Caught a bit from Santorum's French Revolution speech.

Oddly enough, he makes a point for my own explanation of why humans have needed a god. Because, I have argued (and still do), we refuse to take direction from each other.

Santorum is arguing that "fraternity" implies that it is our community that grants us rights. That we must understand that "unalienable" rights can come only from an ultimate source, a creator god. I (reluctantly) agree.

Not that I believe in any such thing. Religion and the idea of god, I maintain, is a human construct. An invisible shield we have constructed to protect ourselves against the vagaries of our fellow humans. Rights bestowed by our brothers are rights that can be taken away. For people like Rick Santorum, and doubtless for many others, that invisible shield is what they need to prevent them from doing wrong.

Years and years ago, when my son was a babe in arms, I was traveling by train from my parents' home in Decatur back home to Chicago, and I got into a conversation with the conductor. I think he said something about my son being a blessing from God and I, still in my crusading atheist phase, told him I didn't believe in any such thing.

He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that he knew that I did so believe. Because, he said, if I didn't, I would throw my son from the train without giving it a second thought.

Not that the idea of being once again free and sonless wasn't at times tempting, but it never occurred to me to throw him from the train - he couldn't talk yet, much less say anything on the order of "sultry, the night was sultry" - and I did and still do actually love the little guy.

My conductor maintained that love is impossible without God. (I capitalize it here to distinguish my conductor's vision from my own.)

Salman Rushdie, speaking with Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason, said that he believed morality predates religion. That religion was a way of codifying morality.

The Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments are nearly contemporaneous in time, but the Code was a legal document. "Thou shalt not kill," has an elegance that is hard to express in legalese.

Both, in my view, were documented lists of moral actions already determined to be necessary for people to live peaceably together. One was signed by a monarch. The other was attributed by its author to God.

I hope you know that I do not in the least agree with Santorum's rant on fraternity. I'm just saying that somehow he managed to hit on my own rationale for the persistence of the notion of god. Your brother tells you "don't even go there," and it isn't at all unlikely that your response will be "screw you." An irrational fear of that invisible ninja in the sky, however, might just make you think twice.