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Jesus, the man
July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) – When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.


Two thousand years ago, I was told, in an ancient land called Galilee, the God of heaven and Earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity.

Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return he was nailed to a cross. Though Jesus could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die.

Indeed, his death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins.

But the story did not end there, because three days later, he rose again, exalted and divine, so that now, all who believe in him and accept him into their hearts will also never die, but have eternal life.

For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God.

In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable.

After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran.

My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.

That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.

I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith.

I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.

The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face.

Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world.

The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts.

The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant.

The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.

I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart.

Meanwhile, I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text.

Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him.

The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.

Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

I wrote my newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.

Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus.

Reza Aslan is a bestselling author and a scholar of religion. This article was adapted from his newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." The views expressed in this column are Aslan's alone.

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. Professional Believer

    The key part of that is belief. You don't have to be a pro, but you do have to believe Jesus died for you. Many people thank Jesus by sending him gifts of fruit, he likes those, a lot.

    July 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • niknak

      He doesn't?
      That must be where I went wrong.
      Dang, and all those baskets were expensive too.

      July 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • PaulD

      That's not quite how it goes. They will tell you that all that is required is the declaration of accepting Jesus, but you can't just do that and be on your merry way. They expect that, once you've made this declaration, your actions afterward, your "fruits" as they say, will conform with their accepted standards of behavior which include, but are not limited to:

      1. Interpreting the Bible as they do
      2. Giving an acceptable amount of your money and personal time to their causes
      3. Having the same religious enemies as they do
      4. Opposing the same science as they do

      Failure to conform to said benchmarks usually results in the proclamation that you were never truly "Saved" to begin with. That's how it usually works, in my experience.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
      • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

        God doesn't need your money!
        There are all sorts of denominations so you can find the one that fits your needs
        church and Church are two different things....try Church and stay out of churches...I love Christ, it's His people i have a problem with.

        July 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
        • Doobs

          Then why does a collection basket get passed at every single service?

          July 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • PaulD

          IHAVESEENT THELIGHT
          I still can't force myself to actually believe in things that I know are almost completely impossible, no matter what reward I'm promised. Sorry, but intellectual honesty is important to me, and I'm just not selfish enough to throw people under the bus just to have a very slight chance of somehow magically surviving death in some form.

          July 25, 2013 at 1:39 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Doob, they need the money at the church...cause they have overpayed preachers and huge usless buildings! church is not God! PaulD; Who is getting thrown under a bus? I like intellectual honesty as well. There is nothing worse than someone who accepts belief blindly...and there are lots of them. Following Jesus is not about rewards either!! Joel Olsteen is an ignoramous! Jesus was about serving others and that is what He did.

          July 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • PaulD

          IHAVESEENT THELIGHT
          Instead of uniting people, religion divides. The more "conservative" the group, the fewer people they allow within their elite, and the more "enemies" they have. Teaching people to hate and mistrust huge numbers of people basically entices followers to "throw others under the (proverbial) bus "in order to get ahead spiritually. If heaven, or any of the other supposed rewards of having faith are not important, then hell and all of the supposed downsides to not accepting Jesus are also unimportant, right?

          July 26, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
      • lngtrmthnkr

        No paul,you are free to be on your way.I am not affiliated with any Church and am a believer.

        July 25, 2013 at 11:28 am |
        • Ken

          lngtrmthnkr
          Then you've made up your own variety of personal Christianity. How do you know that you're right then, and not self-deluded?

          July 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  2. niknak

    Alright!
    Just popped my third brew, a fine IPA from Two Brothers, got some great tunes bumpin' on the stereo, and have a few minutes to do some Christian bashing!!
    Because that is what us atheists just love to do, bash some Christians!

    Where are all the fundies?
    All these atheists all up in your board, talking smack about your magic man, dissin' the boy, and you are nowhere to be found.
    At least come back with some babble quote, about how we will all burn in the fiery pit if we don't find jeebus.

    Hello McFly.

    Come on out fundies, and give us some of that old school religion.

    July 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • niknak

      What's wrong fundies, did that mean ol' atheist come on your board and make too much fun of your magic man and get you all sad??
      Quick, go read a babble passage and hopefully that mean ol' atheist will go away.

      July 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Socies are so demanding. That's Mob Power for ya.

      July 25, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Passion Fruit

      Only *some* atheists like to bash Christians according to an article CNN posted recently, based on a study that was done on atheists. There are 6 types of atheist according to the study. The type that like to bash Christians are compared to 'fundies' in that article. Enjoy!

