Ellis argues, you can't understand contemporary American politics without understanding the importance of profound spiritual faith, and specifically belief in Absolute Evil. "An experience-centered believer," he says, "is going to think and vote different ways from someone who -- like me, being a Lutheran -- checks the precedents and reads the Bible and thinks for a while before making a decision."
So when our born-again president refers to Osama bin Laden as "the Evil One," he is not dealing in metaphor or analogy, even assuming he is capable of such things. Rather he is addressing his co-religionists in a not-so-secret code. "That makes perfect sense to a born-again believer," Ellis says. "Evil, like God, is One. So you can say, and believe in, an 'Axis of Evil,' because you know that the person who is giving the orders to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and the leader of Iran and the leader of North Korea is, of course, Satan."
The thought that such atavistic, aggressively anti-intellectual beliefs may be governing the world's largest nuclear arsenal is not a comfortable one.