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. Hobo

    Why do you want to hear someone repeat God's promise to eternally punish all those who knowingly reject salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ? You have apparently already heard and rejected it. Maybe you're secretly worried that it's true?

    July 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Madtown

      What about those people who God placed in an area of the world where they'll never hear about christianity? How do you reject something you have no idea exists?

      July 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        Don't you know? It's all part of his great, mysterious plan!! After all, why make a hell if there's no one to stuff down in it?

        July 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Ken

      Almost every religion has it's promises for some kind of human salvation, and it's impossible to faithfully fulfill all of them. If you're not worried about ending up on the wrong side of some other gods, why should we worry about offending your's?

      July 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  2. Theodore Hyczko

    The Jews returning to the homeland is a prophecy that has come true

    25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, 26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

    July 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Larry Homes

      It came true the first time when they returned from Babylon.

      July 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Charles

      Wouldn't that be a candidate for a self-fulfilling prophecy? End-times believing Christians had a vested interest in making that prophecy come true, as they also have in keeping Israel alive through aid. Not exactly miraculous.

      July 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
      • G to the T


        July 26, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  3. Vic

    Jesus Christ was prophecised in the Old Testament in so may parts which were written during 4000, 1000, 700, 500, 400 BC. Over 300 of those prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

    Here is a prime example:

    Isaiah 53:3-6

    "3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
    A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
    And like one from whom men hide their face
    He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

    4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
    And our sorrows He carried;
    Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
    Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
    The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
    And by His scourging we are healed.
    6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
    Each of us has turned to his own way;
    But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
    To fall on Him."

    Scripture Is From:

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


    July 25, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I'd like a complete list of all fulfilled prophesies please, including prophesy and fulfilment.

      July 25, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • Vic

        Here is one list:


        July 25, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          Absolutely none of the prophesies on that list can be proven to have been fulfilled.

          July 25, 2013 at 10:54 am |
        • Ken

          Is there universal knowledge of one God? (Jeremiah 31:33, Zechariah 8:23, 14:9, 14:16, Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 40:5, Zephaniah 3:9)

          Were all Jews returned to Israel? (Isaiah 43:5-6, Isaiah 11:12, Isaiah 27:12-13)

          Did he bring world peace? (Isaiah 11:6, Micah 4:3)

          Were all weapons destroyed? (Ezekiel 39:9)

          Did all warfare cease? (Isaiah 2:4)

          Was the Temple rebuilt in it’s place? (Ezekiel 37:24-28 Ezekiel 40-48, Isaiah 33:20, Micah

          Did he bring physical restoration to all who are sick or disabled in any way? (Isaiah 35:5-6)

          Was he preceded by Elijah? (Malachi 3:23-24– 4:4-5 in KJV)

          Did the nations help the Jews materially? (Isaiah 60:5, 60:10-12, 61:6)

          Does eternal joy and gladness characterize the Jewish nation? (Isaiah 51:11)

          Are Jews sought for spiritual guidance? (Zechariah 8:23)

          Is the Egyptian river dry yet? (Isaiah 11:15)

          Do trees in Israel yield new fruit every month? (Ezekiel 47:12)

          Did each tribe receive it’s inheritance? (Ezekiel 47:13-14)

          Is the enemy buried? (Ezekiel 39:12)

          Did he accomplish these tasks without tiring or failing? (Isaiah 42:4)

          Did death cease? (Isaiah 25: 8)

          Are the dead resurrected? (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37:12-13)

          July 25, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • lively and courteous discussion

          The Jesus Christ brocheur says he has these popular and often sought after attributes:

          – annointed most holy
          – deserted by his kin
          – sins ending on arrival
          – recommended by angels

          There were reports that some originally had to wait a lot of weeks for his arrival. They got upset and sent him back. But anymore, demand is high and people have been fairly happy to accept his free offer. I don't know what I'd do without him, he certainly lives up to his name.

          July 26, 2013 at 12:14 am |
        • Joel Tucker

          Claiming to find this Jesus in scripture though clearly ignoring the evidence found there. Christ or no Christ, Jesus of Nazareth likely spoke Aramaic, Greek and classical Hebrew and read Hebrew. He was born in a working class family and received rabbinical training. Jesus of Nazareth was not illiterate.

