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 Religion Editor

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

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. noelanderson

    "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."

    Ridiculous. By the same logic, I can eat meat without calling myself a carnivore, just as I can be a carnivore without eating meat.

    Semantic nonsense.

    July 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • PaulD

      All he's saying is that you can follow the teachings of Jesus without buying into all the supernatural stuff said about him. At his root, Jesus was just a rather wise rabbi with an apocalyptic message. The earliest gospels confirm this view. You have to go all the way to John, last to be written, for the author to put claims of being God's literal son in Jesus's mouth and, by that time, the theology had already evolved to allow for a postponed coming of the Kingdom.

      Meanwhile, plenty of people who call themselves "Christians" appear to him to not really follow Jesus's teaching at all. That's pretty evident when you look around at all the rich people, and people without compassion, claiming to be followers of Jesus. No semantic trickery at all.

      July 22, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Jefferson didn't feel it was nonsense.

      July 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Johnny

      YOu can eat meat and not be a carnivore, as long as you eat some plants you would be considered and omnivore.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  2. CommonSensed

    @Lawrence – Please if you can.

    Deny all modern Christian holidays usurped pagan holidays of the same timeframe. Please cite examples.

    July 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  3. Ben

    Just lose your crazy belief in that guy who's been dead for 2000 years, whatever you call him.

    A god should know better than to expect smart people to not expect modern, testable evidence.

    July 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Vern

      Ah, but the smart people aren't the ones still waiting, are they?

      July 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  4. mzh

    Hello there,

    Peace be upon you all,

    I would like to ask you following questions and I am interested to know your comments/answers on this:

    1. Where did we come from?
    2. Why are we here?
    3. Where are we heading to?

    If possible please specify the references of your answers… please think before you say something…

    July 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • ME II


      July 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • mzh

        English please....

        Thank you ME ll

        July 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        @Me II
        You seem like a frood who really knows where his towel is.

        July 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • Lawrence

        Thank you for the Hitchhiker's reference....

        July 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • ME II

        You ask large and complex questions for such a forum.

        In an over-simplified answer, (1) we are products of nature and (2) do not have a purpose bestowed upon us, but must therefore (3) find our own meaning and direction both as individuals and as part of a group.

        ... in my opinion. Such metaphysical questions and answer cannot be definitively shown or "proven".

        July 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
        • mzh

          I wouldn't look for any proofs and I know that no one can prove which we can see or feel, some may come up with a 3D animation and do brainwash of human especially children...

          July 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • ME II

          "...some may come up with a 3D animation and do brainwash of human especially children..."

          I don't follow your meaning.

          July 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • mzh

          Dear ME II:
          My apologies... I was referring the video that NASA has come up related to lives in MARS and it looks real but actually not... so I as saying that if a young child watch this video will think that this is real till he grows up... like in Christianity the parents are teaching their children that Santa brought gifts for them and they do believe it and when they grow up and they repeat the same to their child... and its been there for generations....

          July 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • PaulD

          And a moderately good stage magician can make water appear to turn into wine. Imagine how more easily fooled people would have been 2000 years ago, before the instructions for such simple tricks came in kits designed to be children's toys.

          July 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
        • mzh

          Dear PaulD:

          This was the weapon for Pharaoh to make his ppl to believe in him as God...

          July 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
        • PaulD

          If it worked for one man with god aspirations, why not another?

          There are still tribes in the Amazon that haven't made contact with the modern world. In that way, they would be very much like those people of 2000 years ago, so imagine how they would react to even the simplest slight-of-hand tricks? There are also people like Benny Hinn who a great many Christians know isn't a real faith healer, but who nevertheless can impress millions out of the more gullible every year. Would it really be too improbable for someone to have fooled lots of people 2000 years ago with just a few simple tricks?

          July 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
        • mzh

          Dear PaulID:
          I agree with you that we do have those kinda ppl who fools others and also fools himself as well… as you have mentioned its not only limited to Benny Hinn or those in Amazon or the one who claimed himself as God and died last year or year before in some part of India or in Catholism they fool ppl by making and promoting a dead human to saint and ppl will worship that dead person or some of the muslim world too and the list could go on and on…
          But I would not put myself in the position to judge anyone of these folks and I believe The Almighty is the most just and HE would never do any injustice to anyone of HIS creation…
          I would like to mention here one of the verses from the Quran that has been revealed for mankind to follow but unfortunately human does not…

          31:6 – And of the people is he who buys the amusement of speech to mislead [others] from the way of Allah without knowledge and who takes it in ridicule. Those will have a humiliating punishment.

