JEFF JACOBY raises an important issue when he examines views that seem both admirable and depraved ("Intelligence no guarantee of goodness"). But he unduly elevates religion and denigrates nonbelievers when he quotes Whittaker Chambers (of all people) to state that "Man without God is a beast."
The Bible is an imprecise source of moral guidance. Many who accept "Thou shall not kill" as a sacred commandment support the death penalty and the choice of war to deal with Iraq. As believers struggle with how to understand God's will, their conclusions are, in fact, matters of opinion. Core values, such as the Golden Rule, do not require belief in God. They are shared in different faiths and by nonbelievers around the world.
The challenge, and the reason why people often disagree, does not come from basic values. It comes from the moral complexity of specific situations, when conflicting values need to be weighed.
Beyond serving as a symbol for values and for the desire to be good, God can't help us here. Like it or not, many issues have no option that is clearly "good" and we need to decide, case by case, what seems best. For this, we need wisdom, which is different from intelligence and different from belief, but which draws from the best of what these offer.