Snickering at FoxNews while getting duped by ‘Zealot’ author

Many of us who came of age during the birth of New Media are reflexively defensive about the medium’s journalistic credibility. We defy the outdated notion that real journalism is printed on paper or broadcast on TV screen. Quality journalism is as likely to be found on a blog as in a newspaper or in a web video as on a cable news channel.

At least that’s the theory.

The reality is that much of what passes for journalism on the Internet is substandard. A prime example can be found in both an interview on FoxNews.com online show Spirited Debate and the New Media responses to it.

Before we get to a clip of the show, let’s look at some of the reactions. The Atlantic Wire says the “whole ordeal was embarrassing for Fox News” while Buzzfeed called it “The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done.” “This Fox interview with Reza Aslan is absolutely demented (& he handled it with remarkable calm)” said The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum on Twitter. Wired’’s Steve Silberman called the interview “embarrassing” and Digg editorial director David Weiner said, “Please, please watch this if you haven’t yet. It’s amazing.”

These critics are right about the interview — it is a mess. But while these New Media journalists were snickering at FoxNews.com, they failed to notice that the person being interviewed was pulling one over on them by getting away with misrepresenting his credentials.

Here is a representative clip from the segment.

The first question by host Lauren Green on why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus isn’t as out of line as the Fox critics seem to think. It’s a fair question — a softball question — that allows the interviewee to explain away any apparent bias. But Green should have moved on after asking it and not made Aslan’s religious background the primary focus of the interview. More importantly, if she had been better prepared she could have called Aslan out for at least one blatant and seemingly undeniable untruth.

After being asked the first question by Green, Aslan responds:

Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” Later in the video he says it’s his job as a “professor of religion including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” And to make sure we get the point, he later adds, “I am a historian. I am a PhD in the history of religions.

At this point, Green should have stopped him and asked him to clarify since he appears to be misrepresenting his credentials.

For starters, he does not have a PhD in the history of religions. Aslan has four degrees: a Bachelors of Religious Studies from Santa Clara University; a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School; a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa; and a PhD in sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara (his dissertation was on “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement”).

Why would Aslan claim he has a PhD in history when his degree is in sociology? Does he not understand the difference between the two fields of study?

Aslan also claims that he has a degree in the New Testament. But is this true? Santa Clara doesn’t offer a degree in the New Testament so he can’t be talking about his Bachelors. Perhaps he is referring to the Master’s of Theological Studies degree he earned from Harvard Divinity School in 1999. That school does offer an “area of focus” in “New Testament and Early Christianity.” Is Aslan claiming this was his degree’s area of focus at Harvard? (If so, this would make his claim about having a “degree in New Testament” misleading, at best.)

While this is a possibility, it raises the question of how — armed with only a Master’s degree with a focus on the New Testament — he became the first full-time professor of Islam in the history of the state of Iowa. According to his own bio, in August of 2000, Aslan was named Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa. While there he “taught courses in Introduction to Islam, Gender and Human Rights, and Religion and Politics in the Middle East, as well as supervising theses in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Women’s Movement in Iran, and Gender Violence Laws in Pakistan.”

Why would Iowa hire someone with an MTS focused on the New Testament to teach only classes on Islam?

The same bio notes that in 2003, “Aslan left his post at the University of Iowa to concentrate full-time on writing.” From there he became a fellow at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy and then moved to the University of California at Riverside, where he is an associate professor of creative writing. He is also a visiting professor at Drew University, where he has taught “Religion and Politics in the New Middle East” and a course “on the art of protest in the Middle East, examining protest literature, film, art and music.”

When exactly has Aslan taught classes on the New Testament? And as a scholar, has he published peer-reviewed academic articles on Jesus?

Aslan’s book should not be dismissed because it was written by a Muslim. But in making untrue claims about his credentials he raises questions about his credibility. It also raises the question of how often so-called experts and authorities with no real expertise or authority on a subject are presented by New Media outlets as representative “scholars.”

Maybe if these journalists spent less time mocking the gaffes of their competitors and more time vetting the so-called “experts” we wouldn’t have to listen to people snicker about the credibility of online media.

Addendum: Before anyone asks, let me clarify why I think the misrepresentation is significant. Aslan is not presenting himself as an “amateur historian” like David McCullough; he is claiming to be an academic historian with a doctorate degree in history. Most academic historians as well as academic sociologists would take offense at the idea that a “sociology of religions” degree and a “history of religions” degree are interchangeable.

  • Paul Putz

    While I don’t think Aslan’s book makes any new arguments about Jesus, I do think that your focus on Aslan not having a History PhD is perhaps missing the mark. For example, Baylor’s Rodney Stark has no history degrees (only sociology), and yet has written extensively on Christian history. In his recent “The Triumph of Christianity” the back cover even describes him as “acclaimed social and religious historian,” instead of “sociologist.” Now, Stark is a much more accomplished scholar than Aslan (I have only been able to find one peer-reviewed article published by Aslan), but it’s not unheard of for a sociologist to find that their interests and studies overlap with religious history, and to present themselves as experts. For the record, Aslan’s PhD dissertation was titled “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement” and his PhD adviser was Mark Juergensmeyer, a sociologist and professor of religious studies who writes and researches extensively on religion, including religious history. To me, the best way to interact with Aslan’s work (which seems to be written for a popular readership more than anything) is to critique his arguments on their own merits, instead of splitting hairs over what type of degree makes him more qualified, a “sociology of religion” or a “history of religion” degree.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      I have no problem — none at all — with a sociologist writing about history. But if Dr. Stark (whose work I greatly admire) were to publicly proclaim that he had a “PhD in history” I would call him out on it too.

      Also, note that Aslan repeatedly uses his claim of having a “PhD in the history of religions” as a reason why he is an expert on the New Testament. But as you note, his PhD dissertation is on a completely unrelated topic.

      My purpose is not to “critique his argument” of Aslan because this is not really (at least for me) about him. It’s about the gullible journalists who allow him — and other self-proclaimed experts — to get away with misrepresenting their credentials. If they can’t even bother to follow up on such obvious untruths, why should we think they are capable of more extensive reporting?

      • Paul Putz

        If Aslan did intentionally misrepresent his credentials, I agree, that is certainly a problem. In the context of this interview, I’m not sure that he did. Out of curiosity, I’ve been trying to figure out just exactly what Aslan does hold his PhD in, and I’ve actually not been able to nail it down. According to his Huffington Post bio, his PhD is in “Islamic Studies.” According to Drew University, his PhD is in “Sociology of Religion.” Other sites simply list his PhD as being in “religion,” while the USC Center on Public Diplomacy from 2009 described him as a “doctoral candidate in history of religions.” I haven’t been able to find anything from the University of Cal-Santa Barbara itself on what his PhD was in, only that his adviser was Mark Juergensmeyer and he did, in fact, receive a PhD by writing the dissertation on Global Jihadism.

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***In the context of this interview, I’m not sure that he did.
          ***

          He clearly states that he he has a PhD in the “history of religions.” But every bio of him states that his degree is in the sociology of religions.

