Review: Dogs of God–Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors (Hardcover)

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Religion & Politics of Religion

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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Evaluation of Money, Religion, State Power, and Evil,

October 19, 2005
James Reston Jr.
There are no doubt many histories that will enlighten us as to the relationship between the rise of the State, its need for money, its use of the Inquisition to rob Jews and raise money, the role of religious intolerance of heresy, and the manner in which evil accompanies conquest. For myself, this book is more than enough, and it provides an elegant easy to read overview of the larger context in which Columbus discovered America.

I am reminded by this book of the arrogance of Spain (where my roots go to Catalan in the 17th century on my mother’s side), as Columbus was sent with edicts in Spanish, and it was assumed that any natives that could not understand the Spanish edicts, read in Spanish, were consequently heathen and fair game for enslavement. So did Columbus bring to America not just slavery, but genocide as well.

The author excels at showing the human side of history, the manner in which craven banal human weaknesses wreak havoc on civilizations, tribes, and nations. There is one point in which I am reminded of the power of courtiers, and another in which the same courtier uses homosexuality as a means of subduing a king–both are all too close to reality today. In short, this book has lessons for us today, both in seeing how dangerous our fundamentalist religious extremists are in waging armed crusades lacking in contextual balance, how dangerous courtiers with too much power can be; how vulnerable nominally powerful rulers can be when they suffer from deep and unresolved inner conflicts (e.g alcoholism and nascient homosexuality), and how deeply the historical antipathies might lie within Islam against the West.

The relationship between evil, intolerant religion, weak kings and powerful courtiers, and suffering peoples of all faiths, is compelling depicted in this book–history is brought forward in a truly excellent manner. We learn, or we repeat.

Can anyone justify the Inquisition or the Crusades? Is it possible to denounce individual terrorists while embracing 44 dictators, many of them practicing genocide, others supporting the looting of their entire commonwealths? Could we not have spent the last trillion of our common wealth more wisely?

I put this book down thinking to myself, like Old Man River in Porgey and Bess, life and history move on, while the powerful continue to hold sway over the fortunes of their peoples. It is somewhat depressing to realize how little humanity has learned about relations among peoples since the 1500’s.

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