But remember, also, DT, that the intolerance inherent in the fundamentalist viewpoint is a very ancient Christian phenomenon; it's what allowed the Christian orthodoxy to develop--they were too intolerant of variant well-thought-out opinions.
Ah, this is quite true. But I think we should add some context: the ancient intolerance of Christianity was not something that permeated Christian society - the intolerance appeared at the top of Church hierarchy once positions, such as the Bishopric of Alexandria, acquired power and wealth. Arius, for example, could tolerate different opinions, but Athanasius could not suffer that man's disagreement and willingness to only debate and discuss.
and 3) (parts of the) modern day Middle East, although the roots of fundamentalism and intolerance in Islam are extremely puzzling to me, as I did not grow up with a Muslim background.
Each nation has it's peculiar history that gives rise to Islamic fundamentalism, which, as you suggest, appears as a wildly strange phenomenon if one is even vaguely familiar with Muslim history prior to the modern age. But, we can generalize by saying that Islamic fundamentalism is mostly the result of colonialism and western influence - in Egypt, after independence, governments tried to bring the country into the industrial age and in step with western secular political philosophy, but the attempted changes were made in radical, sweeping alterations of society which caused that natural backlash. The stories of these countries follow that same basic pattern, and from these nations come the most noted Muslim leaders who, in turn, influence Muslims worldwide. In Iraq, for example, colonialism suppressed Muslim education - the result was that the only scholars were extremely radical, and that radical community allowed fundamentalism to spring up.
Perhaps the question we should really be asking is, 'What is the roots of fundamentalist intolerance? How did it come about?'
As I said, each country will have a unique history. But there is a pattern to be seen in all fundamentalist developments the world over: radical social change and aggressive handling of that change by some of the people who promote said change.
In the US, for example, with the advent of Higher Criticism many of the proponents of that study were rather nasty toward the larger Christian population. This engendered distrust of the movement as a whole. With evolution, some proponents ridiculed Christianity as outdated and an unintelligent faith, which furthered the divide. With the fundamentalist resurgence of the 1960's, many counter-culture elements were disrespectful of traditional elements in aggressive and spiteful ways. It is one thing to be radical, but quite another to be spiteful and cruel.
Essentially, I think, fundamentalism is the result of social change being led in part by people who are disrespectful of tradition. If we want healthy social change, without the disabling backlash of people who are ridiculed and backed into a corner, the elements of change need to be respectful of tradition.
But even when people are respectful, a backlash will occur. We see this today in the US with the Obama administration - people, out of anger and frustration rather than evidence or good sense, claim that Obama has not evinced that he is truly a US citizen. So there will always be a backlash when we have change, but when we are respectful, as Mr. Obama tends to be, that backlash will be less significant and have a shorter life span.