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Mention the Inquisition to any informed person and you're likely to garner a response somewhere between horror and disgust. Kirsch, a prolific writer and documenter of our past (A History of the End of the World; Gods Against the Gods), offers up an amazing recounting of the abuses by clergy and state in those terrible times. Clinical in its descriptions, the narrative's lively and crisp prose brings us right into the torture chamber, shining a much-needed light into the mindset of the church and its representatives. Alarmingly, the author insists that although the Inquisition is but a memory for us today, the inquisitional mindset is alive and well. Kirsch discovers many examples in more modern and familiar history: the Salem witch trials, Hitler's Germany, Roosevelt's placing Japanese-Americans in interment camps and Senator McCarthy's Communist-hunting. All of these injustices, he says, find their root in the same sense of power and privilege. Kirsch's forceful and cautionary account is essential reading for historians and anyone who wants to understand the potential dark side of religion. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.