Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan, the religion writer who claimed that his academic credentials include a Ph.D. in the history of religions (his Ph.D. is in sociology, not history; he teaches creative writing) and two decades' study of Christianity, will have his own show on CNN, the network that invented cable news but which has lately seen its ratings plummet.

Aslan rose to fame on his 2013 book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, about which the genuine religious scholar Allan Nadler wrote in the Jewish Review of Books:

Aslan's entire book is, as it turns out, an ambitious and single-minded polemical counter-narrative to what he imagines is the New Testament's portrayal of Jesus Christ.


Whichever [New Testament] verses fit the central argument of his book, he accepts as historically valid. Everything else is summarily dismissed as apologetic theological rubbish of absolutely no historical worth.

Nadler's conclusion nails the real point behind Aslan's efforts: the ahistorical claim that the three great monotheistic religions share equally violent pasts:

Finally, is Aslan's insistence on the essential "Jewishness" of both Jesus and his zealous political program not also a way of suggesting that Judaism and Jesus, no less than Islam and Mohammed, are religions and prophets that share a similarly sordid history of political violence; that the messianic peasant-zealot from Nazareth was a man no more literate and no less violent than the prophet Mohammed?

The liberal British newspaper The Guardian says, "Zealot, to be as kind as possible, trudges down some very well-worn paths; its contribution to studies of Christianity is marginal bordering on negligible."

Of his book on Islam, No God but God, Middle East specialist Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi wrote: "The result is not scholarship, but apologetics" that portrays jihad as "merely defensive." The result is predictable:

To focus on a single crucial issue, he asserts that "the most important innovation in the doctrine of jihad was its outright prohibition of all but strictly defensive wars," while Qur'anic verses such as 9:29, with the injunction to fight non-Muslims until they pay a poll-tax in a state of subjugation, are explained away as "directed specifically at the Quraysh (the pagan tribe in Mecca opposed to Muhammad) and their clandestine partisans in Yathrib (Medina, with the Jews opposed to Muhammad)."

Given this level of politicization in his books, why should CNN viewers expect anything better?