      July 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  3. T Money

    I like the picture of baby Jesus the best.

    July 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  4. Jack

    Let me get this straight: Mr. Aslan left Christianity because it's adherents claim the Bible to be the word of God, yet it is filled with repellant passages and contains many errors. And then he proceeded to follow Islam, who's adherents claim the Koran to be the word of God, yet it is filled with repellant passages and contains many errors. Makes total sense!

    July 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  5. Sam Yaza

    hmm interesting i live in the northwest cost, you know redwoods, and i can find every god mostly Gaia, never Jesus,.. you sure it Jesus you found ?

    July 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  6. A Frayed Knot

    The "Recent Comments" link to this article (and some others) is broken. Please fix it, CNN.

    July 23, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      FYI: The feature is broken in most of the topic sites. It has been for over a week now.

      July 23, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    There is a book about an amazing person named Harry Potter. It tells of all the miracles he performs. There are wise men and disciples that travel with him and reference to life after death in a heaven type place. There is evil and fighting and temptation. The book is about the same thickness as the bible, and it is written by someone with a far better knowledge of the world than bronze age goat herders living in the desert.

    By your logic, because science can't PROVE that Harry does not exist, he must exist and we should worship him ...?

    July 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Frank B.

    It is unbelievable that people take nonsense like this ariticle seriously. The author proclaims "historical" faith in "facts" that have little or no evidence and slams the Bible and those who take it seriously. Yes, there are unsophisticated, and even bigoted people who say they follow Christ and the Bible. But I would challenge anyone to do real and serious study and investigation of the historicity of the Bible. You will find quite a different picture than the one implied in this ariticle or a bigoted, unsubstantiated course in religion at a university.

    July 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Bob

      Frank, frankly, I'd tend to give more weight to a university course than to your own opinion or that of some Christian shill site.

      July 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Sue

      Frank B.
      There is zero evidence that anything in the Bible before the period where people started to identify themselves as ancestors of David ever occurred. Then we have stories of how prophets taught the people that their situation was all part of YHWH's plan, which isn't any evidence that there was a YHWH, or that the prophets were predicting anything rather than just interpreting it. Then we have the New Testament that was written decades after Jesus' death, and were never meant to be objective observations on history. The NT is religious propaganda, meant to convince people that Jesus was some kind of god. There may be nuggets of actual historical truth mixed into the narrative, but how can you possibly argue that the Bible is completely historically reliable?

      July 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Devil_Dolphin

        @Sue

        There is more proof out there than you realize on how historically acurate the bible truly is. I would suggest that you check out National Geographic's – The Letter and the Scroll. It might just suprise you with what is out there that gives validity to biblical accounts.

        July 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
        • Tedward

          It's the claimed divine events for which there is no proof. And you still have to ask, why won't god do some modern, clear demonstrations of his existence. If god expects us to believe in him based on 2000+ year old hand-me-down, farfetched stories, he's bloody fscking ridiculous and stupid.

          July 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    The Legend of King Arthur is not evidence for Merlin.
    The Greek Myths are not evidence for Heracles.
    The Epic of Beowulf is not evidence for Grendel.
    The American Folk Tradition is not evidence for Paul Bunyan.
    The New Testament is not evidence for Jesus.
    The Old Testament is not evidence for Yahweh.

    The miracles happened ... in the story.
    The prophesies were fulfilled ... in the story.
    The character was emotionally appealing and morally right ... in the story.

    Get out of your stories.

    July 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Sue

      If Josephus is evidence of Jesus then he's also evidence of Heracles, which makes being the son of a god a little more common than most Christians would like to admit.

      July 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Devil_Dolphin

      @Dyslexic doG

      The universe was created from a giant explosion from nothing – in theory

      The earth began to form from rock fragment from that said explosion – in theory

      Water that spontaneously comes from gas in the air cools down the entire earth (which is all volcanic) – in theory

      Ooze forms somewhere on the planet and somehow once again something called life spontaneously forms from nothing again – in theory

      And then the planet becomes habitable and all life comes from that one spontaneous life giving ooze – in theory

      July 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Doobs

        "The word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena".

        See more at: http://www.livescience.com/21491-what-is-a-scientific-theory-definition-of-theory.html#sthash.qCK3cuyz.dpuf

        This kind of information is readily available to anyone. Religious types continue to use the word "theory" incorrectly in order to cast doubt on any science that conflicts with their dogma.

