Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness (Great Minds Series) Paperback – 20 Nov 2003
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As I was reading the book, I felt as though I was reading a student's term paper. The author covers numerous religious groups or time periods but in a very superficial manner. As a couple of reviewers already mentioned, the book is only 234 pages (243 with the biblio), 24 of those are full page illustrations (I know, the cover states "An Illustrated History") and the pages have unusually wide margins. In fact, the size of the margins was the first thing I noticed when I started to read the book. It's almost as though Haught didn't have enough material to fill enough pages to warrant publication. But even from what material is in the book, it is obvious that this book could have much longer and more detailed, giving it a more scholarly presentation.
Personally, I think that if an author is going to write about a controversial subject, it needs to be backed up with properly referenced facts. This book does not even come close. There is a section at the end of the book that the author calls a Bibliography but then he writes, "The following is a selected reading list, by topic." So does that mean that the books listed were used by the author as references or are some of these books just recommendations? It is rather difficult to tell because Haught uses no footnote notation. He repeatedly presents statements as fact, including historical information and figures (as in the number of deaths). He also has many direct quotes that have no reference. For example, the cover of the book highlights one corner and states, "Includes the 9-11-01 terrorist attack..." Within the text Haught includes a lengthy quote that is a translation of some of the writings found in the highjackers' notebooks in order to make the point that the 9-11 attackers were able to carry out their mission due to religious zeal - which I happen to agree with. But where did he get these quotes. I don't think he translated the notebooks themselves! Other quotes may state, "So and so said,..." but then there is no reference in the Bibliography to match up with the speaker. In addition, even if a reader was interested in following up with one of the recommended books, a significant number of them are 25 to over 100 years old. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but as some Amamzon customers may know, it's sometimes difficult to obtain a book that's over 10 or 15 years old - let alone the book titles listed as recommendations. Maybe others feel that I'm nitpicking but whenever I'm reading a book of non-fiction (especially a book that is historical, scientific or political) I look at the references to see where the author got his/her information.
I'm giving the book three stars because I feel that this is an important topic and I'm glad that author wrote about it. As he states in the book (p. 235), "As far as can be ascertained, no previous book has surveyed the phenomenon of religious homicide ["homicide" - I like that] in its entirety." I just wish the book was more thorough and that it backed up its information with better references.
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