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Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    Fascinating and eye-opening; it changed my view of history

    As a Christian who is fascinated by European history, this book was totally absorbing and is one of the best I've ever read. It was very enlightening about how European dictators used the church for their own ends yet persecuted Christians as well, and how the Catholic Church behind the Iron Curtain was able to use its organization and base in the Free World to stand up to Communism. Fantastic book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2006

    Little Faith in Sacred Causes

    It takes only a few sentences of Sacred Causes before a depressingly familiar vocabulary emerges, which reveals the all to prevalent tendency of authors to uncritically trumpet their own side as the champions of righteousness and guardians of civilisation while correspondingly depicting those who oppose 'us' (whom ever us might be) as deranged psychopaths helplessly intoxicated by some evil ideology. This is particularly evident in Burleigh¿s blatantly partisan chapter devoted to Northern Ireland, a cut and paste chronicle of 'The Troubles' cemented together with the occasional venomous barb directed at those actors in the conflict whom the author seems determined to blame exclusively for the entire affair. Burleigh skilfully misses almost ever opportunity to provide a balanced account of the conflict, choosing instead to linger in detail over the ghastliness of Republican murders while choosing to deem British Army killings of unarmed civilians a 'Tragedy', an age out propaganda trick implying that one side kills for gratuitous pleasure while similar actions by the other side are unavoidable, accidental and deeply regretted. Observers of press coverage of the Israeli ¿ Palestinian conflict will be wearily familiar with this jaded media manoeuvre. This bias is underlined repeatedly, such as the author¿s adoption of the old Unionist innuendo 'Sinn Féin - IRA' which attempts to conceal the subtle but significant distinction between the two organisations. Inconvenient facts, such as RUC collusion with loyalist paramilitaries in several murders of catholic solicitors, which one might have assumed indispensable to this chapter, are simply omitted. One can only assume their inclusion would have caused the façade of Burleigh¿s central argument, i.e. the inherent villainy of the terrorists v¿s the immaculate virtue of the forces of civilisation, to begin to crumble and reveal the real and far more complex world in which we find ourselves, a world which, despite numerous diatribes to the contrary, is not so morally black and white. It's difficult to read this book without hearing the voices of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Littlejohn ringing in the readers ears, and as such it will probably be enjoyed by those already deeply indoctrinated in the mythology of the war on terror, and blinkered to its blatant contradictions. However for those seeking to develop a greater understanding of the nature of political and religious violence this title will offer very little.

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