        July 24, 2013 at 11:30 am |
        • IHAVESEENT THELIGHT

          Doobs, simple question; why are Atheist cool with scientist quoting other scientist and then calling it fact; because other scientist did a hypothetical experiment in a controlled environment and found that they were correct after changing variable after variable. You are quoting people, we are quoting people...Why are your people more legit than the Biblical scholars? All of the people I am siting are educated, have some intelligence, obviously, but your people are more honest?? Science has been wrong enough times that I think we can place as much doubt in them as Atheist do in Theologians...arrogance is what is diffierent between us...you think you know...whatever, we admit we have faith but do not have all the answers.

          July 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
        • Joe

          Because they publish their experiments, and if you want to and know how to you can do them yourself, and see if you get the same results.

          July 25, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  10. Anon

    Jesus is myth, wake the fúck up you delusional sheep.

    July 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LIKE

      July 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Sue

      I think that the point of this article is that you should separate Jesus from this character called "Christ". That way, it's apparent that Jesus could certainly have existed, but that he most likely wasn't divine in any way. A lot of adored people end up having wild tall tales told about them by their fans. Just think of Elvis! :lol:

      July 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Anon

      There is no historical evidence for Jesus at all and if the mofo actually existed then I would consider him another egocentric cult leader that helped retard humanity.
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80BeyRYlMSQ&w=640&h=390]

      July 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Vic

    I have been wondering about this for a long time. Jesus Christ and His Disciples spoke Aramaic, which vanished later. I wonder why it vanished and if it underpinned the original texts of the New Testament. There might be a lot of answers in that!

    July 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The do exist some speakers of Modern Aramaic. All languages change, however, and none stays stagnant for even 100 years, let alone 2000. Most of us have difficulty with the English of only a few hundred years ago.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • Athy

        Many of us have difficulty with today's English! Just reading these comments is ample evidence of that.

        July 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Sue

      A lot of it's disappearance is due to the Jewish diaspora after the fall of the second temple, I imagine.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  12. jesuswithoutbaggage

    I too am drawn to the historical Jesus and not the theological Christ. Much of today's understanding of Jesus is baggage; I prefer Jesus without baggage.

    July 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Where do you get your 'jesus without baggage'? Any book written about JC, even the bible contains a lot of baggage.

      If the teachings many attribute to JC are good teachings, why does it matter who said them?

      July 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Sue

      The Jesus Seminar did a good job of sifting away the likely baggage IMHO. They have books containing just the most probable sayings and doings of Jesus, if you're interested.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • lol??

      Jesus has plenty of servants, so don't be worried 'bout baggage.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  13. Real Wisdom

    Every 120 Years, Everybody Upon The Earth Dies…

    Truth. Every 120 years or so, everybody upon the earth (more than 6 billion people) dies, and a whole new generation of people are born upon the earth. Then, after another 120 years, those 6 billion will have died and a brand new 6 billion will have been born. Think about that. For all those who have died, every single thing they have ever owned – all their assets, all their possessions, all their accomplishments – they don't mean a thing once they have died. All those things do is just pass into the possessions of others for a time, until they too have died. In fact every ounce, or even fragment of an ounce, of gold, silver, precious jewels, minerals or anything of value that was upon this earth before man came here – it is all still here. Nothing has left, nothing has changed, and nothing has been destroyed. The only thing that has ever changed is how man deals with such things (man has become more and more possessive over time).

    Thus it is foolish for a man to spend his whole life upon the earth chasing after fame and fortune and things he cannot take with him after death, while ignoring the needs of his soul and his real purpose on earth. His real purpose is to prove worthy to be with God in heaven. Unfortunately, most people will fail that test and end up in hell. And for what? All because they spent their whole life on earth chasing after things it wasn't possible for them to own in the first place. Understand, all things belong to God, even your own soul. The souls of your wife, your husband, your children, they too belong to God. You possess nothing. You brought nothing into this world and you can take nothing away. Naked you came into this world, and naked you shall exist. The only thing that matters in this life is how you have lived your life before God and the destination of your soul. That is all that matters. And if you have not served God and lived your life according to his expectations while on earth, then your ultimate destination will be the lake. And should you end up in the lake, then all you have accomplished in life – wealth, fame, fortune, recognition – it won't mean a thing.

