How should we approach Reza Aslan’s “Believer” series?

Posted by Cameron McAllister, on March 17, 2017
Topic: Blog


Cameron McAllister speaks to students at the University of Berkeley in March 2017.

The controversial religious scholar Reza Aslan recently signed on as the host of a new show on CNN titled, Believer. In his own words: “Of course, as someone who has spent the better part of the last two decades studying the world’s religions — and having recently crisscrossed the globe for my new spiritual adventure series “Believer,” where I immerse myself in religious traditions both familiar and downright bizarre–I know better than to take the truth claims of any religion (including my own) too seriously.”

Though the show has drawn criticism for the sensationalistic nature of its portrayals, its underlying assumptions are highly revealing of the cultural approach to the subject of religion in general, and the challenge of difference in particular. Aslan goes on to say that religion is simply a “language to express faith.” Pressed on why he continues to call himself a Muslim, he responds, “My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is ‘truer’ than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the ‘language’ I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith.” 

Given that I’ve devoted considerable time and energy on my podcast Vital Signs to the challenge of living with our deep differences, as well as the importance of recovering civil disagreement, I was thrilled to discuss Aslan’s new show in an interview with Carmen LaBerge, host of The Reconnect on Moody Radio.