The Crusades had many residual effects upon Europe. It weakened the power of the minor aristocracy in Europe and solidified the power of the monarchy, leading eventually to the formation of strong centralized kingdoms. It also increased the political power of the Pope relative to the Warrior Kings. It also signaled the rise of the People and Banking as political forces to be reckoned with.
The military pressure of the Catholic Crusades unified the Islamic Empire to go on the attack in their reverse crusade. The Crusaders weakened Byzantium by their attacks. While the renewed Moslem Empire further weakened the bastion of Eastern Christianity, it was the Latin Christians, who eventually sacked Constantinople, bringing down this relic of the Roman Empire. Christians overthrowing Christians. The sign of things to come. This infighting weakened Christendom enough that the Turkish Muslims eventually conquered the Anatolian peninsula from the Christians for good.
The Latin Christians’ invasion of the Levant combined with their slaughter of the residents of Jerusalem polarized the Middle East. Although a militant Islamic army spread rapidly over the globe Mohammed had counseled tolerance for the other monotheistic religions, which was one factor behind the unprecedented rise of Islam. While Jews, Christians, and Muslims had coexisted as neighbors in the region prior to the Crusades, afterwards the Christians and Moslems became mortal enemies. This condition has persisted unto the present day.
There are many reasons that this antipathy continues. The Pope and the Bankers had a vested interest in war with Islam. Whenever the Pope called a successful Crusade it increased his power. Further anytime there was war the bankers profited due to the loans and conditions that were demanded to fund the wars. This trend was seen clearly in the 4th Crusade.
Further the Pope and the Church felt impelled to vilify Islam as a threat in his attempt to increase his flock and with it his revenues. The issue of Christ’s supposed divinity or lack thereof was more about accumulating followers with their required donation to whatever Church than it had to do with inspiring people to act in a moral fashion. Indeed these trivial doctrinal differences inspired truly despicable behavior.
Unfortunately the exclusivity and religious intolerance of the Roman Catholic Church inspired a similar reaction from the inherently inclusive Islam. This was seen especially clearly in Spain. Under Islamic rule all religions coexisted peaceably. After the Spanish Crusades the Muslims were driven out and the Jews were expulsed. In Southeast Asia Muslims had coexisted peaceably for centuries with Hindus, Buddhist, indigenous religions and the Chinese. This ended with the arrival of the first Europeans, specifically the Spaniards and the Portuguese who attempted to forcibly convert the natives to Christianity as they had the indigenous peoples of the New World.
Lest we give the wrong impression the militaristic message of the Old Testament with its God of War dominates the politics of the Muslims, Christians and Jews. This god promised victory in battle to those who believed in him exclusively – whether Jehovah of the Jews, Allah of the Moslems, or the Trinity of the Christians.
As such military victory and expansionism became a sign that God was and is on your side. The Old Testament God was neither compassionate nor tolerant of those who differed with him. The Old Testament prophets were known for genocide and/or idol bashing. Some of the main stories of the Bible have to do with the Israelites invading territories that were already occupied, then seizing these territories using military force because it had been promised to them by God/Jehovah.
This attitude was the foundation of the colonial attitude of the Europeans, when they ruthlessly conquered and enslaved the indigenous cultures that they ‘discovered’. It was also the foundation for the Manifest Destiny of the Americans as they violently pushed the Native Americans aside. Further it is the foundation of the attitude of Western ‘civilization’ – the underlying justification for militarily and economically exploiting underprivileged cultures globally for the good of their nation. This has nothing to do with the New Testament tolerance and pacifism of Jesus.
The Fairy Tale is Over.
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