises to match players based on the decisions they make in the scripted game. Set in the last three hours on earth, I was presented with three critical, binary choices: save a puppy or a person; cover for my cheating friend or tell his girlfriend; and run for my life or stay and take pictures of a descending comet. I chose to save the person, I told my friend’s girlfriend about his infidelity, and I ran to the nearest house for safety. Based on these answers, I was matched with a guy I’ll call Tom. To my surprise, Tom and I connected almost immediately on our shared pop culture interests and general worldview. However, this budding, rosy feeling disappeared a few days later when I found out that Tom had made vastly different decisions in the game; he saved the puppy over a person, and he also chose to cover for his cheating friend. I know this is just a game, but what kind of person saves a puppy over a human being? I am no longer sure Tom and I are compatible. Do I challenge his choice, cut things off, or continue enjoying our conversations even though I find his choices objectionable? I’m really confused!
—What Would a Humanist Do?
Honesty and openness are two very important aspects of any relationship. If this is something that is important to you, don’t be afraid to ask Tom why he answered the questions that way (and how seriously he took them).
If you like chatting with Tom, continue chatting with him. If you’re curious about why he chose those answers, discuss it with him. Maybe it will spark interesting discussion—perhaps even change your views—or make you want to stop chatting with him. If you can’t fathom how anyone would choose the options he chose and want to end it, then end it (directly, don’t ghost him).
Be wary of looking for excuses to sabotage what could be a good thing. The genuine feeling of connection that you experienced when you first met Tom is what you should be focusing on here. Learning that you disagree with the answers to a few hypothetical ethics questions shouldn’t be enough to sow seeds of doubt about your connection to another person—that is, unless your brain is aching for an excuse to get out.
Keep talking to Tom. There is much more to him than his “Swipe Night” answers. Within the context of conversation, ask him why he chose the responses he did. Only through a thoughtful, prolonged chat can you determine if his sense of ethics is profoundly incompatible with yours, or if he wasn’t taking the game as seriously as you were, or even if he’s open to being persuaded by your point of view on the questions.
For humanist advice from multiple perspectives on all manner of situations, please send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.