Posted by: Martin Fox | July 30, 2009

Elie Wiesel – can a person be moral without following a religion

Today’s Elie Wiesel update will cover a host of topics discussed during Elie’s time at the Chautauqua Institute earlier this week. This is my best interpretation of what I heard while furiously taking notes.

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership.images

Can a person be moral without following a religion?

Yes. It all comes down to treatment of others. If you practice respect and compassion for others, you are moral -irregardless of your religion, beliefts, and values. “The more jewish I am, the more universal my message. That is true for all beliefs and religions.”

Responsibility to share stories…

“Anyone who lives through an experience is duty bound to tell others about that experience. To forget the victims is to kill them a second time.”

The danger of indifference (immorality)…

One of the worst forms of indifference is when it is practiced by people with the power to change the world. The people with the power to change the world have a higher level of accountability to take a stand for what is right and fight against the suffering of others.

Indifference is like a cancer that grows from cell-to-cell, person-to-person, city-to-city, country-to-country.

We are morally obligated to “respect the otherness in others.” We are duty bound to help children who fall to the ground, regardless of their race, religion, culture, or ethnic background. Any suffering inflicted by ourself or others is immoral. God is not indifferent, how can we be? The humanity of human beings can transcend all.

Are there evil people in the world?

Yes, there are evil people in the world, but so what. Our collective job is to create hope for those who are suffering. Only human beings can turn despair into hope. The violence must stop, the suffering must stop, we must create hope.

Can we call ourselves good?

Only God and other people can say that about us. We can not say that about ourselves.

Message to the young…

Be who you are. Learn who you are. Help your community. Help other communities. Do something with your years.

It is always a choice to stand up – to not be indifferent.

Young people have tremendous power. Big changes in the USA gained their critical momentum on campus (civil rights, vietnam war protests.)

Young people need to mobilize to correct the indifferences of their ancestors. Sign petitiions to show we are not indifferent. Organize other students to show we are not indifferent.

“Whatever you do in life, think higher and feel deeper.”



  1. I appreciate your furiously taken notes– allowing the rest of us to benefit also from Elie Wiesel’s keen insights. I too believe that it is possible to be moral without practicing any one religion, but I am sure there may be some who would dispute that. It’s my belief that you will be led towards that which is intended to influence and guide you and that may or may not include religion and it may or may not change as your life progresses. I appreciate especially, his message to the young to “BE who you are”. I touched on this point in my own most recent blog, and am amazed at how easily those four words can roll off your tongue, yet how difficult they are to consistently put into practice. It may have been a message for the young, but isn’t it a lesson we all need to be reminded of every now and then, as well as allowing others to be who they are as well? Like I said, I was just pondering this very idea recently myself and since I’m not one to believe in coincidence, I’m aware I’ve been sent a message in his words and for that I am grateful.

  2. I was there and Elie was phenomenal. I’m wondering if you happened to get any photos at the amplitheater. I sat on the incline so I could see over people (I am quite short) but couldn’t get a decent photo from there….and didn’t think to take one at the book signing.
    I especially love the quote he left to the teacher who asked for a bit of advice for his/her students.

  3. I’ve always loved Him, especially NIGHT. I just cannot bring myself to argue with him, even with I fervently disagree. Peace.

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