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Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror Paperback – March 11, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060580968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060580964
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a dazzling display of erudition, British historian Burleigh completes his two-volume chronicle of the interaction between religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the present. The first book, Earthly Powers (2006), took the story to World War I, concentrating on the battle for and against secularization in the 19th century, while this installment carries the story to the present. Though best known for his books on Germany, including the prize-winning The Third Reich (2001), Burleigh's remarkable breadth of knowledge is manifest in his trenchant analysis of the role of religion in a number of European countries and the Soviet Union. He thoroughly reviews totalitarian attacks on religion and its misuse by Nazis, Fascists and Communists. Burleigh's opinions are forceful, especially when he condemns a prevalent "fantasy view" of Ireland that is blind to the "gangsters of the Provisional IRA" who are responsible for "bullying, intimidating and killing others." He colorfully criticizes "politicians in Western democracies [who] treat high office as pigs regard their troughs." Burleigh also upbraids critics of Pius XII, claiming that the controversial pope actually did a good deal to save and shelter Jews during the Holocaust. Use of odd words such as "erastianism" and "soteriological" detract from what is otherwise a rewarding example of intellectual history. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

For at least a century, observers of European culture have been noting the decline, or even the death, of organized religion; today, one constantly hears references to a "post-Christian" Europe. Perhaps so, but as Burleigh makes clear in this engrossing and rather disturbing work, the religious impulse remains strong, although it has often reasserted itself under the guise of secular political movements. Through an examination of that meeting ground between religion and politics, Burleigh has attempted to explain European history over the past 90 years. This is an ambitious, wide-ranging effort that demands that readers have a prior knowledge of the broad currents of recent European history. With a pungent, often humorous writing style, Burleigh recounts the toxic results of totalitarian movements demanding acceptance as virtual secular religions. He scathingly attacks the established churches for their timid responses to fascism due to their fear of socialism. His views on the threats and challenges posed by the massive influx of Muslim immigrants is both timely and balanced. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of Blood and Rage, Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes, and The Third Reich, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on March 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is not as good as "Earthly Powers", volume I of a history of the interplay between religion and politics since the French Revolution. "Earthly Powers" takes us from that esteemed episode to World War I. "Sacred Causes" picks up in 1918 and into the not so distant future. As envisioned by Burleigh, in the future secular authorities in European cities will be able to keep order only by devolving authority to Muslin religious leaders who will police their own kind. That will be a fine paradox: irreligious democracy only subsisting through the cooperation of extremist theocratic religion.

In volume II Burleigh goes out of his way to be provocative. His purpose is to defend religion (mainly Catholicism and some versions of Protestantism) as a golden thread running through most of the last century, and to decry irreligion (or rather political religion) as the devil incarnate. His view of Nazism and Communism as two sides of the same coin (millenarist politics gone awry) is only offensive among former comrades. His principled defense of Pius XII is so learned and so elegant, and so contrary to current consensus, that it is sure to get him pilloried. His derision of hippy/New Age spirituality is thoroughly well deserved, but it won't help him with aging baby boomers. His withering view of the Irish is so extreme that it verges on slander. His criticism of multiculturalism as ethically bankrupt and politically useless is spot-on.

While I very much enjoyed the robust argumentation (and in fact agree with much of the diagnosis and prognosis), I don't think volume II is as good as volume I, because I think Burleigh stepped over the fine line that separates History from editorial opinion. The book could have done with less invectives and more grounded analysis. Coming after "The Third Reich" and "Earthly Powers", "Sacred Causes" is rather like "Godfather III", good but not great.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Red Eyes on February 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Again, like his earlier works on the Nazis and the fascist mind, this book features the brilliance of Burleigh , and his remarkably broad sweep of knowledge and historical insight.

He effortlessly manages to draw together hugely diverse threads of human experience, ranging from a discussion of Dadaism, Bauhaus, the roots of early 20th Century "new age" cults in Germany, right up to observations on the Moroccan who murdered Theo Van Gogh.

The only let down with this book is ( in my view ) Burleigh's analysis of Islam as it clashes with modernity -- it's not that I don't agree with his conclusions ( I do agree with him ), but simply that whilst his analysis of fascism and early 20th Century European culture is consistently original and penetrating in its insights -- much of his critique of Islam reads a little like a Daily Mail/Daily Telegraph comment column, and is remarkably pedestrian and rather ordinary in comparison. Also, I have to say, many of his comments on Ireland and the Irish people seem far too sweeping, far too subjective for a man of Burleigh's usual insight and historical training, and are difficult to take seriously.

Besides these points then, this is still a commendable book in places. There are very few historians writing in the "popular" arena that have so much depth, wisdom, insight to offer, and such narrative mastery as Burleigh.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
In this sweeping and comprehensive work, Michael Burleigh examines the role played by religion in politics and politics in religion from the end of the First World War until the Islamic terrorist onslaught taking place today against the free world.
It is written from a strongly Catholic perspective, and Burleigh puts forward a robust defense of the Roman Catholic church against charges that it did nothing to try to prevent the Holocaust.
One of Burleigh's most important contributions in this book is his outline of the sterling role played by the Christian Democratic Parties in Western Europe, in both helping their countries to overcome the evil legacy of Nazism, and preventing the spread to their countries of the equally evil Communist tyranny.
As a traditional Jew, I can say that my communitarian pro-traditionalist and pro-national self-determination outlook (and my belief in a socially responsible market economy as opposed to laissez faire libertarianism), is very similar to an equivalent of the Christian Democrat philosophy, and I believe to prevent a victory by the dark forces of Satanic Islamo-Nazism, a variant of this philosophy needs to be re-established.

Beginning with the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy,the author explains how the knee jerk reaction of the Left to label everyone to the right of them as a "Fascist" blinded them to the genuine phenomenon, and how Leftist parties refused to co-operate with the moderate and Christian forces to stop Nazism and Fascism, thus bearing some responsibility for the the rise of these regimes.
Already by the 1920s predictions abounded of apocalypse and the end of days.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jeri Nevermind VINE VOICE on June 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Burleigh argues, in this rich, meaty book, that the 20th century was all about the clash between religion and the state.

The 20th century opened with a set of swaggering new philosophies that were going to create a heaven on earth. Nietzche, before he descended into gibbering madness, declared that "God was dead". He expected a New Man, freed of the old, niggling 10 commandments, to lead humanity to a bright new future. What the world got was Hitler and death camps.

Then there was fascism, led by Mussolini, whose first book was, "God Does Not Exist".

And then there was communism, most potent of all, which slaughtered some 100 million people while trying to create heaven on earth. The late Pope John Paul, who lived under both the Nazis and the communists, called the 20th century "a pile of bodies".

In this sweeping, beautifully written book, Burleigh performs like a magician, always pulling out just the right, telling anecdote.

In the early part of the century, violence against the clergy peaked. In Spain during the civil war, "nearly 7,000 clerics were murdered" (p 132"), while atrocity was piled on atrocity. In Mexico priests were hunted and shot and convents closed.

Yet the most bloodthirsty of all would be communism. The communists used everything they could to fight against religion--threats, persecutions, show trials, mass starvation, and the near total destruction of all religious clergy. "By 1938 eighty bishops had lost their lives, while thousands of clerics were sent to the Solovetsky labour camp set up in a former monastery on an island in the White Sea" (p 47.

What bitter irony, then, that many now believe that it was religion that pulled down the whole grotesque regime.
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