A fundamentalist Christian pastor in Florida recently burned a Koran to provoke Muslims around the globe. His cheap theatrics worked of course, leading to widespread violence and multiple murders, including the killings of UN staff last week.

And despite irrefutable evidence that his actions led to the unrest, the minister - Terry Jones - said this week that he was completely unrepentant.

In fact, he said, he was contemplating putting the Islamic prophet Mohammed "on trial" and then he vowed to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in America.

The Koran, said Jones, incites violence. Apparently irony is not one of Jone's strong points. Neither are international relations or American foreign policy.

So the question seems to be: who's worse, our fundamentalists or theirs?

Perhaps Jones is anxious to see the Book of Revelations open. Many fundamentalist Christians do share that particular impatience. The temptation to help it along must be quite severe at times.

If you often feel disconnected from the wider world and most of the people you share it with, if in fact you never really cared for it at all - and if you're secretly anxious for the world to come - then perhaps the titanically stupid provocations of a man like Jones become a little easier to understand.

It's as old as history, this particular fundamentalist death match. And history shows us the same result whenever it erupts: death and darkness.

When the Christian hordes overran Alexandria in the fourth century they put the pagans who built it to the sword, they sent the Jews into exile and they turned that fabled city's centuries old library - one of the greatest centuries old repositories Hellenic knowledge in the known world - into a cow shed.

It took humanity twelve hundred years to climb out of the thick fundamentalist darkness that descended after that pointless conflict. Twelve hundred years.

The fundamentalist are at our gates again (both at home and abroad) and we owe them an answer, and it needs to be loud and clear. The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.