If atheism is true, then everything’s an accident and any idea of truth must be an illusion. We can’t even know if our science is real, let alone any meaningful concept of right and wrong; any knowledge would be nothing more than a chemical reaction in our heads and no more meaningful than an itch I want to scratch. Any talk of the dignity and value of individuals would be just silly.

The modern idea of “tolerance” fares no better since it insists all truth claims – and especially those of a moral and/or religious nature – have equal authority. How dare we suggest (for instance) that one particular religion is right? But while this attitude appears very modern and broad minded, it implies all these claims are man made, and therefore (since these views often contradict one another) can’t tell us about anything that is actually true, including whether our lives have any meaning. We’re back to square one.

But we all understand and desire justice, which is inextricably connected with the idea that people really matter. Justice and meaning are two sides of the same coin; fairness to others tells us that people have a meaningfulness that can be offended against. To be real, it can never be just an opinion.

How I treat others matters because people matter: that’s the basis for any idea of fair play. So (to bring us back to the start) if the perceived dignity and meaningfulness of humans is actual fact, we really aren’t free to do anything we like.

This has some interesting implications. It means that truth actually is something that can be found out, and that some truth claims are more correct than others. Reason and faith can help us there.

It also means that for anything to be objectively good its value must – by definition – originate outside ourselves, from a source independent and real regardless of what any particular person may think or desire.

In a word, God.