July 31st, 2013
09:07 AM ET

What Reza Aslan actually says about Jesus

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As you might have heard, Lauren Green at Fox didn’t do a very good job interviewing Reza Aslan on his new book about the historical Jesus.

Instead of asking him about "Zealot," she asked him why, as a Muslim, he would presume to write a book about Jesus. He responded by citing (and re-citing) his academic credentials.

The interview went viral, and Aslan went to No. 1 on Amazon.com (ahead of J. K. Rowling).

But what does the book actually say? Here are seven of Aslan's key arguments in "Zealot":

1. Jesus was a violent revolutionary

Many scholars have argued that Jesus was a political figure. After all, he was crucified by Rome, and crucifixion was at the time a punishment for political offenses. But these scholars often claim, as John Dominic Crossan did in "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography," that Jesus was a nonviolent revolutionary.

Aslan portrays Jesus as a man of war who worshiped the "blood-spattered God of Abraham, and Moses, and Jacob, and Joshua” and who knew full well that “God’s sovereignty could not be established except through force.”

2. Jesus’ kingdom was worldly

In the Gospel of John, Jesus famously says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Aslan begs to differ. Jesus’ kingdom was neither purely nor predominantly spiritual. He preached “a physical and present kingdom: a real kingdom, with an actual king that was about to be established on earth.”

3. Jesus revolted against Roman and Jewish authorities

Jesus didn’t just take on Rome. He took on Jewish authorities, in particular those who ran the Jerusalem Temple.

“There can be no doubt,” writes Aslan, “that Jesus’s main antagonist in the gospels is neither the distant emperor in Rome nor his heathen officials in Judea. It is the high priest Caiaphas, who will become the main instigator of the plot to execute Jesus precisely because of the threat he posed to the Temple’s authority.”

4. Palm Sunday is the key moment in the Jesus story

Every Jesus biographer has a key moment in the life of Jesus when his essence is revealed. For Aslan, that moment comes when Jesus mounts a donkey and rides into Jerusalem.

In this celebration, commemorated in the Christian world every year on Palm Sunday, Jesus is not demonstrating his humility. Instead, he is announcing his kingship.

The “unmistakeable” message of this scene, according to Aslan, is that “the long-awaited messiah — the true King of the Jews — has come to free Israel from its bondage.”

5. The early church turned Jesus into a pacifist preaching a spiritual kingdom

In 66-73 CE, a bloody Jewish revolt against Rome left Jerusalem in ruins and chastened the early Christians, who reinvented Jesus as an apolitical figure in order to make nice with Rome.

Those who wrote of Jesus in this way (Paul included) never met the man, and, in Aslan's view, they badly mischaracterized him, turning “their messiah from a fierce Jewish nationalist into a pacifistic preacher of good works whose kingdom was not of this world.”

6. The idea that Jesus was God also originated with the early church

As a Jew, Aslan observes, Jesus would have rebelled against any notion that God is incarnated in human flesh.

Therefore, the elevation of Jesus to divinity must have come after his crucifixion, at the hands of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who “transformed Jesus from a revolutionary zealot to a Romanized demigod.”

7.  The Bible isn’t to be believed (as history)

In "Zealot," Aslan repeatedly refers to passages in the New Testament as “preposterous,” “fanciful,” “obviously contrived,” “riddled with the most basic errors,” “simply ridiculous,” and “absurd to the point of comedy.”

Here the Bible is a source for data about Jesus’s life, but that data must be carefully sifted through a scholarly lens, and in particular through the socioeconomic realities of life in the ancient Mediterranean at the time of Jesus.

At least as Aslan sees it, Jesus probably didn’t tell his followers to turn the other cheek. He probably did say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34).

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Books • Christianity • Islam • Jesus

soundoff (854 Responses)
  1. JDV

    Mr. Aslan speaking on behalf of Lucifer – represents him well, just like Islam

    August 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I wonder how many proponents of this "Aslan is the devil" Foxthink are also fans of C.S.Lewis.

      I find it ironic.

      August 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • meifumado

      You are truly ignorant.

      August 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  2. Thinker23

    There is overwhelming amount of scientific evidence proving that the Universe had a beginning known as the Big Bang some 14.7 Billion years ago. This leaves us with two possibilities: either the Universe was CREATED by someone knowing how to create Universes or, alternatively, the Universe just came into existence all by itself from nothing.

    It's up to each and every one of us to decide which of these two possibilities is more plausible.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Bible Scholar

      A creator myth is not a logical choice.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:59 am |
      • Thinker23

        Can you offer a BETTER logical choice? If not then the "creator myth" is the BEST one you can offer.

        August 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • Bible Scholar

          Uh, yes. It's called science. If you believe that the best choice is your imaginary friend, then there is no reasoning with you.

          Apparently, you don't know about virtual particles. It has been proven that something can in fact, come from nothing. Welcome to reality, where Stone Age myths are non-applicable.

          August 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • JDV

      Is there scientific evidence of anything in our current world ever creating itself out of nothing?

      If you consider how perfect and harmonious nature is, you can only be rational and know someone perfect had to be it's designer.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        then who or what created god?

        if your answer is that "god is infinite" then why can't the universe be infinite? There is no need for your magical man in the sky.

