Intellectuals have a certain tendency to look for ideas to identify themselves with. They want to become the idea, and the idea becomes them.
As time goes on, the idea tends to take on more importance than the person himself. The man, if there really was much of one to begin with, shrinks and shrinks, as he feeds more and more blood, to plump up the idea so much that it starts to come to seem real to the man and to others. Why ideas are so thirsty for human blood, I’m not sure, but they do seem fond of how it tastes, much like mosquitoes enjoy the taste.
In the case of an intellectual movement, more and more people come to believe in the concept, and they feed it more and more with their beliefs, energy, and money. They start to carve images for the sake of the idea, if it’s a particularly impressive one. Certain people who feed a lot to the shared notion come to embody some of the numina of the idea, and come to be seen as mediators between the invisible concept and the corporeal reality. In this, the people come to be subordinate to the idea, and what goes on underneath it is much less relevant than the preservation of the belief is.
When liberals think of religion, they think of god as an idea, rather than an embodied thing, which can be touched and seen. Atheism tends not to be the rejection of abstract concepts, but comes first in the conception of God as an abstract concept, and then the rejection of that particular concept in favor of a different one (like Objectivism or Atheism+).
The conservative way of thinking is a bit different, in that it focuses more on figuring out the right way to live often empirically, rather than on selecting the right idea to feed for how one ought to live. In liberalism, love for the idea comes first. For conservatives, love for the people who are close is the primary thing.