So here we go with some valuable Reza Aslan wisdom. He has been in the media quite a lot, recently, and for good reason. The man knows of that which he speaks - and does so factually, kindly, and with good humor. Plus he has the patience to continue repeating what people need to know and understand. But why must he continue to repeat himself endlessly? Well, I would say its because sacred ignorance makes poor listeners of everyone.
Reza Aslan has a realistic perspective about religion, in general (outside of dogma unique to individual religions on which he also has a good handle). And he has earned numerous degrees in religion and theology, so has the credentials needed to be taken seriously. Additionally, his video about his most recent best selling book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" is excellent. Two recent books have been on the New York Times best seller list: "No god but God: The origins, Evolution, and the future of Islam", in 2005 and "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth", last year.
Being a comparative religion dilettante, myself (with no degree in the field but a long time interest and years of study), what he says that no one else is saying and needs to be said, rings true with me
Aslan was recently interviewed by Salon's Elias Isquith, for Salon, 10 October 2014 in part because of the way he repeatedly stands up to bigoted comments without loosing his cool. "EXCLUSIVE: Reza Aslan on Bill Maher’s anti-Islam crusade: 'Frank bigotry'" ("Author and scholar who's quarreled with comedian over Islam before tells Salon why this time is different") And he was an Op-Ed contributor to the New York Times two days earlier with his article "Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion"
Religion is a matter of identity much more so than it is a matter of beliefs and practices, and that is something that is very, very difficult for Americans to understand."
Truly. That is why the fear-mongering Islamophobia of our politicians repeatedly proves they are unable to differentiate between the cultural influences of a nation and religious influences which are also subject to cultural influences. More specifically the bigoted comments indicate there is no understanding of unique cultural influences that determine the way in which religion is interpreted because of culture. Until they can differentiate, and until the media can and does, our military actions in predominately Muslim lands seem increasingly to be an exercise in charging around like an angry bull in a china closet because of not addressing the actual political problems that are reflected in destructive ways in religion. Essentially religion is being used like a "human shield" by terrorists whose actions and attitudes are all politically motivated.
Given our own "separation of church and state" which is designed to protect religions and government from one another, if we really truly understood the profundity of that as Americans, then we would also understand the protections it provides for us. Because of this we have no need to do ideological battle because of religious differences competing to influence government, and corrupting government in the process. Religious differences, politicized, are proven to have the potential to create internal strife at best, civil war at worst. Anyone remember that it was religious strive in England that landed the Puritans and Pilgrims on the east coast of North America? These facts should be well known - should not have been forgotten. If we truly understood that we are protected from these problems in our nation by the separation of church and state, then how could we and our elected and appointed government officials have so many obvious problems understanding the difference between cultural practices in nations and their influence on interpretation of religious beliefs in a nation where there is no separation of church and state? Or do we not understand because we DO protect religion and government from one another, and simply can not comprehend the extent of trouble that not doing so has the potential to create? Either way we have a lesson to learn.
Understand this: the undue influence of religion on government because of cultural interpretation about which all do not agree, and the undue influence of government on religion when it adopts a specific interpretation of religion with which all do not agree politically, results in the political problems that potentially victimize segments of the population . . . as we see in Afghanistan and other nations where we are involved militarily, that do not separate "church and state".
I have long found it interesting to learn from individuals why they believe what they believe. Myself, I like to learn these things that Aslan tells us we need to know about all religions and denominations - as long as I am convinced it is not a conversion effort - that it is clearly understood the purpose for discussing religion is for the purpose of religious literacy. And I know many folks feel similarly which might be why some might not be open to learning anything about any other religions or denomination, unless it is very clear to them it is not a conversion effort.
Of course it is importance to differentiate between the culture of a nation, and the religion as uniquely practiced because of that culture, in nations that do not separate church and state. When we do not fully comprehend a political environment in nations that do not separate church and state because of our nation's lack of religious literacy, we unnecessarily endanger our nation, other nations, our front line troops, and the people in the war-torn nations.