          I also would assume that a school that hired him (Drew University) would have his credentials listed correctly. On his faculty page they have him listed as a PhD in sociology of religions (http://www.drew.edu/crcc/programsinitiatives/wallerstein-distinguished-visiting-scholars/dr-reza-aslan). The school also wrote an article on him in January (http://www.drew.edu/news/2013/01/14/reza-aslan-wants-to-cut-through-the-lunacy) with that listed as his degree. It would be odd that he wouldn’t ask them to correct that if it were in error.

          There is also the question of whether UC-SB offers a PhD in history of religions. If they do, it’s not listed, at least in the Religious Studies department.

          • Paul Putz

            I don’t see a “Sociology of Religion” degree listed under the sociology graduate programs, either (http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/graduate-studies). Also, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy hired Aslan in 2009, and they described him as a doctoral candidate in the history of religions (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/about/bio_detail/reza_aslan/). But those semantics aside, when you consider the fact that Aslan was speaking off-the-cuff, and that he was not using technical, legal language, then the most important thing to know for me is what, exactly, Aslan studied as part of his PhD program. If his degree is in sociology of some sort (as it appears to be), then I am interested in the classes and the research that he undertook. If he really did study the history of religions as a major component of getting his sociology degree, then given the situation, I think it’s reasonable to say he was not trying to intentionally deceive. In my opinion, we need to have more information (particularly regarding the specifics of his degree programs). On the other hand, I do appreciate the fact that the issue of what his credentials actually are has been brought up here. Most other places are simply taking Aslan’s spontaneous description as the official word, instead of looking into his real academic credentials.

          • Nicholas Decker

            THIS right here. This is what anyone should be doing.

            This article is doing the same as other articles criticizing Fox News. To be fair, if it isn’t sensationalized, then no one will read it, so I understand why one goes to the extreme to arrive at the points in the article.

            I do believe there should be more fact checking in Journalism, good for you Joe Carter for going the extra step, but I think you stopped just short of what would have been a great article to speculate and make it a little sensasionlist.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            A generous reader sent me a document from the National Student Clearinghouse confirming the area of study of his degree (http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/getreligion/files/2013/07/Verification_Certificate_106896848.pdf).

          • Kyunaga

            Yeah I think you might have to stop there because it is getting embarrassing. It’s clear that Aslan, while not having a degree literally called “PhD in the History of Religions” that it’s now quite clear that was his focus.

          • Nina Ricci

            “The Department of Religious Studies uses a variety of methods (historical, textual, ethnographic, philosophical and social scientific) through the specific and comparative study of the religious dimensions of world cultures and traditions. Its program offers concentrations in a variety of religious traditions: (Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Native American and indigenous) and areas, with particular strengths in South and East Asia, the Middle East, the ancient and medieval Mediterranean world, and North America. Faculty teach, research and publish in the study of sacred textual traditions, religion in public life, sacred space and pilgrimage, healing systems, race/ethnicity and pluralism, religious experience, religious movements, religious violence, and the implications that nationalism, globalization, science and the new media hold for the development of religion in the modern era. Cross-cultural research and interdisciplinary approaches — involving disciplines such as history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, gender studies, art history, comparative literature, and political science — are especially encouraged by the Department and supported by faculty affiliates across the university.”

        • Darren Blair

          Look at it this way.

          When I got my undergrad, my minor was in marketing; I attempted to pursue this minor through my MBA, but the college didn’t have enough 500-level marketing electives to meet the requirements.

          Under these circumstances, I could potentially get away with claiming a minor in marketing.

          I could *not*, however, get away with claiming a minor in “applied psychological warfare” (despite the joke being so old that Hasbro referenced it back in 1987 – http://www.yojoe.com/action/87/psycheout.shtml ; scroll down to read his file card). Yes, marketing involves, in large part, determining which psychological cues motivate different people to perform certain actions. But I would have needed an actual minor in psychology to be able to claim a minor in psychology.

      • msallyjones

        What about letting interviewers (not journalists) get away with misrepresenting what they are doing. Fox and Lauren Green, right from the start, had no intention of doing an honest interview in order to inform listeners. They were clearly out to make it look like a Muslim had written an anti-Christian book.

    • Cha5678

      I suspect Stark’s first efforts to publish on a subject not of his expertise raised suspicions. Best of luck to Aslan as he learns on the job.

  • Rev_Aggie_98

    If a guy can’t keep his credentials straight, why should we take his academic work seriously?

    • Darren Blair

      You can’t.

      As an MBA, I can tell you that among academics with post-graduate degrees it is a cardinal sin to knowingly misrepresent one’s credentials, particularly if the misrepresentation concerns a post-graduate degree or military service.*

      Officially, the reason for this is simple. If a person holds their credentials up as the basis for what they say and do, then a successful challenge to a person’s credentials means that their body of work comes tumbling down by default due to there not being anything more to support them.

      Unofficially, every person who lies about having a post-graduate degree or who flashes one from a diploma mill is personally insulting those of us who got our degrees the hard way.

      *There’s a little bit of leeway for situations where a person did not intentionally misrepresent themselves. For example, an official at the college I got my MBA from tried to revoke my degree based on a technicality so obscure that a professor who went to check on said technicality had trouble finding it and the college’s online enrollment system knew nothing about (and so had no precautions against). As such, for the 72-hour period in which it took for me to get the mess straightened out, I didn’t officially have a degree despite having already been hooded and physically receiving my physical diploma. This incident wound up costing me a job offer, as I was forced to contact the company I had applied to and inform them of the situation.

      • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

        I was sorta hoping the readers would convince me that what Aslan did was perfectly acceptable. Since I took a math class when I got my MBA I was hoping to be able to say that I had a “degree in mathematics.” ; )

        • Darren Blair

          Just one math class? You got off easy, then.

          In addition to my managerial accounting class (in which I had to run the accounting ratios on a real company’s real end-of-year federal filings), I recall having a managerial finance class and a class on how to use spreadsheets in accounting.

        • Darren Blair

          In all seriousness, though, “false credentials” isn’t something that people in the know play around with.

          As I brought up in the comments section on Mollie’s article about the New York Times’ latest hit job on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/07/skeptical-about-the-nyts-mormon-skeptic-piece/ ), back in the 1980s / early 1990s there was a situation that I call the “Credential Wars”.

          The “Wars” were kicked off when a counter-cult pundit named Walter R. Martin challenged his audiences to go after individual “cultists” in addition to the “cults” they belonged to. Upon hearing this, LDS apologists Robert & Rosemary Brown decided to turn the tables by checking out the credentials of several top counter-cult pundits of the day,

          The end result was something akin to the Marianas Turkey Shoot. It turned out that numerous counter-cult pundits of the day were operating with hyped, exaggerated, or even false credentials. For example, Martin claimed to have been an ordained minister with a doctorate degree in addition to claims that, as a direct descendent of Brigham Young, he had a “secret” library full of early Mormon documents. In reality, he was lying about his lineage (a check of his family tree showed no direct relationship), his degree came from a diploma mill, and there was no firm evidence of his ordination having been restored after it was revoked a few decades earlier.

          Lesser pundits like D. J. Nelson (who falsely claimed to have a doctorate degree in Egyptology) and Loftes Tryk (who hid the fact that he was a convicted sex offender) saw their careers evaporate, while more prominent pundits like Martin and J. Edward Decker (his first wife divorced him due to his repeated infidelity, rather than his changing religions as he had been claiming) lost precious time attempting to explain matters.