          July 26, 2013 at 5:52 am |
        • Ken

          Joel Tucker
          Why would a carpenter likely know how to write back then? If he did, why don't we have books claiming to be written by him? If the folks back then thought it was even possible, wouldn't you think that somebody would have written a fake at least?

          July 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
        • austin

          I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that
          Absolutely none of the prophesies on that list can be proven to have been fulfilled.

          @ Dave
          Ephesians 1:13 ►

          New International Version (©2011)
          And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

          17“ ‘In the last days, God says,
          I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
          Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
          your young men will see visions,
          your old men will dream dreams.

          Isaiah 53 (New International Version)

          Page Options
          Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email


          Show resourcesAdd parallel
          Isaiah 53
          New International Version (NIV)
          53 Who has believed our message
          and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
          2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
          and like a root out of dry ground.
          He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
          nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
          3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
          a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
          Like one from whom people hide their faces
          he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
          4 Surely he took up our pain
          and bore our suffering,
          yet we considered him punished by God,
          stricken by him, and afflicted.
          5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
          he was crushed for our iniquities;
          the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
          and by his wounds we are healed.
          6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
          each of us has turned to our own way;
          and the Lord has laid on him
          the iniquity of us all.
          7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
          yet he did not open his mouth;
          he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
          and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
          so he did not open his mouth.
          8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
          Yet who of his generation protested?
          For he was cut off from the land of the living;
          for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
          9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
          and with the rich in his death,
          though he had done no violence,
          nor was any deceit in his mouth.
          10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
          and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
          he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
          and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
          11 After he has suffered,
          he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
          by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
          and he will bear their iniquities.
          12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
          and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
          because he poured out his life unto death,
          and was numbered with the transgressors.
          For he bore the sin of many,
          and made intercession for the transgressors.

          Isaiah 53
          700 BC

          July 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
        • Ken

          Again (and again, Oy!) if you read all of Isaiah you'll see that it identifies the nation of Israel as the Suffering Servant.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Ken

      How many times do you need to be shown that Isaiah 53's "Suffering Servant" refers to the nation of Israel, not Jesus?


      July 25, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • leonardo

        The message of Jesus Christ is the most complete and true, was the forerunner of human rights, the lepers Jews could not go into synagogues, Jesus welcomed everyone and said that salvation is for all, no other character in the story said that his words later were many false prophets, but Jesus Christ is true, there is no other like it's simple, just read the New Testament and accept Jesus. I have observed that most people who study, who else gets high marks in examinations of the universities, who can best jobs, people most persistent are Christian people who believe in Jesus Christ. exemple South Korea in education, Today most of the population is Christian in in places of economic and educational success.

        July 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
        • Ken

          See response below.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Vic

      Here is another list:


      July 25, 2013 at 10:57 am |
      • Ken

        Jesus kinda, sorta can be seen as the Christian version of the Jewish Messiah like the predictions of Nostradamus appear to "clearly" predict 9/11 and Hitler. Come on, there are so many things that Jesus did not do, and ways he does not fit the prophecies for him to be the Messiah. For that, he would need to fulfill 100% of them, which he certainly does not.

        July 25, 2013 at 11:07 am |


          July 25, 2013 at 11:08 am |
        • Vic

          In Short:

          100% fulfillment happens during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Here is one passage about the Second Coming:

          1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

          "15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words."

          Scripture Is From:

          New American Standard Bible (NASB)
          Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


          July 25, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • Ken

          They imagined that it would happen then, but Jews always read in their scriptures where it says that the Messiah would just be a man, and that he would accomplish all things in his own lifetime. Thus, Jesus again fails. Sorry!

          July 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • Ken

        There are people who take

        Earthshaking fire from the center of the Earth

        Will cause tremors around the New City.

        Two great rocks will war for a long time,

        Then Arethusa will redden a new river.

        As absolute proof that Nostradamus predicted 9/11. That's about as accurate as Christian readings of OT prophecy linking Jesus with the Messiah.

