Professor Vaso Thomas
Sociology 11 3286Q
November 17th 2009
Take it on Faith: How has religion influenced important historical and cultural events?
I intend to address the issue of religions overpowering influence over the world’s populations and on the direction in which these religions have led its followers. My research paper will encompass the history of religion and will dissect religions internal make-up. I will then make connections between religion and major civilizations it has influenced for the better or worse. I intend to make connections between religion and how it has influenced a society’s culture, art, political make-up and values, wars, and many other aspects of equal importance in shaping history.
Religion has been a phenomenon that has had major influences on how people and whole cultures live and view their lives. One, in my opinion, should know what has made the world into what we experience today living in it and should also be aware of what has influenced the rules we are expected to follow on a daily basis. Religion has encompassed and touched every political system and modern society ever known in the world’s history and something that dominating, deserves to be studied in length to fully understand where we come from and where we’re going as a species on this planet.
I expect to find that religion has been used to create order in a chaotic world and its use has either at times been destructive to who it has been wielded on, or it has caused great change among its recipients for the greater good. I expect to find evidence of great human accomplishments and great human atrocities throughout all aspects of these institutions and their histories that have all been done in the name of religion. I also expect, through connections between religion and its history, to demonstrate how these faiths have touched and hence caused all aspects of major historical events. I will demonstrate the extremes and lengths some people will go in the name of their religions and the power that religion holds on them and their lives.
I will take a qualitative approach to my research question, this method, in my opinion, is best suited for my content analysis. I will utilize the data collection method of content analysis for learning about religion and its historical contexts. I will collect information from historic literature, scientific journals, theological documents, and history books when exploring and documenting historical facts.
Pioneers of sociology Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim together encompass the historical foundation of the sociological tradition. Though they each come from very distinct perspectives and offer profound contributions to the science, they each have had insight into the workings of religion. One issue that has touched all their curiosity is how religion factors into a society and how society responds and is shaped by its influence. The effects it has on its populace has led to many intellectuals starting to ask questions about the origin of religion and If, as they believed at the time, culture was moving to a place of mass non-belief, what did that mean for contemporary society which had many structures based around religion?
The earliest of the three thinkers, Karl Marx, actually had little to say about religion. A great deal of Marx’s direct statements on religion came in the first several paragraphs of his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.” Here we find Marx’s classic statement on religion, that religion “is the opium of the people.” Marx begins the “Contribution to the Critique” with the opening line, “the criticism of religion has been largely completed; and the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.” Marx viewed the critique of religion to be the most foundational criticism in which philosophers can engage, if such criticism is the “premise of all criticism.” He continues with “The criticism of religion disillusions man so that he will think, act and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason; so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun.”
Marx believed in the power and strength of man and believed that man shaped its own environments. “This state, this society, produces religion which is an inverted world consciousness, because they are an inverted world.” What I see Marx as saying in these series of statements, is that the critique of religion is foundational because religion produces the inverted illusion that the world of religion is the “reality” and that the physical world we inhabit as humans is a shadow of the reality, much as was described in Kant and Hegel. So in his criticism of “religion”, he attacks any belief system that inverts the material world from being the primary reality.
Karl Marx states that “Man, who has found in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a supernatural being, only his own reflection, will no longer be tempted to find only the semblance of himself—a non-human being—where he seeks and must seek his true reality. … Religion is indeed man’s self-consciousness and self-awareness.” Here his view on religion looks very similar to what we will later see in Durkheim and Weber, that religion is a reflection of humanity and not of a god. Not only is religion a representation of humanity, but further, it is a representation of our own self-consciousness. Implying that to study the structure of beliefs about religion is to discover deeper views in how humanity sees itself as a whole. The study of religion would not simply be a study of the gods, but of society and of humanity itself.
