A Human History
Reza Aslan is an internationally-renowned writer, commentator, professor, and religious scholar, whose NYT bestselling books and packed lectures have propelled him to the frontlines in the fight against white nationalism. Aslan argues that it is fear—organized and well-funded—that perpetuates bigotry and victimizes us all. Only united will we have the power to fight it.
Fear has been a driving force in American society for more than a century. Though the targets shift—Catholics in the 1900s, African Americans in the 1950s and 60s, the LGBT community in the 80s, and now Muslims—the DNA is the same: Americans are led to believe they’re under siege from “an enemy within” and this creates victims of bigots and targets alike. Fear can be fought, but it requires us to come together as a people: “education alone doesn’t change minds,” says Aslan in his viral TED talk, “relationships change minds; forming the relationships that help you see beyond the symbols that separate us; that ultimately, we’re all the same.”
Aslan’s 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 and optioned for a film. His latest book, God: A Human History—another New York Times bestseller—investigates how we have historically understood the divine by assigning it human traits and emotions. “Driven by Aslan's grace and curiosity, God helps us pan out from our troubled times,” says the Seattle Times.
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 as well as 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, 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
Religion speaker 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.