A Human History
Reza Aslan is an internationally-renowned writer, commentator, professor, and religious scholar, whose New York Times bestselling books and packed lectures have propelled him to the frontlines of the fight against white nationalism. Also the executive producer of Chuck Lorre’s United States of Al, a show exploring the relationship between a Marine combat veteran and a former Afghan interpreter, Aslan shows us how fear—organized and well-funded—perpetuates bigotry and victimizes us all. His inspiring talks reveal that it is only when we are united will we have the power to fight it.
“[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. ...A vivid, persuasive portrait.”— Salon
Fear has long been a driving force in American society. Though the targets shift—Catholics, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and now Muslims—the DNA is the same: Americans are led to believe they’re under siege from “an enemy within,” creating a dynamic of bigots and targets alike. This fear can be fought, but it requires us to come together as a people. “Education alone doesn’t change minds,” says Reza Aslan in his viral TED talk. “Relationships change minds.” In one way or another, Aslan’s work shows us that human relationships are what help us see beyond the symbols that separate us—that prove to us, ultimately, we’re all the same. He currently serves as the executive producer of CBS series United States of Al, which follows the unique friendship between a combat veteran and his Afghan interpreter. The show, recently renewed for a second season, not only offers much-needed representation in Hollywood—it also helps break down stereotypes, confront fear-based narratives, and, perhaps most importantly, humanizes our fraught politics. “What we always say is that this show is not about the war in Afghanistan. This show is about what that war did to two people, one who’s an Afghan, and one who is an American,” explains Aslan, who notes that the series is especially relevant amid the Biden administration’s decision to remove all troops from Afghanistan.
In his podcast with The Office alum Rainn Wilson, titled Metaphysical Milkshake, Aslan wrestles with some of life’s biggest questions—like what happens after we die and whether human beings really do have free will. Though the existential topics are earnest and meaningful, the duo approach them with humor and levity—breaking down the barriers that often arise between science and religion or faith and reason. The same can be said for Aslan’s books, which explore the history of religion and how we’ve come to understand the divine by assigning it human traits and emotions. His #1 New York Times bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth was translated into dozens of languages around the world and optioned for a film. His latest book, God: A Human History—another New York Times bestseller—was praised by the Seattle Times, which writes, “Driven by Aslan’s grace and curiosity, God helps us pan out from our troubled times.”
Aslan is also consulting producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, the host and executive producer of Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, and the Emmy and Peabody Award-nominated Vox web series, The Secret Life of Muslims. He co-founded BoomGen Studios—the premiere entertainment brand for content from and about the Middle East, which has worked on project’s including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.
Aslan’s degrees include a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, 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. He’s a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California 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.
“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