    So don't be deceived by possessions and don't be deceived by vanity. Realize and recognize that you can own nothing and that nothing you achieve in this world will last. All that matters is the saving of your own soul. For example, those 6 billion people who died 120 years ago are all now in hell (saved those few who were saved) and on Judgment Day they shall be judged according to how they lived their life upon earth. And the 6 billion people who exist right now will also soon die and be judged the same way. And then those who will come after us will live and die and be judged. Nothing will ever change. It will continue in that fashion until Judgment Day (which is coming soon, in about a 1000 years from now). And on Judgment Day, all that will matter is whether you are saved or not. And that will depend on how you lived your life right now. Therefore, if you are wise (not everyone is wise) with every breath you take, you should be living your life for God and asking him to save you. And if you truly want be saved, the best scripture to start with is Acts 2:38…

    Mark 8:36 – (Jesus speaking) For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

    July 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I enjoy wealth and comfort. I don't enjoy a fictional narcissist watching every move I make, waiting for me to slip up so he can punish me with endless torture.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • lol??

        You can always try blinders. But don't forget, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

        July 24, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • ME II

      For what does it profit a man to save his own soul if he has no soul to save?

      July 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • lol??

        You sayin' "he" acts like a brute beast??

        July 24, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Real wisdom is not believing in ancient myths. There is no reason to believe that there is a soul, no reason to believe there are any gods, and certainly no reason to think that there is a judgement day ( "in about 1000 years", where did you come up with that number?).
      Wisdom comes from using logic and reasoning properly, not abandoning logic and reason and replacing it with faith.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
      • lol??

        Cranius sayz, "..............ancient myths................"

        Cronus has really got you wound tight. Watch out if yer spring is rusty!! How can you possibly call 10,000 year old myths ancient?? Your priests of Scientism say you are pushin' almost 1/2 mil years old!! Quit lying, please.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • HotAirAce

      100% pure bullsh!t, unless of course you have some evidence for your god, a divine jesus and The Babble.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Which God?

      @ real wisdom. Can you ..."do the hokey pokey and turn yourself about? That's what it's all about." What you wrote is shear bull schitt.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Sue

      I consider it vanity to imagine that the universe values you so much that it simply cannot allow your existence to end.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • lol??

        Welllll, you could just go abort yasef.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
      • midwest rail

        C'mon, lol?? – tell the truth, you bought your share of stupid at a two-for-one sale, didn't you ?

        July 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
        • lol??

          Rail, with no third rail you are on a track to nowhere. Final destination, next stop. Death/2

          July 24, 2013 at 9:24 am |
        • midwest rail

          If that means I won't be subjected to an eternity next to contemporary Christians like you, then "'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished".

          July 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "It will continue in that fashion until Judgment Day (which is coming soon, in about a 1000 years from now)." which is what they said a thousand years ago and a thousand years before that. You are not new, just a recycled moron of ancient proportions, the eternal prophet of dumb, er, I mean doom...

      July 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Roger that

      "Unfortunately, most people will fail that test and end up in hell. "
      "Judgment Day (which is coming soon, in about a 1000 years from now)"

      Seriously? Why not have judgement day now? Just how many souls does God need in his eternal torture chamber to satisfy his desires? Why on earth would you create something simply to torture it? Do you consider that a moral act? God sounds like some sicko that goes to the pound to "rescue" an animal, and then abuses it.

      July 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
      • lol??

        "............ God sounds like some sicko that goes to the pound to "rescue" an animal, and then abuses it."

        Guess your pals in the dog pound think your theology makes sense. Haven't seen a bark yet.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • AE

      You are a soul. You have a body.

      July 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "So don't be deceived by possessions and don't be deceived by vanity. Realize and recognize that you can own nothing and that nothing you achieve in this world will last."
      Excellent - please provide your bank, bank account number, all of your stocks, all of your savings here online now, because those things don't mean anything to you ... I'll take them off your hands so that your soul will remain pure
      I'm willing to bet that you won't

      July 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      interesting take on the subject of ownership and wealth,true,but when you pass on you do take something with you,you take life experiences,wisdom,lessons learned,the love you have for God and the love you have for others.

      July 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  14. aallen333

    "The Coincidences of the Testimonium of Josephus and the Emmaus Narrative of Luke", G. J. Goldberg, The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995) pp. 59-77.

    July 23, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • ME II

      Excellent citation format.

      What's your point?

      July 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Saraswati

        They think the words hold magical power and so don't need to be explained. What they don't seem to get is that even if they do, without an introduction most of us won't even bother reading the quote, so even with magical powers it does no good. I think these weird assumptions about others come from leading a very, very sheltered life.

        July 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
        • lol??

          Who's they?? Relatives of the "Wegodians"??

