The Nazis are in reality only miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel. It does not make any difference whether they flock to the banners of social revolution, whether they are guided by a false concept of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by the superstition of a race and blood cult… Eugenio Pacelli [later Pius XII]


Man has a dual nature – he is both body and soul – and the only true religions are the ones that recognize this fact. This creates an internal tension between church and state when they are separated absolutely with the church claiming the soul which answers to a higher authority and the state claiming the body to answer to its temporal power. When power attempts to don the cloak of absolute authority – the right to teach with regard to morality – it invariably ends in totalitarianism. Burleigh gives a very good survey of the twentieth century failures of statism even if he does not puzzle out their root causes.

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Sacred causes : the clash of religion and politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror  Michael Burleigh  New York : HarperCollins, c 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 557 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 513-534) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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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 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.

Burleigh shows how the churches, in their various guises, have been swayed by – and contributed to – conflicting secular currents. Sacred Causes exposes the way in which fears of socialist movements tempered the churches’ response to the threat of totalitarian regimes.

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Burleigh combines a 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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