Holy Horrors - An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness

By Stefan Isaksson

Holy Horrors - An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness
James A. Haught
Prometheus Books
243 pages
ISBN: 1573927783

I wasnít a religious man before I read Holy Horrors.

I never became religious reading it.

And one thingís for sure; Iím definitely not religious after having finished it.

Because I doubt that Iíve ever Ė despite having a degree in religious studies Ė read a book which made the entire phenomenon of religion, no matter during what era, in what culture, and what particular faith, look worse than this. Author James A. Haught writes in a way that makes him look like a militant atheist (and even if heís not then I doubt heíll ever be welcome in a church), and itís not a very happy reading.

On page after page, paragraph after paragraph, numerous examples are given where the most horrible of crimes, murder, torture, hatred and more have been carried out in the name of religion. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism; most faiths out there are made to look like the most vicious of philosophies. Mankindís ability to simply annihilate his fellow man apparently has no limits whatsoever, and worst of all: itís all true.

The human race have a tendency to show its very worst sides whenever a religious conflict appear, and to all of you who happen to believe that contemporary man has learned his lesson by now, Haught has a simple answer: Wrong. Religiously inspired murder, torture, and public executions still happen all the time all over the world.

However, Holy Horrors isnít a brilliant book, unfortunately. Because since its focus is exclusively on all the murder, blood, and gore, it simplifies whatís really quite complex issues. Reality isnít as black and white as Haught makes it out to be, and even though itís both well-written and very interesting with its many illustrations, the end result still comes out as somewhat sloppy. Due to its many illustrations and large print, the total amount of text isnít very large, and obviously things like the Reformation and the witch-hunts of Europe cannot be dealt with in just a few pages.

Sure, all the blood and gore are truly awful, and all of you who see religion as something good and beautiful will have to think again, but since Holy Horrors never really dig deep into the topic the reader will remain unsatisfied. I know I did, despite the fact that I liked what Haught had to say and how he said it.