          As a result, one of the first things your more seasoned LDS apologists will do is check the credentials of any counter-cult pundits in order to see whether or not they actually stack up or if said apologist is dealing with another confidence scammer.

      • Rev_Aggie_98

        Exactly.

  • Mark Chancey

    I must say, this is a disappointing blog post. It crosses way over the line of civil discourse when the author all but calls Aslan (whom I don’t know) a liar, claiming that Aslan misrepresents his credentials and makes “at least one blatant and seemingly undeniable untruth” by mentioning his degree in the “history of religions.”

    The post’s author seems to have very little familiarity with the terminology of the field of religious studies. It would not take much web work to discover the “history of religions” is a very broad term with a deep history that describes a methodological approach that combines historical and comparative interests. The term is widely used in religious studies, and many doctoral programs immerse their students in that approach, regardless of what the student’s primary focus or methodological interest is.

    The fact that Aslan’s graduate work focused on the sociology of religions does not mean he is disqualified from using the term “history of religions” to describe important components of his overall academic preparation or his own interpretive stance. The blog’s critique on this point comes across as an embarrassing display of nit-picking by someone who doesn’t understand the term or academic field he’s discussing. (This impression is strengthened further by follow-up comments the post’s author makes below.) In short, the blog’s author doesn’t get religious studies.

    No, Aslan is not a biblical scholar by trade, and no, he does not have a history degree, either, and noting those facts is fair enough–but making him out to be a liar because in the midst of a weirdly uncomfortably interview with a journalist who clearly knew nothing at all about academia or the scholarly world, he used the phrase “history of religions” to describe his background–depicting him as a liar (the obvious shorthand for “un-truth teller”) is *not* fair game. Unfortunately, this defaming characterization of Aslan is now circulating all over the web because of this blog posting.

    Regardless of the book’s merits and Aslan’s strengths and weaknesses as a scholar, Carter really owes Aslan an apology on this point.

    Mark A. Chancey, Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University

    • NYlawyer

      This is really disappointing to see from an academic. Carter seems right: his credentials are not those he claimed. There is nothing in these 5 paragraphs that rebuts what Carter wrote — Aslan was claiming to have written a book within an area of his scholarly expertise, and his four degrees do not support that claim. To call it nitpicking is extremely anti-intellectual.

      • Mark Chancey

        I’m addressing a specific claim Carter (and his First Things compatriot) implies: Aslan is a liar because he claims to have a degree in the history of religions. This is not the stretch the critics make it out to be.

        It *would* be fair to say that Aslan is writing outside his specialization, but it is not fair to depict him as dishonest on this point. These particular criticisms over credentials do not reflect an understanding of the terminology of the academia. Aslan is a religion scholar with appropriate degrees writing a book about religion. Particularly in the midst of that horrific interview, it’s understandable that Aslan would want to emphasize his academic background. He used terms that make sense to academics but not to others. That may have been a mistake, but it does not make him a liar.

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***He used terms that make sense to academics but not to others.***

          No, he is not. I don’t know any academics that understand when you say you have a PhD in history what you *really* mean is that you have a PhD in sociology.

          I really don’t think that is a claim you really want to defend. Aslan misrepresented himself. I’m not questioning his motives for doing so, but that he did so is an indisputable fact.

          • Mark Chancey

            Joe, claiming to do history of religions is not the same as claiming to have a Ph.D. in history. These are apples and oranges.

            The so-called “fact” that Aslan misrepresented himself is clearly disputable, because I’m disputing it. I spend my life in the world of academia. I surf job listings for academic positions in religious studies and see the ways jobs are described. I study graduate programs in religion to discover ways to improve our own. My job is to read daily in the field of religious studies, which is a different world than theological studies. I serve on hiring committees to hire academics in religious studies. I teach introductory classes on religious studies where we discuss terms like “history of religions.” I think I’m in a position to say that “history of religions” is a technical term in the field of religious studies that should not be confused with the distinct field of history to which your comments refer.

            If I were bending over backwards to find the least charitable way to interpret to Aslan’s comments, I would say he could have chosen better wording to describe his background. But he was thinking on his feet, quickly, while responding to what appears to be a completely uninformed interviewer who was clearly implying that his faith made him unqualified to discuss the subject. I don’t know of many people who would be able to give the perfect response in that situation.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            Here is an copy online of Aslan’s PhD dissertation (http://www.scribd.com/doc/156747924/Reza-Aslan-Dissertation). Perhaps you can explain what it has to do with the “history of religions.”

            Even if it were possible to claim that a “sociology of religions” degree and a “history of religions” degree were interchangeable, I don’t see how his dissertation could be described as a “history of religions.” (As it notes in the dissertation under “Major Field: Islam, Sociology of Religions”).

            ***I don’t know of many people who would be able to give the perfect response in that situation.***

            Oh good grief. No one is looking for the “perfect response” only an *accurate* response. Are you saying that after being asked one question in an interview that you would get so flustered that you’d forget you had a PhD in Religion?

            It’s really not that hard to remember what you spent six years of your life studying nor what department gave you your degree. And would you ever claim that, based on your academic background, that you were an expert on Islam?

          • http://ok-cleek.com/blogs cleek

            Perhaps you can explain what it has to do with the “history of religions.”

            go read the abstract. in part, he’s setting up his discussion of Islam and jihad by comparing them to religious and cultural movements of the past century. and, just skimming the text, you can see that he goes back into history to talk about the history and sociology of religion in general.

          • Brian Hill

            For reference, this seems like the operative language:

            “This study examines the phenomenon of Global Jihadism through the lens of modern social movement theory. Through an in-depth analysis of its history, beliefs,and practices, we will argue that Global Jihadism has taken on many of the same characteristics as other social movements of the 20th century by, 1. Appealing to a set of familiar symbols (in this case, religious, rather than cultural or societal) to construct a collective identity that transcends all cultural, national, ethnic, and gender boundaries, withthe aim of mobilizing individuals to rise up and effect radical social change . . . .”

            I have no expertise in the proper use of the technical term “history of religions,” but just from a lay perspective it certainly seems like this dissertation is going to be discussing at length the history of something that at least self-identifies as religious.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            ***he goes back into history to talk about the history***

            No, he doensn’t. Read the dissertation and you’ll see.

          • Brian Hill

            Again I don’t have the expertise to say what “history of religions” means to academics, but if you look at Sections III, IV, and V, which is where he does the real work of the dissertation, they contain an awful lot of history.

          • Kyunaga

            Yeah, it’s clear that Joe Carter had a notion, and then cherry picked his way there. Note how he has purposely not told ANYONE that the thesis for that PhD was on Global Jihadism because that would start poking holes in his argument that Sociology has nothing to do with history or religion or both.

          • John Pack Lambert

            Which has literally nothing to do with 1st-century Palestine history. The claims of expertise from a Ph.D. into this subject are false.

          • Kyunaga

            His PhD was on Global Jihadism. I mean seriously… you’re trying to pretend that he only covered non-religious elements in obtaining his PhD in Sociology.

        • NYlawyer

          Thank you for the response, Professor Chancey. My impression is that Aslan was claiming, or implying, something more. And I think that is a fair impression from the video.

        • Mark Chancey

          An example of a critique that completely misses the point: Carter’s response to Putz below confuses a “PhD in history” with a “PhD in the history of religions.” To those in academia, these two items are an apple and an orange; claiming the latter is not remotely like claiming the former.