          The one fools and the one being fooled – both comes under this verse…

          We all know the one who fools others but the one who is being fooled, no one is forcing him to be fooled but he is paying to be fooled…


          July 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • snowboarder

      questions 2 and 3 are purely subjective. they do not necessarily have an answer.

      nova has a nice video on the question of where do we come from.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • JimK57

        questions 2 and 3 are purely subjective. they do not necessarily have an answer.

        So true.

        July 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      • mzh

        Thanks for you comments...

        Please think again... let me ask you this... would you create something for no purpose? or would you go to university for not to get the degrees? so everything has a reason behind it or has a purpose...

        July 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • PaulD

          Can you prove that we were created by something intelligent enough to think of purposes?

          July 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • mzh

          Dear PaulD:

          Do you think it would be fair to say that the one who invented for example Airplanes would be the same as the one who is dumb?

          July 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • PaulD

          Does anyone argue that airplanes are naturally occurring? Do they reproduce in the wild like living creatures do, or do we have to manufacture each and every one of them?

          See the difference between things we know were intelligently designed and those we assume evolved in nature?

          July 22, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • G to the T

          Your follow up question assumes agency (intent) where there doesn't need to be any. Where is the intent in the beauty of a snowflake or a sodium crystal forming in a super-saturated solution?

          July 25, 2013 at 8:28 am |
        • Pauline

          mzh, please do google the begging the question fallacy. You keep on invoking it, in some pretty sneaky ways. Your debating tactics are downright stinky.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Those are nonsensical questions. It's like asking, what's the colour of up?

      "We" are not doing anything here.

      "We" are not going anywhere.

      There is no such thing as "we". It is an entirely qualitative, as opposed to quant-itative term. As such, it can mean anything, and therefore, it means nothing.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Okay, let's try again, by replacing "we" with "I" in your questions.

      1. I came from my parents, specifically my mother's body.
      2. I'm here because I haven't died yet.
      3. I'm heading towards death.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • mzh

        My apologies... I mean 'I' when i said 'we'...

        This is better and thoughtfull too... if you follow any particular religioun, can quote from there if there is any?

        July 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      I really have no answers to these questions. While they can be interesting to discuss it is folly for anyone to think they have the answers to these questions.

      July 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • mzh

        You can get some help from your book if there is any that you follow...

        July 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • jazzguitarm

          I don't need answers to these questions. Also only a fool would have A book. I have read many books but those that say books have the answers to these questions are fooling themselves.

          July 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • mzh

        Dear jazzguitarm:

        You have not found the right book yet... please don't stop... you never know what you would discover tomorrow... it happens to all of us... how many times we say that 'ah how come I did not think of it' something like that... 🙂 but I respect ur comments....

        July 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • G to the T

          I would recommend Dune by Frank Herbert. It's a great read and just might make you think...

          July 25, 2013 at 8:30 am |
        • Pauline

          mzh, maybe you should do some deeper thinking instead of just relying on collecting book reads.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      lol...seriously. In 100 words or less?

      July 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • mzh

        Dear Saraswati:

        Please take all you need... LOL

        July 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • Saraswati

          1. I don't know
          2. I don't know
          3. I don't know

          Anyone who thinks they do would appear to lack the necessary psychological and cognitive abilities to funtion in the modern world and should probably think very carefully before bringing a child into being.

          July 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Didn't you like the answers you got when you posted this before?

      July 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      You have no evidence of a god. Just because something is unknown doesn't mean that a god did it. That hasn't changed since the last time you posted these questions.

      July 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • mzh

        It is true that i can not show you any film or something that you can touch to know that there is a Creator... but you just have to look into yourself and think, use ur intellectuals and everything you have...

        Which of these verses can you deny while you look into yourself:

        34:4 – It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne. You have not besides Him any protector or any intercessor; so will you not be reminded?

        34:5 – He arranges [each] matter from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count.

        34:6 – That is the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Exalted in Might, the Merciful,

        34:7 – Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay.

        34:8 – Then He made his posterity out of the extract of a liquid disdained.

        34:9 – Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His [created] soul and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; LITTLE ARE YOU GRATEFUL.

        2:28 – How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.

        July 23, 2013 at 9:39 am |
        • Johnny

          I can deny all of them, and it only took one sentence for me to do so.

