Industrial Deals HPC Best Books of the Year Holiday Dress Guide nav_sap_hiltonhonors_launch For a limited time. 3 months for $0.99. Amazon Music Unlimited. New subscribers only. Terms and conditions apply. Electronics Gift Guide Limited time offer Handmade Gift Shop Holiday Home Gift Guide Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon MMM MMM MMM  Echo Devices starting at $29.99 Save $30 on All-New Fire HD 8. Limited-time offer. $20 off Kindle Paperwhite Shop Now HTL17_gno

on February 11, 2012
The Dark Side of Christian history is a book that tells all the basics of the history of nasty things commited in the name of Christianity.
Though a lot of Christians seem upset about the book, it is clear that it is not attacking Christians in general, but rather showing nasty events that just happened to be commited in Christianity's name. These events are known history, and need to be acknowledged, regardless of whether or not some people don't like how history was.

The events Helen Ellerbe discusses are fairly well known historical events, such as how the early Christians persecuted the pagan religions, how the Christians burned the Alexandria library and many other places of knowledge and learning, how the Inquisition tortured and killed "heretics" without bothering to give them fair trials, how the witchburnings occured, how the Church tried to hold full control over people's lives, and much more.

Ellerbe states that humans can be naturally quite peaceful, but that the main cause of a lot of human suffering is the belief of a god with only one face and specific orders for "salvation".
She shows how orthodox Christians often were extremely intolerant towards women (sometimes even going so far as to question whether women counted as true human beings), viewed the natural act of sex as a result of the first sin, considered cleaning oneself to be sinful (and thus created a lot of dangerous health and hygiene problems), and were against singing, dancing, wearing colourful clothes, having good self-esteem and respecting nature. Basically, orthodox Christian thinking often tried to take away people's humanity and made people live in depression and fear.
Ellerbe shows that humanity can be rather peaceful and uses peaceful Neolithic societies as an example of this. It is harmful ideology that makes society less tolerant and less peaceful. Harmful ideology like that which was more often than not taught by the church.

The reason I give this book 4 rather than 5 stars is because, while agreeing with most of what it had to say, there were a few things I found to be quite erronous.
In Chapter 10, Helen Ellerbe makes the rather strange claim that there is a connection between orthodox Christian thinking and modern scientific rationalism. Basically, she draws a similarity between the Christian idea of a god no longer excercising supernatural influence over the earth, and the scientific idea of the world being controlled entirely by non-conscious natural processes. This is a rather stretched comparison I think and it collapses when one considers the fact that the scientific ideas on the workings of the world were arrived at through various studies and experimental tests, and not through any Christian orthodoxy. And while it is true that a number of famous scientists, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin were Christians and may indeed have been somewhat influenced by Christian viewpoints, it should be noted that support for their theories came not because of Christian ideology but because of the theories being put to scientific tests.
Ellerbe seems to imply that atheism is a product of people turning away from Christianity after seeing the nasty deeds it was responsible for. Yet even a very basic level of research would show that atheism is at least as old, if not older than religion itself, as there has always been and will always be people who are unconvinced by the countless different religious claims made throughout history.
Ellerbe also has a rather distorted view of such scientific theories as James Lovelock's Gaia theory and modern day theories in quantum physics, and seems to try to force-fit these theories into her own spiritualistic beliefs.

I did agree with the argument that orthodox Christian ideology has often been opposed to democracy and freedom of speech. However, Christianity isn't the only religion to have opposed these things.

Overall, I found the book to be quite a good read and quite informative on the subject of bad deeds commited in Christianity's name. I was rather unimpressed at the chapter where she tries to show a connection between Christian thinking and scientific rationalist thinking, but beyond that I really liked this book.
11 comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 4, 2009
This book is helpful and courageous when it sticks to history, which it mostly does for about 2/3 of the book. There is a lot here that should be mandatory subject matter for anyone who wishes to consider himself a Christian; I say this because most U.S. Christians are shamefully ignorant of the history of their religion. If more Christians had a real understanding of the 2 thousand years of violence and oppression perpetrated on behalf of their faith, they might be less willing to allow their churches and churchmen to get away with the discrimination, hate-mongering, and other abuses currently fostered by so many modern Christian denominations.

