In the last month, Reza Aslan has taken media by storm defending religion and Islam. The critic of bigotry hopes to enlighten our conversations on religion.
Media pundits and celebrities alike are taking aim at Islam. Not helping the familiar extremist interpretation of this religion is the constant media coverage of groups such as ISIS, who are wreaking havoc on the lives of millions in the Middle East. Even when people are not taking aim at extremism, many people still view religion in general, and Islam in particular, as a corrupting influence rather than one which grants people a sense of peace and direction in the world. That is why Reza Aslan has come out to defend Islam against the media’s assault.
Reza Aslan Takes On Atheism and “New Atheists”
One of the most common battles that Aslan finds himself fighting is against Atheists. Reza Aslan has been having fruitful debates with Atheist individuals for decades. However, in recent years, he has come to the realization that the modern incarnation of “New Atheists” is much more hostile towards religion.
In the past, the debate between Atheists and religious sources was more deeply based in the ideology of a secular world versus a theocratic world, a debate which Aslan saw as worthy. However, in recent years, Reza Aslan has seen a shift in the way that Atheists regard religion. It has transformed from an ideological difference into a series of poorly-researched attack points which leave no room for true discussion. As he sees it, these New Atheists are coming to the table with their minds closed to the concept of regarding religion as something positive. Not only does Reza Aslan regard this as a poor place to start future conversations, but he believes that these new individuals give Atheism a bad name.
Some religious believers, however, are not as appreciative of his arguments. Damon Linker wrote this article in response to Aslan’s defense of religion. Aslan has argued that religion is not the moral guide that justifies terrorist attacks or any other such actions; rather, the culture around a religion dictates how people react to and interpret religion. Linker believes this argument is disrespectful to religion – even more disrespectful than the hostile environment that New Atheists create for the religious. Linker believes Reza Aslan’s stance does not respect religion as the “set of norms, practices, and beliefs that make and respond to truth-claims about morality, history, the fate of humanity, the meaning of life, and the nature of the universe” it deserves to be recognized as.
The World Of Media Coverage
Another one of the problems that Reza Aslan sees in the way that religion is approached by media sources, such as Bill Maher, is that they use religions as an umbrella for extremist groups within the religions. This is a serious flaw, according to Aslan, who sees the sweeping generalizations made by Maher and others as a dangerous and irresponsible point to begin discussing the impact that religion has upon the world. Aslan believes that people “scour holy texts for bits of savagery and point to extreme examples of religious bigotry.”
The worst part about this modern take on religion is that negative religious news, such as extremists, garners much higher television ratings than positive news. As a result, a much more negative view of religion is being propagated, which Aslan fears will lead to greater misunderstandings. That is why he has vowed to continue to lead coherent and fair discussions with members of the media and Atheist groups to encourage people to have a more open mind when it comes to religion.
Who is Reza Aslan?
Recently, Reza Aslan has spiked in popularity after his CNN interview about “Muslim Countries” and Bill Maher’s “gross” comments regarding Islam. Aslan stood out among most CNN interviewees because he called Alisyn Camerota’s line of questioning “stupid.” Since his interview on CNN and the Bill Maher incident, he has written articles and given more interviews to help clearly explain and expand on his thoughts and positions.
Reza Aslan‘s authority on religious topics is grounded in his education with degrees in Religion from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and UC Santa Barbara. He wrote the New York Times #1 Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. He founded Aslan Media, a network for the Middle East, and co-founded and is the Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, an entertainment brand for content about the Middle East. He also currently teaches Creative Writing at UC Riverside.