The danger presented by religious absolutists derives from the form of their opposition to the integrative processes that have characterised the global system for the past hundred years. Even superficially benign belief systems tend to evil when they concentrate on negation.
The Mullahs may be the poster boys for this odious mob, but what one American proponent has called the "counterrevolution of conscience" is spreading its roots disturbingly widely outside the Islamic-fundamentalist heartland.
I was reminded of this by a unsettling article in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago about El Salvador's abortion laws. Article 1 of the constitution of Guatemala's neighbour, framed back in '98, declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life "from the very moment of conception".
This means that none of the usual exceptions to the prohibition − rape, incest, fetal malformation, life of the mother − apply here. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be operated on until fetal death or rupture of the fallopian tube.
El Salvador's churchmen used to have a liberationist bent, notably murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero and his immediate successor, but the current occupant of the see is an Opus Dei nutjob called Fernando Sáenz Lacalle (pictured), one of the key instigators of this ruthless counterrevolution.
Other countries in the hemisphere (Chile, Colombia) may also operate a total ban, but only Salvador has such an efficient system of detection, denunciation and prosecution. As a result there are young girls serving 30-year jail sentences for 'aggravated homicide' involving the termination of 18-week foetuses. Indeed, the abortion of any 'viable' foetus is liable to lead to severe sentences for all parties involved.