First Crusade

Recently I’ve read in the book “People of the First Crusade” by Michael Foss (Arcade Publishing, 2011) about an instructive, if senseless, historical situation. In summary:

There’s a deep division between two parts of the world, primarily defined by their different and antagonistic, monotheistic religions. The peoples of the different faiths have until recently been living in an uneasy but cordial truce, though there have been sporadic regional conflicts, and one of them has also recently made military inroads into territories of the other.

In the past few centuries, the culture and society of one religious group is fanatical and has suffered something of a dark age with its people living in ignorant but pious, rural squalor and poverty under power-hungry and avaricious warlords who constantly battle each other.

In those same few centuries, the other monolithic religious group has grown markedly tolerant and enjoyed an efflorescence in culture and society, both artistically and technologically, achieving enormous wealth and urban opulence.

To redirect the civil and sectarian violence in their society, the leaders of the fanatical faith, use the religion to focus the envy and greed of their fractious people on the wealth and opulence of the other group. Large populations infiltrate or outright invade the territories of their rich neighbors, resulting in massive death and destruction in the name of the one true god.

As a note, besides offering fabulous loot and undying military glory, the fanatical religious leaders promise their poor, downtrodden people that for dying in the fight for their true god, they’ll go to Paradise. A great many do. Die, that is.

The First Crusade started in 1096 when the dark-age, fanatical culture was Christianity in Western Europe, and the higher civilization they attacked with religious frenzy was that of prosperous and cultured Islam in the Middle East. Just switch the roles, and you’ve got 2015’s Islamic Jihad against the infidels of the decadent and wealthy West.

So how many centuries of barbarism and atrocity must we endure this time before Islam experiences its own renaissance and transforms into a sane, humane society? It took Christianity five centuries to start doing that, but it still hasn’t achieved sanity in nine. But maybe humane is all we can reasonably ask for from any religion.