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Jul 29, 2013

Reza Aslan Hosts Reddit AmA, Talks Fox News Fiasco And Religion

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Reza Aslan Hosts Reddit AmA

Fresh off being pathetically attacked by Fox News “reporter” Lauren Green religious scholar and author Reza Aslan hosted a Reddit AmA to talk about his Fox News “interview” and his view on religion and spirituality as a whole.

We scoured the scholars Reddit AmA to find some of his best responses:

All responses listed below are in no particular order and there are more gems to be found in the full AmA transcript:

The AmA started with Reddit user skee1080 asking:”Were you surprised by Lauren Green’s questions on the Fox News interview? Was there any indication of the tone of the interview beforehand?”

Reza Aslan:

“I had some indication of what was about to happen from the attack piece they did on me a few days before the interview. I assumed that we would deal with that at first and then move on to the book. It was only about half way thru that realized what was happening.”

Aslan then revealed that he has not yet and will probably never receive an apology from Fox News or Lauren Green.

Reddit user grant0 asked:

As a scholar of religion, do you believe in one true faith? (In your experience, do most religious scholars?)

What are your thoughts on individuals reading holy texts as historical texts?

Reza Aslan:

“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!”Later in the AmA Aslan added:

“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!”

In his book Reza talks about the context that Jesus lived in, in his Reddit AmA he gives a quick run-down of that idea:

The single most important thing to remember about Jesus is that he was Jew. Now that seems obvious but if it’s true then it means that everything he said or did must be viewed in its Jewish context. So if he claimed to be the messiah, he meant the messiah as most Jews would have understood it: the descendant of King David whose chief task was to restore David’s Kingdom on earth. The idea of a messiah who is also God simply did not exit in Judaism at the time. That was a later development.

In another part of his Reddit AmA he is asked by Redditer PhilosopherBaron:

As a scholar of religions, what is the fundamental difference between the Abrahamic religions that prevents, historically, and culturally a long lasting, peaceful interaction between these three? (Judaism, Islam and Christianity). Thank you for your thoughts.

Reza responded:

“Perhaps it’s partly a result of monotheism. After all if you believe there is only one God then you could easily believe that there is only one path to that one God, that there is only one myth to describe God. That means all other paths/myths are not just wrong, they are ANTI GOD. They are evil and demonic. But the truth is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are providing similar answers to the same questions of ultimate concern. They are just using different sets of symbols and metaphors to do so.”

The Muslim author was also able to show off his understanding of the historical context surrounding Christianity when Reddit user Slagathor91 asked:

Is there any hard evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed? I think many people just take it for granted that he existed and that the Bible itself is more than enough evidence. Is there anything else?

Reza’s response:

“Outside of the Bible there is almost no trace whatsoever of the historical Jesus. However, in 94AD (60 years after Jesus died) a Jewish historian named Josephus casually mentions him.

In a brief throwaway passage in the Antiquities, Josephus writes of a fiendish Jewish high priest named Ananus who, after the death of the Roman governor Festus, unlawfully condemned a certain “James, the brother of Jesus, the one they call messiah,” to stoning for transgression of the law. The passage moves on to relate what happened to Ananus after the new governor, Albinus, finally arrived in Jerusalem. Fleeting and dismissive as this allusion may be (the phrase “the one they call messiah” is clearly meant to express derision), it nevertheless contains enormous significance for those searching for any sign of the historical Jesus. In a society without surnames, a common name like James required a specific appellation—a place of birth or a father’s name—to distinguish it from all the other men named James roaming around Palestine (hence, Jesus of Nazareth). In this case, James’ appellative was provided by his fraternal connection to someone with whom Josephus assumes his audience would be familiar. The passage proves not only that “Jesus, the one they call messiah” probably existed, but that by the year 94 C.E., when the Antiquities was written, he was widely recognized as the founder of a new and enduring movement.”

Reza was asked in the same vein if their is proof of Muhammad’s existence for which he explains:

“Good question. We have a good deal of writings about Muhammad from his followers and his detractors that suggests that the man himself was a real person who started a movement sometime around the beginning of the 7th Century AD. But as with Jesus, these are not historical documents. They are mainly testimonies of faith written by communities of faith many years after the events they described. So we are left to cull whatever historical information we can get from them by analyzing their claims in the light of what we can know about the history of the time.

That’s what separates studies of Jesus from studies of Muhammad: we have a LOT more information about Jesus’ world (thanks to the Romans) than we do about Muhammad’s

I did my best to reconstruct Muhammad’s world in my first book No god but God.

That’s pretty much all we have but it is significant.”

I could go on with more quotes and answers from Reza Aslan’s Reddit AmA but you would be best served to check out all user responses HERE.

Aslan’s Reddit AmA revealed him to be an easy to talk to Muslim – no wonder Fox News felt so threatened by his appearance on the network.


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