        July 25, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • leonardo

          "15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words."

          July 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • leonardo

          The message of Jesus Christ is the most complete and true, was the forerunner of human rights, the lepers Jews could not go into synagogues, Jesus welcomed everyone and said that salvation is for all, no other character in the story said that his words later were many false prophets, but Jesus Christ is true, there is no other like it's simple, just read the New Testament and accept Jesus. I have observed that most people who study, who else gets high marks in examinations of the universities, who can best jobs, people most persistent are Christian people who believe in Jesus Christ. exemple South Korea in education, Today most of the population is Christian in in places of economic and educational success.

          July 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
        • Ken

          There were other versions of Christianity floating around even during Paul's time. Ones that denied Jesus' divinity, insisted on Jewish conversion, and probably others. For a while, at least, Paul's Christianity was fundamentally different from Peter's and Thomas's. Paul's warnings were referring to missionaries from these other brands influencing his churches, nothing more.

          Fifty people can read the New Testament and come up with fifty different belief sets about Jesus. That's partially why we have thousands of different Christian denominations today. There is no objective way of determining which is a correct interpretation, so I hardly see how you can claim that this is a "simple" process.

          The places of economic and educational success have some Christian believers, but they also have huge secular and atheist populations. The places that have virtually 100% Christian populations with few atheists are generally poor, like Haiti and pretty much every "Christian" African nation. Countries in Scandinavia and even Canada, which have vastly more secular and atheist elements than we do, always score better on measures of personal prosperity. You have no logical basis for your position.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
      • lol??

        Psa 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

        Psa 22:17 I may tell all my bones: they look [and] stare upon me.

        Psa 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

        July 25, 2013 at 11:13 am |
        • Vic

          Wonderful! Here some of the preceding verses:

          Psalm 22:14-16

          "14 I am poured out like water,
          And all my bones are out of joint;
          My heart is like wax;
          It is melted within me.

          15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
          And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
          And You lay me in the dust of death.

          16 For dogs have surrounded me;
          A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
          They pierced my hands and my feet."

          Scripture Is From:

          New American Standard Bible (NASB)
          Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation


          July 25, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • Ken

          Ah, the casting of lots bit. Ever wonder where poor Jesus could afford garments worth gambling over, especially after they were full of blood and torn from his whipping?

          July 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • G to the T

          Perfect example of self-fullfilling prophecy. The author found a line that he thought was a prophecy about Jesus and then had that event happen during Jesus' crucifixtion to make it appear fulfilled.

          That's why you get some crazy lines like Jesus entering the city on 2 animals because the author didn't understand the rhetorical device being used in original passage.

          July 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  4. Bobo

    If you only believe in the person of Jesus then your "faith" is arbitrary. You may as well follow George Clooney.

    July 25, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Saraswati

      Arbitrary would be saying following the teachings of Charles Manson orp Gandhi was all the same...just pick one. I don't think people who follow Jesus as a man just picked his name out of a hat.

      July 25, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  5. limaud

    I can't blame anyone for not believing in God. It's like what happens when you become a parent. You can't explain the love you feel inside. When you have a spiritual experience, you can't explain it, you can't prove it. It just is. And it transforms who you are from the inside out.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      My parents exist though. Perhaps it's more like the affinity one gets with a well developed fictional character. Maybe religious (Abrahamic) people see their god like Tony Soprano. He's clearly a violent sociopath who has murdered many people. However, there's a more gentle, human side to his character which people find endearing.

      July 25, 2013 at 12:08 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        That should say 'a parent's child exists' (not that my parents don't exist, unless I was delivered by a stork).

        July 25, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • PaulD

      That would be impressive if there was only one religion, but there are actually a great many, and each has it's own "religious experiences". Are they all genuine proofs of the truth of their belief?

      July 25, 2013 at 1:07 am |
      • Dippy

        Its, not it's.

        July 25, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • tallulah13

      So are you trying to compare parental love to the love you feel for god, or are you trying to compare it to the love you believe god is giving you?

      Anyway, I would never compare religious love with parental love, because I've never met a good parent who wouldn't go to hell for their child, even if that child was disobedient. Your god on the other hand, created hell specifically for his disobedient children. I'd say your god could learn a thing or two about parenting from humans.

