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 twentieth century are masterfully captured here, from Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Franco's Spain through to the modern scourge of terrorism. Eloquently and persuasively combining an authoritative survey of history with a timely reminder of the dangers of radical secularism, Burleigh asks why no one foresaw the religious implications of massive Third World immigration, and he deftly investigates what are now driving calls for a civic religion to counter the terrorist threats that have so shocked the West.
In a dazzling display of erudition, British historian Burleigh completes his two-volume chronicle of the interaction between religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the present. The first book, Earthly Powers(2006), took the story to World War I, concentrating on the battle for and against secularization in the 19th century, while this installment carries the story to the present. Though best known for his books on Germany, including the prize-winning The Third Reich(2001), Burleigh's remarkable breadth of knowledge is manifest in his trenchant analysis of the role of religion in a number of European countries and the Soviet Union. He thoroughly reviews totalitarian attacks on religion and its misuse by Nazis, Fascists and Communists. Burleigh's opinions are forceful, especially when he condemns a prevalent "fantasy view" of Ireland that is blind to the "gangsters of the Provisional IRA" who are responsible for "bullying, intimidating and killing others." He colorfully criticizes "politicians in Western democracies [who] treat high office as pigs regard their troughs." Burleigh also upbraids critics of Pius XII, claiming that the controversial pope actually did a good deal to save and shelter Jews during the Holocaust. Use of odd words such as "erastianism" and "soteriological" detract from what is otherwise a rewarding example of intellectual history. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.