However, this book also contains what I think to be a serious flaw. Ms. Ellerbe appears to be personally absorbed within some kind of neo-pagan or pantheistic belief system. This is manifestly obvious by the many passages which reflect such beliefs or concepts. There is nothing wrong with the author possessing such a belief system or otherwise being a student of this kind of thought. It is, however, a misstep for Ms. Ellerbe not to state her orientation openly, and it is a mistake not to properly frame the final third of the book, which relies heavily on her own interpretation and speculation.

By failing to acknowledge the basis of her critique, Ms. Ellerbe risks creating the impression that she wishes to prosletyze her own views in a stealthy manner, rather than overtly.

A large portion of the audience that should read this book, orthodox Christians, will be able to detect Ms. Ellerbe's neo-pagan or pantheistic perspective and will dismiss the whole book out of hand on this basis. Orthodox Christians generally believe (wrongly) that anything pagan is about 1 millimeter removed from outright Satanism.

There are also some highly speculative and interpretive passages that I find to be dubious. For instance, Ms. Ellerbe states that the Newtonian, Mechanistic view of the world that dominated Western thought during the Enlightment was a natural extension of Christian thought. In contrast, many scholars would argue that the evolution and acceptance of the scientific method occurred despite Christianity, rather than because of it.

Also, Ms. Ellerbe has a bias in favor of the belief in magic, and laments Christianity for its role in suppressing human belief in magic. Whether widespread belief in magic is good for human societies is an interesting question to debate, but I think many readers would rather see this topic discussed openly, as opposed to just being told that it is so.

And it is also an open question as to whether or not, on the whole, Christianity really discourages the belief in magic. With its emphasis on miracles, the Resurrection, the deeds of prophets, the Saints' ability to cure illness, etc., it can be argued that Christianity is in fact the mostly widely held magical belief system in the world ever.

In addition, Ms. Ellerbe argues that Christian doctrine is often the ultimate cause of atheism. Once again, this is an interestic topic to discuss, but it is too speculative to state as though it were a fait accompli. It is not hard to detect the fact that Ms. Ellerbe considers atheism to a be a sad condition for a person to live with. Yet many atheists are quite happy and content with their lot.

Despite this book's flaws, Ms. Ellerbe does get the history right, and that is the strongest point. This book might have been a classic if the author had a good editor for this project. Nonetheless, it is important information, and if Christians really knew the truth of their own history, Christianity might no longer be so cynically used in American life. The citizens of the U.S. have a strange and dangerous tendency to conflate Christianity with morality. Christianity is the ultimate get out of jail card for every scoundrel caught in every kind of malfeasance. And Christianity is used as the Cosmic Hunting License, conferring about individuals and groups the moral right to commit the worst possible atrocities in the name of saving souls.

For Ms. Ellerbe to catalogue this history takes much bravery, and if this book had a wider audience she would have to hide out like Salmon Rushdie.
66 comments| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on June 23, 2012
My neighbor had an old copy of this book. He purchased it new and I left it in a hot car during a 100 degree day last year. I tried to read the book over lunch only to have the middle pages come popping out! Lesson learned, DO NOT LEAVE PAPERBACK books in a hot car and try reading them.

That said: I had to buy him another copy of this book. It is a good read for those of you who know little about the history of the Christian faith and the ways in which the bible came into being. But more to the point it highlights the grim history of how the bible and the name of God has been perverted and manipulated by mankind. So many rulers and elites have used these ideals to push forward their own plans of dominance and all the while claiming they were doing it by order of God or in the ways of God. I am Catholic and went to Catholic school so much of this information was not new to me but it certainly did go into more detail and spoke of a few more stories I did not know until now.