          July 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Neo Atheist

    Tell people that you believe in elves, dragons, unicorns, vampires and werewolves. They look at you like you were crazy. Tell people that you believe in a God that is everywhere, knows everything but you cant see or hear him and they welcome you with open arms.

    July 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Hey now, Dragons and Unicorns are in the bible and yet for some reason people are not considered crazy for believing the bible as fact. Now that is crazy.

      July 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  6. Neo Atheist

    There is no Jesus only Zuul.

    July 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  7. CommonSensed

    Wasn't Aslan the lion in C.S. Lewis' books?

    July 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • fyi

      " Where did Lewis get the name “Aslan”?

      Aslan is the Turkish word for lion. Lewis’s close friend, Charles Williams, wrote a book ent.itled, The Place of the Lion. The lion is the traditional symbol associated with Lewis’s childhood church, St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Dundela, which is located on the outskirts of Belfast. Most importantly, Jesus Christ is referred to in Scripture as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev 5:5, Gen 49:9, Isaiah 11:10)." –http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/family_and_culture/cslewis/narnia_101.htm

      I'm not sure how Mr. Aslan's family came by the name, however... Turkish roots?

      July 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  8. CommonSensed

    "...just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus."

    Um...isn't that exactly opposite?

    July 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • jns

      not exactly. many people profess to be Christian (meaning "Christ-like") and have said the so-called "salvation prayer", and yet their lives do not resemble that of Jesus or what he stood for at all.

      July 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Saraswati

    To perhaps clear up the question on Aslan's theology a bit:

    "I take very seriously the Sufi notion that religion is an external shell that has to be shattered in order for the individual to be able to unite with the divine. The path that you take is irrelevant; the destination is what’s important. That affects not only my scholarship and my writing about religion, but my own spirituality as well. I think of myself as a person of faith; I believe that there is a reality beyond the material realm, and I want to commune with that reality. But what I’m talking about is so ineffable that I need a language of symbols and metaphors in order to make sense of it to myself and to communicate those ideas to other people. The difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the same as the difference between French, German, and Spanish. They’re different languages to describe identical sentiments...I value those other symbols and languages, and, indeed, I’m literate in them, just as I can communicate in French and Arabic. But I think in English. And I feel my spirituality in the language of Islam."


    July 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • ME II

      hmm... interesting. Thanks!

      July 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That's a great answer to the question "Which God?" or "Why so many denominations?" I think God must like diversity.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • snowboarder

        though the many followers seem to disagree.

        July 22, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Perhaps the languages just all have very serious problems. Much as English suffers from lacking and inclusive vs exclusive we and a plural you, so these folks may argue that the "dictionaries" for each religion have flaws. This requires such believers to accept that none of these texts is inerrant, but that the valuable insights to be found are swimming in bad science and the predjudices of the authors. I think most who hold this position, regardless of tradition, untimately hold that view, though some are more free to state it than others.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          St Paul tells us that for now we see only a reflection but later we shall see face to face. For me that implies that the language reflects only a dim and possibly distorted view of the reality which it attempts to transmit.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Do you agree then, Bill, that there are likely things stated in the Bible (and Quran and Vedas...) that are in error?

          July 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • ME II

          Catholicism, if I understand correctly, does not follow the "literalist" "inerrent" view of the Bible, hence its position on Evolution and its "church traditions".
          I can see how an "imperfect reflection" could fit with such a view.
          This doesn't make the RCC correct just more flexible and adaptable.

          July 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Sara, i would more likely say that the interpretations men derive are in error. We report the reflection as best we may but that only means we are guilty of perceiving the reflection poorly. The amazing thing about the Bible to me is despite the limitations of language and despite the permutations of denominations and the lapse of the magisterium from Protestantism, that the overarching message of Scripture is predominantly accurately expressed to most Christians. We may differ in the details of the image we see reflected, but we all acknowledge that it is the image of God we perceive

          July 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • ME II

          " We may differ in the details of the image we see reflected, but we all acknowledge that it is the image of God we perceive"

          Just like the three blind men and the elephant? If they are told it is God in the room, one will be a Druid, one a Ophiolatrist (snakes), and one a worshiper of Taurus. Assuming the elephant is not fake of course.

          July 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
        • Saraswati

          @Bill, You can't both support the idea that various religions are equal contributors to truth and that the bible is infallible. At best you are saying that Christianity is superior, but all the other religions may have a little something to contribute, which is a quite different position.

