Reza Aslan’s ‘God: A Human History’

Source: The New York Times


A word of advice to the religiously curious: Don’t trust any history of God that has only 171 pages of text. Reza Aslan’s new project, “God: A Human History,” is aimed at the analytically minded spiritual seeker, the type who hopes to answer deep questions on the divine with study data and tidbits about evolution. But instead of arming readers with interpretive tools and good questions, Aslan tells a highly selective, generalized tale with the goal of proving his own beliefs.

This fits his oeuvre. A professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, Aslan wields words skillfully and speaks elegantly; his ideas are perfectly suited for the internet-video age. He has a knack for tidy arguments: He’s perhaps most famous for eviscerating a Fox News host who questioned why Aslan, a Muslim, would want to write “Zealot,” his 2013 book about Jesus. Aslan may well be the most talented religious translator of his generation. But in his primed-for-television sureness, he misses an opportunity to engage the many Americans who are searching for new ideas about God. Rather than cherishing the complexity of belief, he chooses spiritual arrogance.

The idea of the book is fairly simple: Human spirituality can be explained in one cohesive, linear story about our universal desire to see ourselves in God. Aslan is skeptical of religion, which he sees as “little more than a ‘language’ made up of symbols and metaphors.” He’s more interested in “the ineffable experience of faith,” which for him is “too expansive to be defined by any one religious tradition.” While he claims he’s not interested in proving or disproving the existence of God, by the end, his metaphysical commitments become clear. He believes God is universal, present in everyone and everywhere, and no more capable of making moral demands on humanity than any person. “The only way I can truly know God is by relying on the only thing I can truly know: myself,” Aslan writes. It doesn’t matter whether people believe in God or not, he implies. “We are, every one of us, God.”

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2 replies

  1. Being in the NICU for over 4 months, I realized that I can’t always just rely on myself. It’s never enough, and anyone who says else is lying to themselves. Support systems, hope, picker uppers, relyers, shoulders to cry on, and the Almighty God to hold your hand and walk you through it like He did me for almost 5 months.

  2. I think when you stop believing on your self , you start thinking like that??? The writer looks so confused. I believe close relationship to your God always keep you satisfied and you feel Him always beside you.

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