So I finished it. Again. I'd read it back in 2007 and for some reason it seemed like so much later than that. I was reading it with a great sense of deja vu.
It's interesting to see that 'fundamentalism' has been around for a very long time and is something of a parry and thrust in the dark.
Here's how it seems to work:
The world undergoes massive cultural or economic changes. Take the change from agrarian society to a technological one as an example.
Some people are able to embrace the change right away. Most are not. Those who are not cling to what is familiar. They become luddites and/or cling desperately to their faiths - whether or not they were particularly religious before.
After a period of time some of those people ease into modernity. Others are not (for one reason or another) capable of making the change. These people look at the world around them and see only darkness and destruction and evil. They believe that the 'new' is trying to destroy them. And so they cling even tighter to their religion and try to force it to make sense of the world around them. In order to do that they being to return it to it's 'fundamental' state, as they see it. Because clearly if something hadn't gone wrong with their religion then the world wouldn't be in the state that it's in. And since their religion cannot be wrong then it must be because people have perverted it. But they interpret the 'fundamentals' and how they can be applied in new ways, making their faiths change even as they claim to be going back to the source.
So. Something changes. One side reacts, viewing the change as an 'attack'. The other side reacts to the reaction of the first side, not knowing why the first party is moving but needing to react to that movement in order to ensure their own preservation. And of course the first party reacts to the movement of the second, and on and on.
So. Our next book is...*laughs* the GIANT BOOK O'GHOSTS that I have had for years and never managed to finish. Ah. This'll be a while folks.