My path – teaching, acting, screenwriting, music and film producing, facilitating, in-depth interviews – has led me full circle again to teaching, through speeches and workshops. After 15 years of radio interviews with visionary thinkers and doers – I now produce and host Disruptive, a podcast for Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
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Last summer author and scholar of religions REZA ASLAN came out with a book that utilized a great deal of historical research to give readers a sense of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. ASLAN had taken on a similar task seven years earlier with his first book NO GOD BUT GOD, in which he tells the story of Mohammed. But the problem for some folks this time around is that Reza Aslan is a Muslim. In an interview that has been viewed at least a million and a half times on YouTube, Lauren Green of Fox News demanded to know, “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” – and that interview sent Aslan’s book, ZEALOT: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, to the top of best-seller lists for weeks.
REZA ASLAN has been a guest on Free Forum a number of times in the past, and I’m happy to welcome him back again, to talk a bit about the reaction, but much more about the content and meaning of his book. He examines Jesus through the lens of the time and place in which he lived, first-century Palestine, and labels him in the book’s title, a zealot – a radical political opponent of the Roman occupation. Because Jesus was crucified without overthrowing Roman rule, he is one of many failed messiahs. But why did this particular failed messiah become the starting point of one of the world’s great religions, wielding enormous influence over two thousand years later among more people than even existed during his lifetime?
LIVE FROM the LA TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS at the UCLA CAMPUS with REZA ASLAN, author, NO GOD BUT GOD and
BEYOND FUNDAMENTALISM and TERRY McDERMOTT longtime LA Times reporter, author, PERFECT SOLDIERS: The 9/11 Hijackers, and his latest, 101 THEORY DRIVE: A Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory
REZA ASLAN is the author of "NO GOD BUT GOD" and his new book, "HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror"
REZA ASLAN says the only way to win a cosmic war is not to engage in one.
That may seem obvious to some, but he's also saying that unless we recognize that we've been pulled into a cosmic war -- what that means and how it changes things -- we haven't got a chance of "winning" or even making the best of the situation.
"A cosmic war is a battle not between armies or nations, but between the forces of good and evil. The ultimate goal of a cosmic war is to vanquish evil itself, which ensures that a cosmic war remains an absolute, eternal, and ultimately unwinnable conflict. Cosmic wars are fought not over land or politics but over identity."
1900 - 1/2 of world's population identified as members of major religions
2000 - 2/3 of world's population identified as members of major religions
Aslan believes the days of wars between nation states are over. When globalization frees people from national identity, it's replaced by other identities - especially religion. We must strip the conflict between Islam and the West of its religious connotations, and we must address the actual grievances that fuel the Jihadist movement.
A recent Gallup poll (see below) appears to back him up. According to AP: "Joblessness and poverty are a more potent source of tension between Muslims and wider European and U.S. society than religious differences, [according to] one of the first major studies of Muslim integration since the Sept. 11 terror attacks."
REZA ASLAN has a fairly unique resume. Born in Iran, emigrated wih his family to Enid, Oklahoma as a child. Degrees in religion from UC Santa Clara, UC Santa Barbara, and Harvard Divinity School, as well as an MFA from the Iowa Writers Program. His first book, NO GOD BUT GOD: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam offers more than a history - and the guy can write.
The first time I interviewed him was just after Hamas had won the Palestinian election. We both hoped that having to actually run things would move Hamas in a positive direction. The US, Israel, and others weren't willing to find out.
We pick up the conversation this week, looking at the lessons of history, the lessons of the recent past, and hopes for the future.