          The ironic thing here from my perspective is that I am not particularly invested in Aslan’s career or the reception of his book. I am, however, interested in both the tone of online discourse and journalistic discussions of religious studies. On those counts, this whole line of argument is disappointing. Even the post’s title is inappropriate, by suggesting that Aslan was “duping” journalists–given the thin substance of the post’s supporting arguments, this sure sounds like an “ad hominem” argument to me. See Get Religion Feedback Policy #5. Get Religion regularly complains about what it sees as misunderstandings and misrepresentations of conservative viewpoints, but unfortunately I’ve seen the site post a lot of unfair hatchet jobs on viewpoints elsewhere on the spectrum.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      ***The post’s author seems to have very little familiarity with the terminology of the field of religious studies.***

      With all due respect Dr. Chancy, you are making claims about your own field that cannot withstand scrutiny. I’m familiar enough with the field of religious studies to know that it would be scandalous for an academic to misrepresent his degree. To claim that you can say that you have a degree in history when your degree is from the department of sociology is simply ludicrous.

      Aslan states, rather emphatically, that he has a “PhD in the history of religions.” The truth is that his work on his PhD really has nothing to do with the “history of religions” since it is a sociological study of global jihadism.

      ***The fact that Aslan’s graduate work focused on the sociology of religions does not mean he is disqualified from using the term “history of religions” to describe important components of his overall academic preparation or his own interpretive stance.***

      But that’s not what he did. He did not claim that he incorporated “important components of his academic preparation or his own interpretative stance” into his work. He says he has a “PhD in the history of religions.”

      ***depicting him as a liar (the obvious shorthand for “un-truth teller”) is *not* fair game.***

      So it’s not fair to say someone is lying when they lie about what type of degree that have? Why not?

      Are you claiming that in the heat of the interview Aslan completely forgot what sort of degree he had?

      ***Carter really owes Aslan an apology on this point.***

      Why would I apologize for pointing out that a person misrepresented his credentials? Even you can’t dispute that point.

      • pixwhite

        No offense, but you’re in the weeds … try focusing on his book and get back on the fairway … this is really a useless exercise to follow this line of debate. Focusing on minutiae like this is nitpicking. If you want to “bust” Aslan, then dig through his book and notes to find something wrong … or just post on how you disagree with statements in the book, but in this post, you seem to be entirely focused on whether he is qualified enough to right this book … which he would seem to be.

        • mel mariner

          The subject is the interview, not the book.

      • Grisha

        @Joe Carter If you want to speak for yourself, fine, but don’t speak for historians and PhDs. Really, you are trying to piggyback on the credentials of others, hard-earned. You have an MBA, why not speak as that? And I promise in turn not to speak for MBAs!

        Really, I think you are kind of playing fast an loose with credentials here.

      • Shawn Ragan

        ***I’m familiar enough with the field of religious studies to know that it would be scandalous for an academic to misrepresent his degree. To claim that you can say that you have a degree in history when your degree is from the department of sociology is simply ludicrous.***

        It would be scandalous if Aslan had indeed “misrepresented” his degree. If he had a degree in a completely unrelated field, like Engineering or Business, and he was passing himself off as a PhD in sociology, that would be problematic. But that is not what happened here. For clarification, he did not say that he had a PhD from the DEPARTMENT of history, but a PhD in the history of religions. One does not have to be in the history department to study the history of religions. In fact, several other departments will study the history of religions, each from its own bent. Thus, someone from Religious Studies, History, Classics, Comparative Literature, English, Sociology, Anthropology, Archaeology all could claim to have a PhD in the history of religions based on what they did in their PhD. Here it is also important to note that, based on what others in his program have reported, he did a substantial part of his coursework in the Religious Studies department, not Sociology.

        ***Aslan states, rather emphatically, that he has a “PhD in the history of religions.” The truth is that his work on his PhD really has nothing to do with the “history of religions” since it is a sociological study of global jihadism.***

        While a dissertation is a major component of a PhD – the capstone even – it is not the PhD. In addition to the dissertation, earning a PhD involves a great deal of coursework, research, exams, and papers – often unrelated to the final dissertation topic. The argument here is based only on one aspect of his PhD program – are you saying, then, that in the many years he spent on his PhD he did not spend a substantial amount of time studying the history of religion? Do you know what his quals/exams covered?

        ***So it’s not fair to say someone is lying when they lie about what type of degree that have? Why not?***

        Because he did not lie. The chair of his committee – the person mainly responsible for awarding him his PhD – has said that he did not misrepresent himself. The person who knows far better than any of us what he actually did in his doctoral program did not see a problem with his statements, so why do you? Do you know his academic career better than his own chair?

        ***Are you claiming that in the heat of the interview Aslan completely forgot what sort of degree he had?***

        I don’t think anyone here is claiming Aslan “completely forgot what sort of degree he had.” There are probably many ways he could have accurately described his PhD – this was one of them. I am in the UC, working towards my PhD in the History Department (I take classes in other departments, though, as history is an interdisciplinary field). For us – and I do not know how it would have been for Aslan at UCSB – we have three fields (a primary, a complementary, and a teaching field). Depending upon the audience, I could describe the PhD for which I am working in several different ways – a few of which would not even include the word “history” – and all of them would be accurate.

    • Lori Meeks

      Thank you — you explained this much better than I did. I agree that an apology is in order.

      • Mark Chancey

        Thanks, Lori. I was glad to see your post, too.

    • Nina Ricci

      Thank YOU! It gets harder and harder to take bloggers seriously when they can post *anything* they feel like, which in general has nothing to do with reality. Defamation is the weapon of the uneducated. Sad, but true.

      • Mark Chancey

        Thanks for your post, too, Nina. I was glad to see it.

    • anthony van dalen

      I concur, the author is being argumentative. Take a minute to look at the religious studies grad students at SCSB and note how almost all of the ones mentioning sociology also mention history or anthropology. How exactly does one study the “sociology” of religion without looking at where it came from? What is sociology but the interpretation of history to explain the present?

  • wmrharris

    Put me in the confused column: a few days ago, the problem was that nobody knew Aslan was Muslim; now, all sorts of evidence from his past is trotted out show clearly Muslim he was. Either he is known, or unknown. Or, it may be like the Fox interview, a discounting of presentation because of the person’s religion.

  • http://mwcnews.net Shahram Vahdany

    Lisa Hajjar :
    ” This article does catch something that Reza said during the interview that was not really accurate: that he has a PhD in the history of religion. I was on his PhD committee, so I can attest that his PhD is in Sociology. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was being harangued by the interviewer and his academic credentials were on the line. He might have slipped about how he got that Sociology PhD: He made the move from Religious Studies to Sociology at the advice of his committee chair Mark Juergensmayer (who has a line in both departments) for–what I understood at the time–somewhat technical reasons, although my memory of this is fuzzy. I think the dealio was that he had a job offer (at UC Riverside) and needed to defend quickly, and there were obstacles to fast tracking him out of Religious Studies. I was brought in as a pinch hitting 3rd committee member at the 11th hour. He revised the dissertation to make it more explicitly sociological. It was solid, not brilliant; it was, really, an academic and elaborated version of his book which was already out, “No God But God” (I think it was titled). If there is a lesson in all this, it is: don’t do Fox News interviews!”

