Reza Aslan – Bigotry, Fundamentalism and Neo-Atheism in the Media

In [DEAD] TYT Interviews on YouTube, YouTube Posts by Hlarson48 Comments


Professor Reza Aslan is the author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” and is a writer and scholar on religious studies.

Is there a media bias against Islam? Reza Aslan points to certain media pundits and hosts who call all religion bad, but Islam “the worst.” Is it bigoted when pundits like Sam Harris call any non-extremist Muslims “not real” Muslims? Are some media commentators denouncing and defining Christian and Muslim extremism themselves fundamentalist bigots? Where is the balance between when interpreting holy text? What is the difference between atheism and neo-atheism? Is there such a thing as the one “truth?”

Reza Aslan sits down with The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur to discuss and debate the state of religious commentary in media, religious ignorance, the removal of religion from society and neo-atheism, what it really means to be religious, picking-and-choosing attitudes across the board, and much more on fundamental misunderstandings of religion.

More on Reza Aslan:


  1. death is a part of life. would you watch a film that has no end?

    if anything goes on after the brain is dead, and thus breaks down to molecular particles, it would have to be occurring in a way that is no longer “human”. i think those molecules have a certain kind of cell memory. but not actual fully formed human memories. more like a simplified version of muscle-memory.

    but my ***personal*** vision, as someone with illness whose had to face mortality a bit more acutely in recent years, is that the molecules of our former cells are where our memories remain, within the dark matter within some of the atoms perhaps, in tiny quark-sized pieces, such as one piece of one visual memory or one moment of joy or pain or fear… without narrative, without self-awareness… but, like a constellation of random vicarious snippets of an existence. this is not a belief in an afterlife. this is how i see the part of life that is death, without forgetting that the matter that makes up my brain and all it makes does not cease to exist. it only changes relation to the rest of the universe on a particle level, or rather various particle levels. but again muscle-memory exists even though they don’t have conciousness. i don’t think particles have to be all that different than that, only on a smaller scale – that we still have a long way to go in comprehending. but it’s not religion or faith or belief system. it’s personal vision formed on my personal journey while learning of certain aspects of life as cellular creatures in a universe made of matter. and though i can and do certainly reject religion and faith-systems and structures as an inherently bad human invention as we have made them, i don’t need to diminish others’ individual visions, even if they make what i think is a mistake in linking them to religion or faith or belief structures or traditions or whatever, just so i can have mine. because, i don’t need permission for that. no one does. because one’s vision of the part of life we call death is unique and should be considered a right. but, because it’s reduced to elementary religion or belief of life after death instead of as one’s own vision of one’s own death, it’s much harder to be seen as a right to something very individual and personal. and then people on both sides don’t have as much perspective as they might.

  2. What would the world be like without religion? If scripture was never written, would we live in a world of survival of the fittest? I would debate we would, and just think about that from a woman’s perspective, or a gay man’s perspective, or several other perspectives. You might start thanking that certain religions exists.

    1. First, you might want to have a look at

      And second, you seem to be misinterpreting “the fittest”. The fittest are the ones that survive and generate offspring. What about women? How would we reproduce without them? The bad standing of women in todays world is all due to religion. Before religion, especially monotheistic (with man-gods) such as Christianity, women were worshipped. They were goddesses…

      What about gay men? How would they influence the survival of the fittest? Why would they bother anyone without religious homophobia?

  3. I absolutely agree that no religion is any worse than the others, the expression of religion is determined by the social deprivation of the place in which it’s being followed. However Aslan is totally dishonest when he conflates religion and language which are completely different, or describes religion as a philosophy believers are free to pick and chose from. Religion is at it’s heart a premise of a higher all seeing power, who has sent us prophets and whose word is absolute law. This concept is dangerous, untrue and extremely harmful our development as a species. As for claiming socialism led to fascism or atheism led to Maoism this is utterly ridiculous. Socialism is simply the idea of fairly distributing wealth, it is nothing more than that and cannot be coupled with racism or bigotry or any other component of fascism. Atheism (regardless of Aslan’s claims) is not a set of beliefs or an ideology beyond the notion that there is no evidence of a creator, the idea this caused Maoism is absurd. So essentially I disagree with everyone on both sides of the debate…..

