My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have long been aware of Rodney Stark's excellent work using facts and statistics to set the historical record straight.
This might be the best part of the book, at the end of the introduction:
Finally, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.And we thank you.
The fact that Stark isn't Catholic matters because it means he doesn't have a dog in this fight. Except, of course, as a historian who loves truth more than "what everyone knows." I was really surprised that every chapter had examples of current historians (who Stark calls "distinguished bigots) perpetuating untruths, usually despite clear evidence from modern historians who had disproven them.
I really loved this book. Even in the cases where I knew a lot about anti-Catholic history I always learned new and surprising facts. Often this was the result of simply reorienting my thinking.
For example, I knew the Church's inhumane behavior to thousands of people during the Inquisition was largely exaggerated, but I was totally unprepared for archival evidence to show that these claims are a pack of lies. Pack. Of. Lies. It's so ingrained to believe that there was at least some level of culpability that I realize it looks outrageous for me to say this. But it is true.
As are the lies that have been perpetuated about motivating anti-Semitic medieval pogroms culminating in the Holocaust, precipitating the Dark Ages (which never existed, by the way), provoking the Crusades, burning witches, supporting slavery, and much more.
I could go on, but you get the point. No wonder the Church has a hard time among moderns. As Stark himself points out, anyone would resent an organization guilty of the hateful acts that the Catholic Church has been charged with committing throughout history. Luckily for us, he has plenty of facts, usually from secular sources, to show that those crimes never were committed in the first place.
You don't have to just take Stark's word for it. Each chapter has a chart of historians whose work contributed to the proof Stark lays out for us, and there is an extensive bibliography with recommended reading.
Get this book and read it whether you're Catholic or not. The proof is there. The truth matters.