“Reza Aslan: Why Aren’t You A Jew?” Is One of the Strangest Things I Have Ever Read, Ever.

Edit: I published this article early by accident. Some spelling and phrasing has been changed.
Reza Aslan has endured all manner of shoddy reporting on his work since his now-infamous interview with Lauren Green. Conservatives published near-endless articles that trashed Aslan’s Zealot despite knowing almost nothing about the argument his book was making. Even liberals and Aslan’s fellow religious studies professors have been dismissive of him.
But as it turns out, Aslan had yet to endure the strangest article about him. In what is surely the most bizarre take on the Reza Aslan controversy yet, HuffPo Journalist and Professor Bernard Starr, after a clumsily-written five paragraph summary of Aslan’s life, offered a strikingly odd argument as to why Reza Aslan really should be Jewish,
“Well, if you reject the virgin birth, Jesus’ divinity, and the resurrection — as Aslan does — what remains is Judaism. So I can only say to Aslan: As a professed disciple of Jesus the man and Jew, why aren’t you a Jew?”
Starr’s argument is as fallacious as it is strange. First of all, Judaism isn’t the only religion with a claim to Jesus “the man.” Islam views Jesus in a different light that Judaism, but they also contend that Jesus is not a God. Also, plenty of atheists and secular humanists are fans of Jesus “the man” despite not believing in his divinity. My main man Kurt Vonnegut among them. Also, as I pointed out in my last article of Aslan, everybody who undertakes a secular study of Jesus considers Jesus “the man”. So the obvious answer to Starr’s question is that almost every religious or non-religious person on the planet has their own opinion about Jesus, and many of them line up with Aslan’s.
I was confused as to why Starr’s article was even given a platform. It feels like something that was thrown together in thirty minutes by a high school student using Wikipedia. It’s so profoundly odd that he felt like it was something that needed to be published.Suggesting that Reza Aslan should be Jewish is more like a bad party joke. Or perhaps it was simply a poorly conceived advertisement for Starr’s own book on early Christianity.
It may seem strange to give this seemingly ephemeral article another thought, but Starr’s piece bothers me because it’s the kind of Beliefnet crap that clutters religion websites around the web. This is what actual coverage of religious matters is up against: whimsical, pointless filler articles. This sort of thing is all too common in the religion blogosphere.
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3 responses to ““Reza Aslan: Why Aren’t You A Jew?” Is One of the Strangest Things I Have Ever Read, Ever.

  1. Thanks Rob.
    I am enjoying these posts and am learning a lot. Thanks for taking on the big task of keeping the religious sector honest.
    Take care.
    Alice+

  2. My article quotes Aslan with specific citations from his book and an extensive NPR interview. Your ad hominem (personal attack) response does not address any of the citations, nor does it give any factual comments or citations–in short your comments are empty opinions, no doubt because you don’t like what is reported. Please respond with substance if you wish to be taken seriously. Flashing credentials does not substitute for substance. My question, why aren’t you a Jew, was an ironic commentary on Aslan’s bouncing around among religions. First he is a Muslim. Then he’s passionate Christian. He loses faith in Christianity but he still professes to be “a disciple” of Jesus, who he recognizes as a devout Jew. But at the same time he returns to “the faith of my forefathers.” What exactly does he believe? When you declare yourself a disciple what does that mean? Perhaps he’s offering something for everyone—Muslims, Christians, Jews—to promote his book. Then you might want to read Stuart Kelly’s scathing review of Zealot in the London Guardian:
    Bernard Starr

    • Thanks for explaining the joke to me. I’m still confused as to why it’s funny to suggest having a scholarly fascination with the historical, non-divine Jesus makes you Jewish, but I guess I just don’t understand the nuance of your humor.

      And I stand by the fact that a five-paragraph summary of Aslan’s life that contains no original insight, that does not engage with his argument but only his personal life, that is about two weeks behind the news cycle, and that is a setup for a non-joke, is not exactly an article that needed to exist.

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