I honestly wish anyone who knows a high and mighty but naive follower of God would buy this book to show them. They of course would call history a pack of lies but one thing is CERTAIN. These events have happened and yet history in fact has no record of Jesus except in biblical works. I still believe in God and works of good but not in mankind's manipulation of the books and teachings to promote wars, causes of imbalance in power or the hatred of others.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on July 6, 2013
Author provides an interesting perspective on implications of orthodox Christian ideology, and how it has supported - until very recently - concepts of sexism, racism, totalitarianism, and an attitude of domination towards nature. Some of the conclusions are a bit of a stretch, particularly regarding modern scientific discoveries in the realm of quantum mechanics: the author ignores the fact (often repeated multiple times in quantum mechanics texts) that Newtonian physics still remain a very good approximation of quantum physics at larger physical scales. Also author choose to highlight only modern discoveries that support her thesis: for example, this same modern theories of quantum mechanics and relativity also confirm that time is unidirectional (albeit relative). Finally, author leave the impression that hierarchy was an orthodox Christian invention when we know for a fact that many pre-Christian civilizations had hierarchical structures.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 13, 2006
I like this little book. As some have noted, it has its errors and its inadequacies, but it does a good job of presenting the fundamental problems with Christian history (and by extension with X-tian faith), so it gets four stars. If you want to know what the world would be like living under a theocracy without traveling to an Islamic country, this book will be more than you want to know. I found Ellerbe's use of illustrations from earlier centuries one of the more interesting aspects of the book. One 19th century illustration of churchmen torturing a suspected witch is something I shall never get out of my mind, and I do not think I would have found it in any other book. The illustrations alone make this book worth a close look. The discusion of missionaries in the New World is also unforgettable. And if anyone was ever in doubt about what real sin is by a Christian's reckoning, Ellerbe reveals it fully and clearly as sexual pleasure. There is no doubt that sex is the biggest sin because it is the biggest of pleasures, all of which are evil. In the words of William Blake, "as the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys." And yet the Christian witch hunt was itself a kind of sexual adventure, of course, in which sexually attractive people were zealously pursued and tortured because of the feelings they aroused in the faithful. Christian priestcraft has always involved this dynamic, and to some extent today the persecution of the sexually attractive has simply morphed into psychological abuses (if not child molestation); the psychology is the same. And as the author points out, in hunting witches it was always the keenest of sexual pleasures for witch hunters to subject their victims to the cruelest sexual humiliation and a painful death involving sexual torture, all in Jesus's name. Only in that way could guilt inevitably be revealed (as the torturers became sexually aroused the guilt of the witch was confirmed). Ellerbe renders that dynamic in an easily accessible way to a readership who would never have the inclination to approach Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" or his "History of Sexuality," as examples. That fact itself makes her book a highly worthy endeavor.
0Comment| 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on June 28, 1998
Though the author of The Dark Side of Christian History makes some efforts towards being unbiased, she does not fully achieve this goal. However, as she does her research and is dealing with terribly unpleasant subjects, I think it can be understood.
This is not a pretty book, but it is a coherent one. Each chapter is an essay on a different time in Christianity, how it evolved, and its affects on Western (and other) civilizations. A consistent history is shown from the early days of Roman Christiandom to current attitudes that is informative and unsettling. Quite simply, current problems and attitudes today can be traced back hundreds, or even thousands of years, and the history of the Church is not as simple as some make it sound.
Quotes from various sources paint the picture reasonably well, though this book could have easily been twice its size. If read with an open, critical mind, you'll find flaws, but you WON'T be the same. It's an excellent jumping-off point to study the parts of Church history people don't want to talk about.
11 comment| 69 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on December 2, 2014
A great great book everyone should read to get a comprehensive history of human suffering caused by the misuse of religion. From the Inquisition to witch hunts, the cause of over a thousand years of misery can be found in these pages.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 18, 2010
I enjoyed most of this book, and found it mostly unbiased and factual. Towards the end, however, it started leaning a little too far into unfounded projection. The final nail in the coffin for me was the (granted, short) pages responding to scientific findings about quantum physics, which had an embarrassing level of woo-woo ideology involved, definitely not scientific by any stretch of the imagination.

Granted, most of the book, I felt the description of science was pretty reasonably accurate, but the end jumped off a cliff. The author needs to read Victor Stenger, because she obviously has no concept what quantum theory actually states. She needs to stop reading Deepak Chopra, or his other buddies....they are not educated in science whatsoever.

I also felt the final couple chapters were a plea for paganism, and in that frame of mind, attempted to equate science and atheism with some form of dogma. This is absurd on several levels, and I find this a bit ironic since, such a plea is exactly the same plea that the orthodox christians are making, for the same reasons. Pagans and christians both hate determinism for the same reason. They much prefer post-modernism, because it makes their mere opinions about reality hold more weight.

In fact, I found the entire attempt of the author to address the issue of determinism as infantile and factually false. She was attacking the straw man version of determinism, which just so happens to be the exact same version that orthodox christians attack. To be honest, the only group I have ever seen to endorse such a version of determinism have been Calvinists.

I still heavily recommend this book, but the last 2 or 3 chapters should be taken with a grain of salt.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on December 8, 2013
one of the greatest books - scholarly written by a very intelligent lady - impressed with all the details, arguments and backup material - what ever happened to the benevolent side of Christian ideology?
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on August 1, 2014
The term Christian is considered synonymous with good. Guess again. This is an extremely informative book.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse