October 16, 2009

IF THEY DIDN'T WANT WAR THEY WOULDN'T HAVE CHALLENGED US:

God’s Battalions: After centuries of apologies for Christian perfidy, perhaps it is time to rethink the Crusades. (Bill Muehlenberg, 16 October 2009, Mercator)

He takes head on myth after myth and makes a strong case that the Crusades were in fact in many ways justifiable. He clearly demonstrates that modern historians have distorted the historical record. This takes guts, intellectual rigour and academic qualifications. Stark is the man for the job: he has become one of our finest writers on the sociology and history of religion, and is unafraid to question the conventional wisdom. In previous books, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (1996), One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism (2001), or The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (2005), he has broken new ground.

The negative image of the Crusades began with the Enlightenment about 300 years ago. Critics claimed that the Crusaders were mainly about greed for land, loot and converts. Moreover, bloodthirsty, barbaric Christians are contrasted with the peace-loving Muslims. As usual, Voltaire says it best: the Crusades, he wrote, were "an epidemic of fury which lasted for two hundred years and which was always marked by every cruelty, every perfidy, every debauchery, and every folly of which human nature is capable." But as Stark persuasively documents, almost none of this is true. The real story is that the Crusades were certainly provoked, and the Crusaders were mainly concerned to free the Holy Lands from Muslim oppression and to protect religious pilgrims. The seven major Crusades from 1095 to 1291 were, he says, episodes in "a justified war waged against Muslim terror and aggression".

To properly understand the Crusades, a lot of background information is needed. That is why Stark spends the first hundred pages of his book looking at the 600-year period of Muslim conquests and dhimmitude. The story begins in the seventh century when Muslim armies swept over the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe. One Christian land after another was attacked and conquered.


Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2009 8:05 PM
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