        August 1, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
        • Thinker23

          I don't know who or what created the people who built my automobile. Therefore (at least, according to your logic) my automobile must have been creating itself... Right?

          August 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • GMAB

        "If you consider how perfect and harmonious nature is..."

        Perfect and harmonious? GMAB. Stuff is crashing into other stuff all the time all over the universe... and exploding... and collapsing... and vaporizing... not to mention all of the catastrophes here on Earth.

        Who created that 'perfect' tapeworm? The malaria parasite? Untold nasty viruses?

        August 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
        • GMAB

          Oh yeah, and microbes are far more ensconced on Earth than humans. They far, far predate humans, and can live virtually anywhere on this planet (and maybe others), from icy Antarctica to super-hot hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the seas and everywhere in between.

          August 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Thinker23 wrote: "There is overwhelming amount of scientific evidence proving that the Universe had a beginning known as the Big Bang some 14.7 Billion years ago. This leaves us with two possibilities..."

      Where is this scientific evidence? Is it tangible? Can we see, feel, or even observe it?

      August 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Absolutely. To understand this evidence, however, you'll have to take a course in physical cosmology which is available in many universities. Good luck!

        August 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • JimK57

      I agree, and both answers are okay.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Maani

      "Overwhelming?" I think not. In fact, what minimal evidence DOES exist is evidence for the EFFECTS of the Big Bang, NOT for its cause. And, in fact, scientists do not agree on most of the specifics of the Big Bang; there are quite a few competing theories. For one example, Stephen Hawking does not support the most widely "accepted" of the (at best weak) theories.

      August 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    Man is the predilect object of Creation and the entire Universe exists as it does simply to have us in it.

    The Universe only appears to be billions of years old because The Creator willed it thus.

    God is anthropocentric – it says here right on the label.

    The rest of the universe, oh so simple and boring compared to humanity, is simply window dressing – God really concentrated when making The Earth as opposed to, say – the Andromeda galaxy.

    You see, when God was creating the Earth he placed it in a time dilation bubble in order to give it the attention it needed.

    This is how we see light from distant galaxies – they are, relativistically speaking, billions of years old – but thanks to God's chronoton singularity, we are only a few thousand years old.

    God bestowed certain seemingly normal objects with chronoton field generation capability, like Moses' staff and Noah's ark.

    How else did the seas part or the ark able to support two of every animal despite it's physical dimensions?

    In recent studies, credible theologians have revealed that the physical dimensions of Noah's Ark were actually much, much smaller than those depicted in the Bible. They theorize that the source texts were modified to be more believable as nobody would be able to imagine all life on Earth fitting into a box no bigger than a phone booth.

    The oral histories of a small, reclusive sect of ultra-orthodox Jews say that the Ark made a "Vworrrp Vworrrrp" sound before it gradually faded from sight. Stone tablets retrieved from this same sect show that the name "Noah" is actually an ancient Hebrew word from a long lost dialect that translates to "Healer".

    They also found evidence that Moses' staff was really a small, hand held device about the size of a pen that emitted a high pitched squeal and glowing green light. "Staff" also appears to be a mistranslation. The original word was "screwdriver".

    Leviticus is full of rules of conduct for the Hebrew people, but there was one particular passage that caused so much confusion and strife at the Nicene Council that they elected to omit it from the Bible.

    Scraps of that ancient text were found in the same cave as the Dead Sea Scrolls but have yet to be publically released. The text seems to be proclamations from a long forgotten prophet, but there is little context to make any sense of them.

    Thus far, scholars have translated: "run", "don't blink", and a thoroughly confusing psalm praising the virtues of decorative neckwear.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Grim

      lol, great satire, sounds like something out of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • lol??

      Doc Vestibule sayz,
      "Man is the predilect object of Creation and the entire Universe exists as it does simply to have us in it........."

      Yes, He doesn't want you to miss His Glory. Since Jesus is known as the Son of man and the Son of God, you might say He created it for Himself, which scripture does state. It is confusing for late stage man, when evil is good and good is evil. And humility is pride and pride is humility. What a DANCE!

      August 1, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Jugger

      Fantastic Doctor Who references. Allons-y!

      August 1, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Mike from CT

      You really believe that the Andromeda galaxy or the Milky-way galaxy is simple? I can barely align the tires on my car let alone millions of space objects pulling in all different directions so that we end up in a habitable zone.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And lo, the Israelites did battle with the Raxacoricofallapatorians and Yahweh delivered them, his chosen people.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  4. John Pipper

    Like I would take this jokers interpretation on the bible. Lets see if I tear god down I can live the way I want to, I play god and dictate whats good and bad. And hence you get these guys like Reza who write a book trying to interpret something that was written 2000 years ago without knowing the anagogical or angorical interpretation of it. And here is a thought if if didn't believe that Jesus was relevant as the god, why would he care? Why go and write a book to sway people?

