I have heard it said that what makes a conservative superior to liberals is their religious faith—as if morality is impossible without religion and everything is indeed permitted, as the cliche has it. I wonder whether religious conservatives can spot the atheist among them by their deeds or, for that matter, by their political positions. I very much doubt it. Skeptical conservatives do not look into the abyss when they make ethical choices. Their moral sense is as secure as a believer’s. They do not need God or the Christian Bible to discover the golden rule and see themselves in others.
Skeptical conservatives—one of the Right’s less celebrated subcultures—are conservatives because of their skepticism, not in spite of it. They ground their ideas in rational thinking and (nonreligious) moral argument. Conservative atheists and agnostics support traditional American values. They believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, and deferred gratification as the bedrock virtues of a prosperous society. They deplore the encroachments of the welfare state on matters best left to private effort.
Most Christians are not only social conservatives, but demand that their values be imposed on others as well. This is completely incompatible with being a libertarian. Believers have a strange desire to evangelize others in the hope they will become Christian, and to not let their children interact with anyone not acting like a Christian. That is an authoritarian point of view not compatible with being Libertarian.
I consider myself a proud conservative, libertarian atheist. Where social issues are involved I would indeed be closer to a Democrat’s views. From an economic/political perspective, I am much closer to conservative Republican views. I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun, pro-evolution and anti-religion. I am for small government and anti-terrorism, but I am also anti-death penalty. I admire Reagan and Lincoln and think Carter and Obama are the worst presidents in the last 100 years.