As with Marx, Durkheim also sees religion as a key factor in shaping the lives of individuals and groups. However, while Marx spends most of his writings on economic factors and spends very little time on the topic of religion, Durkheim explores religion explicitly and looks into how it has influenced the direction of society. Like Marx, Durkheim wanted a scientific and objective understanding of society. Also he sees religion as a reflection of society and not a representation of an external supernatural reality. Unlike Marx, Durkheim uses the sociological method to prove his hypothesis on religion. In doing so, he explores the tribal religions of the Australian outback, as described by early anthropologists.
In The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Durkheim defines religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them”. Towards the end of the book Durkheim revises his definition, “first and foremost, a system of ideas by which men imagine the society of which they are members and the obscure yet intimate relations they have with it” (p. 227).
Durkheim starts his examination as an exploration of the beliefs and rituals of the tribal religions in Australia. In his Introduction, he describes how “religious representations are collective representations that express collective realities; rites are ways of acting that are born only in the midst of assembled groups and whose purpose is to evoke, maintain or recreate certain mental states of those groups” (p. 9). Durkheim uses the history of religions to show how religions mirrored the way society was structured. For example, classificatory schemas for social groups were based on tribal differences.
Tribes were divided into two phratries, which were further subdivided into various clans (p. 105-107). These divisions were based around the various totems that were represented by the phratries and clans. Durkheim proposes that these divisions formed the basis of how humans learned to classify their environment into different categories (p. 238). It is only the religious practice of grouping various totem clans together that allowed us to start grouping other things in our environment. Durkheim explains, “the realities to which religious speculation was applied then are the same ones that would later serve as objects of scientists’ reflection. Those realities are nature, man and society. … Both attempt to connect things to one another, establish internal relations between those things, classify them, and systematize them” (p. 431).
Durkheim attempts to show that religion forms the basis for human experience. He seeks to reverse this idea of the relation of religion and society, making not religion the origin of society, but making society the origin of religion. In this way he follows Marx in making religion a reflection of society. However, while Marx sees god as an idealization of human nature, Durkheim sees god as society itself. As Durkheim constructs functional characteristics of god and bridges these to society, in making these connections, Durkheim hopes to show how religion functions to stabilize society and brings together a sense of unity and identity between the members of its community.
In Elementary Forms, Durkheim reaches into another source of religion to show how societies are stabilized and cohered. This occurs in the reenacting of rituals, which creates intense emotions and bonding between the participants. Assisting this process is what Durkheim calls effervescence: “if collective life awakens religious through when it rises to a certain intensity, this is so because it brings about a state of effervescence that alters the conditions of the psychic activity. The vital energies become hyper-excited, the passions more intense, the sensations more powerful; there are indeed some that are produced at this moment. Man does not recognize himself; he feels somehow transformed and in consequence transforms his surroundings” (p. 424). As the rituals are filled with symbolic meaning that the participants can take with them, the effects of the rituals can pass into the daily lives of the members of the society and in this way moral systems can be efficiently passed through generations.
Weber, the last of the three writers, like Durkheim, invested significant time in the study of religion. Also similar to Durkheim, Weber sees a great deal of contemporary society rooted in the processes of religion. However, like Marx, Weber sees the driving force of history as material interests and not ideas, as found in religious beliefs.
In the Sociology of Religion, Weber lays out his thesis that people pursue their interests, and that religious leaders and structures help people achieve those goals. In this way religion provides the tools for both stability and social change. Various trends are seen in how this process develops. First, he describes the importance of magical beliefs for early society, being the explanations of how acts became effective. Magicians create the illusion of power to accomplish necessary tasks, like healing, facilitating crop growth and protecting the village. Once a magician proves that he can do the things he claims, the village endows him and his acts with symbolic representation.
As these acts became symbols in the community, systems of gods were created which the magicians manipulated to help or hinder the community. Their jobs were secure as long as they remained effective and as long as the village continued to develop needs requiring the magicians services. Further, the symbol systems and gods became embedded into the community structure, and as political systems developed, the gods came to represent those political communities (p. 17). The creation and maintenance of these symbols, as well as the gods, developed into the need to systematize and regulate them. This need produced a priesthood whose function in society was to maintain these symbol systems and create rational systems of thought to cohere the symbols and gods. Weber gives several different functions of the priests, contrasting them with magicians, for example, the priest’s “professional equipment of special knowledge, fixed doctrine, and vocational qualifications, which brings him into contrast with sorcerers, prophets and other types of religious functionaries who exert their influence by virtue of their personal gifts (charisma) made manifest in miracle and revelation” (p. 29).