    August 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Grim

      Because some people do believe Jesus was god and people believe certain things about Jesus, which from the evidence he's seen, he disagrees with, so he's giving his scholarly opinion on the topic. History isn't math, there's no one truth, it's all opinion and interpretation of the evidence he has seen and read. It's not like he came out slammed his book down and said, everything in here is 100% fact. That's what religious people do.

      Oh and if the only reason you don't do something is because god is watching you and will make you burn for eternity if you don't follow his rules, then that says a lot about you as a person.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        beautifully put!

        August 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  5. aallen333

    Which is more complex – sculpting Mount Rushmore or sculpting a universe? The answer is obvious to most. Yet the atheist would have us believe that no sculpting of the universe was needed which leads one to believe they think the universe is less complex than the faces on Mount Rushmore which required sculpting.

    August 1, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Read Lawrence Krauss' "Atom" or "A Universe from Nothing" and get back to us.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • aallen333

        You must really stretch your imagination to convince your mind that there was no intention and design behind the universe we see. And if there is intention and design, there must by necessity be an intelligent mind orchestrating the elements into the form that evidences the intent and design. No one in their right mind would use Mr. Krauss's theories to explain Mount Rushmore. Why for the life of me would you want to use them to explain the universe. It makes no sense and is simply a convenient cop-out for those who want to deny the obvious.

        August 1, 2013 at 10:52 am |
        • HotAirAce

          Have you read these books or others by modern day cosmologists? They lay out a very scientific and compelling explanation of how things progressed after The Big Bang, with no gods required. Can you provide a counter argument, published in a reputable scientific journal, that successfully concludes with "some god did it"

          August 1, 2013 at 10:57 am |
        • aallen333

          HotAir – Are these the same scientists who treat the bankrupt theory of evolution as truth. If your foundation is is in error, everything that follows should not be trusted.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:16 am |
        • Typical Christian

          Yeah, Hot Air, there is exactly zero evidence for evolution.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:27 am |
        • nclaw441

          Hot Air, why start AFTER the Big Bang?

          August 1, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • HotAirAce

          Evolution has nothing to with the formation of the universe, not that evolution has been disproven.

          Science can currently go back to just after The Big Bang. Scientists are working their way backwards but may never be able to explain everything. You're not claiming that your cult can provide a supernatural explanation that can meet the rigor of the scientific method are you?

          August 1, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • lol??

        Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        What's wrong with Larry of Arabia??

        August 1, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Which do you believe is more likely?
        That the universe is adapted to us or that we are adapted to the universe?

        It seems extremely egotistical to me to assume that all of existence is balanced just so we can be in it becuase we are the predilect objects of an anthropomorphic, anthropocentric Creator.

        August 1, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Saraswati

      Aallen, Are you confused about the mounds of evidence we have for the creation of the faces on Mt. Rushmore or the mounds of evidnce for the evolution of the universe?

      August 1, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

      August 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Fun Facts!

    Jesus never existed!

    God does not exist!

    The bible on multiple occasions states that other gods! In one passage found in Exodus chapter 12, verse 12, the Hebrew god states that it will punish the other gods! Christians claim that the bible is talking about idols. Odd that god would punish inanimate objects! It doesn't make sense!

    The New Testament mentions two other gods by name! Those names are Hades and Tartarus, which are both names of Greek gods and their realms!

    The bible was written by primitive cave-people that worshiped multiple gods and led immoral lifestyles that I dare not make mention of in a public forum due to how graphic and disgusting it was!

    The New Testament contradicts the Old Testament!

    The bible contradicts itself many times!

    Jesus did not fulfill any of the Old Testament prophecies, no matter how hard Christians twist the words to fit their own lies! It just did not happen!

    Genesis has two alternate creation myth stories that contradict each other! Did the gods screw up and start over?

    Ancient Hebrews worshiped multiple gods!

    The worldwide flood never happened!

    If Mary actually existed, she wasn't untouched by a man! That was made up by the Catholic Church! No doubt she was a former red light worker in Amsterdam which would explain was Joseph refused to have his name put on jesus' birth certificate! Had she not been knocked up by her own husband, she would have been put to death as required by law!

    The Ten Commandments you see plastered everywhere today are not the actual Ten Commandments! In fact, the bible clearly lists the real commandments that were (and presumably still are) written on some stone tablets! Imagine the shock and horror on believer's faces if the ark of the covenant is found and those things are in it! Read exodus if you think I'm making this up! Moses broke the first set, then one of the multiple Hebrew gods allegedly wrote them down again!

    Satan does not exist!

    Speaking in tongues is the result of a mental handicap and dehydration! It is most often seen in stroke victims!

    Remember, god does not exist and neither did jesus!

    The bible is a collection of poorly written fables that have all been proven false!

    According to the bible, the world is a flat, round disk sitting atop pillars! Ha ha! Imagine that! They thought the Earth was a dining room table! All that's missing are some giant jesus chairs!

    The bible has had hundreds of rewrites over the centuries!

    The bible you have sitting next to your toilet is missing multiple books! They were removed less than 200 years ago! Don't believe me? Read the one you have and you'll find references to other books that aren't in it! Unless you have a catholic bible, your salvation is incomplete!

    How could you believe in incomplete "information?"

