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Reza Aslan

If you are publishing a book, make sure that you get interviewed by Lauren Green on Faux News Fox News. The interview (above) has gone viral and is benefiting the sale of Reza Aslan’s book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth!

I have been discussing this with young people and one sent me the link to a reddit discussion. Read it yourself. I am just going to pick out a scattering of quotes from what Reza Aslan says there:

I think the Buddha said it right: If you want to draw water you do not dig six one foot wells. You dig one six foot well. Islam is my six foot well. I like the symbols and metaphors it uses to describe the relationship between God and humanity. But I recognize that the water I am drawing is the same water that every other well around me is drawing. And no matter the well, the water is just as sweet!

It is difficult to study the world’s religions and not recognize that they are pretty much all saying the exact same things, often in exactly the same way. Some scholars think that’s because there’s something in the human mind or in human societies that longs for divine connection and so comes up with similar answers in the pursuit of God. Maybe. But it could be just as conceivable that the reason we all talk about God in pretty much the same way (though with different symbols and metaphors) is because we are all talking about the same God!

Religion is nothing but a signpost to God. If you believe there is something beyond the material, and if you want to commune with that “thing” then it helps to have a set of symbols and metaphors to help you talk about it – both to yourself and to other people. That is ALL religion is supposed to be. A language of symbol and metaphors to help you make sense of something that is ineffable. I just happen to prefer the symbols and metaphors of Islam. That’s all.

Here is another way to do an interview:

Continuing with my quotes:


If you had to do it all over again, would you have used a pseudonym so that the focus would be more on the content of the book than on who is qualified to write it?

Did you expect the media to react this way? Or did it take you by surprise?


Yes. I would have written the book under the pseudonym JK Rowling.


I was just amazed on how you kept your cool with that woman. I would have lost it after the 2 time you had to explain that writing about religions was your actual job.


When you are a brown Muslim man from Iran talking about Jesus you must always remain calm 🙂

There was no difference in Jesus’ time between religion and politics. They were one and the same force (some would say that is still the case). Whatever religious claims Jesus would have made would have been instantly recognized by his audience as “political.” Especially the claim to be Messiah. After all, if you are claiming to be sent by God to usher in his kingdom, you are also claiming that you have been sent to usher OUT the kingdom of Caesar. That can’t go unanswered if you are Rome.


As a non-theist I find it difficult to begin any sort of religious practice in a world of literalists. How would you recommend approaching this problem?


You are not the problem. The literalists are the problem. Literalism is an extremely new phenomenon. It can be traced to the end of the 19th century. The people who wrote and compiled the Gospels were NOT literalists. If they were they would not have canonized four gospels which contradict each other on numerous facts of Jesus’ life. THEY DID NOT CARE about those contradictions bc they did not read the texts literally. neither should anyone else.

I think my research in world religions has made me a far more spiritual person. I can’t help but thing that the reason we have all been saying the same things in much the same way despite the thousands of years and thousands of miles that separate else is an indication that we are all having experiencing the same transcendent reality. You can call that whatever you like: God, whatever. It’s the reality of the experience that matters, not how you describe it.


I dunno if this has been asked, but what are the implications (if any) from your denial of the statement in the Qur’an that Jesus wasn’t crucified? have you had any backlash from this conclusion you’ve made?

Nice one schooling the FOX News lady, as well. You were a consummate professional and academic in dealing with her. Good on you, sir!


Sure some Muslims are upset that I question a foundation of their faith, as are some Christians. But most do not have a hard time separating their faith from the histories I write about.

And here is an alternative view:

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2 thoughts on “Reza Aslan”

  1. Mike Poteet (@Bibliomike)

    Boy, that Fox interview with Aslan is really painful to watch. Clearly, that “reporter” does not understand the concept of intellectual inquiry. Sadly, I have run up against that attitude a fair amount in the church, too (as I am sure you have). I was a comparative religions major in college, and more than one of the folks at the church I attended couldn’t understand why a Christian would want to know anything about other religions, let alone study his own from a critical perspective. Heaven help us.

    Thanks for posting the Sr. Rose interview – I wasn’t aware of her, but will definitely seek out some more of her stuff.

  2. Gillian Trewinnard

    The Fox interview with Aslan speaks volumes about decades of ‘dumbing down’ of Christianity in popular culture in America (and not just there), and about the fear of ‘others’ permeating that society, especially since 9/11. It is actually difficult to watch the interview to the end. You realise that the interviewer is unaware of the existence of biblical scholarship that has been around for a couple of centuries.

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