Stop Apologizing for the Crusades!

Perhaps a better title would be something like Don’t Allow the Crusades to be Thoughtlessly Added to a Parade of Christian Horribles without Knowing More about It, but I wanted to get your attention.

Rodney Stark’s God’s Batallions is an outstanding book designed to help the educated reader (not only the academic reader) understand the Crusades.  You know the routine.  You want to talk about Christianity and the village atheist wonders just how you are getting past the horrors of the Crusades and the Inquisition.  This book answers the question with regard to the Crusades.  Stark brilliantly explains how the Crusades started, what happened in the course of events, and why they finally ended.  All in all, the western church comes off pretty sympathetically.  Readers who know Stark find it easy to trust him because he always questions excessive claims and makes sure to back his own assertions up with data.

What becomes clear is that the Crusades failed for three reasons.

First, despite the fact that the westerners regularly decimated their Muslim rivals in combat thanks to superior tactics and technology, they were always on the wrong end of a numbers game.  The western armies arrived in the Holy Land already diminished from disease and harrying attacks along the way.  They never had large enough armies to begin with.  And whenever they secured their objectives, a substantial number of troops and/or nobles would return home leaving ridiculously small numbers to hold on, which amazingly, they did for decades at a time.

Second, Crusading was expensive.  Although it has been suggested the Crusades were about wealth, nobles didn’t get rich on them.  They borrowed, scraped, and imposed heavy taxes just to be able to afford equipping, paying, and feeding their armies.  When they captured an area, the land was not revenue-producing in the same way their European farm land was.

Third, the Byzantines never came through with the help they promised.  Crusaders regularly expected help from the Comnenus family of rulers which began the Crusades by appealing to the pope for help.  But the help was virtually never forthcoming.  Had the Byzantine empire allied itself with the Crusaders, the Holy Land might still be in Christian hands today.

Read for yourself.  I found the book highly enjoyable.  Rodney Stark has reached the point to which many academics aspire.  He writes about things that interest him for a mass audience with the aid of a major publishing company (Harper).  And the books come to us rather than sitting staidly in university libraries.

One thought on “Stop Apologizing for the Crusades!

  1. What has any of that got to do with understanding the world situation al;together in 2010?

    The Truth about Christ-ism and Islam-ism as would be world conquering power seeking memes. It also applies to a lesser degree to Juda-ism (witness what is happening in Israel/Palestine).

    Fundamentally, among all the religious traditions of the world, ONLY Christianity and Islam are inherently, and aggressively, associated with an expansionist ideal. And an attitude of not only cultural, but also social and political superiority, that irreducibly intends, and actively pursues, the destiny, to which each of these two traditions appoints ITSELF, of total world-domination, or global totalitarian rulership.

    Likewise, by their vary nature, these two religious and comprehensively and irreducibly cultural, social, AND political traditions are, perpetually, in an intentionally performed state of competition, that always seeks, and frequently achieves, conflict, confrontation, and even aggressive warfare with one another—and even with ALL other religious, cultural, social, and political traditions, systems, or institutions in the world.

    They likewise never cease by every exercise of power and war to pursue authoritarian and totalitarian world-domination by means of the final establishing of the “Kingdom” and “Rule” by the “Winning Side”. Indeed the powers of nation-states that would exercise themselves in the name of one or the other of these two “great” religions of the Middle East now presume that they can wage “final war” and, thus and thereby, establish “Final Rule”—AND THEY ARE NOW (all three) ACTIVELY MOVING THEMSELVES ON THIS BASIS.

    If such a long time coming, and even planned global conflagration occurs, or is allowed to happen, there will of course be NO “winners”, and indeed no human beings left at all.


    The “sacred power” that monotheistic religion claims it brings, or would extend into the human world altogether is, it says, the “creator-god” of the universe. Whereas, IN FACT, the power that monotheistic religion ACTUALLY exercises, or would everywhere exercise if it was able to do so, is that of of the humanly-governed political, social, economic, cultural, and altogether INSTITUTIONALIZATION of the totality of humankind.

    The institutionalizing power that monotheistic religion exercises, or would everywhere exercise if allowed to function at will and unimpeded, is of an inherently intolerant nature, because it is possessed by a self-appointed reductionis, and tribalistic, and exclusively exoteric mentality, that cannot accept any non-“orthodox”, extra-tribal, extra-institutional, non-monotheistic, or otherwise exceptions of any kind (at all) to its self-appointed “Rule”.

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