Gary Wills had a great post on NYRblog yesterday. The title was "Holy Ignorance," which he appropriated from Olivier Roy, a French anthropologist who specialized in studying belief systems. The basic argument is that fundamentalists are immune to argument based on reason. They see the use of logic to justify any with which they disagree as a test of the strength of their faith, which makes them hold to their beliefs with even greater strength. Wills wrote this in an analysis of the Pope’s decision to write an encyclical on climate change and its connection to selfishness. Almost immediately five Catholic Republicans who are part of the rush to candidacy in the next Presidential election denounced the Pope for knowing nothing about science, regardless of the fact that they knew even less (even collectively)! Clearly, Wills saw all five of them as evidence of “holy ignorance!”
What is interesting, however, is that a parallel line of argument can be developed about Muslim fundamentalists. This, in turn, may tell us something about what makes IS tick. While they are not necessarily grounded in Islam, their goal is to subvert all Western forms of government in their territory and replace it with a caliphate. This actually turns out to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand they are determined to reinstate a pre-Enlightment approach to governance based on little more than raw power. However, at the same time they know they can appeal to Muslim values to win others to their cause. Ironically, they do all this through some of the most sophisticated Internet advertising (yes, that is ultimately what it is) yet to be designed.
Perhaps the Pope should pay more attention to the book of Revelations. The prediction of the great war of Gog in the land of Magog could well involve Christian Fundamentalists in battle with Muslim Fundamentalists (hence the inspiration for my own choice of title for this post)! That is quite a change from the early nineteenth-denture hasidim, who thought Napoleon was Gog (worth remembering on this anniversary of Waterloo)!