This topic requires 1,000 or more pages to cover properly, but most people won’t read that much, and I am sure as hell not going to write that much. Therefor, I will offer an abridged version of the history of the Crusades and what lead up to that particular bloodbath in the history of the world and religion.
I will cite some sources/resources where I got some information; most of the rest of it bubble up in my mind through something called critical thinking, or rational thinking.
Let’s begin with a look at religious evolution, fo which I have written in my book, Religilution.
In the beginning, we believed in a bunch of gods, gods that presumably explained the unexplainable for we ignorant humans of the time. Events like lightning, blizzard, pestilence, and disease were all a complete mystery to humans, so we designed various gods as an explanation for these inexplicable events and we devised ways to worship these entities as a means to appease them and end our misery, none of which worked.
As we evolved over the millennia, our notions of gods changed and eventually, we arrived at a belief in one god, the God, notwithstanding areas of the far east, India, China, and surrounding areas that clung to their religions like Buddhism, Shintoism, and Hinduism to name a few.
With the single God theory taking hold throughout much of the West, and as governments and people in power are wont to do, religion and power became intertwined, bed partners if you will. This corruption of religion enraged many people. Not the least of these was a young Jewish boy named Jesus. He began to push back on the Jewish church and it’s corruption and his ideas took hold. He developed a considerable following of “Christians” although that name didn’t exist in the beginning. It came later and was self-proclaimed by his followers who decided he was the Christ King.
So, now, generally speaking, we had Jews and Christians cohabituating in the area we now call the Middle East. The Jews weren’t big fans of these new “Christians” because (a) they were renegade Jews, (b) they had declared this man, Jesus, to be the messiah but that wasn’t possible if it wasn’t blessed by the Jewish religion, and (c) the Christians had thrown off many of the Jewish rituals and holy days. This back and forth went on for some 500 years after Jesus died.
There was a third group hanging out in the Middle East those days who were likely Jews to begin with, may or may not have tasted Christianity, and in any case, found both religions wanting, so along came Islam. With a little reading, you will find many parallels between both Judaism and Christianity. Many of the same people like Abraham and the Angel Gabriel occupy central places in each. Jesus is recognized, not as the messiah but as a great prophet.
You now have the three great religions bowing down to one God with all of them competing for followers, power, land, and declaring themselves to be the true religion of the very same God. Does it surprise anyone that the next 2,000 years would see this area, and the rest of the world, embroiled in war after war after war with each side professing that God is on their side?
Which brings me to the topic of the Crusades because one of my friends invoked that as justification for the allegiances of the various Christian nations in the West and their conflict with the non-Christians. He went on to suggest that although there may still God-fearing religions in the world - the Jews and the Muslims - they are still at fault for not bowing down to both Christianity and Donald J. Trump and that makes them a “threat to the American way of life”.
The Crusades, like many human conflicts, were all about religion, and territory, and power as mentioned above. Here are a few statements from one of my citations below.
There followed a total of 8 Crusades over a period of the next 195 years as Christians attempted to "reform" the infidels.
To be sure, the Muslims were not innocent victims in all this. Starting in the early 600s, Islam began the process of expansion, which is a nice way of saying conquering huge swaths of land throughout the Middle East, although their motivations seemed not quite as religiously militant at that time as were the Christians who would come later.
“During the seventh century, after subduing rebellions in the Arabian peninsula, Arab Muslim armies began to swiftly conquer territory in the neighboring Byzantine and Sasanian empires and beyond. Within roughly two decades, they created a massive Arab Muslim empire spanning three continents. The Arab Muslim rulers were not purely motivated by religion, nor was their success attributed to the power of Islam alone, though religion certainly played a part.
Non-Muslim subjects under Arab Muslim rule were not especially opposed to their new rulers. A long period of instability and dissatisfaction had left them ambivalent toward their previous rulers. Like all other empires, the first Arab Muslim empires were built within the context of the political realities of their neighboring societies.”
To suggest that any of the three religions have “clean skirts” is preposterous. Each has committed atrocities in their pursuit of power, land, money, and influence and continue to do so. We are no better than a band of chimpanzees that want to expand their territory into the of another band of apes.
The Catholic Church is infamous for its wealth. Judaism and Islam have no “center of wealth” like Catholicism and Rome that I am aware of but you can be damed sure that each is worth billions and billions of dollars. Religions rely on donations from their flock; the bigger the flock, the greater their wealth. They are all on missionary journeys to bring in new adherents by either selling their product - their form of belief, justice, and an afterlife - whether through persuasion or more radical measures.
So the argument that anything we are doing today is somehow justified by the uhholy slaughter of human beings during the Crusades, or any other religious genocide is ludicrous and serves only to continue to foment the distrust and hatred between people of faith.
We all dream of world peace. In my opinion it will not happen until we humans activate our logical brain and understand that God and religion are the construct of very old, very uneducated, and very suspicious minds and that holding on to these ancient beliefs continues to be the source of much of our pain and misery today. When we understand that we and we alone are completely responsible for ourselves, our actions, and our impact on others and our environment, and that it is not the will of God but the will of man that screws it all up will we have a chance at world peace.
I think and write and talk and then do it all over again.