      July 25, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Saraswati

      I've heard several people make similar claims after taking MDA or MDMA. You just can't know it 'till you try it.

      Gilbert has a great peiece comparing the desire for children (which on average decrease happiness) to heroin cravings. And yes, he is a father.

      July 25, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  6. JoeinMN

    Of course, it's not noted anywhere in the article that the author is a devout Muslim. No wonder why he wants to discredit Jesus.

    July 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Reality

      Good point but the professor appears to be a bit wishy-washy on his religious beliefs. I assume this helps sell books. It reminds one of Professor Prothero who comments on these pages regularly although I have not seen much from him lately.,

      If he is indeed Muslim then he definitely cannot be trusted considering the koranic-driven terror and horror associated with basic Islam.

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

        Prothero. Lol.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Jesus is a messenger of God in Islam, so the general Islamic approach is hardly to 'discredit' him. That said, Aslan is about as much a Muslim as your average 'Christian UU' is a Christian. I think he's more of a general mystic who finds Islam convenient.

      July 25, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • tallulah13

      It is noted, however, that he converted to christianity at an evangelical youth camp before all the contradictions in the bible discouraged that belief.

      He's not discrediting Jesus. He's actually giving credit to Jesus for being a good teacher, rather than being nothing more than a ticket to heaven. I'd say he has a lot more respect for Jesus than the average christian.

      July 25, 2013 at 9:27 am |
      • leonardo

        The message of Jesus Christ is the most complete and true, was the forerunner of human rights, the lepers Jews could not go into synagogues, Jesus welcomed everyone and said that salvation is for all, no other character in the story said that his words later were many false prophets, but Jesus Christ is true, there is no other like it's simple, just read the New Testament and accept Jesus. I have observed that most people who study, who else gets high marks in examinations of the universities, who can best jobs, people most persistent are Christian people who believe in Jesus Christ. exemple South Korea in education, Today most of the population is Christian in in places of economic and educational success.

        July 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  7. May Peace Be with You

    "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

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

      Here's another quote:

      “Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”

      ― Émile Zola

      July 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
      • May Peace Be with You

        "Have no fear of perfection – you'll never reach it."
        Salvador Dali

        July 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • Jake

          DALI??? That man was cray cray!

          July 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
        • fintastic

          "The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals."

          – Christopher Hitchens

          July 25, 2013 at 11:08 am |
      • fintastic

        "My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can."

        - Frank Zappa

        July 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • May Peace Be with You

        “If we need an atheist for a debate, we go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.”
        Robert Griffiths

        July 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Reality

      "The Two Universal Sects

      They all err—Moslems, Jews,
      Christians, and Zoroastrians:

      Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
      One, man intelligent without religion,
      The second, religious without intellect. "

      , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

      Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/resalat-al-ghufran#ixzz1lI6DuZmZ and http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma'arri.htm

      Death's Debt is Paid in
      Death's debt is then and there
      Paid down by dying men;

      But it is a promise bare
      That they shall rise again.


      July 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  8. Beliefs

    Why do people have beliefs? Doesn't it make more sense to have experiences?

    July 24, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • myweightinwords

      In my experience, beliefs are born and grown from experiences.

      July 24, 2013 at 7:58 am |
      • JimK57

        The strongest ones are. I know my belief would not be as strong without experience.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      People's beliefs in the sense of religious faith often stem from cultural / familial influences.
      Faith in the correctness and authority of one's elders is a necessity for young children and the way in which concepts are presented form that child's frame of reference for the rest of their lives.
      Early indoctrination cannot be ignored.
      In a healthy individual, these kinds of beliefs are recognized and tested as part of the process of personal maturation.
      It is a truism that inst/itutionalized belief systems discourage any kind of challenge to their dogmatic tenets and can put a great deal of pressure on their comminities to tow the line.
      It takes courage to challenge authority and accept the outcome of that challenge.
      If a given belief has merit, it will hold up under scrutiny.

