My second AMA after the one following that infamous Fox news video. You can learn more about me at

My Proof:

Comments: 2304 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

MercurysOverbite901 karma

I just watched the infamous Fox News interview. Wow. I guess what I wanna know is how do have such good self control? I would have blown up after the third or fourth idiotic question.

RezaAslan2675 karma

Look when you are a brown man on TV talking about Jesus you must ALWAYS KEEP CALM.

ThatGymRat766 karma

Hey Aslan, why didn't you just maul the white witch from the get go and save those 4 children a lot of trouble?

RezaAslan677 karma

Good one.

SeanHTX680 karma

Who would you save from a burning building?

A) Bill O'Reilly B) Glenn Beck C) Rush Limbaugh D) None of the Above

There is no wrong answer.

RezaAslan2105 karma

Well I couldn't carry Rush. Beck wouldn't let a Muslim touch him. So I guess it's Bill.

YouTee469 karma

Since yesterday started Passover, I have a question that's been bugging me.

During Moses' attempts to have the Israelites freed, why does "The Lord harden Pharaoh's heart" and prevent him from freeing them?

It... Doesn't seem quite fair, does it? And he goes ahead and changes his mind anyway once they've been set free, so that doesn't seem to be an effective answer.

RezaAslan531 karma

YES! That is a VERY GOOD question. One that I dealt with when I was 16. It confused me then; it confuses me now. Calivinist would say it is proof that there is no free will; that God already decided who will be saved and who will be damned and there aint nothing we can do about it....

ballzacs416 karma

Hey Reza, Big Fan. Biggest misconception about Islam?

RezaAslan1088 karma

Biggest misconception about islam is that it is different, or unique, or extraordinary. That somehow it's not like other religions. That the same historical and cultural factors that have shaped every religion in the world did not shape Islam. FACT: Islam is no more or less special or different than any other major religion in the world. Sorry Muslims.

RezaAslan356 karma

Well that was fun folks. Thanks for sharing my second AMA. I will see you for the third one hopefully in the fall!

KittenKingSwift289 karma

Would you agree with the statement that the role of women was suppressed in the early church (the pastoral epistles come to mind) ?

RezaAslan705 karma

Absolutely. Jesus had female disciples. There's archeological proof that women were priests and bishops and leaders in the early christian community. That history was deliberately wiped clean by the patriarchal Roman church starting in the 5th century.

whoisthisfromhere281 karma

Hello Reza! I saw you at Busboys and Poets in DC last year and I just want to commend you on all your work! You have mentioned previously that your wife, Jessica Jackley, is a practicing Christian. How are y'all able to find a balance among the two faiths especially when raising your twins? How are your extended families together?

RezaAslan926 karma

My wife and I share exactly the same values and world view. We just use a different set of symbols and metaphors to describe those values. Once we learned each others' symbols, there was no problem. It's like a couple that speaks two different languages. You fall in love. Learn each others' languages. And everything is BLISS!

StrangerFruit232 karma

Hi Reza, I've been a fan of you and your work since I was about 17, when I started to indulge my intense curiosity about politics and religion. No God but God was a game changer for me, thank you.

You are a hero of mine, and the one time I'm early enough for an AMA I can't think of anything intelligent enough to ask! You seem to wear a lot of hats. Author, scholar, editor, sometimes pundit?, father, husband, etc. My question is, what does an average day in the life of Reza Aslan look like?

P.S. My birthday is a day after yours, so Happy Birthday in advance!

RezaAslan606 karma

Thanks man. That's really nice. Here's the thing. I don't think of myself as having a job. I think of it as having a mission. My mission is to break down walls between communities using arts and literature. I have a bunch of different jobs that allow me to fulfill my mission.

So that's my advice: Don't get a job. Get a mission.

CounterHon206 karma

A lot of things Christians believe to be true about Jesus's life aren't historically accurate—even things as basic as where he was born. Which differences between historical Jesus and biblical Jesus surprised you (or anecdotally, your readers) most?

