Romney offers two answers. The less important was vintage John Adams: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion."
The empirical difficulty with this argument is that market democracy seems pretty good at channeling human passions into relatively innocuous pastimes. European secular societies are at least as good as America at fostering bourgeois order. But will a people who do not believe their society has a transcendent dimension summon the energy to sacrifice their sons -- or their sex life --for the sake of the future? Can a secular society unwilling to make war or babies long endure? I wish Europe well, but the answer is not yet clear.
The deeper answer Romney gave is this one: "We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."
He continued: "I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from the God who gave us liberty."
The reason God is on our coins and in our Pledge is not that He is practically necessary to democratic liberty, but rather that He is the philosophical foundation of it. Our rights come from a sphere outside the reach of the state. Government may or may not recognize our rights, but it can never repeal them.
For better or for worse, this is truly the faith of our fathers -- yours, mine, Mitt Romney's and Michael Newdow's. Will we remain true to it?
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.