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      Dr. Hajjar,

      Thanks for the comment. I have to take exception to the claim that Aslan was being “harangued by the interviewer and his academic credentials were on the line.” He was asked one question before making the claim that he was an expert “with a PhD in the history of religions.” He was, I’ll certainly admit, harangued later in the interview. But I can see that he had reason to make such a gaffe so early.

      Also, while I can certainly understand that under pressure it might be easy to make a mistake, I can’t imagine making a mistake about what sort of degree I have.

      • http://mwcnews.net Shahram Vahdany

        Mr. Carter.

        I have quoted Professor Hajjar, to illustrate that Aslan could elaborate on his credentials and nothing would have been changed. He is still a scholar and well qualified to write about any historical figure. I too would give him the benefit of the doubt and disagree with your presumption that he was trying to ” pull one over us”.

        Shahram Vahdany

        • Lori Meeks

          This makes a lot of sense, and yes, I agree that whether Aslan’s degree is in Sociology or Religion is besides the point; he studied both and is qualified to write books in religious studies.

      • Shrikantha Prabhu

        One more thing I noted; Where I studied associate professors never introduced themselves as professors. Aslan kept referring to himself as Professor!! That is a very serious misrepresentation!

    • Mark Chancey

      Thanks for posting this. This makes sense to me. I can easily understand things playing out this way.

  • toongail

    The problem is that in Islam it is ok to lie to an infidel if it is in Islam’s best interest- so it is hard to tell if they are truthful or not. His credentials should be researched. It is not that a person of one religion cannot write about another religion. The issue is can one be objective? And more importantly can one get only the facts available and not make up new “facts”? I have no idea about this man – Ms Green should have done more research and asked better questions – because he is a Muslim the possibility of stretching truth is there. To his credit he at least said Jesus was crucified which goes against Muslim teaching. To says Jesus was a rebel in the worldly sense does not fit.

  • Jerry Crowe

    He has four more degrees than the person that wrote this attack on him.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      Actually, he has two degrees more than I do. It’s okay, though, I’m bad at math too.

      • avalpert

        Your bad at a lot of things – here you are a bad at retaining integrity as a commentator on the press and not a hack.

        • Chris Candide

          Your comment demonstrates at least one thing you are “bad at.”

      • Jerry Crowe

        You know Joe, You just hate Muslims. It is that simple.

    • Darren Blair

      Doesn’t matter.

      Even if it’s just a simple fumble (as some posters have argued), the fact that he didn’t quite present himself properly is the key factor here.

      • RobS

        Except that his Phd supervisor has stated that despite the title of his PhD being sociology of religions it’s description as a PhD of the history of religion is perfectly accurate and not in any way misleading as that was his core area of study. The key factor here is the ridiculous assertion that an academic can not perform work on a topic they don’t intimately follow on a personal level. It is as specious an argument as saying an oncologist cant publish about oncology unless they have cancer. Acaemics quibbling over the exact wording of his degree would be far better placed to band together and respond to this absurd attack on academia rather then quibbling about minutiae.

  • MollieZHemingway

    Readers of this post might also be interested in Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s take on this interview (http://theamericanscene.com/2013/07/29/watch-reza-aslan-make-an-ass-out-of-himself). Last line:

    “Oh yes, the Fox News video is embarrassing. It’s a little
    embarrassing for Fox News. It’s a lot embarrassing for Aslan. And it’s
    very, very embarrassing for Buzzfeed and Slate and all the other outlets
    that amplified it uncritically.”

    • Dingo Dongo

      I’m sorry, but I don’t see how anything in Gobry’s post bears on Carter’s accusation (viz., that Aslan is guilty of misrepresenting his credentials).

  • nolaboyd

    “he is claiming to be an academic historian with a doctorate degree in history.”

    No, he is not.

    “Most academic historians as well as academic sociologists would take offense at the idea that a “sociology of religions” degree and a “history of religions” degree are interchangeable.”

    No, they would not.

    I’m a professor in a religious studies department. You’re really embarrassing yourself here.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      ***No, he is not.***

      Did you even watch the video? Here are the relevant quotes:

      “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.”

      “I am a historian. I am a PhD in the history of religions.”

      ***I’m a professor in a religious studies department. You’re really embarrassing yourself here.***

      Where do you teach? I’d love to ask your colleagues if they’d agree that those degrees are interchangeable.

      • nolaboyd

        Believe me, they do, because “history of religions” is not a DEGREE, it’s a description. But you’re crazy enough to actually harrass them, so I’ll pass. I’d explain it, but Brian Hill and Grisha have explained it as well as it can be explained, and you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to understand.

        The PhD holding professors in the discussion aren’t offended, but you know better, because… well, I guess you’re just that awesome.

        • GeekQueen

          Thank you. When I got my B.A. in religious studies, I was fortunate to be taught by some internationally known experts in their fields–including my favorite professor, a classical archaeologist (Jodi Magness).

          I’m not sure if it’s that people can’t appreciate the inter-disciplinary overlap of humanities scholarship, but I find it truly bizarre that none of these people voicing opinions have ever bothered to look at the diverse faculty in a quality religious studies department. PhDs in history, religious studies, archaeology, classics–and yes, even the pseudoscience known as “sociology”–are common, if their interests pertain to the field of religious study (from an academic perspective).

          • Saints and Sceptics

            With the best will in the world, no one is misunderstanding the interdisciplinary nature of religious studies (especially those of us who have studied or taught it.)

            A PhD in the “History of Religions” does not (on the face of it) provide expertise in the New Testament documents, specialised types of source criticism, Aramaic, Hebrew or the history of 1st Century Palestine. These are the skills that we would typically expect of those who publish research about the Historical Jesus. At one point he compares himself to an historian with a PhD in Reagan writing a book about Reagan. The analogy does not seem to hold.

            “Zealot” certainly appears to be a book about the historical Jesus. In any case, Aslan is not a typical quester. So it would be legitimate to *ask* why Aslan wanted to write a book on this topic. He could then have explained why he might have something new to contribute to the quest. Indeed, his academic background might provide a fresh perspective. If so, it would be nice to know what that perspective is.

            It is interesting that Aslan takes the biographies of Muhammad at face value in “No God But God”, yet is more critical of the New Testament. Again, this seemed to be an obvious question that the Fox interviewer overlooked.

            The blame falls entirely on the interviewer, of course. But Joe’s point seems to be that internet journalism has been content to mock Fox, rather than to engage in these deeper questions. Joe alleged that the interviewers cultured despisers do not have a better grasp of the issues. As far as I can tell, his point stands.
            GV

          • GeekQueen

            And yet, my statement never addressed whether Dr. Aslan is considered to have “expertise” in the area of study in which he is writing. I am not personally acquainted with him, and don’t know what particular coursework he completed in pursuit of his MA and PhD. A discussion of his actual qualifications–and whether he has pursued the relevant studies to address the scholarship required for this book–would be quite interesting, actually. His actual coursework is a valid addition to the conversation that no one has really bothered to address.

