There are many people like us: people who cherish limited government, fiscal restraint, personal liberty, free enterprise, self-support, patriotic defense of the homeland and its borders, love of the Constitution, respect for established ways of doing things, pride in Western Civilization, etc., and yet who cannot swallow stories about the Sky Father and the Afterlife, miraculous births and revivifications. What does the one set of things have to do with the other? We are secular conservatives. What else are we? Figments of our own imaginations?
I think this brings us back to Brafford’s excellent discussion of Alasdair MacIntyre. Many conservatives implicitly accept the premises of modern liberalism. Their reverence for tradition, culture and limited government are best understood as empirical propositions (something that other contributors to the Secular Right are quite open about).
If, on the other hand, your vision of conservatism is rooted in some extrinsic moral standard – religious belief, for example – you’re less interested in debating the utility of various rates of taxation or whether the private sector is the best mechanism for regulating economic activity. Instead, your political beliefs are a result of certain invariable assumptions about how the world should be ordered. Derbyshire doesn’t recognize the validity of any extrinsic moral standard, so I don’t think he considers himself a member of the latter group. In an American political context, however, “conservative” has basically become shorthand for “classically liberal,” so I think his characterization is accurate enough.