RezaAslan361 karma

I guess the thing that drives most Christians crazy about the historical Jesus is the fact that he was NOT born in bethlehem. Maybe it's because they all grew up hearing the story at Christmas and so they are emotionally attached to it. But I'm afraid it's just not true. Jesus was NOT born in Bethlehem. Sorry kids.

Dabee625199 karma

Hi Reza! When people ask the cliche "what would Jesus do?" do you ever answer them? You are probably the most qualified to answer that question.

RezaAslan727 karma

As I said recently, when someone asks you that question remind them that overturning tables and beating people with a homemade whip is an option.

mattb216199 karma

Would you mind expanding on your thoughts of James, specifically what you think his view on Jesus's divinity would have been. It's clear that Paul saw Jesus as God, but what did James and the rest of the "mother assembly" in Jerusalem think?

RezaAslan312 karma

You know that's a very good question. I think that James thought Jesus was the messiah. That he was raised from the dead. That he will return to usher in the Kingdom of God. But there's just no proof he thought Jesus was God.

somewhatfunnyguy190 karma

Hi Reza, What is your opinion regarding psychedelic experiences linked to religion? When reading about these experiences they can sound a lot like religious experiences, it has even been suggested by for instance John M. Allegro (The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross) that what we describe as "God" is actually just a psychedelic experience. What are your thoughts on this?

RezaAslan358 karma

All spiritual experiences are the result of chemical reactions in the brain. That does not make them any less legit. It just explains the mechanism through which such experiences arise. Now it's a fact that a similar chemical reaction takes place with certain drugs. But so what? Again, all this says is that they share the same mechanism. But they are not the same experience.

benalmy178 karma

Hello Reza, I have an excellent start up question for you.

You and Pamela Geller are stuck on an island, what happens?

RezaAslan723 karma

Are we stuck forever? If so, then I guess it's time to make some hate babies Pam.

iamfakeama157 karma

Hi Reza, I've recently read Zealot, and I was extremely impressed with the level of detail you were able to provide about the life of Jesus. While I know you gave plenty of source material that allows someone to see where the info came from, I'm curious about what kind of test you apply to your sources to determine if they are authentic enough to use, especially when they are about a man so shrouded in myth and religion.

RezaAslan201 karma

The methodology for determining what in the gospels is MORE likely historical and what is LESS likely has been around for two centuries. 1. Is a story found in all four gospels? 2. Does it appear to contradict the overall message of the gospel? Then it's more likely historical. But bottom line is this: Does it match with what we know about the world in which Jesus lived and the world in which the gospels were written (for they are TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS)? If so, then it's more likely historical.

hardinmathclass107 karma

Have you heard from Lauren Green since that interview?

RezaAslan269 karma

Nope. But I hear she got a promotion for it. Good for her.

Infinitezen100 karma

What do you think of Universalism/Unitarianism? My personal philosophy is that since all existence was once a singularity, it might well end up that way again, and that is/would be comparable to heaven in that you are "one with all creation" again. To me, this is sort of a logical fusing of science and religion, and jives rather well with the idea of an actually "just" creation or creator. Any thoughts?

RezaAslan178 karma

I love the UUs. I talk at UU churches all the time. I think it's a perfect example of a new american religion. Quintessentially American.

singasongofsixpins92 karma

I have a question that I really wanted to ask a religious scholar/smart person.

As a Taoist, I was curious about different attitudes that different religions have about life and death and suffering. Eastern religions focus on a more dispassionate response to life, and many don't look for (or are completely indifferent to) an afterlife. Western religions are so focused on the problems of the world being "tests" or "punishment" and that suffering is happening to you for reasons beyond just the nature of things.

Is there a notable reason (beyond geography) that the attitudes are so different?

The only western belief system I could similar to an eastern one is stoicism. But philosophy and religion are more divided in the west.