            My statement, to be clear, was in response to those who believe that a PhD in sociology–as opposed to “religious studies” or “history”–IN ITSELF makes DR. Aslan some sort of fraud. “PhDs in history, religious studies, archaeology, classics…are common, if their interests pertain to the field of religious study (from an academic perspective)” pretty clearly addressed the pedantic arguments made by Joe Carter.

          • hydrochloriawk

            And all of those people will have been published (in a peer-reviewed setting) in the field in which they would venture to teach.

        • Lucas Jensen

          And I don’t understand his continued implication that Reslan is “pulling something over” on everyone. These days, inflating one’s resume on national TV is not a great way to not get caught at it. That is, if it were this malicious act that Carter seems to think it is.

          • John Pack Lambert

            He lied about having a Ph.D. in religious history. If you are aligned in certain ways you can lie all you want and the left will cover for you. That is what happened at least initially with Kaitlyn Hunt.

      • Wulfsten

        Holy moly, Joe, please just stop.

        This is a clear hit-piece that was trying to be disingenuously provocative by smearing someone who is overwhelmingly sympathetic in the public eye at the moment.

        There is no credible way you can claim that Aslan was “duping” anyone. To say that is to imply that he was maliciously misrepresenting his credentials in order to aggrandise himself or give himself an advantage in the argument. There is no way that claiming he had a PhD in “history of religions” would have been more advantageous than claiming a PhD in “sociology of religions”. He may have made a mistake, but that’s all it was, and your implication otherwise is ugly and embarrassing.

        As many people have noted, sociology, history (at an academic level), anthropology all overlap a great deal. This is something that you claim to accept, but that you clearly have trouble wrapping your head around. Aslan IS qualified to speak on the history of religions, and at an extremely high academic level.

        To say that you have a PhD in history of religions when that’s not exactly what it says on your certificate may be inaccurate, but it’s hardly duplicitous given the context of the debate, and your suggestion that he should have been taken to task on that point is pathetic.

        Joe, do you realise that pretty much everyone in this discussion has concluded that you’re wrong, and that it’s sad how you’re trying to defend your statements so long after it’s been made clear that you’re wrong?

        Are you framing this in your mind as some sort of heroic stand for the truth in the face of all these woolly academics who think it’s okay to mislabel degrees? Cause you’d be the only one who sees it that way, mate.

        • DavidM

          “This is a clear hit-piece that was trying to be disingenuously provocative by smearing someone who is overwhelmingly sympathetic in the public eye at the moment.”
          Holy moly, Wulfsten: do you really think that is true? Perhaps you might also consider the possibility that it’s not?

          • Wulfsten

            I do really think that is true, DavidM, else I wouldn’t have written it.

            I’d certainly entertain the possibility that he didn’t write it so cynically, but after considering the tone, timing, content and context of the piece, it really does come across as “Hey, everyone likes this Aslan guy! WELL LEMME TELL YA WHY HE AIN’T SO GREAT!” *Everyone flocks to listen*

            I’m not sure what you’re trying to say in your reply, DavidM, it didn’t really leave me with anything to argue, besides defending my motives, which is a bit boring.

          • DavidM

            That’s funny – I never mentioned your motives. Your comment is hypocritical and dogmatic. It completely ignores the overall context in which Joe’s comment was written. Your comment is a ‘clear hit-piece.’ I thought you might benefit from re-thinking your crude position, but if not, oh well. (The function of the word ‘really’ was to suggest to you to re-examine your belief: do you *really* think what you wrote was true? – apparently you didn’t understand that? – or you’re just incapable of thinking critically about your own beliefs?)

          • Wulfsten

            Wow, you must really enjoy trying to one-up people on comments threads.

            The purpose of the article is clear, at least it is to me and a whole bunch of other people who’ve reacted similarly to it. It’s trying to draw a false equivalence between Reza and the behaviour of Fox during the interview, arguing that although Fox was pretty stupid, Reza was trying to deceive all of us.

            In my opinion, that’s eminently stupid, since it’s very difficult to argue that Reza stood to gain from calling his degree a history of religions degree as opposed to sociology of religions.

            So, on balance, it looks like the author was trying to latch on to whatever inconsistency he could to discredit Reza, to try to provide a novel, if unbelievably trite, perspective on the debate.

            Asking me if I “really believe what I said” is pointless and insulting. If you don’t think what I said had merit, then you should’ve pointed out why. What you were essentially doing is implying “OMG that’s so dumb you can’t actually believe that can you?”

            Except you tried to dress it up in more condescending language.

            I don’t really get why you’re saying my comment was “dogmatic”, as I never claimed that criticising Aslan was unacceptable, simply that THIS criticism was pointless and trivial.

            I also don’t really follow why you think I’m hypocritical, but I’ll just chalk that to your hasty attempt to denigrate me using whatever words you had at hand. Ditto your bizarre jibe about thinking critically about my own beliefs.

            I mean, honestly.

          • DavidM

            “Wow, you must really enjoy trying to one-up people on comments threads.” – Again, that seems like a hypocritical comment. And you’re again being dogmatic, begging all sorts of questions, and missing the point. Oh well, I’ll not waste more time on you.

          • DavidM

            ” “Hey, everyone likes this Aslan guy! WELL LEMME TELL YA WHY HE AIN’T SO GREAT!”” – It sounds like your suggesting, “everyone likes this pretentious blowhard – SO YOU BETTER NOT CRITICIZE HIM!” Seems kind of dumb. Irrelevant. Non sequitur. Boring.

          • DavidM

            (For those who don’t know, ‘non sequitur’ is a Greek term meaning ‘stupid argument.’)

          • Shawn Ragan

            No, it is not. It is a Latin term and it means “it does not follow.” It is used to describe conclusions that do not appear to be based on the argument or some irrelevant statement thrown into the discussion (like, for example, your definition of ‘non sequitor’).

          • DavidM

            Good catch, Shawn. (Actually it was a joke; I was mocking Reza Aslan, alluding to my prior comment: “By adding a chronological narrative to this jumble of traditions, Mark created a wholly new literary genre called gospel, Greek for “good news.”” – Now what kind of pretentious sophomore would write something that stupid, you ask? – Turns out it’s Reza “I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek” Azlan (PhD) (Zealot, p. xxvi). Hi-larious)

    • msallyjones

      Ah yes, professor of religious studies at West Overshoe Conservative Christian College.

  • Grisha

    I am an academic historian with a PhD in the history of Russia, with minor fields in Modern Europe, anthropology, and cultural history. Nowadays the fields of history, sociology and anthropology have significant disciplinary overlap. I had an anthropologist on my committee and one of the primary texts for my dissertation was by a sociologist. I don’t see anything wrong or dishonest about the claim. I just think you don’t really understand how high-level academics work.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      So you are saying that, although you have a PhD in the history of Russia, you would think it was perfectly acceptable (and your colleagues would agree) if you claimed in public that you had PhD in the sociology of Russia?

      Is that really how “high-level academics work”? You can just sort of claim any type of degree for yourself that you want, as long as there is some tenuous connection to be found?

      Does no one care about accuracy and honesty anymore? This thread is becoming really depressing.

      • Grisha

        For one thing, the degrees are of an equivalent rank in closely related fields. So I don’t see a credentialing problem here. Some sociologists are basically historians. Some historians are basically sociologists. It can be difficult to explain this to a lay audience. Perhaps his wording could be more clear, but disciplinary boundaries have been breaking down for 20 years now, and perhaps calling himself a sociologist would be LESS true. I don’t know, I don’t have a dog in his fight. I haven’t read his book. I am neither a supporter nor an opponent. I am simply telling you how the field operates.

