The relationship of conservatism to religion has been on my mind lately, sparked by posts such as this over at the SecularRight blog. Heather MacDonald typifies one sort of modern atheist, the kind that sees religious belief as obviously absurd. For her, the difference between Harold Camping (the force behind the recently unfulfilled prophecy of the apocalypse) and mainstream believers is trivial: It is only because Camping has made an empirically falsifiable prediction that he is distinguishable from mainstream believers at all.
What interests me is the conclusion that seems to clearly follow if we accept that the mass of men are in the grip of irrationality. If belief in God is patently irrational, and most men believe in God, then most men are irrational. How then, can they be trusted with political authority in the form of the vote or, even, authority over their own lives? Is it not reasonable to place an authority over them for their own benefit? The individual freedom involved in limited government only works if men are capable of governing themselves. It doesn't seem an accident that the New Atheists tend to be of a left-wing political persuasion (e.g. Christopher Hitchens or Daniel Dennett). What is unusual and, perhaps, ultimately incoherent, is the notion of right-wing atheism.