          July 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          I'm not sure I accept your premise about "equal contributors" Sara. I think every individual has the right to pursue their own search for truth and I believe that truth can be incremental. "Water is wet" is true, so "water is a chemical compound" is a higher truth. Just because one has a perspective on truth doesn't mean they possess the entire revelation of it. Some have a higher perspective than others.

          July 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Let me clarify that *if* it turns out that various religions all hold partial truths I would not believe that all would hold equal amounts of truth, only that it would be theoretically possible for two or more to do so, all sharing a position of "most true" though different. Your position on the other hand makes one absolutes right, and all the others poorer versions.

          July 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
        • Saraswati

          @Bill, leaving aside the issue of whether there might be anything inaccurate in Christianity, do you think there is anything that any other religion contributes that is missing or underemphasized ini Christianity?

          July 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
      • Vic

        Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not simply a matter of diversity or denomination, they differ on core fundamentals, even though they have similar teachings. In other words, they disagree on who God is.

        Christian denominations, however, differ on secondary details, but are all Christian by ONLY ONE CORE BELIEF, that is Jesus Christ is Lord and Personal Savior.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          What about non-trinitarian Christian sects?

          July 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      Exactly. Those who think Jesus (Issa) was or is GOD are deluded.He is what he said he was In John 16 , 7-12 he makes it clear who the LAST of his type would be.

      July 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • JimK57

      Good post. It is nice to find something both intelligent and interesting in the comment section.

      July 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  10. Saraswati

    Does Aslan remind anyone else of Fforde's Joffy Next character and his work with the GSD?

    July 22, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • niknak


      July 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Austin

    Gods SONS?

    July 22, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Austin

      the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, left here and our gift, is the seal of this spirit. Just as Christ is the first fruit of the the spirit, we are called sons and daughters through the adoption of the spirit of salvation.

      July 22, 2013 at 11:55 am |
      • Austin

        literal spiritual adoption which transcends the physical realm. Spiritual is bigger than physical. The parameters exceed your physical and mental capabilities once you are sealed..

        July 22, 2013 at 11:57 am |
      • niknak

        More made up unproven bull sheet from Austism.
        The religious scammers just love people like you.

        July 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • niknak

        By the way, next time you get sick don't go to a doctor, just use your spiritual realm to heal you since the physical one is so much bunk.

        July 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
      • PaulD

        It's not a free gift when you have to abandon your common sense and reason in order to believe enough to qualify for it, right?

        July 23, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  12. sufisal

    Reza's excellent book, highlights the need to look at holy scriptures & historical prophets with reverence not because of their divinity but for their message of infinite love ,their uncompromising search for the truth & their passion for peace & justice on earth.

    July 22, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      'God-breathed' – another way of saying: 'bull-feces'

      July 22, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • niknak

      It belongs in the garbage can along side the babble.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I'm not sure which religous history you are talking about as the one here on earth could better be described as "the need to look at holy scriptures & historical prophets with suspi cion not because of their lack of divinity but for their message of constant war ,their uncompromising search for profit & their passion for violence & injustice on earth."

      July 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
      • Kev

        It just goes to show that even among scholars not everyone looks at the same thing the same way.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Christopher Cocca

    This is an important little read. I happen to feel drawn to both the Jesus of history Reza Aslan proclaims and to the Christ of faith, and that may be because, like Aslan, I no longer regard the Bible as infallible. Freed from the need for the Bible to be perfect, my love of Jesus the radical has brought me into step with larger spiritual realities that, for me, show the work of the God that Jesus proclaimed, the provision of the Spirit that Jesus promised to send, and, in the end, the reality of Jesus as the living Christ. On the days when I doubt the latter, I'm as much of a Christian as I've ever been. There's room, I think, for questions, doubts, even denials about what it means to understand Jesus as the Christ, but what doesn't seem negotiable to me is that to call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must at some point take up his teachings, commit to them...something I think he called "taking up your cross and following" him.

    July 22, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Ummmm

      It's why the Christian religion is such a joke, very few followers actually apply and follow the teachings of Christ.

      July 22, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  14. Alias

    This is just te story of an insecure man who is trying to understand god. He does not seem to be willing to consider that there may not be a god, so he is doing his best to make sense out of the conflicting words in the bible. In the end, he seems to be finding solace in the wisdom in the bible and accepting god where reason would suggest none exists.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • ME II

      Interesting. I hadn't realized that this article doesn't actually identify Aslan's religious belief.
      If the point of this book is to argue against a divine Jesus in favor of Islam, then I find this article very misleading.