  4. Rezla Aslan comes on as an intelligent moderate Muslim but in reality he is just another Muslim apologist for this frankly speaking, awful religion. If the Muslim religion is a as many suggest a religion of peace, why is it that moderate Muslim such as Aslan are constantly being forced to defend it? Here is a very interesting video link from a world conference of Muslims. It just goes to show that this religion is completely out of synch with modern western society.

    1. Islam IS a religion of peace. Peace being achieved, only and only if, all non muslims are dead or converted to Islam. Then there will be peace, according to that particular religion. So saying it is a religion of peace is accurate and not a lie. But then again, most religions are religions of peace.

      And, no religion, as long as kept private and not forced onto others, is awful. Sharia is awful. Trying to force sharia onto others, is awful. Not the religion by itself. Everyone should be free to belief what the f they want, as long as they don’t fore others to belief it as well.

  5. As an American Muslim, I have the right to believe what I want and worship as I want, as long as I am not harming other people. It is the same with any religion, and with what Reza said, any ideology. I will never understand why people who are different than I am think it is acceptable to harass me or put down my religion. I understand, it is not for you, you may not believe the same as I do. But this is for me and it is what I believe. And as it has been said a thousand times, the majority of Muslims are not violent or committing crimes. There are people from every ideology who are criminals. And by the way, I have to expand on what Cenk mentioned when he said that Nationalism does not have anything written telling people to be violent. I’m sorry but that is false. There are documents upon documents even in America which support violence and they do not have anything to do with religion. Remember slavery? Slaves were considered to be 3/5 of a person and property. There are documents that stated a slave owner could punish his slaves as he saw fit (I wont go into grotesque detail). But did anyone give up their American citizenship for it? Did all Americans think those laws were the best way to behave and start beating African Americans? Of course not. Only a small percentage of deranged men did this.

  6. We must bare in mind that Reza is an apostate after all. Cenk is a intellectual coward who claims agnosticism as long as the west feeds his family. They are both terrifying and foolish people who think and dream of a planet of fatimas and mohammeds – monotheists need to come a long overdue conclusion.

  7. Reza is the proxy CEO of Islam Inc, stateside, who is embroiled in cooking the books whilst promising shareholders earnings and dividends that sober and objective research shows is impossible to produce and incompatible with ALL evidence, to say nothing of reality. He took up christianity to blend in to his new country until he found that he was gifted enough academically to return to islam and become just another shady faith based whore who will fight to the death for the fairy’s in his head. The religious must be driven to extinction and the Reza’s of the thinking world are more dangerous to the west than anyone member of ISIS. 

  8. A great interview, and Reza really handed it to Cenk. It really makes you think, and you can see that he made Cenk contemplate his own biases. Reza, agree or disagree, is a great speaker an highly intelligent.

    What a great intellectual battle of ideas when Cenk & Reza clashed. Regardless of whose side you prefer, it was an amazing discussion in every regard.

    Cenk is my hero, but I think Reza might become one too. They both dominate Fox News Republitards so well, I am a huge fan of both solely base on that, hahahaha!

    “Anyone who kicks a republican’s ass is a friend of mine!”

  9. I thought it was interesting when Aslan said, [paraphrasing]:

    “Bill Maher saying that liberals don’t criticize Islam is just empirically false, it’s just this *feeling* that Bill Maher has.”

    While earlier in the conversation, he went on to talk about how factual truth is different from religious truth (just a feeling?) and that both definitions of truth are valid.

    I think he made interesting points, and I very much enjoyed this interview, but this particular set of statements had an odd inconsistency to me. In one breath he’s espousing the validity of feelings as truth, and in the next dismissing the truth of feelings because they’re not empirically true. It can’t be both ways..

    1. dangrayson says > “I thought it was interesting when Aslan said, [paraphrasing]: … While earlier …he went on to talk about how factual truth is different from religious truth (just a feeling?)” <

      You think it is interesting because you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what "religion truth" is.

      You define "religious truth" as just a feeling. That is far from what "religious truth" is. In fact, religiosity is as much "just a feeling" as the pursuit of science is "just a feeling".

      1. Um no. There is no empirical evidence to support the supernatural claims of religion whereas the entirety of science is based in empiricism, investigation, and observation. ‘Religious truth’ is just such a stupid and meaningless phrase that only carries weight with people who have an emotional connection to a ridiculous faith tradition (idiots). If something is true, it’s truth and reality is completely separate from any religion.

