Ramesh, your latest summary of my argument differs significantly from your first. You now paraphrase me thus: “conservatives have been ‘crippling’ themselves by excluding atheist and agnostic conservatives.” That wording is fair. Originally, however, you had claimed that I was arguing that “the conservative movement has been ‘crippling itself’ by alienating atheists and agnostics who oppose same-sex marriage.” A Corner reader who had not also read my article would come away from your original statement with a far narrower impression of what I had said than is accurate, I believe.
You respond to Andrew that the number of non-believing conservatives who support what I called “traditional American values” are “probably [not] enough . . . for a political movement to worry about.” That assumption reflects precisely the bias against non-believers that I find regrettable. Here are the “traditional American values” that I attributed to conservative skeptics: They “believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, and deferred gratification as the bedrock virtues of a prosperous society. They view marriage between a man and a woman as the surest way to raise stable, law-abiding children. They deplore the encroachments of the welfare state on matters best left to private effort.” Plenty of conservatives have arrived at those core values through close observation of human society and history, by plumbing the wisdom of philosophers and poets, or simply through a sound upbringing. It is just not the case that only Bible study could lead people to conservative, disciplined lives.