“When Luftwaffe [a German military in Munich] medics learned of these experiments, they objected on religious grounds. Himmler was outraged at their objections. He decided to circumvent their objections by transferring Rascher [the doctor performing the experiments] to the SS, where Christian qualms were not a problem.” – Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, 511.


– Galileo, reflecting on his conflicts with the church

Mitch Stokes has written a book on Galileo. It is available on Kindle for $0.99 right now. Given that his book on Isaac Newton was wonderful, I am guessing that this is more than worth the 99 cents.

With Atlas Shrugged coming to the big screen this month a lot of people are wondering whether this could be the equivalent to the Passion of the Christ in the fervent boxoffice turnout of evangelicals. In recent years, Atlas Shrugged has become mandatory reading for conservatives. Its author Ayn Rand is held up as the prototypical conservative.

The problem? Ayn Rand was not a conservative. She was:

1) Strongly pro-abortion
2) Strongly atheistic (she once told William F Buckley, ‘you are too smart to believe in God”)
3) An outspoken feminist
4) Personally quite immoral (addicted to amphetamines and had a rotating cast of lovers)

Her philosophy was not that of a principled constitutional conservative, it was that of a radical individualist. Christians believe strongly in individual rights and freedoms but we are not individualists. We recognize that our lives are dependent on others and others are dependent on us. We have a duty to serve others and a responsibility to look out for those who cannot look out for themselves. We believe in individual responsibility of course but we don’t believe than any man is an island.

Further, Ayn Rand’s conception of capitalism is not the Christian conception. Christians support capitalism because it is free and allows people to provide for their family; to buy and sell according to their needs. Christians do not believe as Rand did that greed is good. Selfishness is not, as Rand said, “The only virtue” in fact it is not a virtue at all. Capitalism works because people look out for their needs at the family level, not because people are greedy or selfish. Capitalism works despite greed not because of it.

Greed is not good but freedom is good. Capitalism is simply the process of giving people freedom to buy and sell as they see fit. The best form of capitalism is for people to be selfless and serving. As John Wesley said, “Make all you can; save all you can; give all you can.” No golden facets in the bathroom. No wealth for self promotion. Remember that your treasure is in heaven.

Does this mean we should reject Atlas Shrugged and its author? No. It just means we need to be careful to remember that its philosophy is not fundamentally a Christian one.

Over the last couple of weeks I have posted a review of each chapter of Rodney Stark’s God’s Battalions: the Case for the Crusades. Overall, I loved this book. I think it corrected many of my misconceptions about the crusades. Stark concludes his book with this summary paragraph:

“The thrust of [this book] can be summarized very briefly. The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions. “

Read each chapter review by clicking below.


Chapter 1: Muslim Invaders

Chapter 2: Christendom Strikes Back

Chapter 3: Western ‘Ignorance’ Versus Eastern ‘Culture’

Chapter 4: Pilgrimage and Persecution

Chapter 5: Enlisting Crusaders

Chapter 6: Going East

Chapter 7 : Bloody Victories

Chapter 8 : Crusader Kingdoms

Chapter 9: The Struggle to Defend the Kingdoms

Chapter 10: The Crusades Against Egypt

Chapter 11: Mission Abandoned

This is part of a multi-part review of God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark. The summary is here. You can use the table of contents found there.

Support for the crusades had waned. There were a variety of reasons.

Money was a big factor. The taxes that had been levied, especially in the later Crusades, were resented. Many of the taxes were on the clergy so even the religious orders were starting to resent the crusades.

The losses were an omen. There was a clear questioning on the part of many as to whether God wanted them to retake the Holy Land. Poems and letters from this time express this question.

Theology was questioned. There were many who questioned the theology of the wars. Killing infidels would send them to hell…..is that a good thing? Should Europe attack if not attacked?  Is the death penalty appropriate for Christian forces? These questions caused many religious people to pause in their support for the crusades.

After St. Louis, there were no more full scale crusades. There were a few smaller efforts but no major campaigns.

In time, Muslim forces took over the remaining Crusader kingdoms of the Holy Land. Acres, Tyre and Tripoli fell. For perspective, Stark notes that we must remember that some of these Crusader Kingdoms lasted as long as the United States has been in existence.

Stark closes by noting that our modern view that the crusades are somehow the reason for today’s strife worldwide between Christians and Muslims is simply wrong. He says that Muslim literature hardly mentions the crusade prior to the 19th century. They were a footnote and the crusades were largely characterized as an attack on the Turks (not all of Islam).  He says that it was Christians who have reintroduced the crusades to Islam during the 20th century.

This is part of a multi-part review of God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark. The summary is here. You can use the table of contents found there.

The problems in maintaining control of the Holy Land were apparent. It was relatively easy to win battles against the Muslim forces but holding conquered lands had proved difficult. The solution that was decided upon was to take Egypt.  Control of Egypt would take the pressure off of the Middle East and provide a strategic advantage.  The Fourth Crusade had started as an attempt to take Egypt but the need to deal with Constantinople derailed the effort. The Fifth Crusade was perhaps the largest of the crusades. Unfortunately, it went poorly from the start. It was marked by unexpected resignations and bad leadership. They landed in Egypt and after some initial contacts the Muslim forces were prepared to surrender Jerusalem in order to keep Egypt. The Christian generals were prepared to accept the offer but Count Pelegius, put in charge of the forces by the pope, declined the offer. After a series of battles and several more offers for treaty, the crusaders suffered setbacks and were forced to accept a treaty that did not include Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was taken by Frederick II who had come to crusade after being threatened with excommunication by the pope for not going. Egypt, likely weary from battle, was still ready to surrender the city. Jerusalem stayed in Christian hands for 15 years until it was taken by Turkish nomads who then joined forces with Egypt.

These efforts were followed by an impressive effort by King Louis IX (St. Louis) who led a well organized attack on Egypt winning some impressive battles. But in the end, due to a variety of circumstances lost men and supplies due to a miscommunication, his troops surrendered leading to his temporary capture. After paying a large ransom he was released. In the subsequent years, other cities that had been taken during the crusades fell back into Islamic hands.

When they took Antioch, they massacred the Christian population. Stark notes the curious fact that most histories of the crusades spend time discussing the sack on Constantinople and the massacre of Jerusalem but rarely discuss the Muslim destruction at Antioch at the close of the Fifth Crusade. By all contemporary accounts, the massacre was brutal, thorough and complete. Blood flowed in the streets.

St. Louis longed to go back to the Holy Land and retake Jerusalem. As he gathered an army and set out, he grew ill. Before any major engagements commenced, he died.

The crusading spirit didn’t die with St. Louis but it raised doubts that had long been present.