Hofstadter's 1964 Pulitzer Prize winning book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, is proving to be a provocative but dense read. Here is my translation of a major point about religion and politics:
One reason that political intelligence is so incredulous and uncomprehending of the right-wing mind is that it misses the theological concern that underlies right-wing views of the world.
Political intelligence accepts conflict as enduring and compromise as on-going. It is sensitive to nuance and sees things in degrees. It is essentially relativist and skeptical.
The fundamentalist mind will have nothing to do with all this: it looks upon the world as an arena for conflict between absolute good and absolute evil and accordingly it scorns compromises (who would compromise with Satan?) and can tolerate no ambiguities.
Political intelligence begins with the world as it is and assesses the degree to which it is possible to move towards a certain set of goals. By contrast, the fundamentalist mind begins with a definition of an absolute right and sees politics as an arena for fighting for that right.
The issues of the actual world are hence transformed into a spiritual Armageddon, an ultimate reality, in which any reference to day-by-day actualities has the character of an allegorical illustration, and not of the empirical evidence that ordinary men offer for ordinary conclusions.