      2. Aslan himself said religious truth was all about feeling and experience. How would you define it differently?

    2. I di not find that inconsistent in its context. Factual proven truths and Religious truths are obviously different, but he was talking about what each individual believes to be the truth. People of the same faith may read the same scripture and have a different truth based on their own preconceived ideas, prejudice, experiences etc, but all is true to that particular individual.

  10. Thanks for this interview guys. Nice to see some more stuff from Reza, but there were several moments I wanted to pull my hair out because he was mischaracterizing many “Nons” and people without religion claiming that they were still spiritual or just didn’t want to except. Which is exactly what religious christian fundamentals say about us atheist.

    He is my run down of that interview.

    Bill Mahr is right and wrong about some things. Sam Harris is right and wrong about some things. Cenk Ugyur is right and wrong about some things. And Reza Aslan is right and wrong about some things.

    I am fans of all these guys by the way. I kind of wish that Bill and Sam would just admit that they were being bigoted against Muslim people and lumping an entire group of people in as murders and fundamentalist, in a similar way that the neo-cons have been in America against any muslim country we want to bomb for whatever reason.

    However, I wish Reza would stop giving cover to religious fundamentalism and it’s “bad science”. Yes, it’s wrong to stone your kids who misbehave… the only difference between us now and people back then is that they didn’t realize it yet because we were all mostly BARBARIANS. Many of us who are educated and socialized in the modern world aren’t barbarians anymore and recognize the problem with killing your children for behavior issues. And going forward, we recognize that with further care and education, future generations will become less barbaric that we are now. That’s why we don’t want any of the religious text and they’re horrible baggage.

    At least with documents that aren’t perceived as holy scripture or some “ancient truth”, we are allowed to modify and change because we realized (like in this country) that owning a person as property shouldn’t be a law in the books. Period.

    1. Cenk had some ridicules quotes like with Hitler.Hitler was an atheists but pretended to like the Church as he knew Germany wasn’t gonna support him if he was an atheist.

      Also he tends to use Mosaic and Deuteronomy laws as excuse that Christians don’t follow some laws but we Christians aren’t suppose to follow those laws anyway.Cenk keeps using even Leviticus but again Christians are in a new Covenant and I’m surprised Reza didn’t correct him.

      1. Yet, whenever a Christian claims that “homosexuality is an abomination, the bible says so”, they’re explicitly referring to Leviticus.

        Obviously it’s only select bigoted Christians that make this claim, but obviously it’s also not correct to say that Christians are [all] in a new Covenant.

        1. Here one has to agree with Aslan, it is the interpretation of the text, not the text itself.

          You can see the bigotry in the Christian homophobia by their support of “traditional marriage”. According the the books of the bible, let’s say, a rapist and his victim. Very christian indeed.

      2. PLEASE stop falling for this “Hitler was an atheist” propaganda! Hitler was a Roman Catholic and proud of it and the Church was where he learned his anti-semitism! He boasted “I am and always will be a good Catholic.”

        In Mein Kampf he says he is doing God’s work; when he designed the Army uniform he insisted that the belt buckle (the ‘anchor’ of the uniform) bore the words ‘Gott mit Uns’ (God with Us); the Nazi’s first international treaty was with the Vatican and the Pope had been a confidante of Hitler when he was the Ambassador to Germany (Pius XIIth’s existing relationship with Hitler was the main reason he was elected Pope!); Hitler promised not to confiscate Catholic Church property (unlike protestant churches) or interfere with the Catholic church’s control of education; the Nazi’s came to power in Bavaria – the most Catholic of the German provinces; the European Axis powers and ‘neutral’ countries were ALL Catholic – Italy, Austria, France, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ireland, Portugal, Spain; the two MOST enthusiastic Jew-hater countries were led by Catholic priests as Presidents/Prime Ministers (Czechoslovakia & Croatia); the resistance to Nazis came from mainly Protestant countries — Great Britain & the Empire, USA, Holland, Denmark, Norway, and the ‘Orthodox’ people of Serbia, Greece and the Soviet Union.

  11. That 300 year old definition of true is extremely important and to make decisions throughout your life without that form of true is extremely dangerous to the world around you as well as you.

    1. Yes. And this modern definition of true is the main reason we have had so much progress in everything from sciencr . Medicine, social debate, etc. Logic! His definition of religion is so slippery and vague that its like when people define god as some energy or awe. His concept is almost an atheist concept in which we feel it has some poetic and mythological historic value but not something to take literally true. And if everyone thought of it that way, we wouldn’t even need an atheist movement or debate. Religion wouldnt be a prescription on how to live but be more like art or music. Not to be thought of as true or not, just another way of perceiving the world. That would be wonderful. But unfortunately its not how people take it, hence all the problems in the world.

