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

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Pages   557
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 6.5" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2007
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  006058095X  
EAN  9780060580957  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The author of Earthly Powers documents historical battles over religion in Europe throughout the past century, offering an analysis of how political actions have camouflaged religious agendas as well as how the secular and non-secular arenas have intersected in major military conflicts. 35,000 first printing.

Publishers Description

Beginning with the chaotic post–World War I landscape in which religious belief was one way of reordering a world knocked off its axis, Sacred Causes is a penetrating critique of how religion has often been camouflaged by politics. All the bloody regimes and movements of the 20th century are masterfully captured here, from Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Franco's Spain to the war on terror. With style and sophistication, Michael Burleigh shows how the churches, in their various guises, have been swayed by–and contributed to–conflicting secular currents. Sacred Causes brilliantly exposes the way in which fears of socialist movements tempered the churches' response to the threat of totalitarian regimes.

Burleigh combines an authoritative survey of history with a timely reminder of the dangers of radical secularism. He asks why no one foresaw the religious implications of massive Third World immigration. And he deftly investigates what is now driving calls for a civic religion to counter the terrorist threats that have so shocked the West.

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More About Michael Burleigh

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Michael Burleigh is the author of a dozen books, including The Third Reich: A New History, which won the 2001 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. His work has been translated into twenty languages, and in 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Nonino International Master of His Time Prize. He lives in London.