    The majority of Christians don't know the names of the 12 disciples! Some of them even think that jesus wrote parts of the bible! Wrong! He never existed!

    August 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • JimK57

      What is the purpose of this post? Are you trying to achieve something? What is it?

      August 1, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Shannon Byrd

      Terrible argument, you simply assert these without proof? As far as Jesus not existing, Josephus the jewish historian recorded him. Tertullian did as well. All of the characters surrounding Jesus life were real historical people. Archaeologist's even know where Simon-Peter lived. To deny Jesus existence is to show an ignorance of history.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • Fun Facts!


        So says the pseudo-intellect town idiot that claims fine tuning as reality with zero evidence!

        August 1, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Why doesn't the Smithsonian consider The Babble to be a historical docu.ment?

        August 1, 2013 at 10:09 am |
        • Bible Scholar

          Because it isn't.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
        • HotAirAce


          August 1, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • nclaw441

          You consider the Smithsonian to be a valid authority? It just collects things.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • Saraswati

          @Nclaw, the Smithsonian operates nine research centers, among other things. The do a lot more than collect stuff.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Tacitus and Josephus wrote about all manner of gods and their followers.
        "The tradition is, that the Jews ran away from the island of Crete, and settled themselves on the coast of Libya and this at the time when Saturn was driven out of his kingdom by the powr of Jupiter..."
        Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews"

        Does that ean that Saturn and Jupiter were real gods?
        What about Hercules who also is referenced?

        August 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Gilgamesh was a real person and archaeologists have unearthed his ancient kingdom of Uruk.
        Does that mean that he was really a demi god who ruled for 125 years and took a trip to the Underworld?

        August 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • lol??

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      The gods of this wurld are spirits. They will get their justice.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • John Pipper

      Wow you don't believe in Satan or hell? Well you'll believe it when you get there.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • Bible Scholar

        Where are they?

        August 1, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Lycidas

      Wow..you are such a troll. No better than those just plastering Bible verses about for no reason.

      "The bible was written by primitive cave-people that worshiped multiple gods and led immoral lifestyles that I dare not make mention of in a public forum due to how graphic and disgusting it was!"

      I just had to take special issue with this. Have you even read any history of archaeological reports on the Near East? "Cave-people"..really? Crack open a book ok.

      August 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  7. Shannon Byrd

    If you deny the fine-tuning of the universe is to showcase your ignorance on the subject at hand. No Physicist would deny the first premise of the argument. If you want to deny the first premise you must disprove it.

    August 1, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Fun Facts!

      Ha ha! There is zero evidence for fine tuning! You have already lost the debate!

      August 1, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • Vic

        Yes there is. Science has established that the Anthropic Constants are accurately measured to enable life here on earth!

        Read about the Anthropic Principle.

        August 1, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • Bible Scholar

          You have to be joking with this drivel. Have you read it yourself?


          It's not scientific at all to begin with. It is a philosophical idea that makes a very weak attempt to say that the Universe has to be fine tuned in order for its inhabitants to observe it. The puddle analogy completely nullifies this philosophical afterthought.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
        • Johnny

          The universe is not fined tuned for life. That is just silly. If anything the conditions of the universe are what they are and life evolved to survive those conditions.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • Vic

        This universe is intricately designed and fine tuned! Science has established that the Anthropic Constants are accurately measured to enable life here on earth!


        August 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • Johnny

          How about a link to a science website and not a philosophy website.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
        • Bible Scholar

          Vic, I debunked this with one statement 20 minutes before you posted it.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care


      There is no fine tuning of the universe. We evolved based on the way the universe is, not the other way around.

      You are putting the cart before the horse.

      August 1, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • nclaw441

        How does the concept of entropy fit in with all of this?

        August 1, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  8. children of Israel

    The lost sheep are the descendants of the trans atlantic slave trade, who came by the way of slaveships to a strangeland called America. (Deuteronomy 28:68) *Psalm 77:15* The world is lying to it's citizens to protect the synagogue of Satan.

    August 1, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Oh dear, another one off their meds.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:19 am |
      • Which God?

        @ Truth. I'm sure that that made sense, in his own head, LOL.

        August 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  9. Daniel

    I'm in the middle of his book and as far as the big themes go, the so called controversial things, there's not a lot that's new. Aslan (who I expected to look a bit less like Moe Rocca and a bit more like a gigantic lion) is not the first person, by any means, to suggest that Jesus was a revolutionary. I've read more than one scholar who's suggested that the term "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of Heaven" meant, quite simply, "Israel and Judea for Jews only." There are loads of people, many of whom have well-worn seats in front of the cameras at FOX news, who are agitating for the exact same thing today.

    August 1, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  10. Reality

    And we request yet again that "professor" Aslan respond to the following: (if he refuses he should be deported))

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no Muslim to include the professor can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................


    August 1, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Greg

      Where to start where to start???
      You are completely insane...probably, to assume that any person who practices the Muslim faith has the answers to even one of these questions. I'm guessing you're either Catholic or Christian. Well then....can you answer to any of these questions???

