A Human History
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 also served as host of CNN’s series on world religions, Believer.
Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.
In addition to his role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, which premiered on Ovation in February, and CNN’s original documentary series, Believer. He is Executive Producer on the Vox web series, The Secret Life of Muslims and is featured in one of the webisodes. He served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets.
“Aslan [is] known for the elegant smoothness with which he toggles between the postures of spokesperson for his own faith and detached scholar of other traditions.”— Elias Muhanna, The New Yorker
In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studios—the premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers, including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim and National Geographic’s Amreeka.
Aslan’s first book, the international bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities. This November sees the release of God: A Human History—a narrative of “the history of religion as one long and remarkably cohesive attempt to understand the divine by giving it human traits and emotions.”
Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur'anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).
Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley and their three sons.
“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 six-part television event for CNN, host Reza Aslan explored one of the world’s major faiths. But rather than offering yet another dry documentary, Aslan performed 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 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.