From the systematic use of symbols and gods by the priests was a culture-wide acceptance of concepts such as rules and sin. Some of the symbols that the priests used were rules that the community must follow in order for the gods to obey the magicians, or to act favorably towards the people. These systems became the foundation for laws and ethical standards. Prophets, Which are similar to magicians, are empowered by the community because of their gift of charisma. However, the difference is that the purpose of the prophet is to spread a new doctrine or ethical standard not to perform magic. So when cultural changes produced various injustices, a prophet would arise to reveal a new doctrine to supplant the old system, thus correcting these injustices.
It is at this point that Weber demonstrates how the structure is laid for the larger pattern of society. First, members of a community have material interests, food, shelter or protection from enemies. Magicians at one time helped them with these needs, but as society stabilized into better developed political systems and as population density grew, the random practices of magicians were dissected by priests through the process of reason, which developed into structures to support standardized community practice for efficient control, placation and supplication of the gods.
These systems developed into bureaucracies, a concept that is foundational to Weber’s view of social stabilization, the maintenance of cultural symbols and the distribution of goods and services to the modern state. He carries over the concept of the prophet, pointing to individuals who, because of charismatic ideas, produce changes in the direction of society.
Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber represent three fundamental thinkers in the classification of religion in sociology. Their different perspectives and views on the roles of religion and religions context in the larger society will bring a holistic approach on the purpose of religion and its influential affect on our history. To further study the overwhelming effects of religions fervor towards its followers and the extremes to which religion impacts society and history, I will explore the historical religious value of the Christian Crusades. I will explore the religious overtones behind the crusades and will also explore the different groups of society it has influenced for the greater good or for political advancement of said religion.
The first question generated by my journey for facts was why were the Crusades initiated? Were the Crusades primarily based on religious, political, economic, or other unforeseen factors that would motivate such an undertaking? Some argue that they were a necessary response by Christendom to the oppression of pilgrims in Muslim-controlled Jerusalem. Others claim that it was political imperialism masked by religious devoutness. Still others argue that it was a social release for a society that was becoming overburdened by landless nobles.
Christians commonly try to defend the Crusades as political but in reality sincere religious devotion by both Muslims and Christians played a primary role on both sides. The Crusades were often viewed as a reason to regard religion as a cause for violence in human history. The most immediate cause for the Crusades was that in different areas of Europe, Muslims were invading Christian lands to convert the inhabitants and assume control of these lands in the name of Islam.
A "Crusade" had been underway on the Iberian Peninsula since 711 when Muslim invaders conquered most of the region. Better known as the Reconquista, it lasted until the tiny kingdom of Grenada was re-conquered in 1492. In the East, Muslim attacks on land controlled by the Byzantine Empire had been going on for a long time. After the battle of Manzikert in 1071, much of Asia Minor fell to the Seljuk Turks, and it was unlikely that this last outpost of the Roman Empire would be able to survive further concentrated assaults. It wasn't long before the Byzantine Christians asked for help from Christians in Europe.
A military expedition against the Turks held out a lot of promise, not least of which was the possible reunification of the Eastern and Western churches. Thus the Christian interest in the Crusades was not only to end the Muslim threat, but also to end the Christian divides. Aside from that, however, was the fact that if Constantinople fell then all of Europe would be open to invasion, a prospect that weighed heavily on the minds of European Christians.