      Why has the US systematically indebted it's youth in exchange for a higher level of general education?
      Why does the US spend trillions of dollars to fund wars that make us the terrorists in other countries?
      Why do priests touch little boys?
      Clean up their book?! Fine, you clean up the bible.

      -From, a philosopher.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
      • Shannon Byrd

        Catholic Priest's have done horrible things and the Bible does not condone it. On the same token, secular men, women, and youths have done horrible things. I really do not see the argument when you state that, because people have done horrible things regardless of what they say they believe. As a self describe philosopher, your arguments should be more logical than that.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Reality

        The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

        Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
        and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
        human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

        I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
        preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
        named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
        girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

        Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
        the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

        He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
        a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

        Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
        many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
        and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
        Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
        grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
        and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
        called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

        (references used are available upon request)

        August 1, 2013 at 11:13 am |
      • Reality

        Conservative Jews in the USA have rewritten the Torah to reflect the myths therein basically making it a doc-ument of peace.

        Thomas Jefferson did an a-nalogous rewrite of the NT. Ditto for the rewrite of the NT by the Jesus Seminarians, Professor JD Crossan in his over 20 books on the historical Jesus and related subjects and Professor Gerd Ludeman in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 694-695.

        " Thomas Jefferson omitted it (Revelation) along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he considered it (Revelation) as "merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."

        ^ Bergh: Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 16

        August 1, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  11. aallen333

    Which is more unlikely – A universe formed apart from an intelligent being or Mount Rushmore formed apart from intelligent beings?

    If you believe the human form can be formed apart from an intelligent being, you must then be able to explain how it would be possible for the human forms on Mount Rushmore to be formed apart from intelligent beings. If you cannot, you have serious reason to doubt your atheism. It is very simple if you are willing to open your mind.

    August 1, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Reality

      o Think infinity and recycling with the Big Bang expansion followed by the shrinking reversal called the Gib Gnab and recycling back to the Big Bang repeating the process on and on forever. Human life and Earth are simply a minute part of this cha-otic, sto-cha-stic, expanding, shrinking process disappearing in five billion years with the burn out of the Sun and maybe returning in another five billion years with different life forms but still subject to the va-ga-ries of its local star.

      August 1, 2013 at 8:10 am |
      • Jaybird2005

        Say what??
        The Universe cannot "recycle" itself without an input of massive amounts of energy. each "cycle" there has to be less and less energy. Someone has to re-charge it. The Universe cannot exist for Eons and then return to exactly the state it started from. There are too many laws that would be violated. The "big-bang" is a comfortable way to attempt to ignore the obvious.

        August 1, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • Djyrn

          1st law of thermodynamics disagrees.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • Shannon Byrd

        You cannot actually have an infinite past. It's simple math. If you have an infinite number of past events then how do you reach the present? Look up the Hilberts hotel illustration and you'll see what I'm talking about.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • Bible Scholar

          Incorrect. As always.

          Time is but a reference point for the finite. Humans such as yourself stupidly believe that because we exist, the rest of the Universe must follow our rules. The irony of this belief is that you also believe in an infinite creator. This creates a paradox. If you believe we could never reach the present with an infinite past, then a creator could have never performed the creation myth as it too, never would have reached the present.

          Your arguments are unbelievably full of enormous holes and ill-conceived notions that are obviously given no more than a few seconds of illogical, at best simple-minded consideration.

          Please stop now. You do not have a leg to stand on.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:57 am |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Simple math would tell us that if there is a positive infinite, there must also be a negative infinite.

          This is why having a singularity a finite 13.8 BYA is so interesting. It tells us something about the nature of time that we don't understand.

          And who are you to place the datum of zero at now, or 2,000 years ago? This is precisely the "humans as the center of the universe" thinking that gets us into trouble. If time has only one direction, the clock starts 13.8 BYA and there is only "positive" time, not "negative" time.

          August 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • Reality

        o "In the 1930s, theoretical physicists, most notably Albert Einstein, considered the possibility of a cyclic model for the universe as an (everlasting) alternative to the model of an expanding universe. However, work by Richard C. Tolman in 1934 showed that these early attempts failed because of the entropy problem: according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy can only increase.[1] This implies that successive cycles grow longer and larger. Extrapolating back in time, cycles before the present one become shorter and smaller culminating again in a Big Bang and thus not replacing it. This puzzling situation remained for many decades until the early 21st century when the recently discovered dark energy component provided new hope for a consistent cyclic cosmology.[2] In 2011, a five-year survey of 200,000 galaxies and spanning 7 billion years of cosmic time confirmed that "dark energy is driving our universe apart at accelerating speeds."[3][4]

        One new cyclic model is a brane cosmology model of the creation of the universe, derived from the earlier ekpyrotic model. It was proposed in 2001 by Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Neil Turok of Cambridge University. The theory describes a universe exploding into existence not just once, but repeatedly over time.[5][6] The theory could potentially explain why a mysterious repulsive form of energy known as the "cosmological constant", and which is accelerating the expansion of the universe, is several orders of magnitude smaller than predicted by the standard Big Bang model."
        A different cyclic model relying on the notion of phantom energy was proposed in 2007 by Lauris Baum and Paul Frampton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[7]"

        August 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
      • Reality

        What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

        1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

        2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

        3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

        4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

        5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

        6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

        7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

        8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

        Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

        August 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • joe

      Sorry, this is called the watchmaker theory and it gets you nowhere. The argument is that something complicated like a watch requires a watchmaker as it is too complicated to have been randomly created.

