This is, simply put, one of the most important books I have ever read. I'm not surprised to see so many 5-star reviews mixed in with 1-star reviews ... this is a provocative, moving account that can't help but stir up extreme emotions.
Early on, Mr. Carroll cites demographic figures that suggest that the world Jewish population should be more than 10 times what it is today, if not for the rampant killing and persecution Jews have been subjected to for the last 2000 years. Yes, Mr. Carroll lays much of the blame for this to Christianity, mostly Catholicism. Are you surprised this book has elicited this kind of polarized response?
My suggestion: Ignore the nay-sayers and read this book. You will see how the prevalence of anti-Judaism has caused incalculable suffering, and how Catholic absolutism led to this hatred of Jews. Mr. Carroll deftly shows how developments in Christianity - long after Jesus - had tragic consequences for Jews, while showing many paths that could have been taken which would have saved countless Jewish lives.
Most provocative, but also quite convincing, is Mr. Carroll's argument about how Christian anti-Judais paved the way for the Nazi holocaust. Hatred of Jews went beyond religion to become racism 500 years before the Nazis during the Catholic Inquisition, and Mr. Carroll shows how this, among many other factors, fueled the engines of history which made Hitler possible. (more reason not to be surprised that there are many people who don't like this book ...)
Yes, Mr. Carroll includes much autobiographical information, as many of his critics point out, but he does a masterful job of tying his personal experiences into the history, such as when he describes his skepticism at a rare viewing of the robe of Jesus when he was a teenager. Most all of his personal anectdotes served a useful purpose in making the narrative readable and understandable.
I will be recommending this book strongly to my friends. Catholics should certainly read it, but it is most important for Jews to read. Anti-Judaism or anti-semitism has been a real force in our world for two millenia, and Jews need to understand this ugly reality, even those who are living in relative comfort these days. Next time you hear about a terrorist yelling "death to all Jews," it won't seem like empty rhetoric.
This is a timely, important book. The subject of this book is the devastating effect of Christianity on Jews as far as the actions of the Catholic Church. Protestants can read in the actions of their own churches and both will find his discussions of the Gospels provocative. Making the effort to overlook his "Boomer academic" conclusions is well worth it for any serious student of the Bible and anyone involved in religious education.