Another cause for the Crusades was the increase in problems experienced by Christian pilgrims in the region. Pilgrimages were very important to European Christians for religious, social, and political reasons. Anyone who successfully made the long and arduous journey to Jerusalem not only demonstrated their religious devotion, but also became beneficiaries of significant religious benefits. A pilgrimage wiped clean one's plate of sins and in some cases served to minimize future sins as well. Without these religious pilgrimages, Christians would have had a harder time justifying claims to ownership and authority over the region.
The religious enthusiasm of the people who went off on the Crusades can't be ignored. Although there were a number of distinct campaigns launched, a general "crusading spirit" swept across much of Europe for a long time. Some Crusaders claimed to experience visions of God ordering them to the Holy Land. These usually ended in failure because the visionary was typically a person without any political or military experience. Joining a Crusade was not simply a matter of participating in military conquest, it was a form of religious devotion, particularly among those seeking forgiveness for their sins. Humble pilgrimages had been replaced by armed pilgrimages as church authorities used the Crusades as part of the penance people had to do to repay sins.
Not all of the causes were quite so religious, though. We know that the Italian merchant states, already powerful and influential, wished to expand their trade in the Mediterranean. This was being blocked by Muslim control of many strategic seaports, so if Muslim domination of the eastern Mediterranean could be ended or at least significantly weakened, then cities like Venice, Genoa, and Pisa had a chance to enrich themselves further. Of course, richer Italian states also meant a richer Vatican.
In the end, the violence, death, destruction, and continuing bad blood that lasts through to the present day would not have occurred without religion. It doesn't matter so much who "started it," Christians or Muslims. What matters is that Christians and Muslims eagerly participated in mass murder and destruction, mostly for the sake of religious beliefs, religious conquest, and religious supremacies. The Crusades exemplify the way in which religious devotion can become a violent act in a drama of good vs. evil, an attitude which persists through today in the form of religious extremists and terrorists.
The Crusades were Christian military and religious expeditions launched both against rival religions, mainly Islam, and even other Christians. Not only did the Crusades lay the groundwork for medieval Christian society and feudalism, but they also laid the groundwork for contemporary violence between Muslims and Christians. Both Islam and Christianity became involved with mass murder over religion, holy sites, and religious beliefs for centuries.
There is some uncertainty to any categorization or division of the Crusades which encompasses over 200 years of almost continual fighting on multiple fronts. The First Crusade, which was launched by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095, was the most successful. Urban gave a dramatic eulogy urging Christians to swarm to Jerusalem and make it safe for Christian pilgrims by eliminating the Muslim threat. The armies of the First Crusade left in 1096 and captured Jerusalem in 1099. Crusaders carved out small kingdoms for themselves which endured for some time, though not long enough to have a real impact on local culture.
The second Crusade was launched in response to the Muslim capture of Edessa in 1144, it was accepted by European leaders primarily due to the tireless effort of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who travelled across France, Germany, and Italy to encourage people to take up the cross and reassert Christian domination in the Holy Land. The kings of France and Germany answered the call but the losses to their armies were devastating and they were easily defeated. The third Crusade which was launched in 1189; was called because of the Muslim recapture of Jerusalem in 1187 and the defeat of Palestinian knights at Hittin. This undertaking proved to be unsuccessful against the mounting Muslim threat in which Frederick I Barbarossa of Germany drowned before he even reached the Holy Land and Philip II Augustus of France returned home after a short time. Only Richard the Lionheart of England stayed for an extended period. He helped capture Acre and some smaller ports, only leaving after he concluded a peace treaty with Saladin, the Muslim leader.
The fourth Crusade which was launched in 1202 was in part instigated by Venetian leaders who saw it as a means to increase their power and influence. Crusaders who arrived in Venice expecting to be taken to Egypt were instead diverted towards their allies in Constantinople. The great city was mercilessly sacked in 1204 leading to greater hostility between Eastern and Western Christians.
The fifth Crusade, Called in 1217, in which only Leopold VI of Austria and Andrew II of Hungary participated. They captured the city of Damietta, but after their devastating loss at the Battle of Al-Mansura they were forced to return it. Ironically, before their defeat they were offered control of Jerusalem and other Christian sites in Palestine in exchange for the return of Damietta, but Cardinal Pelagius refused and turned a potential victory into a stunning defeat.