      The argument falls apart because the watchmaker is complicated so the watchmaker requires a watchmaker etc. etc. ad infinitum. But as soon as anyone points out this logical fallacy the Christian tries to escape claiming their "Watchmaker" didn't need to be created as It gets a pass.

      Once you admit your "Watchmaker" didn't need to be created by another watchmaker you lost your argument that all complicated things need a creator.

      August 1, 2013 at 8:39 am |
      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Please dont butcher science by calling that a theory.

        August 1, 2013 at 8:43 am |
      • Jaybird2005

        Nice try. The trouble is that the Watchmaker is outside of Science (Supernatural – beyond nature) and therefore beyond Science to measure or our limited ability to understand. Cavemen could not understand light, does that mean light did not exist back then?
        The question of "who made the Watchmaker" has no meaningful answer just as "what existed before the Big-Bang" has no answer meaningful to Science. Science is based on "first-principals". These are assumptions that must be taken on faith (Causality, The Universe runs by a set of rules, These rules are consistent, etc.). Science is a Religion and therefore has the same problems as any other religion. The only difference is that Science freely admits it is limited to the Natural Universe. Sorry.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:06 am |
        • RichardA

          If the watchmaker is "outside science" and science is the observation of the universe/nature, then the watchmaker's existence is irrelevant and meaningless to anything within it. Though cavemen may not have understood the principles of light, their was still evidence for it that even they could observe.

          Causality, and other science, is based on extensive observations. Science does not dismiss other possibilities, but simply does not have any evidence to support them. Calling science a religion is contrary to common definitions in dictionaries. You would have to re-write the definition to fit your view.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:42 am |
        • LinCA


          You said, "Nice try. The trouble is that the Watchmaker is outside of Science"
          In other words, "poof, magic!".

          You said, "(Supernatural – beyond nature) and therefore beyond Science to measure or our limited ability to understand."
          If it is beyond science to measure, that means that it can't affect anything we do (otherwise we'd be able to measure it). It also means that whatever inspired those ancient desert dwellers to write down their folk tales could not have been inspired by it. It therefor means, that if there is something that created the universe, you have no way of knowing what it, is in any meaningful way. Your argument is therefor only applicable to a deist's kind of god, and not one that actively participates in human lives.

          Per your argument, the christian god, or a roman god, or any other specific god is noting more than an imaginary friend because it would be impossible to know the specifics. That makes religion nothing more than a silly superstition. I would agree to that last part.

          You said, "Cavemen could not understand light, does that mean light did not exist back then?"
          True, that's why they made shit up about spirits in the sky causing it. The problem is that most believers have barely gotten past those silly beliefs.

          You said, "The question of "who made the Watchmaker" has no meaningful answer just as "what existed before the Big-Bang" has no answer meaningful to Science."

          You said, "Science is based on "first-principals". These are assumptions that must be taken on faith (Causality, The Universe runs by a set of rules, These rules are consistent, etc.)."
          If, through observations, any of these rules are found to not hold true, they are dismissed and replaced with what does fit the observations.

          You said, "Science is a Religion and therefore has the same problems as any other religion."
          Bullshit. If all human knowledge would disappear, and we'd have to start over from scratch, all of christianity, and islam, and any other religion, would never return. Science would. Someone would discover how gravity works. Someone would figure out quantum mechanics.

          You said, "The only difference is that Science freely admits it is limited to the Natural Universe."
          Bullshit. Science is based on observations. Anything that can't be reconciled with observations is rejected, while religion will reject the observations to preserve the fairy tale.

          When it comes to explaining the universe, and everything in it, the religious "theories" are like a drawing of a clock. It will occasionally indicate the right time, but it'll always be by accident and you'll never know when that is, or why. Science, on the other hand, is like a working clock. It will tell time pretty accurately, within a given uncertainty. It may need an adjustment every now and then, and sometimes we'll replace it with a more accurate model.

          You said, "Sorry."
          You should be.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
        • Grim

          If God operates outside of reality, then how can we know anything about "him" at all, let alone that he even exists. I don't get how you can take it on faith that it's possible to know anything about something which is inherently unknowable, and yet you trash science, and call it faith for simply trying to understand what can be known based on the evidence.

          August 1, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care


      Mt Rushmore is much less likely to have formed on it's own because we have examples of scultptures to know that they do not spontaniously form. We have ideas on how the universe came into being through purely natural means.

      If you have any ideas other than "god did it" then please, lets hear them. Either way you are using an argument from ignorance.

      August 1, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Saraswati

      aallen, We have no alternate and well supported theory for the faces on Rushmore and plenty of evidence for their human creation. I'm not sure whether you are ignorant of the history of Mt. Rushmore, the history of the universe or both?

      August 1, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  12. Enoch

    You can see the lies in his sodomite dead eyes

    August 1, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Just as you can see the mental illness in a christians. . .

