I must say, even as an agnostic, something is creepy about a government that outlaws Nativity scenes at City Hall, but subsidizes Piss Christ. That tries to disband the Boy Scouts but promotes gay marriage. That disallows even voluntary, student-led prayer at public school, but teaches children how to put on condoms.
What is so funny about Bill Maher's Religulous? What is so bad about Sarah Palin hoping to do God's will or praying for His guidance?
I am not religious myself, but I kind of like the idea that whoever makes and enforces our laws thinks that some invisible being knows his every move and will judge him accordingly in eternity. I would not be offended if the being he prays to is the one who gave the Sermon on the Mount.
I have yet to see the absence of religious devotion replaced with true scientific rationalism. Instead, I see it replaced with Environmentalism, Marxism, New Age "spiritualism" or any of a host of other pseudo-religions. On the other hand, Isaac Newton, for my money the greatest scientist ever and one of our more rational thinkers, wrote way more about the Bible and God than he ever did about calculus, mechanics and optics combined. There is nothing inconsistent between science and religion or reason.
By the way, I know enough about rationalism to know this: anyone who thinks he practices it rigorously has no idea what he's talking about. Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead are famous for taking a thousand pages to prove, with rigorous logic, that one and one are two (I'll trust them on that). How can anyone with an ounce of humility, or real sense, think he knows the "rational" method of improving the lot of mankind? Lenin and Mao thought they knew, as they sent tens of millions to their graves in the effort.
I'm still searching for the mythical creature that is the "financially conservative, socially liberal" politician. In virtually every case, the pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage politician is the first to vote against a tax cut, the first to vote for more spending and quick to compromise principles on any issue there is.
Using the National Journal's ratings of Senators in 2007 , the correlation coefficient between "economic" scores and "social" scores is 90%. That means they almost always go together; financial conservatives are social conservatives and vice versa. Every Senator scoring above 60 in economic issues, scored above 50 in social ones. Every Senator scoring below 40 in economic issues, scored below 50 in social ones. If there is such an animal as a "financial conservative, social liberal", it does not exist in the US Senate.
Humility and hubris
Finally, there is the concept of small "c" conservative. While we should make some changes in our institutions so that we can evolve, as F.A. Hayek might describe, toward a better society, we should also be careful. Don't change everything at once, for example. Try a few things incrementally and see how they turn out. Maybe we should consider "evidence based" government.
We should be especially careful in tinkering with the most successful society ever to exist on this planet. I would hope I wouldn't have to defend that claim. By 1969 we put man on the moon and brought him back safely. We were the richest and most free country on earth. Immigrants flocked to our shores. We had defeated some of the most despicable regimes in history. Our schools were the envy of the world and our people produced more patents than any other country.
Shouldn't we have some humility about changing the most fundamental institutions that got us to that point? Things like traditional marriage, the nuclear family, schools, private property, the free market and the Bill of Rights? That is not to say we don't change them at all. But let's be careful, incremental and be prepared to change the change. Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.