RezaAslan158 karma

The real difference is between seeing time as a circle and seeing it as a straight line with a beginning and an end. The former sees this life as just one in a series of lives. The latter sees this life as coming to a final end. That difference of course has led to a lot of other differences, but the notion of time as either cyclical or linear is the foundation of those differences.

1987ce91 karma

Thank you for writing Zealot, it was a joy to read. In it you argue that Luke's audience knew his nativity story was incorrect, but thought it was true nonetheless. You explain this apparent contradiction by saying that facts and truths used to be two different things. Can you expand on why we should reject the alternative explanation that people believed Luke because they weren't able to judge claims about the past accurately?

Context from Zealot:

[Luke's] readers, still living under Roman dominion, would have known that Luke’s account of Quirinius’s census was factually inaccurate. Luke himself, writing a little more than a generation after the events he describes, knew that what he was writing was technically false. This is an extremely difficult matter for modern readers of the gospels to grasp, but Luke never meant for his story about Jesus’s birth at Bethlehem to be understood as historical fact.

RezaAslan147 karma

Don't forget that Luke is writing in around 90AD. True no one is around anymore who ever met Jesus. But this is an oral society so remembering is part of the DNA. I think people reading Luke would have a memory of such things as Roman census laws or the massacre of Israel's sons etc. But they would not have read this material as history in the way you and I think of history. They would think of it as myth and be focused on the truths that are revealed by the story.

Reagan_on_a_Raptor81 karma

I don't have a question I just want to say thank you for trying on Fox News. Your interview with that one woman, who could not get over the fact that a Muslim wrote a book about Jesus, infuriated me to no end. You handled it like a champ though and were much more reserved in arguing with idiots than I ever could be. I've yet to read your book but it's on my list. Thank you for trying to bring intelligence to a network that specializes in bullshit.

RezaAslan192 karma

Network that specializes in bullshit -- pretty sure that's Fox News motto.

MelrosePirate75 karma

In Zealot, you spend time talking about the phrase "Son of Man." Do you think Jesus's use of that phrase had anything to do with him stating for the record that he's NOT the son of God?

RezaAslan128 karma

That's what a lot of people think. That Son of Man just meant "man." While that is true in most of the uses of it in the Hebrew Bible. But it is not the way that Jesus uses it. Jesus uses it as a title, which is unlike the way it is used in the Hebrew Bible. The truth is no one knows what Jesus meant by it. My guess is that it was his secret way of saying he was messiah without immediately getting killed for it.

PYRO4969 karma

Dr. Aslan, I actually had you as my creative writing professor last quarter. It was a great experience learning from you. I don't have a question, I just wanted to mention how great it was haha.

RezaAslan47 karma

Thanks :)

sher_khan255121267 karma

Hey Reza big fan here! Just a couple questions if you don't mind.

  1. I just wanted to ask you about what your reason(s) were for converting back to Islam? Why did you leave initially? Why did you choose Christianity? What made you come back and why?

  2. What do you think is the most important thing for Muslims living in the United States to be doing right now to fight the stereotyping and racism people show towards their religion?

RezaAslan350 karma

  1. It's simply that I preferred the symbols and metaphors that Islam provides to other symbols and metaphors. That's it.

  2. The single most important thing for Muslims to do to fight stereotyping of Islam is to stand up for everyone else! Fight for the rights of women, and gays, and Jews, and immigrants, etc... If Muslims do not start fighting for the rights of other oppressed minorities, then no one will fight for Muslims.

mxambvalenz56 karma

Loved Zealot -- now I'm really curious about the canonization of the Bible and why some books made the cut and some didn't. Do you have a book you would recommend reading....or would you write one?

RezaAslan87 karma

I think the best one is Philip Jenkins THE JESUS WARS.

genghisom53 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. Do you have any thoughts on the growing interest in Buddhism? Do you think non-Abrahamic religions are more compatible with modern science?

RezaAslan118 karma

I think all religions are compatible with science...and always have been. Christianity didn't collapse when we discovered the earth is not the center of the universe. If aliens landed in NYC tomorrow, we would simply absorb that info into our religions and move on.