        History in particular is more of a catch-all, so it is more acceptable for people to call themselves ‘historians’ when they have PhDs in related fields, than it is for historians to claim their places as anthropologists or sociologists. That said, it can be done. In my own case, I was actually hired jointly by departments of literature and history, so I often presented myself as a professor of history and literature (I taught classes in both fields) though my PhD is in history and my minor focus is much more in anthropology. In fact, an anthropologist colleague, point blank called me an anthropologist. It’s complicated, you see?

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***It’s complicated, you see?***

          Maybe I’m dense, because I definitely do not see.

          Obviously, there is a lot of overlap between fields. I understand that you can have a PhD in one field and consider yourself a historian, an anthropologists, etc. That’s fine. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But when you tell people you have a “PhD in ________” then the blank should be filled with the name of the subject that is on your diploma, not what you *wish* it said. PhDs are specialty degrees, not general “liberal studies” diplomas.

          Actually, now that I think about, it’s really not that complicated. You just have to have a basic level of honesty and tell people what you have an *actual* degree in.

          • Brian Hill

            I think the problem is that when you hear, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions,” you think you are hearing a statement of the title of his degree, whereas the academics posting in these comments are hearing a description of the scholarly work for which he was granted the PhD. To them it is not necessarily a contradiction for someone who has a Sociology PhD to say it is in the history of religions, anymore than it would be a necessary contradiction for someone with a Physics PhD to say they had a PhD in quantum mechanics, because they think it is entirely possible that a Sociology PhD would in fact have done work fairly described as the history of religions.

            Ultimately the question a fair-minded person would be asking themselves would be whether they really thought Aslan was trying to deceive his audience about the title of his degree, or whether he was trying to accurately describe his prior work as a scholar and how it serves to answer the question being asked (Why did he write this book about Jesus?). I think it is a little silly to insist on the prior interpretation given the context, and all the more so now that various academics working in this general area have appeared in these comments and explained how they interpreted his remarks.

          • Grisha

            Well said, Brian. I think that sums it up pretty perfectly and accurately.

          • Kyunaga

            Brian Hill, but what if you already have a notion and you want to push anything you’ve got? That’s when you’ve got the silly interpretation because at that point all Joe Carter has is his insistence that Aslan meant the name of his actual degree which any fair minded person knows that was not the case.

          • Ben

            Your Ahab-like quest to carry this point is admirable in its way, but really: History of Religions and Sociology of Religions are closely related fields; scholars move between them frequently and easily, and while there may be a minor inaccuracy in describing one’s degree as coming from one committee or the other, there is no substantive intent to deceive. A number of people on this very thread from within the academic study of religion have explained this extensively. It’s time to just admit that you missed the mark here, especially in the context of the truly outrageous things the interviewer was implying about who may or may not write about religious subjects with a presumption of good faith.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            No, I did not miss the mark. Perhaps in “religious studies” circles misrepresenting your degrees is so common that no one even cares when it is done. But in the real world, it’s still a big deal.

            It’s not a “minor inaccuracy” to claim you have a degree that you do not have. It’s not a “minor inaccuracy” to claim expertise in a field (Christianity) when you have no expertise in that field. Outside of “religious studies” circles, we still call that misrepresentation.

            I can appreciate wanting to stand up for one of your own. But the “we use those terms interchangeably” defense is just showing why religious studies professors shouldn’t be taken seriously. If everyone really thinks that “sociology” and “history” are interchangeable terms, the the field is hopeless.

            (For what it’s worth, I don’t for a second believe the the majority of scholars in the field think it doesn’t matter what degree you claim since they are essentially all the same.)

          • Ben

            To recap: we have here a case in which an interviewer all but insisted that a person of one religion has no standing to write about a figure from another religion, using Democrats writing about Ronald Reagan (!) as an analogy for religious difference. On the other hand we have a scholar with legitimate, graduate-level study in religion that covers a variety of fields describing his credentials in terms of Mircea Eliade’s concept in a way that some people might not get. There is indeed something here for a media critic whose job is to help the press “get religion,” and you chose to harp on the other thing.

          • nolaboyd

            Your arrogance in judging how our field should work from your position of ignorance is breathtaking.

          • Peter Brown

            Joe, first thank you so much for the great article, along with many great comments across other sites.

            The field of today’s religious studies and history is just hopeless. And the so called academies shown on the comment threads are just exactly everything wrong with them in the silo: low morality, hypocritical, and treat lying as acceptable.

            Last year when the then Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, was caught about his “mistaken-ed” credentials as “a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Computer Science’, rather than actually only a degree in Accounting, he was called out by Dan Loeb in an open letter and consequently got fired disgracefully.

            I guess the Thompson should have no problem in the field of religious studies, history or sociology, as to them many terms are interchangeable. For example, in accounting, people use a lot of computers nowadays instead of abacus. So for some people (you know who) accounting and CS are just the same thing, more or less.

            I was also in awe when some Amazon reviewers said “.. the book should be evaluated independently of the qualification of the writer”. Yeah, right, tell Yahoo and Dan Loeb about that. Thompson was very successful at PayPal.

            That’s probably why some academies in some fields are so hard to fit into the society:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/this-mans-phd-hasnt-kept-him-off-food-stamps-or-the-unemployment-line-2012-5

            http://education.yahoo.net/articles/best_and_worst_degrees.htm

          • c4logic

            Oh yes, you have displayed the depth of your density for all to see. You are the best example of Dunning Kruger effect I have seen recently–you are simply to stupid to even suspect your own stupidity.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            You’re right, I’m the dummy. Sociology really means history. Everyone (at least everyone in the Religious Studies department) know that. I apologize for wasting everyone’s time trying to point that words might actually mean things, when — in reality — they really don’t.

          • c4logic

            If religion is not sociology, and history is not sociology, then what in the hell IS sociology? You do know that all the human beings that ever made history were born of women, don’t you?

          • avalpert

            Seriously – why couldn’t you stop digging?

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            Maybe you are indeed dense, because the man just explained to you that the fields are so interrelated that a PhD in one may well qualify you as an expert in another field in addition to the one you have the PhD in, and that it’s more accurate and honest to describe your work by its substance, rather than the letters on your diploma.

          • Darren Blair

            Not entirely.

            In this case, it would have been better to say “My degree is in X, but I’ve done a lot of work with Y.”

            That would have been a lot more straightforward.

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            Perhaps it would have been easier for those ignoran of academie to understand, but it would not have been any more accurate or truthful

          • Darren Blair

            …except, not all of the people registering complaints are “ignorant of academia”.

            Joe and I both have MBAs, which are master’s degrees.

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            An MBA, much like a JD is a terminal vocational degree having little relationship with MA/MS/PhD track of traditional academia. No wonder you have no idea about how PhD programs work.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            ***Perhaps it would have been easier for those ignoran of academie to understand, but it would not have been any more accurate or truthful***

            Oh, please. The only ones that are “ignorant about he academy” are those who claim that there is not difference between the fields of sociology (a social science) and history (one of the humanities). I can’t believe any of these academics would defend that ridiculous claim at a faculty meeting.

