The Case For The Crusades -- By: Rodney Stark
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The Case For The Crusades1
Rodney Stark is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. Dr. Stark has published 38 books and more than 160 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, city life in ancient Rome, and religion, including Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (Templeton Press, 2016); The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2015); The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (HarperOne, 2011); and God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (HaperOne, 2009).
Introduction: A Popular Narrative
In the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center by Muslim terrorists, frequent mention was made of the Crusades as a basis for Islamic fury. It was argued that Muslim bitterness over their mistreatment by the Christian West can be dated back to 1096 when the First Crusade set out for the Holy Land. Far from being motivated by piety or by concern for the safety of pilgrims and the holy places in Jerusalem, it is widely believed that the Crusades were but the first extremely bloody chapter in a long history of brutal European colonialism.
More specifically: that the Crusaders marched east, not out of idealism, but in pursuit of lands and loot; that the Crusades were promoted “by power-mad popes” seeking to greatly expand Christianity through conversion of the Muslim masses2 and thus the Crusades constitute “a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church;” that the knights of Europe were barbarians who brutalized everyone in their path, leaving “the enlightened Muslim
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culture … in ruins.”3 As Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, DC, suggested: “the Crusades created a historical memory which is with us today—the memory of a long European onslaught.”4
Two months after the attack on New York City, former president Bill Clinton informed an audience at Georgetown University that “Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless” vis-à...
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