The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Reza Aslan addresses topics of Islam, the Middle East, and Muslim Americans with authority, wit, and infectious optimism. He is the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth—a momentous work of popular scholarship that rocketed to #1 on the NYT bestseller list. He’s also the host of CNN’s forthcoming show on world religions, The Believer.
Zealot is that rare pop culture phenomenon—a serious book on a serious topic that has been embraced by a wide readership. As Publishers Weekly says, Zealot is “compulsively readable and written at a popular level . . . highly recommended.” On a speaking tour to promote the book, Aslan addressed standing-room only audiences. The Daily Beast, reviewing an appearance, writes, “The crowd in Powell’s was rapt—when it wasn’t doubled over in laughter. The scholar did a pretty remarkable job of explaining his viewpoint on history in a lucid, funny, self-deprecating, and engaging way.” Zealot has also been optioned for film, to be produced by David Heyman (the Harry Potter films, Gravity).
In addition to speaking on the history of the man we know as Jesus, Reza Aslan speaks for a young generation of Muslims—socially conscious, politically active, and technologically savvy—who fight for democratic reform. Whether he’s talking about the legacy of the Arab Spring or Islamophobia, audiences listen. He attained hero status for calmly, and brilliantly, answering questions during interviews for CNN and Fox that both quickly went viral.
“A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived.”— Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Aslan is the author of the international bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been named by Blackwell Publishers as one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. It’s now available in 13 languages, and was re-released with new content to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He is set to host the new CNN spiritual adventure series Believer (debuting soon), where he participates in endurance worship, rituals, and rites of passage, to learn about “worlds that have been molded by faith and tradition.” He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War, a contributing editor to The Daily Beast, and a member of many prominent foreign relations and policy councils. As the editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities, Aslan uses the arts to bridge the gap of understanding between East and West, and to strengthen Jewish and Muslim relations. His next book, The Story of God, will be published by Random House (release date TBA). He is also an executive producer of ABC TV drama Of Kings and Prophets, which spins a Biblical tale about a king, a prophet and a shepherd, all of whom are “on a collision course with destiny.” And ABC has purchased a new single-camera comedy from Reza Aslan and former Friends executive producer/co-showrunner Andrew Reich. The as-yet-unnamed show will center on an Iranian-American family living in San Jose, CA—one that takes “a very different approach to questions of tradition and identity,” according to Deadline Hollywood.
Aslan appears regularly in the media, on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report among other high profile outlets. In the corporate realm, Aslan is President and CEO of Aslan Media Inc., which runs BoomGen Studios, a unique media company focused entirely on entertainment about the Greater Middle East and its Diaspora communities. He has degrees in Religion from Santa Clara University, Harvard, and UC Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. This year, he has been named the recipient of the James Joyce Award and an Honorary Fellowship of the Literary & Historical Society, Europe’s largest university society.
“Reza’s session at the World Affairs conference last Friday was a complete success. Reza has the unique ability to challenge his audience to think differently, while also making them laugh. It was such a treat for us to host him at this year’s conference. We hope to see him again soon at World Affairs.”World Affairs Council
Reza Aslan is famous for his calm, intelligent responses in two separate TV interviews—one on Fox, the other on CNN—that both went viral. In one, Aslan had to defend his ability to write a fair and balanced book on Jesus as a Muslim scholar. In the other, he was forced to refute Bill Maher’s claim that Islam makes people prone to violence and misogyny. In a world where Muslim people are so often colored by one sweeping prejudicial brush—unduly targeted by authorities or the recipients of genuine hatred—Aslan’s principled and logical defense is a direly needed corrective. This keynote, rich in historical and factual detail, is a wake-up call for North Americans to confront and abolish hatred and discrimination against Muslim people—otherwise known as Islamophobia. Like many phobias, this particular kind is largely the product of misinformation, propaganda, delusions, and outright lies. In fact, fear and hatred of Muslim people—all 1.6 billion of them!—has enabled politicians to justify disastrous military engagements, disrupt entire geographical regions, create racist immigration policies, and strangle civil liberties and freedoms at home. As the American Muslim population is predicted to more than double over the next two decades (from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030), eradicating Islamophobia for good should be first and foremost in the minds of everyone who dreams of a more peaceful, equitable world.
In each episode of Believer, the upcoming six-part television event for CNN, host Reza Aslan explores one of the world’s major faiths. But rather than offering yet another dry documentary, Aslan performs an immersive deep-dive into each religion: an attempt to experience, and communicate, what it’s like to be a true believer. This means undergoing endurance worship, spellbinding rituals, and truly unusual rites of passage, opening a window on worlds shaped by ancient traditions and community-binding beliefs. In this fascinating keynote, Aslan recounts his world-spanning journey into the heart of faith. He translates traditions, practices, rites and rituals that may at first seem strange and exotic, but become familiar when taken for what they are: as simply different manifestations of the human search for the divine. Whether relating Shia mourning ceremonies or ultra-Orthodox Jewish spirituality, Aslan’s humane and engaged study of religion is an opportunity for audiences to gain a global perspective, banish preconceptions, and embrace a deeper sense of empathy.
In the wake of recent global events, it’s crucial to understand how the next world war may not only be global, but cosmic in scope. In his book How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, Aslan has described the origins, motivations, and end goals of holy warriors who perceive their war against secularism and modernity as playing out in a spiritual, rather than earthly, domain. In this talk, Aslan outlines the difference between fundamentalism, religious nationalism, and global jihad. He explains why people—especially young people—are drawn to waging holy wars and initiating apocalyptic scenarios. He discusses how extremism is fostered all around the world, by more than just Islamic radicals (and not just in the Middle East). And, perhaps most importantly, he outlines ways to manage, if not completely defeat, those who employ religious violence. Aslan’s suggestions involve reworking foreign and domestic policy, but more vitally, in rethinking the scale of global conflict. Misinterpreting the motivations of extremists has disastrous consequences—that’s why understanding what a modern holy war really means is the first step on the road to peace.
In this keynote, based on his new #1 New York Times bestselling book, Reza Aslan sifts through centuries of mythmaking to shed new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction. He explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself: the mystery at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity. Aslan’s fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched talk offers a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion; and challenges long-held assumptions about the Christ of faith and the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.