Michael Burleigh currently resides in London. Michael Burleigh was born in 1955 and has an academic affiliation as follows - London School of Economics and Political Science University of Wales C.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General   [8439  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > World > 20th Century   [1523  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > History > World > General   [35342  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General   [22730  similar products]
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State   [1182  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Uneven and Misleading  Mar 18, 2007
Sacred Causes is the second book of 2 devoted to the conflict of religion and politics in recent European history. The first volume, Earthly Powers, was devoted to the 19th century and this one covers the 20th century. The quality of both books is uneven. This is a huge topic and Burleigh has not attempted the difficult job of a systematic analysis or structural overview. Like Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes is essentially a series of chronically arranged essays on aspects of the central topic. This approach served Burleigh well in some of his other work, notably his excellent book, The Third Reich, where he could incorporate a continuous narrative as a unifying armature for his essays. In both Sacred Causes and Earthly Powers, there is only a general theme and the quality of the essays/chapters varies significantly. Some are very good, some indifferent, some actually poor.
The best parts of Sacred Causes are the opening chapters in which Burleigh discusses the great, and greatly destructive, `political religions' of the 20th century. These are Marxism-Leninism and Fascism. As Burleigh is quick to point out, the description of these ideologies as `political religions' is not novel. This concept originated decades ago and has been used by quite a number of scholars, not least Burleigh in his fine work on the Nazi state. The political religion idea describes these secular ideologies as having the structural features of a religion with promises of individual and communal salvation, rescue from conditions of social degeneration, charismatic-prophetic leadership, and a strongly millennial flavor. Burleigh's analyses of these features of Nazism, Communism, and Italian Fascism are vivid and very well done. He has particularly nice descriptions of the efforts of the states adopting these ideologies to develop explicit ceremonial and public experiences aimed at displacing the rituals and experiences of genuine religion.
Burleigh follows with a considerably less successful effort to describe the responses of European churches to the challenge of political religions. This simply is too large a topic to be dealt with appropriately in the space allowed in the book. He concentrates primarily on the Catholic Church, and even more narrowly on the Vatican. Burleigh takes pains to present the Catholic Church as a foe of the emerging totalitarian regimes of the interwar period. While this is true in several important ways, it is also misleading in other, equally important senses. It is clear from Burleigh's text that true to its 19th century heritage, the Catholic Church in many European countries was no friend of liberal democracy. His account shows clearly the preference of the hierarchy of many countries and of the Vatican for traditionally oriented, authoritarian states. Burleigh attempts to gloss this over by describing the Church as having a choice between totalitarianism and weak democracy, but this obscures the negative role played by the Catholic Church in some of the weaker democracies of Europe. His own account of the Partito Popolare Italiano, the ancestor of the Italian Christian Democratic Party, shows that the Vatican preferred accommodation with Mussolini to bolstering the foundations of democracy in interwar Italy. Burleigh never discusses the changing role of the important German Catholic Center party in Weimar Germany. Under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas, a priest close to the German hierarchy and the Vatican, the Center Party ceased to be a pillar of democracy and Kaas led the Center Party into accommodation with the Nazis. Burleigh has a particularly one-sided discussion of that historiographic lightning rod, the Spanish Civil War, where his commentary will probably satisfy the most dogmatic defenders of General Franco.
There is a concerted effort to defend the wartime behavior of Pope Pius XII. Burleigh does well in defending Pius XII against charges of antisemitism and indifference to the fate of the Jews. Burleigh does less well in defending Pius against the most serious charge against the Pope; that Pius failed to exercise the moral leadership expected of the Vicar of Christ. Pius spent his career in the Vatican diplomatic service before ascending the Papal throne. At a time that required prophetic moral leadership, he was a cautious diplomat.
The remainder of the book is devoted to a series of chapters of varying interest and quality. There are very good descriptions of the post-WWII assaults on the churches of Eastern Europe. Other chapters describing the secularization of Europe in the 1960s, the role of churches in the end of the Cold War, the persistent problem of Northern Ireland, and the recent 9/11 tragedy are not so good. A lot of this discussion, for example, the denunciation of cultural changes in the 1960s, and the hagiographic treatment of the roles of Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II in the end of the Cold War, is trite and inaccurate. The chapter on Northern Ireland is a rhetorically interesting combination of attention to detail and tendentious sarcasm that veers into actual bigotry. Burleigh has an unfortunate tendency for nasty and irrelevant asides that disfigures many sections.
This book also has signs of being written hastily. Parts of the concluding chapter are simply hard to follow and there are a number of careless statements. Does Burleigh really believe that the USA has no social welfare system? There are a surprising number of factual errors throughout the book. Contrary to what Burleigh writes, the Civil War President of the Spanish Republic, Azana, was not a Socialist, Pol Pot was not educated at the Sorbonne, and the US Supreme Court has never banned prayer in US public schools.
All in all, a very disappointing performance.
A Very Good Read  Mar 17, 2007
A genuinely historical and very well-written account of the conflict between secularism and religion over the past hundred years or so. The former -- whether under the guise of humanism, liberalism, pseudo-conservatism, communism, or Nazism -- has, far more often than not, been the victor in these clashes of culture. But, of course, might doesn't make right (in addition, these victories have been transient, and far more illusory than substantive). No, it is religion that has tended to be on the right, albeit losing, side. There's no doubt, however, that this tradition is being challenged by present-day Islam, which appears to have the upper hand.

While our Muslim brethren are correct in despising a plethora of cultural pathologies, their embrace of indiscriminate and extreme violence is say the least! No one who claims to be truly civilized can countenance their vile actions. But it's equally impossible to lend one's support to the egregious and depraved creed that is secular humanism. The solution is rooted in the West's embracing once again, at long last, its foundational Christianity. I'm not holding my breath. Well, it will be interesting to see how it plays out -- interesting, but unpleasant.

