Holy War: The Crusades by Karen Armstrong

Holy War

Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World is a book by Karen Armstrong that narrates the history of the Crusades with a view towards their profound and continuing influence. The book takes us through the events and personalities that comprise the history of Mid-East conflict from Richard the Lionheart and Saladin to Sharon and Arafat.

Armstrong’s predominant theme is that the myths of religion touch the deepest reality, the deepest truth, the only truth, but these truths have a transcendent reality that becomes dangerous and deadly when forced into only one form or interpretation.

Armstrong argues that humanity is not only central to religious truth but absolutely critical for peace in the Mid-East. She believes that one does not make peace except with enemies and one does not make peace with enemies who are despised or who are conceived of as inhuman monsters. The book also explores the three elements of holy war, which usually include the achievement of a religious goal, authorized by a religious leader, and a spiritual reward for those who take part.

What I Liked

I really like all of Karen Armstrong’s books. She’s detailed, nuanced, and embraces the complexity inherent in religion. She writes fascinating books.

What I Did Not Like

All of Armstrong’s books can get a bit academic in parts.

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