A conversation with Reza Aslan

A conversation with Reza Aslan
Paul Crowley, S.J. in conversation with Reza Aslan '95. Photo by Charles Barry
by SCM |
Author Reza Aslan ’95 was brought to the SCU campus in a program co-hosted by The Commonwealth Club/Silicon Valley. Following is a transcript of the introduction and a video of the event.

Introduction by Paul Crowley, S.J.

Good evening and welcome to Santa Clara University. I am Paul Crowley, and I am a professor of religious studies here, and also I occasionally teach at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. Tonight’s event is co-sponsored by The Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley, and it’s a great pleasure to welcome all of the members of the Commonwealth Club here to the Santa Clara campus tonight.

Tonight our format will be a conversation about issues raised by the book by Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. We’ll begin with the general controversy surrounding the very writing of the book that was elicited by the now infamous Fox News interview of Reza, then we’ll move into a discussion of the book itself. At the close of our conversation, we will open up the house to questions; we’ll have a couple of mics in the front and in the back.

In the interest of time, we don’t want to go into the entire résumés of all the people who are up here, but we do want to say a word about our principle guest, Reza Aslan. Reza is an associate professor of creative writing and is a cooperative faculty member in the religion department at University of California, Riverside. He is a 1995 graduate of Santa Clara University, a major in our Department of Religious Studies, and he also minored in Greek. He went on from here to obtain a master’s in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, where he just recently spoke, and took his Ph.D. in the sociology of religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also has a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction in the Writer’s Workshop there.

There are so many more things that could be said about him, but I think that’s enough for the moment. However, this is not his first book. As many of you well know, his first book was No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into 13 languages and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He’s also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War, which has been published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age, as well as the editor of several volumes and author of many articles. So it’s a pleasure to welcome Reza back to campus and back to the Bay Area.

Our two panelists are also from the Department of Religious Studies. Professor Catherine Murphy received her B.A. in history here at Santa Clara, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christianity from the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She teaches courses in New Testament, postcolonial perspectives on the New Testament, gender and early Christianity, and most important for tonight, the historical Jesus. She’s the author of several books, one of them focusing on her lifelong work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which she is a major scholar, and then also what some might think to be a more popular book, but in fact a very serious resource book, called The Historical Jesus for Dummies.

Kitty is joined by our colleague, David Pinault, also a professor in the Department of Religious Studies here. David received his B.A. in French literature from Georgetown, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies from the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He offers an array of courses on Islam, also on the Islamic Jesus—which will be offered next quarter—and also a new course, “Animals, the Environment, and World Religions,” which derives from some of his work in Indonesia working with an interfaith group founded by a Muslim that is concerned about the welfare of fauna in the world. So he has quite a wide array of interests. He’s the author of several books including The Horse of Karbala: Muslim Devotional Life in India and The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community.

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Winter 2014

Table of contents


Rise up, my love

There are the sanctuaries built for worship—and that carry beauty and grace for all to see. Then there are the improvised places of faith, perhaps more subtle in how they speak to the wonder worked there.

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With the way things have gone recently in Congress, looking to the heavens for some help and guidance might seem like a very good idea. In fact, that’s what Pat Conroy, S.J., M.Div. ’83 is there to do.

Welcome to Citizenville

Who published the one book on government in 2013 that conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich told all true believers that they should read? Well, the author is now lieutenant governor of California. Before that, he was mayor of San Francisco. That’s right: It’s Gavin Newsom ’89.

Mission Matters


Women’s soccer wins the West Coast Conference championship.

Patent trolls, beware

The White House has brought on SCU’s Colleen Chien, a leading expert in patent law, as senior advisor.

A sight of innocence

George Souliotes went to prison for three life sentences after he was convicted of arson and murder. Twenty years later, he’s out—after the Northern California Innocence Project proved he didn’t do it.