"This may come as a shock to you," he began in response to my question, "but I don't believe there is any reason to be moral or good if God doesn't exist. If there is no lawgiver, we should party, live for pleasure and work for goals without any reference to moral or spiritual guidance."
He went on to explain that the Bible said just as much -- that the apostle Paul had said the physical resurrection of a dead Jesus is a critical linchpin to the question of living a moral life. "If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, faith is futile and we should just live solely to please ourselves, because death has the final say in life. But the Christian take on things is that death isn't the way it's supposed to be.
"True ethics is all about being truly human," he went on. "It's not about being forced to obey some arbitrary cosmic rules. Ethics shows us the way things ought to be. Get on a skating rink without skates because you demand your freedom and autonomy. Fine. But without skates you're not going to enjoy the freedom to move on the ice the way you want to."
There was a pause. I looked around for the couple we'd seen earlier. They had vanished.
"Taking ethics from God is like taking skates from the owner of the rink," he concluded.