      July 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • PaulD

      Two people can have the same experience, and interpret it differently, bringing about separate beliefs. In many cases, the belief is filed away in the person's memory first. That way, when they think they see a blurry, furry shape in the woods their mind sorts through it's files and comes up with "Bigfoot", which they have been culturally immersed, rather than "Wendigo", Ogre, Cyclops, or some other giant, for example. They would then consider their contact as "evidence" for this cultural preconception.

      Same goes for religious "experiences". Various people experience the same thing and classify it as either some level of nirvana, Scientology "Clear" level, contact with one's animal spirit, the Holy Ghost, or tapping into some aspect of a past life, where some of us might just see it as emotional sensation of desperation leading to a sudden mental clarity. Likely we'd all just see the same experience as vindication of our preconceived notions. Some Hindu living in rural India isn't going to snap to the conclusion that it was the Holy Spirit rather than her religion's answer to that experience and more than an average American isn't going to venture too far from her cultural favorite answer, right?

      July 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Qualia


        A subjective experience can not be experienced by anyone other than the individual. A person may believe the experience stemmed from X or they may say it did because that is the words they have to communicate that idea.

        July 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • PaulD

          Yes, people go to revivals where they are worked into emotional frenzies, and they are taught that this sensation is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile frenzied Hindus are taught that the same sensation is the presence of their gods. Sure, the Hindus may actually be experiencing the HS and just misinterpreting it, but the Christians could just as easily be feeling Vishnu, so I don't see what any of it actually proves. Groups of sports fans can be worked up into frenzies during a big game too, but that doesn't mean that their team isn't some larger being hidden from our reality.

          July 25, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      Both are important.

      July 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  9. Phelix Unger

    The thing I find most interesting about god, or gods, is that they have to have others tell their story, and not just once but every time they meet someone new. Did you hear about god's message, no, well I'll tell all about it. If this message was so important why didn't he tell everyone at once and skip all the misery in between. As for the author if you like the story of Jesus of Nazareth, and you choose to emulate his teachings and his message, have at it, the world has room for everybody and anybody. Just don't get mad if you talk and no one listens, its not you and its not Jesus, its just that we all have to live our own lives and that's hard enough for most of us. Now if you said the Great Kazoo well then you might get my attention.

    July 24, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Saraswati

      Maybe using others is some sort of loophole in a godly Prime Directive?

      July 24, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • james

      as one who tries to emulate Jesus' example myself I find your logic one of the best questions I have seen here, and i have seen plenty but there is an answer to your wonder. When men were spoken to they were given evidence to use and there were many who were used to help the Jews to follow the law but man from the beginning showed he did not care to listen, even when all were told, so (He God?) used prophets, angels, even Kings to teach people His ideas, principles and laws but again the many decided to choose for themselves which way to go. their choice brought repercussions, some immediate some later but now,(I believe) He is using many to teach what will happen and once again it is up to the individual to listen or not but this time and I believe soon there will be much more serious results for all. Revelation 11:18 says "He will bring to ruin those ruining the earth" and for me that would be a great thing before we do it to ourselves. Again i really liked your question and would enjoy a continued discussion. thanks,peace, j

      July 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      His message and teaching was to love one another and care for each other.Strange,radical ? Shouldn't we be doing that?

      July 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • A Frayed Knot


        No not strange nor radical... and also not a bit novel, even at the time. This concept goes back to many ancient philosophies, and is hunky-dory advice. It's the supernatural fantasies that are the issue of disbelief.

        July 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      To those who say you must not or can not "test" god/God, why was Elijah allowed to do it for just the few there to witness God throwing fire from the sky on Elijahs command?

      "21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

      27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

      30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
      34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:22-40

      July 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  10. Steve Finnell

    You are invited to follow my Christian blog--steve-finnell.blogspot.com

    July 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  11. 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 |

        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

          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 |

          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

          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

          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 |
  12. niknak

    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??

      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 |
  13. T Money

    I like the picture of baby Jesus the best.

    July 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  14. 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 |
  15. 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 |
    • myweightinwords

      He stopped by for a visit once, and left a little something behind.

      July 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  16. 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 |
  17. 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 |
  18. 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


        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 |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
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.