The sixth Crusade, Launched in 1228, achieved some small measure of success though not by military strength. It was led by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, King of Jerusalem through his marriage to Yolanda, daughter of John of Brienne. Frederick had promised to participate in the Fifth Crusade but failed to do so, thus he was under a great deal of pressure to do something substantive this time. This Crusade ended with a peace treaty granting Christians control of several important holy sites, including Jerusalem.
The seventh and eighth Crusades, Led by King Louis IX of France, were complete failures. In the Seventh Crusade Louis sailed to Egypt in 1248 and recaptured Damietta, but after he and his army were in retreat, he had to return this city as well as a massive ransom just to get free. In 1270 he set off on the Eighth Crusade, landing in North Africa to convert the sultan of Tunis to Christianity but died before he accomplished this task.
The ninth Crusade, Led by King Edward I of England in 1271 who tried to join Louis in Tunis, would also fail. Edward arrived after Louis had died and moved against the Mamluk sultan Baibers. He didn't achieve much, though, and returned home to England after he learned that his father Henry III had died. The Reconquista, Launched against the Muslims who had taken control of the Iberian peninsula, it began in 722 with the Battle of Covadonga when the Visigoth noble Pelayo defeated a Muslim Army at Alcama and didn't end until 1492 when Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile conquered Granada, the last Muslim stronghold.
The Baltic Crusade, Launched in the north by Berthold, Bishop of Buxtehude (Uexküll), against local pagans. Fighting lasted until 1410 when at the Battle of Tannenberg forces from Poland and Lithuania defeated the Teutonic Knights. Over the course of the conflicts, the pagan population was gradually converted to Christianity. The Cathar Crusade: Launched against the Cathars in southern France by Pope lnnocent III, was the only major Crusade against other Christians. Montsegur, the largest Cathar stronghold, fell in 1244 after a nine month siege and the last Cathar stronghold, an isolated fort at Quéribus, was captured in 1255.
The Crusades were an incredibly violent undertaking, even by medieval standards. Two systems which emerged in the church deserve special attention as having contributed greatly to the fervor of the Crusades, penance and indulgences. Penance was a type of worldly punishment, and a common form was a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. Pilgrims resented the fact that sites holy to Christianity were not controlled by Christians, and they were easily whipped into a state of agitation and hatred towards Muslims. Later on, crusading itself was regarded as a holy pilgrimage, people paid penance for their sins by going off and slaughtering followers of another religion. Indulgences, or waivers of temporal punishment, were granted by the church to anyone who contributed monetarily to the bloody campaigns.
Early on, crusades were more likely to be unorganized mass movements of "the people" than organized movements of traditional armies. More than that, the leaders seemed be chosen based on just how incredible their claims were. Tens of thousands of peasants followed Peter the Hermit who displayed a letter he claimed was written by God and delivered to him personally by Jesus. This letter was supposed to be his credentials as a Christian leader, and perhaps he was indeed qualified — in more ways than one.
Not to be outdone, throngs of crusaders in the Rhine valley followed a goose believed to be enchanted by God to be their guide. I'm not sure that they got very far, although they did manage to join other armies following Emich of Leisingen who asserted that a cross miraculously appeared on his chest, certifying him for leadership. Showing a level of rationality consistent with their choice of leaders, Emich's followers decided that before they traveled across Europe to kill God's enemies, it would be a good idea to eliminate the infidels in their midst. Hence suitably motivated, they proceeded to massacre the Jews in German cities like Mainz and Worms. Thousands of defenseless men, women and children were chopped, burned or otherwise slaughtered.
This sort of action was not an isolated event; it was repeated throughout Europe by all sorts of crusading hordes. Lucky Jews were given a last-minute chance to convert to Christianity in accordance with Augustine's doctrines. Even other Christians were not safe from the Christian crusaders. As they roamed the countryside, they spared no effort in pillaging towns and farms for food. When Peter the Hermit's army entered Yugoslavia, 4,000 Christian residents of the city of Zemun were massacred before they moved on to burn Belgrade.
