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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
From the title itself this book is misleading. it only focuses, until the final chapter, on christian and by that mostly catholic, religion. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Jim K.
Great book that is Volume II of two books concerning religion and politics in history.Published 5 months ago by Katherine Carter
Michael Burleigh is a noted European historian, primarily known for a synthesis approach that blends intellectual, cultural and “hard” history, frequently with a heavy focus on... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adam Wayne
Clearly written to give a historical reasoning behind opposition to the War on terrorism, some arguments go a little too far. Read morePublished 19 months ago by C. Davis
Burleigh really blows away a lot of things I thought I knew about the history of the last century. Tremendous stories showing both the good and bad of human nature in the rise and... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by California Steven
A white guy in green searching for a rectilinear tabernacle while history uses disguises to advance by crimes against humor. How do you know I am not the Dixie Chicks? Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by Bruce P. Barten
The breadth of the title is misleading. Most of the book is a defense of the Catholic Church, and especially the Papacy as the bullwark of liberty and morality against the... Read morePublished on October 26, 2011 by Amazon Customer
This is a lively & vivid book with great prose. Taken together, this book and its predecessor, "Earthly Powers", give wonderful surveys of the last 200 years of western history. Read morePublished on October 3, 2009 by A. Robinson
"Sacred Causes" is the best of an already powerful opus by Mr Burleigh. In this case, his work is not only enormously enjoyable because of his talented writting, dry humor and... Read morePublished on May 26, 2009 by Fernando Villegas