  12. “Atheism is a belief system like any other belief system” Couldn’t continue to take the interview seriously. Wow…

    1. This is true though…
      In every way, this is true.

      For you to not take this interview seriously, is very foolish. There is a lot of incredibly interesting and accurate information being discussed from both sides.

      Reza is incredibly intelligent and well learned on the subject of religion, related sociology & psychology.

      Humans are always Human.

      Being an atheist will not suddenly exclude you from your own Humanity.

      Listen closely, and pursue what he is saying as an intellectual, and you will understand what he is expressing.

      There is no group on the face of the planet which is any different than any other group, because all groups are composed of Human Beings. Humans will always, when collected in a large group, have good and bad apples, smart and biased individuals, bigots and intellectuals.

      1. >Caveat:

        “There is no group on the face of the planet which is any different than any other group.”

        Obviously the groups will differ in other ways outside of painting them with stereotypes of good/bad.

        By this quote, I mean when defining the group through stereotypes based on individual outliers or even the average person.

        Most humans tend to be lukewarm, with varying degrees of intellectual and emotional development compared to ignorance and mastery of skills. Abstract thinking and religious theory are skills all to their own. Those hot and cold, will be in the minority. This is just something that seems to hold true for humans.

        That is why you have murderers, while also having saints who help the poor, while having the rest of humanity somewhere inbetween “selfish asshole” to “just trying to survive” to “a kind, caring person” to “betters society through example”.

    2. Exactly. For a wannabe “scholar” to say such a thing must have been either out of stupidity or deliberately misleading. Either way, he seems to be just another apologist.

      Another important thing Aslan never mentions in his “it is just a language” Islam defense, seems to be the fact, that as opposed to other religions, Islam is not only a “modern” copy of Christianity, but in fact also includes Sharia, a set of “laws” that a muslim “needs” to follow.

      Also “only fundamentalists such as ISIS follow sharia” doesn’t apply here, as even “moderate” muslims are trying to replace common law with sharia law wherever there is “enough” of them…

      So it is pretty bold and idiotic to say that atheism or non-affiliation, is a belief. And because of sharia and other additions to the “base” religion make Islam, in my humble opinion, “worse” and more dangerous then the rest. Because Islam was designed to be more than “just” another religion. The core religious belief part isn’t any different to the rest of the religions though.

  13. what about the “democratic” turkey and her support to isis?maybe sam was right saying that big muslim majority support extremism

    Bill Maher isnt wrong when he said a higher percentage of extremists exist inside Islam, but I wish that this would be compared to African Americans in inner cities. Poverty and constant violence have to play into this a bit and I find religion is the excuse more than it is the reason.

  15. Thank you, Cenk, for giving an honest, fair interview. I especially thank you for taking the time to better understand Sam Harris and his positions, as the amount of dishonesty and misunderstanding that is going on in the media about his beliefs is truly unjust.

    However, I do wish you would have been a little more critical of some things that Reza says. He has become a full Muslim apologist at this point, and I found that many of his answers in this interview either skirt the issue that was being discussed, or were out and out misleading.

    1. …what are you talking about? They destroyed Sam Harris and both made him out to be a complete idiot, not to mention a religious fundie (dangerous, possibly insane or dangerously stupid).

      You must have severe cognitive biases to take from this interview anything positive about Sam Harris. Were you just looking for something to cling to, so you could rationalize TYT’s disgust for people like Harris? I am perplexed as to how you would even glean a positive aspect towards Harris from this interview O.o

      1. Just to note, I am legitimately curious as to what you are talking about.

        Did I miss something? Could you give the number? It would provide a chance to allow someone else (me) to glean some sort of positive towards Sam Harris by seeing them “better understand his positions.”

        Perhaps I misunderstand what you meant by “better understand his positions”?

        1. I’ll try to summarize Sam Harris’ beliefs on the topic as best I can:

          The Quran has a bunch of of scripture that promotes horrible ideas like killing apostates, killing infidels, etc. This is a fact. Harris believes that these passages are dangerous because they influence the minds of many Muslims…not just jihadists like ISIS, but also non-violent conservative muslims that still believe that the Quran is 100% true.

