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God and Caesar

Michael Burleigh's study of the intersection of politics and religion in the 20th century is a monumental accomplishment. But does he let the Catholic church off too lightly?

By Frederic Raphael   April 2007

Sacred Causes: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to al Qaeda by Michael Burleigh (Harper Press, £25)

The core theme of Sacred Causes, as of its prequel Earthly Powers, is the copiously bloody intersection of politics and religion, bloodiest—as fascism and communism competed to prove—when politics puts on the lineaments of religion. Burleigh’s focus is on Christianity’s relations with politics since the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. The Duce’s domestic stand-off with the Vatican was mimetic: fascism donned the blackshirted vestments of an amoral Catholicism, with Benito as a secular…

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