It has taken me about 6 years, but I am now completely comfortable in my understanding of the American Right, where I stand in it and how it perceives issues of politics and policy. I think I will spend more time explaining that out rather than staking out positions as I go forward here at Cobb. My cousin Lino in Rome was describing, in a recent debate, why American conservatives shouldn't demonize atheists as political. He speaks of laicité, and I respond:
The way to describe and defend laicité to an American conservative is to start from the authority of the individual or the family. However one must distinguish between Hayekian Conservatives and Social Conservative. Either one might respond positively to laicité in the following manner. If you ask a Hayekian Conservative, like myself, who should have final authority over the individual, he will say that individual. This means that the State should be minimized and the Church should be minimized with respect to their proper roles. A Hayekian might explain the evolution of society by the extent to which the commons is preserved with a balance of influence from secular and religious authority, but both subservient to the will of the individual. The individual *through his own consent* may submit to the authority of the Church or the State according to his creed. But in no case should either Church or State presume to *do for* or *do on behalf of* that individual and thus undermine his will and ultimately his ability to give reasonable consent.Not being a Social Conservative I cannot say exactly how they might respond. But I believe that they would suggest that it is a continued submission to God which enables the individual to make the just and proper consent as an individual. So the Social Conservative or Religious Conservative is transparently comfortable with laicité so long as this submission to God is unrestrained as the right of the individual.
Both Religious/Social and Hayekian Conservatives close ranks against the encroachment of the State as a social authority because if secular politics begin to take on such roles as have been traditionally provided by family or Church, then we see them as inevitably weakening both. This is one of the greatest abuses of power in our view of the world.
A 'Fiscal' Conservative may actually be on the Left or 'Progressive'. Their aim is to restrain excessive spending by the State but not necessarily restrain State power. They may be boiled frogs...
The question of political atheism is an issue here in the states because an intellectual and technical elite have been claiming that GWBush was too stupid to be a strategic thinker. Had Obama not been elected, and say Richardson instead, this might not have been an issue. However the atheists have been politicized against GWBush over relatively insignificant spending issues like Federal funding of Stem Cell research, which leads to the abortion debate and such questions of life and death.