      July 22, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Austin

        thats exactly what it is. I resent the t.itle.

        July 22, 2013 at 11:31 am |
      • Saraswati

        From what i can tell of hhis theology he's something closer to a spiritual version of a unitarian who takes Islam as his primary tool for understanding reality. I don't believe he claims it is more "true", though I could be wrong about that.

        July 22, 2013 at 11:59 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        The wonderful Buddhist monk Tict Naht Han teaches that we all have roots in the traditions of the culture we are born to, that the religion of our ancestors is the foundation of our spiritual home and our connection to the eternal. He advises a person born into Islam to become a Muslim, a person born into Christianity to follow Christ and a person born into Buddhism to seek the Dharma. By discovering the depth of our individual roots, we become a branch of the tree of unity. I think that is why after some study, Islam began to speak to him again. It is part of his DNA.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • Saraswati

          In this context one uses the religion of one's culture because itis easiest and it provides community. But if all hold a part of the truth, all these religions also hold a good deal that is false. Evenif rooting oneself in a particular religion the only way to really have perspective is to continue to study widely from different traditions, both theistic and nontheistic, and to objectively evaluate where one's own tradition is weak. Thich nhat Hanh had a difficult issue to deal with. After moving further and further towards a universal theology he had to find a way to justify labeling himself a Buddhist, and the only way to do so was a cultural claim. While I agree there is some convenience, I believe he went too far here in an effort to defend his own self-identi.ty..

          July 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          "It is part of his DNA." total BS. I enjoy many of the buddhist teachings, however, you misrepresent the sentiment of Tict Naht Han as he was saying that the path to enlightenment always starts at home, with the spirituallity of our ancestors, but that path should lead us away from the unenlightened dogmas of current world religons that do not teach freedom of thought but strct adherence to tradition. You cannot move forward on your path until you understand where it is that you stand, but he never taught that you should remain standing in that one spot but to explore from that foundation all the possible paths.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Oh I agree. It wasn't my intention to misrepresent. I think sometimes the constraint of the board make a concise statement a challenge to construct. Ticht Nhat Hanh (thank you Sara for the spelling) certainly has not endorsed a dogmatic adherence to ones spiritual culture based on convenience or spiritual laziness. He seems to indicate that people who search far and wide outside their roots though would do well to return to them and mine the fruit that has been left for them by their elders. I also agree with Sara and I think she speaks to a more universal experience and described by Aslan as well, no matter one's origin, the question of what to do with Jesus the Christ must ultimately be answered

          July 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  15. Neal Dakota

    I find it funny and a little bit ironic the authors last name is Aslan.

    That is all.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Aslan as an allegory of jesus... is that the irony? Because, I'm thinking that you do not know what 'irony' means...

      July 22, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • ME II

      Aslan – > Jesus... Reza Aslan – > against divine Jesus... ironic? you decide

      July 22, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        hmmm... I might have to concede that it is in fact ironic...

        July 22, 2013 at 11:32 am |
        • Neal Dakota

          Did I actually win the internets today without even trying?!

          July 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Johnny, let's show him what he's won!

          July 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  16. guest

    Hey William Demuth, what happened, you didn't go back to your 8:27 post, the one with the question for everybody about listening to God speaking to us. I tried to answer your question.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  17. Henryo

    I do NOT belong to any religion, because I DO think.

    However, for all the atheists on these opinion/belief boards that troll, day and night, telling people that they are trying to make the world a better place by knocking down anything that resembles a belief...they are doing NOTHING.

    If you're an atheist and you THINK you want to make a difference consider this: You have this life, and this life ONLY. Live it. get out there and get off your computer and make your ONE life all that it can be, but stop being hypocrites doing nothing but trolling and attacking people. You are making the world a worse place to live; a place that you have to eventually go out into and be greeted by people as nasty as you've made them.

    Good luck with that.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Repeat yourself much? As I said on the other thread where you posted this:

      1) How do you know that the atheists on this board aren't also out in the world doing things to make it better?
      2) Just because a person chooses to spend some time on a board discussing things (I use the term "discussing" loosely) does not mean they are incapable of having a job and a family and friends, etc.

      My posting on this board can be at any hour of the day or night, depending on when I find the time to poke my head in. Sometimes I do it from my phone while I'm enroute to the next great adventure. Of course, I'm also not an atheist, so I'm probably not the target of your jab.