          Sam Harris did NOT, ever, say that he believes all muslims are bad, which many people are claiming. He also did NOT make his criticisms based on race, which in and of itself is a ridiculous argument (Muslim =/= race).

          If you really want to understand where Harris is coming from, read his blog post about this topic:

      2. My opinions of Harris did not come from this interview at all, as it would be stupid to do so.

        Reza Aslan is just as much of a biased religious apologist as Pat Robertson is, the only difference is that Aslan is a Muslim and not a Christian. He’ll say anything and everything to defend Islam, including dodging a bunch of Cenk’s valid questions. He also knows absolutely nothing about Sam Harris, and intentionally distorts Harris’ beliefs and credibility.

        If you want to know anything about Sam Harris, don’t trust a snakeoil salesman like Aslan

  16. The difference, dear Reza, is that ISIS is fighting to create a state informed by their vision of what their religion mandates, whereas the marauding Christians in the CAR just are greedy.

    That’s the huge dividing line. Christians do crazy shit: seldom do they do it in bands of 50,000+ because they truly want to establish some crazy-far right-Christian hegemonic state and enforce it on everyone.

    That’s the difference, and that’s what Reza truly doesn’t want to admit.

    1. opps… you might want to look into history & you’ll realize what u said about 50,000 muslims is also true for christians, and many times over…

      but re the present… you think g.w.bush’s invasion wasnt informed by his belief in god?

      1. I think the financial incentives that would have been so enticing for defence contractors and oil companies are more likely to be a factor than his Christianity

      2. But the fact, sir, is that that’s history, not today.

        The fact that batshit christians did crazy shit 800, 500 or even 200 years ago doesn’t have much bearing today. If you want to count like that, every culture in the world is guilty before you.

        Also, while G. W. Bush was his own brand of batshit, that decision was informed by other things as well. As crazy stupid as the 2003 Iraq war was, there wasn’t any forced conversions of anyone. And that’s the difference.

  17. Resa Aslan is turning into a muslim apologist. He completely lost me when he said atheists don’t understand religion. Atheists usually know more (a lot more) about religion than just about any believer. This interview is quite long so I didn’t have the time to listen to it all (will do so at a later time), but I sure hope Cenk called him on his apologetic behaviour. If not, Cenk missed an opportunity to ask a tough question.

    1. I also lost my composure when he made the statement. “Atheists have a complete misunderstanding of what religion is” They understand it well enough, better than you in any case to have the common sense to stay away. The idea that you can’t have an objective understanding of something without believing in it personally is absurd.

      1. @shiggyiggy
        >”The idea that you can’t have an objective understanding of something without believing in it personally is absurd.”<

        What are you talking about? Did you even watch the vieo?

        Never did Reza Aslan say "you can't understand something without believing in it personally."

        He said the OPPOSITE. He said not believing in it is fine. Repeatedly.

        He never even came close to saying many new atheists have a complete misunderstanding of what religion is because they don't believe it. It's simply because they just learn and believe a misunderstanding of it. Ignorance is not someone's fault. You can't know what you didn't learn.

        I don't care what you believe, what side you are on. Yet there is so much cognitive bias in so many of these comments that it hurts intelligence. Some of you sound like those christians so many people despise.

        Be careful having cognitive bias. Please, try to set aside your biases when watching this interview. You do yourself a disservice because even if you totally disagree with Reza, to come to the conclusion you did- it seems as though you didn't even watch the video. What you said just doesn't make sense to those who actually watched this video without bias.

    2. > “He completely lost me when he said atheists don’t understand religion. Atheists usually know more (a lot more) about religion than just about any believer.” <

      …most people are extremely ignorant about most things.

      do you not watch TYT? It constantly talks about polls which suggest most americans have no idea about simple things.

      Remember when people thought ISIS/iraq (or whatever country that was?) was in Wisconsin or Cuba/Guam?

      Remember what % want succession from the federal government?

      Have you ever visited reddit and subreddits discussing religion?

      Atheists are just like any other human being. Just like christians, muslims, buddhists, hindus. Most are limited in their knowledge of complex subjects which require study and thought.

      TYT has discussed research before on the fact most agnostics/atheists know MORE about the bible than most christians. That's true, and it makes a lot of sense as to WHY it is true.

      That doesn't mean both know very much.

      For example, knowing how to do addition AND subtraction, means you know more than people who only know addition. That still doesn't mean you know much math.

Leave a Comment