          July 24, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Sue

      Yup, good old Josephus, who thought that his emperor Vespasian was the actual Jewish messiah, and who also wrote of Hercules as though he was an actual historical person as well. Great authority for a Christian to put their trust in!

      July 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • lol??

        CNN thinks Reza is sane.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  15. lazarus00000

    What happened to Jesus when Christ came?
    The same concerns and arguments were expressed after the death of Christ and history recods that several of his apostles taught their own perspectives of christ. For Example, Pauline teachings virtually rewrote the fact that christ was predicting the "End of Times" before the life span of his twelve apostles ended. The folowers of Christ's (Early Christians) were frantic that they had missed the event and were left behind.
    The next generation of Apostles and the next after them took the Christians well into the second century ad. The followers of christ were eager to be martyrs, and one even castrated himself to avoid the temptations of women.
    Paul later gave an explanation for the lack of the second comming the belivers accepted to understand that christ really did not mean what he said. Christiandom evolved into what we now see. Jesus had a family, brothers and sisters, and was very much human. Was he the Christ that was prophesized? I choose to believe so, but my reasons conflict with the ones brought to us by the Romans.

    If you or anyone depends solely on the Bible, any version of the bible, then you will NEVER know the whole story of Christ, early christains, or the three hundred years of evolution of the Christian religions, to the times that Rome officially became the dominant Christian religion.
    Lazarus

    July 23, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      lazarus,
      " and one even castrated himself to avoid the temptations of women."

      1. An apocryphal story, with no verified evidence.

      2. Even if it did occur, there are stories of pagan wackos doing the same thing for the goddess Phrygia, and others.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  16. lol??

    lol??
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    lol??
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    lol??
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    lol??
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Reza sayz,

    ".....................I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle ............."

    Foul,

    "Luk 2:46-47 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."....................................12 years old

    July 22, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    lol??
    Reza is a marginal reader with some nasty friends.

    July 23, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Steinway

      Don't bother replying to this post from @lol?? (or perhaps any others). I made a couple of posts to his original one yesterday and they have been deleted along with his.

      July 23, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • fintastic

        LOL??... is our resident troll...... please to ignore.

        July 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  17. lol??

    lol??
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Muslims are experienced in fighting commies. 911 is everyday for the United Socialists of America. it's much more efficient to fund Planned Parenthood and help the suicidal socies on their path.

    July 23, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Trinka

      The sooner you learn that Christian women are the biggest purveyors of abortion, the better. They get the most abortions in this country. Talk to the vee, would you?
      And learn what socialism is. It aint here. Man, you're rather a silly git, aintcha?

      July 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • lol??

        Know the difference between doctor and patient?? Purveyor and consumer?? False prophets and antichrists??

        July 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      don't bother Trinka, lol?? is impervious to learning as almost any of his posts will attest.

      July 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  18. myweightinwords

    My own story is not all that different than this author's. My childhood home was not Muslim, of course, but sort of vaguely agnostic, I guess, until shortly before my parents split up. My introduction to anything resembling religion was a Reformed Presbyterian church in upstate NY.

    I was maybe 10 when we started attending. My world was being torn apart. I was looking for someone to trust, I needed someone to make me a promise that it would be okay. In other words, I was ripe for the message that god loved me.

    Let me tell you, I latched on to that. I embraced it wholeheartedly and threw myself into experience of Christian life. I believed everything they taught me, because as I saw it, these were the people who knew....the ones who talked to god, the ones who heard his voice. Why wouldn't I believe?

    Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot that I still carry with me and I don't really regret my time there like I do the period of evangelical madness that followed it, but they took in a desperate child and manipulated her trust. I doubt they were malicious about it. They believed what they were teaching me was true. They started me on the road that would lead me to so many years of self hatred that I'm lucky to be alive today.

    July 23, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      What was their take on this parable??

      "Mat 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."

      July 23, 2013 at 11:29 am |
      • Trinka

        I pray you will say something relative to the post one day. You never have yet. I wonder why?

        July 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • JimK57

        God is within you and you can realize this through gnosis.

