In God’s Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted for land, loot, and converts by barbarian Christians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. To the contrary, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression.
Stark reviews the history of the seven major Crusades from 1095 to 1291, demonstrating that the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations, centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West, and sudden attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, Stark argues that this had nothing to do with any elaborate design of the Christian world to convert all Muslims to Christianity by force of arms. Given current tensions in the Middle East and terrorist attacks around the world, Stark’s views are a thought-provoking contribution to our understanding and are sure to spark debate.
From Publishers Weekly
It always seems counterintuitive to moderns that warfare and religion can be consistent. Ideally, followers of the prince of peace are to avoid the sword and shield. Clearly, this has not always been the case. Frequently in the crosshairs of critics are the Christian wars against Muslims known as the Crusades, commonly viewed as the birth of European imperialism and the forced spread of Christianity. But what if we’ve had it all wrong? What if the Crusades were a justifiable response to a strong and determined foe? Stark, a prominent sociologist and author of 27 books on history and religion, has penned a compelling argument that these bloody encounters had less to do with spreading Christianity than with responding to an ever more dangerous enemy—the emerging Islamic empire. There is much to be learned here. Filled with fascinating historical glimpses of monks and Templars, priests and pilgrims, kings and contemplatives, Stark pulls it all together and challenges us to reconsider our view of the Crusades. (Oct.)
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“[Stark] makes the case [for the crusades] with admirable frankness and flair.” (The Catholic Thing )
“Award-winning author and sociologist Rodney Stark humbly goes to war against the many politically correct myths surrounding the history of the Crusades in this well-researched and easy-to-read academic masterpiece. Stark proves himself once again as a historical myth-buster.” (CBN.com, A rating )
“[God’s Battalions] rewards a careful reading, and not only because the story itself is sogripping, with tales of courage and desperation, outsized characters, and fate of cultures hanging in the balance. …Masterful… sets the record straight.” (National Catholic Register )
“Stark’s wonderfully readable prose and politically incorrect conclusions... point us to the question—Will 21st-century infiltration lead to surrender or revival?—on which Europe’s future hinges.” (The World Magazine )
“Stark’s clear, factual narrative offers larger-than-life characters…. [his] works are an encouraging corrective to the anti-Western history routinely taught in our schools.” (New Oxford Review )
“Stark’s style is clear and direct. He sets the pace of narrative masterfully...The result is a good read...Christian readers should welcome Stark’s affirmation of the best in scholarship, both old and new, and his willingness to argue a controversial position.” (Christian Scholar’s Review )
“[God’s Battalions] avoid[s] the black-and-white nonsense of current secular thinkers, who condemn the Crusades as part of their condemnation of the Catholic Church and of much later Western imperialism. …Stark demonstrate[s] a more sophisticated view of history, religion and culture.” (Catholic San Francisco )
“GOD’S BATTALIONS launches a frontal assault on the comfortable myths that scholars have popularized about the crusades. The results are startling. His greatest achievement is to make us see the crusaders on their own terms.” (Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity )
“At last, a convincing, balanced book on the Crusades, far from the recent unsophisticated and ideological diatribes against them as “A Bad Thing.” Rodney Stark demonstrates that the Crusades were neither unprovoked nor colonialist. Here is yet another rich and readable book from this thoughtful and distinguished author.” (Jeffrey Burton Russell, author of A History of Heaven and Paradise Mislaid )
“Rodney Stark turns what we ‘know’ about history on its head.” (Relevant Magazine )
“An excitingly readable distillation of the new, revisionist Crusades historiography.” (Booklist (starred review) )
“In God’s Battalions, Stark provides an account of the Crusades perfectly fitted for the Fox News audience. Clearly this is not the politically correct version of the Crusades, and that is fine: there is little that was politically correct about the Crusades in the first place.” (Christian Century )
“[Stark] wants to challenge the prevailing television pundit-level misunderstanding of the Crusades, and in this, his accessible, enjoyably argued book succeeds.” (Christianity Today )
“There is much to be learned here. Filled with fascinating historical glimpses of monks and Templars, priests and pilgrims, kings and contemplatives, Stark pulls it all together and challenges us to reconsider our view of the Crusades.” (Publishers Weekly )
“[Stark’s] new book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, gives historic and sociological evidence for a fresh assessment of the Crusades.” (United Methodist Reporter )
About the Author
Rodney Stark is the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. His thirty books on the history and sociology of religion include The Rise of Christianity; Cities of God; For the Glory of God, which won the 2004 Award of Merit for History/Biography from Christianity Today; Discovering God, which won the 2008 Award of Merit for Theology/Ethics from Christianity Today; and The Victory of Reason.