An Astounding Assessment of the Clash of Religion and Politics in Modern Times.  Mar 13, 2007
_Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, From the Great War to the War on Terror_ is an astounding book full of historical insights into the conflict between the churches and the Twentieth Century totalitarian "political religions" by British historian Michael Burleigh. This book takes off from where Burleigh's previous book _Earthly Powers_ (which deals with the time period from the French Revolution to the "Great War") left off. As in his previous works which have largely focused on the Third Reich, Burleigh is indebted to certain conservative theorists of totalitarianism such as Eric Voegelin and Raymond Aron. Burleigh notes at the beginning of this work that he does not really have a name for the kind of history he is to present, but that he intends to operate in the ground where politics, ideas, culture, and religious faith meet. Throughout this book, Burleigh remains largely unafraid to challenge many of the trendy nostrums of the politically correct liberal elite, such as multiculturalism, secularism, post-modernist and "New Age" fantasies. This work also defends the Catholic church in particular from many of its would-be opponents (be they secularist, Protestant, or Jewish) and from those who would try to smear it with the "fascist" label (merely because they disagree with certain of its teachings). In particular, Burleigh defends Pope Pius XII from the idiotic charges of many trendy secularists that he was a supporter of Hitler. From his writing, it can be seen that Burleigh regards much of what the churches have done as positive accomplishments and that he sees the Christian faith as a useful remedy to totalitarianism (be that in the form of Communism, Nazism, or Islamist terrorism). As such, this book is certain to offend many of the smug politically correct elite who offer very little to society but criticize everything.

Burleigh begins his book with a discussion of the "Great War". He notes the powerful emotions unleashed by that war and the subsequent search for meaning. Many lost their lives (or the lives of family) in the pointless fighting and as such there was a great anxiety brewing among Europeans of the time. Burleigh notes the effects of the war on such writers as Rudyard Kipling, Henri Barbusse, Karl Kraus, T. S. Eliot, and Ernst Junger. He also notes the role of religion in their writings and philosophies. Burleigh also notes how a sort of proto-New Age movement developed following the war, in which a religious syncretism sprang forth. Such proto-New Age beliefs were particularly common in Germany (though not just in Germany) where countless apocalyptic long-haired prophets railed against the system and advocated lifestyle reform. Such individuals included fanatics like Louis Haeusser and Friedrich Muck-Lamberty, who had all sorts of strange ideas, and as Burleigh effectively argues Adolf Hitler himself may have emerged from this quasi-Bohemian milieu. Burleigh also shows how many more mainstream Protestants were coerced by these weird new beliefs (and in fact Protestants were to largely embrace much of the Aryan mythos as well as the eugenics policies of Nazi Germany). Following this discussion, Burleigh turns to a discussion of the totalitarian political religions. He begins with communism and the Bolsheviks, showing the fascination certain Western liberal intellectuals had with them (such as Bertrand Russell) until they visited Russia themselves and saw the horrors they had in store for humanity first hand. Burleigh explicates the conflicts between the Bolsheviks and the Orthodox churches, showing the brutality of Lenin and Stalin when it came to dealing with religion and their attempts to take over these churches by implanting their own party men among them. However, even more disgusting are the actions of a communist group calling itself The League of Militant Godless (which stole from the churches, defiled holy objects and the relics of saints, and engaged in debates with priests which they frequently lost but then simply murdered the priests). Burleigh also traces the Soviet obsession with "physical culture", the development of the idea of the "Soviet man", and the bizarre socialist theories of "God-making". Following this, Burleigh turns to the fascists under Mussolini, showing how Mussolini originally hated the churches (and God) till he found it convenient to cozy up to them, so long as he retained full power. Burleigh then returns to the Soviets, noting their horrendous crimes (particularly against the "kulaks" and religion) and their insane propaganda policies with regard to the workers (such as the promotion of the Stakhanovites - Soviet Ubermenschen who performed inhuman feats in outworking their fellows and were praised by the state). Burleigh next turns his attention to the Nazis and the man Adolf Hitler. Burleigh explains that while Hitler believed in some sort of God, his God was far from the Christian one. Hitler also frequently made hateful comments about priests, would have liked to destroy the Catholic church (though he admired certain aspects of it), and mocked the transubstantiation. Burleigh next turns to the churches in the age of the dictators. Burleigh considers the Catholic church in Mexico and Spain and notes the complicated relationship between the church, the revolutionaries, the fascists, and various other right-wing parties. Burleigh also considers the role of the Catholic church concerning communism and fascism. Among other things, he exonerates Pope Pius XII from the malicious slurs against him that he was "Hitler's Pope". Burleigh shows how the Catholic church did much to oppose both policies of eugenics and extreme anti-Semitism in Germany. In fact, the pope was even praised for his role in defending the Jews from Hitler by many rabbis of the time (it was not until more recently that political maneuvering came into play and it was discovered that blaming the pope for the crimes of the Nazis was a convenient tactic). On the other hand, many Protestants supported both eugenics and extreme anti-Semitism (though ironically today Protestants are largely the biggest supporters of the state of Israel!). Liberal Protestants also supported communist leaders and I was saddened to learn that even an individual as esteemed as Karl Barth turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by communists. Following this, Burleigh discusses the events of World War II, particularly as they concerned the churches. Burleigh mentions the compliated relationships between the churches and the fascists, but also notes the opposition of the church to many of the excesses of de-nazification. Burleigh also discusses the role of the churches in Eastern Europe in the fight against communism. He mentions for example Cardinal Mindszenty as well as the heroic efforts of individuals such as Pope John Paul II to counteract the evils of communism. Burleigh next turns to Ireland, where a conflict rages between Protestants and Catholics. Burleigh has some very harsh words for the Irish terrorists (and some have criticized his commentary here as being excessive). Burleigh next turns to the collapse of Marxist-Leninism in the East, noting especially the role of the church in defeating the communist menace (as well as the role of the people in their support of the church). Finally, Burleigh ends by discussing the modern post-9/11 world. Burleigh harshly criticizes Islamism and Islamic terrorists (again some have criticized his remarks as being excessive). He also criticizes Western secularism and liberalism (both of which appear willing to cede over control to Islamics and other minority groups given the opportunity, which sets a dangerous precedent). Burleigh also criticizes the outcome of the Sixties and much of New Age nihilism, noting the dangers of unbelief. Burleigh ends his tome by noting that he remains an optimist (though he has reservations) despite the fact that many problems besiege Europe and the West at this time.