That said, I think if you think of Buddhism in more philosophic terms (which the VAST majority of Buddhists do not do), then sure, it can be more compatible to scientific truth.

ManagerMurrayHewitt53 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA. I am currently taking a class to learn about Islam. Could you possibly explain fatwas to us? Could you weigh in on the one recently declared due to the film Noah?

RezaAslan147 karma

Fatwa is NOTHING MORE than a juristic opinion. That's it. Nothing more. It has no enforcement mechanism. It cannot cancel out any other fatwa. If one mufti says "coke is evil. drink pepsi" and another says "pepsi is evil. drink coke." BOTH ARE RIGHT. Neither can cancel out the other. It is up to a Muslim to decide who's fatwa to follow. That's why there are MILLIONS of them.

lphilosophe49 karma

Hi Reza,

First of all, you are one of my favourite authors. I am from France. I have read and collected all of your books. I really loved your book Zealot but I am not going to ask you any question regarding your books.

I guess you are aware of the ongoing 'Islamophobia' in France.

So, if a 18 years old 'Muslim' French literature student wants to get accepted as a writer/philosopher in the mainstream French media (in near future), what would be your advice for him?

RezaAslan154 karma

My advice is to be yourself, not a representative of Islam. Focus on your interests. Be an expert in art or literature or sports or whatever who just HAPPENS to be a Muslim.

Paradoxical_Cat42 karma

Dr. Aslan, thank you so much for doing this (second!) AMA. I was wondering if you have any tips for neophytes in quest of religious knowledge. Which is to say: I'm a young atheist interested in understanding more about religion, where should I start?

RezaAslan101 karma

Read Ninian Smart and Mircea Eliade...You'll love it! Religion is fascinating in sociological, philosophical, anthropological, and archeological ways. You don't need theology to be fascinated by religion.

garrettmcqueen39 karma

First of all, I love watching you defeat people on your Fox News interviews. As a gay male, I've always felt that if I want to be a Christian I have to separate the ideas of spirituality and religion/church, as many churches bind many of their beliefs in traditions rooted in culture, as opposed to holy text. What do you think about this separation? Is it hypocritical to identify with a religion without participating in the modern ideas of going to a physical church building, in your opinion?

RezaAslan104 karma

Religion is just a set of symbol of metaphors to help us communicate the ineffable experience of faith. NOTHING MORE. Church is the institutional establishment of those symbols and metaphors. I think community can be important (after all, you need someone to share those symbols with), but not necessary. That said, there are AMAZING gay christian communities all over the country that may be quite welcoming to you. Especially if you live in LA!

MelrosePirate31 karma

Can you elaborate the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus? From reading Zealot, I got the impression that Jesus may or may not have been a disciple of JtB. Also, I believe Islam regards the two as blood related somehow.

RezaAslan47 karma

I think Jesus was definitely a disciple of John. It was only after John was arrested that Jesus went back to galilee to start his own ministry...and he took some of John's disciples with him.

sleepicat28 karma

Is God love?

Also, what is hell?

RezaAslan87 karma

Love is a human attribute, like goodness and compassion. The God I believe in is beyond any human attributes.

ReflexSnipa27 karma

What are your views of evolution/creation?

RezaAslan201 karma

Evolution is a FACT.

gogojack26 karma

Greetings and welcome back!

Question regarding Islam and science: What happened? The Islamic world was once the beacon of science in an otherwise dark time, but now it is the west that is "advanced" while many in the Islamic world seem stuck in the past.

(sweeping generalizations, I know. My history adviser said I did that a lot in college)

RezaAslan57 karma

Well don't think of it as pendulum swinging back and forth between West and East but a continuum of each influencing the other. Islamic sciences built upon Aristotle and the Greeks. Western science built upon Islam. The issue is social development, which ground to a halt pre colonialism and then was totally hijacked during colonial period.