      August 1, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  13. JWT

    While christians may believe in heaven it is not something that matters to many non-christians and they have no reason to believe in it or the christian threats of hell.

    August 1, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  14. Realist


    .... Jesus is Imaginary becausec... http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com .....


    August 1, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Jaybird2005

      And the "Universe" is actually the Matrix. There is no way to Scientifically prove otherwise. Everything may or may not be imaginary. So what?

      August 1, 2013 at 9:10 am |
      • Saraswati

        It depends whether the Matrix is consistent or not. If you assume it to be, then it matters.

        August 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  15. Buddy

    CNN loves liars who lie about Jesus and Christianity.

    August 1, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Christians love the piece of sh!t fiction known as The Babble.

      August 1, 2013 at 7:03 am |
      • Franks

        The Babble!!!!!!

        August 1, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • lol??

        Your ancestors didn't write much down for the last hundreds of thousands of years. They left it up to your vain imaginations.

        August 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Realist


      ....... JESUS is Imaginary ... because ... http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com .......


      August 1, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  16. Robert Brown

    That bc early ad history could be a little sketchy, which makes historical fiction very entertaining. The most controversial person who ever lived.

    August 1, 2013 at 5:45 am |
  17. RickP

    Reza Aslan lied in the Fox interview. He does not have a PhD in Religious History; It is in Sociology. He does not teach religion; he teaches revolution using literature. He is anti-Israel and associated with George Soros funded groups like The Center for American Progress, Code pink, Samantha Power, and an Iranian organization that is against Israel. He has no degree in History whatsoever. He wrote the book for a reason he has not disclosed yet. Source: TheBlaze TV

    August 1, 2013 at 5:09 am |
    • cw

      Nice unbiased source you have there...

      August 1, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  18. Post-It Note

    This is garbage, literally.

    Read the Bible if you want the truth about Jesus.

    August 1, 2013 at 3:44 am |
    • sam stone

      how does edited, translated hearsay written decades after his death by people who did not know him qualify a "truth" to you?

      August 1, 2013 at 4:21 am |
      • RickP

        Some of the writers were there. John and Luke were there. Paul was ruptured and directly communicated with Jesus and wrote most of the New Testament.

        August 1, 2013 at 4:50 am |
        • No.

          Incorrect. It is not known who wrote the gospel.

          Try, try again, apologist.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
        • No.

          And what do you mean by "ruptured?"

          If you honestly believe that someone communicated with jesus after he died, you need to seek medical treatment.

          First, jesus' existence is arguable. The only reason scholars pretend that he did is to shut the annoying apologists up. All they do is whine and complain.

          Second: The only known "evidence" of jesus outside of the bible is two written forgeries into records kept by a historian.

          Third, the gospel is a known fabrication written by unknown authors. The evidence is clear that these were fabrications due to numerous inconsistencies, most notably conflicting accounts of jesus' death. These fabricated fairy tales have numerous edits and additions.

          Last, since we know that the only two sources of "evidence" of jesus' existence are fabricated, it's safe to say that jesus most likely never existed.

          There is a theory that the Roman government fabricated this fairy tale to start a new religion, making it easier to control people. Hence the birth of the Roman Catholic Church. And it worked. It's easy to control Christians. Why else would they be referred to as sheep and jesus as the shepherd? Exactly.

          Baaaaaaaaah sheep.

          August 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • Maani


          i'm not sure where you are getting your information, but it is hopelessly faulty. The majority of NT scholars – both secular and religious – generally agree on who wrote which books of the NT. Yes, there are still some minor disputes, but the evidence is clear not only "internally" (vis-a-vis language and style), but also when compared to the oldest fragments we have of the original writings. It is accepted that Mark (who may or may not have known Jesus) was the first to write a "gospel," in ~60 A.D. Matthew (who was contemporaneous with Jesus) was second, and Luke (a disciple who probably knew Jesus) was third. John (who was also contemporaneous with Jesus) was the last. Some of Paul's writings actually PRE-date the gospels, and are thus some of the first written.

          As I have said, on balance, I am much more likely to trust the scholarship of dozens of NT scholars over the words of someone who posts to article threads.

          August 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • chris kena

      I wonder which Bible your talking about. There are well over a dozen variations and between 500 and 700 various denominations of the Christian religion alone. All of which claim to be the TRUE beliviers. If you come out from
      under the rock and study comparative religion you will find that the Muslim and Hindu traditions have a better understanding
      of Jesus than christians do. While Christians continue to deviate from scripture with continual excuses and historical inacuracies, the other world religions have at least attempted to see through the christian hypocracy and uncover the REAL Jesus which im afraid will remain lost to you. Dont beleive me. Get the pundits out of the way and see and think for yourself.
      You have been suckered.