Eventually the mass killings by amateur crusaders were taken over by professional soldiers, not so that fewer innocents would be killed, but so that they would be killed in a more orderly fashion. This time, ordained bishops followed along to bless the atrocities and make sure that they had official church approval. Leaders like Peter the Hermit and the Rhine Goose were rejected by the church not for their actions, but for their reluctance to follow church procedures.
Taking the heads of slain enemies and impaling them upon pikes appears to have been a favorite pastime among crusaders. Chronicles record a story of a crusader-bishop who referred to the impaled heads of slain Muslims as a joyful spectacle for the people of God. When Muslim cities were captured by Christian crusaders, it was standard operating procedure for all inhabitants, no matter what their age, to be summarily killed. Jews who took refuge in their synagogues would be burned alive, not unlike the treatment they received in Europe.
There were Jewish communities, some quite large, throughout Europe and the Middle East before the Crusades. They had established themselves and survived over the course of many centuries, but they also provided tempting targets for marauding Crusaders looking for infidels to attack and treasure to loot. Caught between two warring religions, the Jews were in a most untenable position.
Christian anti-Semitism obviously existed long before the Crusades, but poor relations between Muslims and Christians served to exacerbate what was already a troubled situation. In 1009 Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, sixth Fatimid Caliph in Egypt and later the founder of the Druze sect, ordered the Holy Sepulchre and all Christian buildings in Jerusalem to be destroyed. In 1012 he ordered all Christian and Jewish houses of worship destroyed.
One would think that this would have simply worsened relations between Muslims and Christians, despite the fact that Amr Allah was also considered mad and Muslims contributed heavily to the rebuilding of the Holy Sepulchre later on. For some reason, however, Jews were also blamed for these events. In Europe a rumor developed that a “Prince of Babylon” had ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre at the instigation of the Jews. Attacks on Jewish communities in cities like Rouen, Orelans, and Mainz ensued and this rumor helped lay the basis for later massacres of Jewish communities by Crusaders marching to the Holy Land.
There is no way to tell how many Jews died in Europe and in the Holy Land at the hands of Christian Crusaders, but most estimates put the numbers at several tens of thousands. Sometimes they were offered the choice of baptism, but more often they were simply killed outright. Quite a few others chose to determine their own fates rather than wait for the tender mercies of their Christian neighbors. In an act called kiddush ha-Shem, Jewish men would first kill their wives and children and then themselves - a form of voluntary martyrdom at their own hands. Ultimately the Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East were the biggest losers to come out of the Christian Crusades against Islam.
Most histories of the Crusades tend to focus on the Crusaders themselves and the perspectives of European Christians seeking conquest and plunder in the Holy Land. But what about the Muslims whose lands were invaded and cities sacked? What did they think about these religious armies marching out of Europe?
The Crusades might have elicited a great deal of excitement back home, but it wasn't even until modern times that Arabic developed a term for the phenomenon: al-Hurub al-Salibiyya, "Wars of the Cross." When the first European armies hit Syria, Muslims there naturally thought that this was an attack from the Byzantines and called the invaders Rum, or Romans. Eventually they realized that they were facing a completely new foe, but they still didn't recognize that they were being attacked by joint European forces. French commanders and French knights tended to be at the forefront of the fighting in the First Crusade, so Muslims in the region simply referred to the Crusaders as Franks no matter what their actual nationality. As far as the Muslims were concerned, this was simply another stage in Frankish imperialism that had been experienced in Spain, North Africa, and Sicily.
It was probably not until after permanent kingdoms were established in the Holy Land and regular reinforcements from Europe began arriving that Muslim leaders began to understand that this was not Rome reasserting itself or Frankish imperialism anymore. No, they were facing an entirely new phenomenon in their relations with Christendom - one which required a new response.
