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Atheism and Political Philosophy - Secularization

I was thinking over my recent opinions I've voiced recently on various threads, many of which were interpreted as being heavily pro-religion, and I was wondering why I still defend something I believe to be wrong.

I started thinking about whether I still had too much reverence for my particular brand of (former) religion, but realized that I was not defending the rights of Christianity to be in schools, nor for only Bibles to be dispersed, but for greater freedom in general.

I came to the preliminary conclusion that my view of how religion should interact within society has much more to do with my politico-philosophical views than with my formerly held religious views. (Of course, these views in themselves could have been influenced by my religious past.)

Anyway, I was wondering if there is something like a rational philosophy of state. How should the state function in relation to its people? Is there a more reasonable and less reasonable way for states to be run? To what extent should the state care about the poor? Determine the level of education of its population? etc.

Since politics is so wide, perhaps a good place to start is the idea of secularism. Is secularism really the gold standard? The benchmark of a forward-moving civilization? Also, to what extent should secularism be manifested? Should it be done at the expense of history and tradition and the wider communal beliefs?