This book is an excellent historical undertaking which reveals many of the intricacies of the modern age. Burleigh effectively makes the case that the churches continue to have much to offer Western culture, and that indeed a return to the Faith may be the only means of saving the West from its imminent destruction. Burleigh's remarks may often appear harsh at times, but they are certainly needed in these nihilistic and decadent times.
Some unpleasant truths  Mar 12, 2007
This book is not as good as "Earthly Powers", volume I of a history of the interplay between religion and politics since the French Revolution. "Earthly Powers" takes us from that esteemed episode to World War I. "Sacred Causes" picks up in 1918 and into the not so distant future. As envisioned by Burleigh, in the future secular authorities in European cities will be able to keep order only by devolving authority to Muslin religious leaders who will police their own kind. That will be a fine paradox: irreligious democracy only subsisting through the cooperation of extremist theocratic religion.

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.
patchy, but has its moments  Feb 28, 2007

Again, like his earlier works on the Nazis and the fascist mind, this book features the brilliance of Burleigh , and his remarkably broad sweep of knowledge and historical insight.

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, and on to a commentary on Whitechapel separatist Muslim neo Nazi fascists in modern day East London -- the latter of whom who he sees ( rightfully in my view ) as the "enemy within" modernity, an enemy to be taken very seriously as unwelcome guests unless they adapt to living in the West -- and adapt fast.

The only let down with this book is ( in my view ) Burleigh's analysis of the significant problem 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 remarkable narrative mastery as Burleigh. A lot of this book is brave stuff -- Burleigh seems to be a man willing to go firmly against the tide of "PC right on" attitudes. A lot of his frankness is very refreshing, particularly when discussing the failure of multiculturalism, and the silliness of moral relativism in Europe which will in one breath ( rightfully ) dismiss a white fascist thug and discard him -- but at the same time, bewilderingly -- bend over backwards to defend the rights of sexist fascist misanthropic Muslims.

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