This is occasioned by his comments on assisted suicide – a horrible enough issue without the Church wading in to further complicate (and oversimplify) it. But, believing that “life is a gift” from God, Nichols can straightforwardly say that this should never happen.
But without that assumption, he’s unable to stop himself slipping from the idea that it’s sometimes justifiable for someone who’s terminally and agonisingly ill to take their own life, possibly with assistance, to “an absolute moral entitlement to have whatever kind of death we choose” to “the philosophy that proclaims individual rights above all other considerations” to “the relativist insistence that what is good is a matter of personal judgment”.
And from there he can’t help but slide on to:
Is human life just something we produce, whether by sexual intercourse or in a laboratory, and ultimately to be created, aborted or disposed of at will?
Once life is reduced to the status of a product, the logical step is to see its creation and disposal in terms of quality control.
If my life has no objective value, then why should anyone else care for it?
Alas. Without God, he can’t distinguish between the views that (a) the individual human being is the fundamental unit of what matters and so we should be allowed to do with our lives what we judge to be best, taking into account the effects on others; and (b) nothing matters and we might as well treat ourselves and each other as commodities.
It’s a sad case in support of GK Chesterton’s view that “When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing – they believe in anything.” If so, the safest thing would be to not believe in God in the first place. That’s hardly useful advice for the existing believer, but it does suggest that it’s damnably risky to bring up children to base their morality on religion.
On a much lighter note, Mitchell and Webb’s Abraham puts it thus:
Like I have any chance of forming an independent basis of right and wrong outside the instructions of some supervisory being! No, Lord, I am your bitch!