        July 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Through gnosis, you cannot discover god. Anything that leads you to the presence of a god is you making an unjustifyable leap to an explaination. God may exist, but no one has ever had actual evidence of it.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  19. Jamie B

    It is quite easy to take the path this author did....following his limited experiences and perceptions, rather than seeking to understand the truth. Did he ever study out the apparent contradictions he refers to? I doubt it, because if he had, he would not be reaching this terrible conclusion. For instance – the apparent contradiction right at the first of the Bible, between Genesis 1 and 2 – which makes it sound as if the order of creation in chapter 1 does not correspond to the order of creation in chapter 2. (ie Which came first, plants or man?) But if you look at the language and context of the two chapters, you easily understand that Genesis 1 – 2:1-4 is the order of creation overall, while 2:5-24 is the order of the sixth day from Adam's perspective. In Chapter 1, all vegetation of the earth was created on day 3 while man was created on day 6. In chapter 2, before there was any bush of the field or small plants (to be cultivated), God made man, THEN planted the garden in Eden. So vegetation day 3, man day 6.....but on day 6 man was created, then the garden and the work he was commissioned to do. No contradiction there, though scholars have argued this for centuries. Perhaps Reza Aslan didn't have sufficient courage of his convictions to search and stand by the truth. Those who genuinely know Christ would never take this ridiculous path, because we understand both His love and resurrection power. Poor Raza only understands the limits of mental ascension, and therefore fell away from the God he never really knew. He is a double minded man who will lead his readers into a ditch if they are foolish enough to follow.

    July 23, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
      Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
      Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
      One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
      One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
      In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

      July 23, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      "No contradiction there, though scholars have argued this for centuries"
      Hmm ... IF there is 'No contradiction', it begs the question why HAVE scholars argued this for centuries?

      July 23, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • Bob

        Indeed, Brother. The situation of controversy among sincere scholars and other individuals sincerely looking at the issue demands the question of why a "god" can't do a better job of getting its message out without such issues. It is also yet another indication that the whole Christian religion is pretty much just bunkum, and is for gullible fools and those happy to exploit them.

        July 23, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Madtown

      Those who genuinely know Christ
      ----
      How does someone "genuinely" know Christ, as opposed to just knowing him?

      July 23, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Enoch

      Good point! He is confused, and mentally disturbed. The Reza guy first betrayed the religion of his family to joing the Evangelicals, later he found out that it's difficult to be gay and Christian at the same time. So he decided to go back to Islam. Now he is confident and demonic enough to blaspheme the God of the Christians during the supposedly "Holy" Ramadan.

      July 23, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • Saraswati

        Oh for goodness sake, while I understand he supports gay rights this guy is a liberal Muslim/universal religionist married to the woman who founded kiva.org.

        July 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
        • Brown Rob

          Yea, right! Defending Reza, are you ashamed of him being gay? Besides, a devoted Christian, whether male of female would never marry a Muslim.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
        • Saraswati

          Wow, Brown, three idiotic assumptions roled into one brief comment. Impressive.

          July 25, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Saraswati

      Jamie, could you clarify. You think a masters from Harvard Divinity and a doctorate in the Sociology of Religions from UC SB is an easy shortcut that bipasses true learning? Wxactly what is your recommended more thorough alternative?

      July 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Sue

      Jamie
      By "study out" the contradictions you actually mean read the popular apologist's convoluted explanations for why they supposedly aren't really contradictions, right? Have you, then, taken the extra added step into actually checking whether these popular explanations actually hold up under scholarly scrutiny? I have, but instead of just telling you, I'll let you discover it for yourself because it's always better to learn something for yourself rather than just accept someone else's opinions unquestionably, wouldn't you say?

      July 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  20. nclaw441

    To the writer: I commend your writing about your personal experience, and I think I understand what your wrote. My only quibble is with your line, "And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying." Can faith be manipulated in that way, i.e., can one simply cast it aside? Surely one's faith can be challenged and shaken, and I guess even lost. But true faith is something more than a simple, conscious decision to believe in something. Having faith, properly understood, I believe, is a layered process that is more than just acquiescing to tenets that are thrust upon you. It requires self-examination and "listening" to God's voice (or if you are not yet comfortable with the existence of God, listening FOR God's voice). I am a faithful Christian, but I still struggle with much that organized religion would want/expect me to acknowledge. I don't know if the entire Bible is to be taken literally. I suspect that there are many lessons taught through stories, just as Jesus used parables to explain His teachings. Is there a physical hell? or heaven (at least as it has been described)? These questions are real, and there are real answers. Some I need to work through in the near term, while others I put in the pile of things to ask God someday...

    I see faith itself as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and not a mere choice we make or un-make.

    July 23, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • niknak

      I guess you did not get the memo nclaw, god does not exist.
      You are wasting your time believing in it.
      The only enrichment in it goes to the scammer who prey on the sheep like you for their living.

      And they live really well of your hard earned work.
      But I guess they gotta eat too....

      July 23, 2013 at 9:16 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.