Original_Afghan18 karma

Hi Reza

What do you think of Bart Ehrman's new book about Jesus' divinity and where that idea came from? I think it confirms the Quran on Jesus being a human and not divine.

RezaAslan56 karma

Pretty much tracks with section three of my book. What I am flabbergasted by is the cowardly decision by his publisher to simultaneously publish a book by evangelical scholars CRITICIZING his book. If my publisher had tried that with me I would have taken my manuscript and walk out of the office at once.

FitzDizzyspells15 karma


RezaAslan37 karma

Encourage political participation by Islamist groups throughout the Middle East. See my BEYOND FUNDAMENTALISM for this argument.

Universu15 karma

What are the similarities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

RezaAslan43 karma

Well these are three different expressions of a similar religious idea founded upon a notion of God as a transcendent other in direct communication with humanity. That's really what binds them together. It is, another words, a common myth about what God is.

benalmy14 karma

Ok, so there is hope for Syria. Is there hope that we'd have Halal Bacon, everrr. Please don't break my heart again.

RezaAslan64 karma

Turkey Bacon yo!

Universu8 karma

What is your opinion on the huge and tall Abraj Al Bait Towers and the wide and expansive Masjid Al Haram development?

RezaAslan25 karma

You mean the balcony at the Kaba? Look it may look weird but the fact is that dozens and dozens of people are trampled every year during the Hajj and something MUST be done about that. I think the balcony is best solution, unless the Saudis place even greater limits on number of pilgrims they allow.

mohajaf5 karma

Hi Reza. Both Genghis Khan and Mohammad managed to unite a vast tribal land in a short time-span towards a common goal. They turned a scattered tribal system into a central government geared towards expansion.

Am I right to see many parallels between these two historical characters? Are there any fundamental differences between them in terms of their historical impact?

RezaAslan12 karma

Well sure. But Genghis Khan conquered half the known world. Muhammad conquered two tiny insignificant villages: Mecca and Yathrib.

RHMD4 karma

I just want to say that I am a big fan of your books Zealot and No God but God. I really enjoyed your commentary on interpretation of hadith and the history of women in Islam. I wish I had a chance to read them again before this AMA but I just found out you were doing it. Here are a couple of questions off the top of my head.

  1. In No God but God you defend Muhammad (pbuh) for marrying a 9 year old because he was only betrothed to her at that age and because it was common among people of all religions at that time. Do you think it was morally okay that they consummated after puberty, as that is still a very early age?

  2. If the hadith have been modified and created over time then how do we know that the Quran hasn’t? And why do Muslims take them so seriously if the hadith have such a questionable history? Many Muslims would say you aren't a Muslim if you question the hadith.

RezaAslan19 karma

  1. I think you should avoid applying 21st century morality to the 6th century Arabia. If every single girl without exception gets married and has sex as soon as she "flowers" in a society, then doing so is moral for that society. It may not be for ours but again, let's not confuse our expectations with theirs.

  2. The reason hadith are taken so seriously is because the Quran is not a very helpful text in forming laws. That's why the hadiths were developed, to answer ALL the questions about life that the Quran does not. But that's also why they are unreliable, because they were created to answer specific questions of the community. In other words, the questions came first, THEN the hadith to answer them. Not the other way around.

Universu3 karma

Is Science a Religion?

RezaAslan12 karma

When science becomes a philosophy or worldview rather a methodology it can indeed become a religion. You see this a lot among the so-called NEW ATHEISTS, many of whom claim they want to replace religion with science. I call that SCIENTISM and it should scare the crap out of real scientists.

AJungianIdeal3 karma

I'm interested in learning more about Shia theology, do you have book recs.?

RezaAslan6 karma

Sure. The Shiah by Momen is good, though very long. Pinault's books on the Shiah are also good, though a bit academic. Try my No god but God. Also see my bibliography.

benalmy2 karma

Has homosexuality always been a sin in religions (Mainly Islam and Christianity) or it has only introduced as a sin later on when it has become socially unaccepted.