      July 22, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • Prayerful

        Simple fact: Anybody who spends their time trolling comments just to tell others how messed up their beliefs are generally does so out of anger and hostility, NOT out of any desire to 'light the way'. This applies equally to believers and atheists.

        July 22, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • fintastic

          Generalization...... tool of the ignorant.

          July 22, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Thanks for your ridiculously uproductive rant... because we are definately in short supply of those on these boards...

      July 22, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  18. lionlylamb

    My ‘opinions’ regarding spiritual religions are leveraged upon the baseline scriptures of the KJVB. Such ‘stories’ regarding the old-times within our histories of religious understandings are indeed plagued and remitted around many controversial imaginings’ garnishments that are hindrances yet for good civil & moral reasoning. Within the Old Testament, God beset among a handful of Judaists, 10 commandments for the old aged Judaic masses to adhere to.

    We who are today’s Gentiles have our percentage faithful who aspire toward understandings of Judaism’s scriptures. As a Gentile myself, I view my relationships with a spiritualized God being a tempered individualized philosophy. To my lifelong baron views, religion should be an individual aspiration first and a socialized religious demeanor secondly.

    Upon my one hand, I do so Love God’s worthwhile natures but on my other hand, I detest God’s past desires toward him interfering with our humanism’s long ago past ways. Our futures are lain within the passages of passing away timeliness endeavors. Is God truly in charge of our global continuations countrified assemblages or are all of God’s generational kinsmen the one’s being held responsible?

    July 22, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • palintwit

      More word salad. Sarah Palin is proud of you.

      July 22, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • BelieverJulie

        “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16 NIV Jesus asks us to decide.

        July 22, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Words of Wisdom

      Apocrypha: "Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.'"

      Christopher Buckley: "The best advice on writing I've ever received was from William Zinsser: 'Be grateful for every word you can cut.'"

      Truman Capote: "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil."

      Rachel Carson: "[Writing is] largely a matter of application and hard work, or writing and rewriting endlessly until you are satisfied that you have said what you want to say as clearly and simply as possible."

      Winston Churchill: "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

      Cicero: "When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind."

      Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault; in the very best styles you read page after page without noticing the medium."

      Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

      Albert Einstein: "If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well."

      Albert Einstein: "Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone."

      Albert Einstein: "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction."

      George Eliot: "The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words."

      Wilson Follett: "Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganization can flourish."

      H.W. Fowler: "Any one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid."

      Anatole France: "The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can't understand them."

      Anatole France: "The best sentence? The shortest."

      Learned Hand: "The language of law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it."

      Robert Heinlein: "The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat."

      July 22, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  19. Knights Who Say...

    Scene 25

    ARTHUR: Who are you?
    HEAD KNIGHT: We are the Knights Who Say... Nee!
    ARTHUR: No! Not the Knights Who Say Nee!
    HEAD KNIGHT: The same!
    BEDEMIR: Who are they?
    HEAD KNIGHT: We are the keepers of the sacred words: Nee, Pen, and
    RANDOM: Nee-wom!
    ARTHUR: Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
    HEAD KNIGHT: The Knights Who Say Nee demand a sacrifice!
    ARTHUR: Knights of Nee, we are but simple travellers who seek the
    enchanter who lives beyond these woods.
    HEAD KNIGHT: Nee! Nee! Nee! Nee!
    ARTHUR and PARTY: Oh, ow!
    HEAD KNIGHT: We shall say 'nee' again to you if you do not appease us.
    ARTHUR: Well, what is it you want?
    HEAD KNIGHT: We want... a shrubbery!
    [dramatic chord]
    ARTHUR: A what?
    HEAD KNIGHT: Nee! Nee!
    ARTHUR and PARTY: Oh, ow!
    ARTHUR: Please, please! No more! We shall find a shrubbery.
    HEAD KNIGHT: You must return here with a shrubbery or else you will
    never pass through this wood alive!
    ARTHUR: O Knights of Nee, you are just and fair, and we will return
    with a shrubbery.
    HEAD KNIGHT: One that looks nice.
    ARTHUR: Of course.
    HEAD KNIGHT: And not too expensive.
    ARTHUR: Yes.
    HEAD KNIGHTS: Now... go!

    July 22, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Roger

      Shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is 'Roger the Shrubber'. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.

      July 22, 2013 at 11:21 am |
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About this blog

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.