That response was the attempt to create greater unity and a common sense of purpose among Muslims like they had experienced during the earliest years of their expansion. Just as European victories were often attributable to high morale and a sense of common religious purpose, Muslims were able to effectively retaliate when they stopped bickering among themselves so much. The first leader to begin this process was Nur al-Din, and his successor, Salah al-Din (Saladin), is remembered even today by both Europeans and Muslims for both his military skills and his strong character.
Despite the efforts of leaders such as these, for the most part Muslims remained divided and, at times, even indifferent to the European threat. Occasionally religious fervor took hold and inspired people to participate in campaigns against the Crusaders, but much of the time people who didn't live around the Holy Land simply didn't worry about it - and even those who did sometimes signed treaties with Crusader leaders against rival Muslim kingdoms.
The meaning of the Crusades for politics and society today cannot be understood simply by looking at the violence, the persecutions, or the economic changes they brought about. However important those things may have been at the time, the meaning of the Crusades for people today is determined not so much by what actually happened as it is by what people believe happened and the stories they tell each other about the past.
Both Christian and Muslim communities continue to look back upon the Crusades as a time when devout believers went to war in order to defend their faith. Muslims are seen as defenders of a religion that relied upon force and violence to propagate itself, and Turks even today are viewed through the lens of the threat the Ottomans posed to Europe. Christians are seen as defenders of both a crusading religion and imperialism, and thus any western incursion into the Middle East is regarded as simply a continuation of the medieval crusading spirit.
European colonialism completely reversed a legacy of self-rule and conquest which had existed since the time of Muhammad. Instead of being the equals of, if not superior to, the Christian West, they came to be ruled and dominated by the Christian West. This was a significant blow to Muslims' sense of autonomy and identity, a blow which they are continuing to deal with. Colonialism is not alone, though, as a target of Muslims' anger - the Crusades are treated as the defining example for relations between Islam and Christianity. European colonialism is almost always treated not as a separate event from the Crusades but instead a continuation of them in a new form - just as is the creation of the state of Israel.
When promoting the war against terrorism, President George W. Bush originally described it as a "crusade," something he was forced to back off from immediately because it only reinforced Muslims' perception that the "war on terrorism" was merely a mask for a new Western "war on Islam." Any attempt by western powers to interfere with Arab or Muslim affairs is viewed through the twin lenses of Christian Crusades and European colonialism. That, more than anything, is the contemporary legacy of the Crusades and one which will continue to afflict relations between Islam and Christianity for a long time to come.
In conclusion the effects of religion and the pretexts in which it has led its followers, has ranged from fanatical to divine justification. Religion has proved to be a force that has taken on many forms and has been the cause of the most defining events of historical significance. From a conflict perspective, Religion is seen as a mechanism in which its followers justify the means in which to dominate or in the case of the crusades, to eradicate any threat to the expansion of said religion whether it be Christianity or Islam. From a functionalist perspective, religion has served to constitute a collective consciousness for the benefit of societal expansion and has allowed for the unification of otherwise separated groups of people. This fact also has allowed for the modern day political systems and collective religious ideas and beliefs that have shaped the way people set standards for their lives. From an interactionalist perspective religion can be seen as a means of controlling its followers into a collective consciousness towards the overall success of the religion as a whole. While religion provides guidelines on how to live life and brings meaning and purpose to its followers, it also allows the follower to become a part of an idea that in turn provides motivation and rationale to the often times dark abyss of the meanings and purpose of life. Through these interactions, upward mobility of the said society is achieved and the progression of the society as a whole is maintained and nurtured.
Religion takes on many forms and relays the general beliefs and ideas of the generating society in which order is sought and sometimes fanatical undertakings are implemented in solidifying the collective consciousness of the whole. As man attempts to make sense of his surroundings and religion is utilized as a tool for this purpose, great reflections of the consciousness of individuals of society as a whole will be displayed and will continue to lead history on an evolutionary and often times destructive path due to the conflicting views of different religions specific ideas on the purpose of man and its civilizations.
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