Everyone talks about dignity. But what is it, really? How do we define it?

I think it’s fair to say that dignity is based on the concept of value. People matter. If they matter, then we must arrive at a sort understanding of moral law, since moral law is all about respecting that dignity. It’s summed up in the 10 Commandments but similar codes can be found in cultures throughout history.

These are value statements. We’re told not to steal, not to lie or covet… why? Because we diminish this value, this inherent dignity when we decide our personal desires are more important than theirs. Selfishness has never been admired in any culture.

I wonder if those who insist on a strict materialism realize the implications of their thinking. If we are all only accidents, any sense of my own worth is based on opinion or at best how it helps my species survive (that is, because it has “survival value” as Richard Dawkins would suggest). Any concept of real value goes out the window, and it follows there can be no real right or wrong; it’s relative and varies between individuals and cultures.

And that is just where we are at as a society. In the name of “tolerance” we’d never insist that one view can be more correct than another; we dither back and forth, afraid to speak out for what’s really right lest we come across as narrow minded bigots. This days, it seems the only thing that’s considered “right” is the attitude that forbids criticizing another view as wrong.

This supposedly tolerant view, however, is itself just another worldview with its own assumptions and no real foundation under it. No wonder we’re such a mess.

If we are unjust, we’re just acting like the natural beasts we are, predestined by our genes to fight and claw our way to the top in a decidedly undignified manner. Survival of the fittest. We may talk about determining our own value and worth, but it’s no more a statement of objective truth than what I prefer to eat. No matter whether I think it’s wrong to steal: if my neighbour isn’t bothered about theft and he’s stronger, he’ll rob me if he wants. It’s pointless for me to cry foul because my idea of doing the right thing or my own worth is all in my head.

The foundation of any real justice has to be based on the bedrock of something bigger; of the innate, real dignity of all humanity. If we toss that out we can forget about any talk of fair play and decency.

Where does this dignity come from? If it is objective fact, it must come from outside of us; if it’s all in our individual heads – or even cultures – it can never be more than opinion and we should keep it to ourselves.

But if there is an overarching, objective moral reality there must be a Source, single and self-existent, from whence all individuals owe their existence and value.

In a word, God.

First, God as the source of goodness, and then those He has created in His image: self-aware, creative, morally aware individuals.

Before we consider this too much of a leap, remember that without God, all we’ve got left is ourselves, and our “value” (such as it is) will vary from person to person; justice becomes a matter of personal taste and not the overarching standard we expect everyone to know.

Most of us don’t live this materialism to its logical conclusion; the world would be a pretty awful place if we did. We believe in justice just as we sense our significance; somehow we KNOW it’s real. But (and here’s the catch) we also want to have our own way. We don’t want some code or Somebody telling us how to live. We want to be valued, but on our own terms, and so we make up a flexible God.

But things that are real are what they are. They are fixed, concrete, and are themselves regardless of what we think or like. If we have a god that is to our personal tastes, I think there’s a pretty good chance we made him up.

The work of life shouldn’t be deciding whether we’ll accept the God of the Bible, but finding out if He’s true; and if so, to give Him our hearts as His due. That is the work of an honest heart.