RezaAslan17 karma

Actually, homosexuality has been taboo in ancient religions for thousands of years before Judaism, Christianity, Islam. It's not hard to understand why. If you live in a prehistoric society in which coupling to create more members is the most important aspect to the survival of your group, then homosexuality is going to be rejected. But of course we are not neanderthals. We live in a society in which children are not the sole purpose of sex (thank god!). And so our belief systems MUST evolve to adapt to our modern norms.

triumphantcorner2 karma

Hi Dr.Aslan! A couple months ago I watched the live stream debate with "Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham" which seeks to answer whether the idea of Creation is a viable model of origins in today's modern society.I would love to hear your view on the future of the creationism ideology and where or not it will stand strong within the next 50 or 100 years from now. Thank you! and congratulations with your new book!

RezaAslan20 karma

Creationism is a belief system. Evolution is a scientific fact.

soviet_hero2 karma

Hi Reza, I don't understand Jews for Jesus. Do you?

RezaAslan7 karma

Well Jesus was a Jew. All of his disciples were Jews. He founded a Jewish movement for Jews. So maybe it's not so weird.

triumphantcorner1 karma

If you do write a new book, what do you think you will write about?

RezaAslan6 karma

My new book is tentatively titled THE STORY OF GOD and it is about where our ideas of God came from, how they developed, and where they are going in the future. Pub date Fall of 2016.

whoisthisfromhere1 karma

Hello Reza! Another question from a friend. In one of your earlier events that I attended, your mentioned the notion of the "modern mind," or how today's readers tend to understand words in an all too literal sense. Do you think the same phenomenon applies to common misunderstanding of the Quran? Are readers perhaps taking the text too literally, or not reading into it enough? Essentially, is there a fine between over analysis and ignorance?

RezaAslan4 karma

That applies to all scriptures. Now the real difference between Quran and the Bible is that the Quran is not a bunch of stories, it is God's dramatic monologue. So when it comes to the Quran the question is not "should it be read literally." It is "should it be read contextually." And the answer is YES. The Quran has a context and it must be read as such. It was revealed to a 7th century audience. We can't forget that.

koryisma1 karma

Love your books! What do you think needs to happen to overcome the perception on a culture clash between Islam and the West?

RezaAslan8 karma

The only way to break down the walls between two is thru art, lit, music, culture, entertainment. This is how perceptions are changed. They remind us that we are not symbols of "other," but just people with same likes and dislikes, same dreams and aspirations, same fears and struggles. So all you Muslims out there trying to change the way your society sees you. Stop becoming doctors and start becoming artists instead.

unglad1 karma

Does God exist?

A simple yes or no answer will do.

RezaAslan6 karma

Depends on your definition of God... Ha! No scholar can ever simply say "yes" or "no"

triumphantcorner1 karma

I understand that this idea of finding the historical root of Jesus is not a recent idea in the academic world, but why do you think books sharing the similar topic not have been as popular as "zealot?"

RezaAslan2 karma

Probably because they are usually so poorly written :)

No seriously, as an academic who reads these books for a living, I can barely get through most of them.

ontrack1 karma

Dr. Aslan: What do you think about the hypothesis that Jesus was just another false messiah that the Romans put to death without any fanfare and that Jesus' band of true believers then created the myth of Jesus out of bits and pieces of other myths on which to spread their religion. In other words, Jesus wasn't supposed to die like that, but when he did, his disciples simply changed the story to say that his death was actually necessary and that the promised messiah actually brought a spiritual kingdom rather than a physical one.

RezaAslan4 karma

Ummmm..... Have you read Zealot?

CouldBeBetterForever1 karma

Hi Reza! I hope you're having a great day. First I want to mention that I love your books. I've read No God but God several times, and I think it's great.

Anyway, my question is this: What are some good books to read about the early spread of Christianity? I have a bachelors degree in history, and this is an area I'm interested in, but have never studied in much detail. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

RezaAslan3 karma

Well, it depends it you have the patience for it but Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years is a pretty good one. It's like 1200 pages though.