|The victory of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem at Montgisard, 1177|
All historians are biased, just as all journalists are biased. Everyone has a bias of some sort or another and becoming an historian or a journalist does not free a person from this basic ingredient that makes us human.
As long as there are lots of different voices each expressing a particular bias there’s no real problem. Of course the situation we have today is that unless you have one specific political bias you aren’t going to get a job as an historian or a journalist, and that is a problem.
A bias is most dangerous when it’s unacknowledged, or even in some cases unconscious. If the reader is aware of the bias of the historian or the journalist he can make allowances for it. When it comes to history one of the biggest unacknowledged biases is the secularist bias. Christianity is a minority faith to start with but over the course of the past hundred years the world of academia has become a rather unfriendly place for Christians. It is an even more unfriendly place for Christians who write history from an explicitly Christian point of view. As a result it has slowly but surely become the norm for history to be written from a secularist perspective.
The trouble with this is that a great deal of our history is in fact religious history. In some cases – the Crusades, the Reformation, the Thirty Years War, the French Wars of Religion – this is self-evident. In other cases it is a less obvious but equally important factor.
The weakness of the secularist bias is that it assumes that religious disputes are really quite unimportant. Religious motivations are given insufficient weight, and are regarded as being futile and trivial. It’s not just Marxist historians who marginalise the role of religion in history – it’s an almost universal tendency.
Of course in our secular world the idea that kingdoms might be torn apart or wars fought over matters of religious doctrine is both embarrassing and incomprehensible. This is rather odd. We take it for granted that men are prepared to fight and to die for political ideologies, for the destruction of economic rivals, for reasons of patriotism, or even out of paranoid fears that the other side is plotting to attack. Surely religion is an infinitely weightier matter than any of these things. If you’re not prepared to die for your faith do you even have a faith worthy speaking of? Perhaps the men who fought for their faith in the French Wars of Religion were more worthy of respect than the men who fought the Crimean War to satisfy the bloodlust of public opinion manipulated by the press?
I’m not suggesting that one should fight wars over matters of religion but I am pointing out that it’s a perfectly understandable thing for people to do, although an historian blinkered by the secularist bias is scarcely likely to comprehend that.