Because he's more liberterian than most of the Republican party as we know it today. He eschewed the religious right--he was far more secular in his conservatism. He believed in getting the government out of the bedroom, and out of our individual lives, and fighting communism. It wasn't a metamorphosis to liberalism with age. His positions were forever consistent. When he ran in 64, abortion was not a major political issue as it was just even ten years later. He believed it was up to the pregnant woman as an individual, and at most the purview of the states to act on to restrict or permit.
Though individuals in the party who are evangelicals are indispensable to the conservative movement, I too think it was a big mistake for us to be completely captive to the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority. In a way it is not much different than the Democratic party being captive to Americans for Democratic Action and MoveOn.org.
There was action behind Goldwater's talk, In international affairs and on the homefront.
Christian Conservatives have in reality given up on the belief that they and their institutions such as the church can influence society. They have basically ceded the notion that deep faith can bring deep change. They want it in their time rather than the Lord's time. In fact, many churches have lost their own moral clarity, so they believe we must have law legislated or bibical law enfoced by our own courts.
Certainly abortion is wrong from a Christian perspective. Yet Christian leaders and their churches have lost the ability to influence the lives of their followers and those outside the church but yet would feel compelled to follow a good example. There will always be fallen individuals and individuals who will commit crimes or sin. But the average person who will follow a good example cannot find one in todays Christians or their churches.
"In a way it is not much different than the Democratic party being captive to Americans for Democratic Action and MoveOn.org."
I'd gladly trade in all of the Mikey Moores for Pat Robertsons. It is a lot different.
To the folks that cry about the church not satisfying the flock. Stop making laws and a culture that continues assaulting Judeo-Christian values. You are not helping. The liberals, schools, entertainment industry and ACLU are working overtime to tear down those religious institutions in which you readily assail. They do not need any help from conservatives.