The Mongols had always been a gap in my knowledge base that I wanted to fill. To say the least, I did not regret picking up the audiobook. It was excellent, and thought-provoking.
Anyways, Weatherford begins his timeline before the birth of Temujin/Genghis Khan and continues to the present day, chronicling the life of Genghis Khan as well as rise and fall of the Mongolian Empires and Dynasts...as well as the revisionism over the ages that caused them to be viewed as butchers first and foremost...not the enlightened rulers that they ended up being once the conquests had subsided.
Religious toleration in the Middle Ages has been a hot topic on the VV forum as of late. The Mongols were really the only medieval society that practiced religious toleration in a modern sense.
Genghis Khan's original band of warriors was nineteen men strong. Among them...traditionally Pagan Mongols, Christians of the Assyrian (Nestorian) rite, Muslims, and Buddhists. The assmilation of various fairly diverse steppe peoples (such as the Tartars) into the Mongol coalition was also a factor.
From this, religious toleration rarely seen in world history developed. The Mongol state was also strictly secularized...Mongols were, well, Mongols first and foremost...and whatever religion they belonged to second. At the court of Genghis Khan, representatives of all the world's major faiths could be found. Emissaries of the Pope in Rome and of the Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as Nestorian Clergy, were present. Imans from both Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam could be found, as well as Buddhist monks and Hindus.
This gave rise to the first great religious debate in which one side was not a dominant force. Lovers of competitive events, the Mongols set up the discussion and gave the participants some of the world big questions to answer...such as, "how was the world created". The debate went on for some time, and was completely non-violent. In the end, though, the participants succumbed to the fermented mare's milk that was the backbone of Mongol parties and passed out, drunk.
At first, during the reign of Genghis Khan, most Mongols were either Nestorian Christians or Pagans, with the Assyrian rite speculated to be the religion of a majority of Mongols during the time of Genghis Khan. Of course, syncretism was widespread. Later in the timeline, as the Black Death swept the world, the Mongols were cut off from the outside world and from each other. In the Russian steppe, influenced by Turkic peoples,