      August 1, 2013 at 5:14 am |
  19. gina

    I have read many of these e-mail strings, and it is quite clear that atheists/agnostics simply think differently than people who are religious. I have been an atheist since I was a child, and God just doesn't make sense to me for so many reasons. First, who made God. Second, trillions of things happen at any given millisecond in the universe (shooting stars, volcanos erupting, people sneezing, leaves turning, etc.). It does not make any sense to me that one thing is responsible for these things. Nor does it make sense to me that literally billions of people, animals, etc. will go somewhere after a relatively short life for eternity, which is a long time – to do what exactly? Do religious people think that the neantherdals made it up there? I have read many articles regarding analysis v faith, and come to the conclusion, I am just too analytical. Faith just can't answer my questions, and it has always been that way. I can't wait to read Reza's book. I think of Jesus as a philospher who walked the earth, and then many people created a bible long after he died, with a lot of changes along the way.

    August 1, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • Dave

      Hi Gina,
      1. You have perfect right to believe as you do and to ask these hard questions. I do not agree with your belief, however, but I will, (and have) been prepared to fight to the death for your right to your beliefs.

      I believe in God, both from personal experience and analytically. I am non-denominational, though raised Christian. All Religions are both right and wrong. They attempt to break God down into something that can be managed, controlled, and understood by human beings. By God's very nature, this can't be done. Some theories I have would include :

      1."Always was and Always will be" I was thinking "BS' to this when I was 8 yrs old. Then I read about the creation of our Universe What created big bang and was the 1st thing through it and what will be the last thing to leave? If the answer is "God", then in our Universal context, that statement would be true.

      2. It is interesting that out of ALL of the known substances in our universe, ONLY H2O expands (actually, the molecules link in a way that expands their spacial displacement) as it gets colder. Were this not the case, Carbon/water-based life (life, as we know it) would not be possible, since ocean Ice would sink. eventually all water would be come Ice, not allowing DNA and RNA to form to create life.

      3. The argument that "God is an enigma, therefore he/she/It doesn't exist" doesn't follow, as there would then be much geater enigmas : Our Universe, life itself, sentience (if not intelligence) Some force did create this Universe. Nothing can spring from nothing. I believe that "God" created it

      From the personal:

      I died. Out-of-Body thing, whole 9 yards. I don't expect you to believe it. I never believed anyone else's. My impressions of "God" when I died:

      He/She/ It is sentient.

      "God" finds both us, and our religions, humorous. Go right on not believing in "God". I am rather sure he does not care.

      I think your "lifeforce"/"soul", when you die, goes to "god". I think he is so alien to us that we were created so that he may live an eternity of lives through our lives and memories. I believe this is our purpose to him.

      I found tranquility and an inate "goodness"in him. I don't think God allows ALL "souls" to go to him. I think those that would be detrimental to his whole are not accepted. I felt, though not religious or virtuous at the time, I was accepted. If I was accepted, his criteria must be somewhat loose. I wouldn't guess at "his" criteria, but I do believe a devout atheist who was basically a positive force in this world would be more likely to reach him than an Evangelical Minister who was in it for the money. I believe "Hades" is more "His" rejection of those that aren't accepted.

      August 1, 2013 at 4:10 am |
      • Ford

        Hi Dave,
        whilst I disagree with your beliefs please don't think I belittle them.
        but I do think you present a great personal argument for what you believe.
        I do wish that more informed and rational experiences weren't belittled by a totally "science" explanation.

        I have to say that i disagree but looking at it from a scientific point if view I cannot refute what you say.
        Although I have to say "how".

        I'm sure most can ascertain from my meagre post I don't have a spiritual grounding in respect to humanitarian envelopes: I am humbled by the expanse of human thinking at how our universe may have begun.

        I wish (now this is a ridiculous statement) but I cannot see this happening.
        science (at its' present state) cannot disprove god.
        religion (at its' present state) cannot prove god.

        You posted a personal experience, so will I.
        My pregnant fiancée was killed by a drunk driver, so was her mother. Neither of us were aware of this but your god had to be.
        Why did he kill that unborn child and his mother?
        You could say I was living in sin (yes from a purely sinful point of view I was) why kill my fiancée, unborn child, and my prospective mother in law?
        your god is omnipotent isn't he?
        like i've written, i don't belittle your beliefs but i do most strongly disagree.

        August 1, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  20. 365worldstore

    Even if this guy didn't get a fair chance on Fox News, he was dishonest in his interview. He claimed to be a Ph.D wielding scholar of religions who 'does this for a living' which would be true if his Ph.D were actually in religion, but it is not, it is in Sociology. Don't believe me? Check out his disertation and see for yourself!

    August 1, 2013 at 2:41 am |
    • Dave

      Splitting hairs. Religions show the greatest diversity from a sociologist's standpoint. It is not unusual for a sociologist to specialize in them. From reading the Cover of his book, I would have thought that just another Muslim Flake had written it, but he was so articulate, well-versed, and objectively considered in his FOX Interview, I am interested in his views. As human beings attempting to "quantify" "God", we WILL always have fallacies, however, I would like to see his view.

      August 1, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Bible Scholar

      To be fair, a sociology degree is just as equally worthless as a religious studies degree. I wouldn't spill urine over it.

      August 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
      • Shannon Byrd

        But, you would waste your words over it correct? You contradict yourself.

        August 1, 2013 at 10:00 am |
        • Bible Scholar

          I fail to see any contradictions in my post. I didn't spill any urine.

          August 1, 2013 at 10:10 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.