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            First of all, please refrain from intentionally misrepresenting people’s comments. Saying that the fields are interrelated is decidedly not the same as saying that there is no difference between the two.
            Second, if the claim of interrelatedness between the two is so absurd, how do you explain mixed dissertation committees?

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            No one denies that they are interrelated. That is not the issue. The question is whether they are interchangeable. Aslan didn’t say he had a degree in a filed that was interrelated with the history of religions. He said he had a PhD in the history of religions. Either he things the terms history and sociology are interchangeable, or he was misrepresenting his credentials.

            Which do you think it was?

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            In my opinion he did not misrepresent, but rather referred to the substance of his scholarship rather than titles with the expectation that the interviewer had some passing familiarity with academia and how humanities actually function. The man’s degree is in sociology of religion, which started out as a history PhD, was later transferred to sociology and still retained a historical focus. His committee had at least one historian on it. The man was referring to the substance of his study, not the letters on the sheepskin.

            This is pretty obvious, and to attempt to call him an intentional liar is to either intentionally distort and obfuscate, or to intentionally maintain ones ignorance in the face of opposing proof .

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            ***In my opinion he did not misrepresent, but rather referred to the substance of his scholarship rather than titles with the expectation that the interviewer had some passing familiarity with academia and how humanities actually function.***

            I don’t think you really believe the nonsense you are spouting. Alsan’s scholarship was on a sociological study of Islam. How exactly was he referring to the “substance of his scholarship” by claiming it made him an expert on Jesus?

            ***The man’s degree is in sociology of religion, which started out as a history PhD, was later transferred to sociology and still retained a historical focus.***

            Try actually reading the dissertation. There is no “historical focus.”

            ***The man was referring to the substance of his study, not the letters on the sheepskin.***

            No he wasn’t and I truly don’t believe that you really think he is. Saying you have a PhD in Subject X is not a way to “refer to the substance of a study.” It’s to mislead people into thinking you have a qualification that you don’t have.

            ***This is pretty obvious, ***

            No, it’s not obvious and it is dishonest to claim it is. The level of dishonesty that people are resorting to in order to defend Aslan is astounding. Why sacrifice your own credibility for someone you don’t know?

            ***and to attempt to call him an intentional liar is to either intentionally distort and obfuscate, or to intentionally maintain ones ignorance in the face of opposing proof ***

            He lied. We have it on camera. All of the attempts to claim that lying isn’t really lying because “Religious Studies” scholars know what he *really* meant is idiotic and shameful. Seriously, you’re not convincing anyone that what they heard is something that goes on all the time in academia. It doesn’t and GR readers aren’t dumb enough to fall for claims that it does.

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            “Alsan’s scholarship was on a sociological study of Islam. How exactly was he referring to the “substance of his scholarship” by claiming it made him an expert on Jesus?”

            And here you finally state the actual basis of your objection, effectively stating that he, a Mulsim, couldn’t be qualified to speak on Jesus. The only difference between you and the Fox news beauty queen anchor is that she was at least honest enough to make her point straight out.

            I see that you’re getting very frustrated with being people challenging your assertions, and it must be upsetting to be repeatedly explained something and still not get it. That said, pretending to know what’s in my, or Dr. Aslan’s head is the height of hubris, and shows you up as a myopic ideologue who is unable to step away from your self described “truth”.

            I am convinced that further attempts at discussion will be as fruitless as talking to a wall. Enjoy the echo chamber.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            You asked that I not put words into your mouth, so please don’t put them in mine. A Muslim could be an excellent scholar of Christianity and could be more than qualified to speak on Jesus. What would it require? The same thing that would be required of any scholar: relevant knowledge and experience in the field of study.

            If someone told me that since they had spent their academic career studying Christianity they were *obviously* qualified to write and teach about Islam, I’d say they were wrong. Islam and Christianity are not interchangeable fields simply because they are both “religions.”

            ***I am convinced that further attempts at discussion will be as fruitless as talking to a wall.***

            Of course it will be fruitless because you are trying to defend the indefensible and you know it. Aslan lied — that’s on record. So the only choices you have are to concede that point, to lose your own credibility by defending it, or to back out of the conversation by trying to pretend that *I’m* the one that is immune to hearing the truth. I can understand why you are choosing the last option.

          • Ksen Pallegedara

            Wow, you’ve just blatantly tried to move goal posts and claim victory.

            Especially since Jesus is a part of the Islamic canon and is a considered a prophet. By saying that the only legitimate narrative of Jesus is the Christian one, you are exactly saying that a Muslim isn’t qualified to speak on the subject.
            Well done.
            Your words speak for themselves.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            If you think I’ve “moved the goal posts” then you haven’t been paying attention to this discussion.

            Let me ask you the same question I asked Grisha. Would you have any qualms about having a degree in a subject that is not actually your field of study (or what is listed on your diploma)?

          • Brian Hill

            I think you have a rather strange requirement here for what counts as scholarship. Academics all the time shift focus and start new research programs, often as barely a tangent to something they had done previously. In that sense prior scholarship on the exact same topic has never been considered a requirement for doing serious scholarship–scholars are allowed to do new things.

            And again, Aslan was attempting to answer a question about why he would choose to research and write about Jesus as a historical figure. Having a long-standing interest in the history of religions in general really is a perfectly good answer to that question, even if the book in question was his first significant work on that particular subject.

          • nolaboyd

            As was shown above, there was a significant historical focus in three of the chapters. Your ignorance is showing again.

          • Brian Hill

            “How exactly was he referring to the ‘substance of his scholarship’ by claiming it made him an expert on Jesus?”

            He never claimed his PhD dissertation was on Jesus. In general, he repeatedly made it clear he was interested in religions, plural, not just Christianity.

            I really think you are now distorting what happened in this interview beyond all recognition. He was trying to explain that he had a long-standing academic interest in the history of religions, including but not limited to Christianity, such that there was nothing at all strange about a person with his academic interests wanting to study Jesus as a historical person. I don’t think he ever suggested his PhD made him “an expert on Jesus” (in fact presumably it was the work he did on this book, if anything, that would qualify him as such).

          • Crystal Paull

            Dude, you’re dense. I have a Bachelor’s degree in history. That is what it says on the paper. However, most of my courses and studies were in European Studies, which was a completely different department at my university. But I can rightly claim to have a degree in modern European history because that was the FOCUS of my work.

            My Master’s will be a Master of Science in Information Science BUT because you TAILOR your work toward a particular subject, I can say that my degree is a master’s in archival/preservation studies because that is what the majority of my courses are in and what my thesis work will be in. The title “Information Science” does not actually describe my work.

            That is the nature of interdisciplinary work like sociology, history, anthropology, etc. In fact, many of my courses in college had course numbers for other departments, in addition to history. So my Holocaust course had HIS, EUS (European Studies), and SOC (sociology) course numbers.

            Get it now? If you don’t, then you are a lost cause and are content to be stubborn because you can’t admit that you were wrong before you completely understood the nature of academia.

          • blestou

            Your example is actually the opposite of what Aslan claimed.

          • Crystal Paull

            I’m merely demonstrating the way interdisciplinary work is. He has a PhD in Sociology on paper but if his work had a focus on world religions in a historical context, then yes, he could say “I have a PhD in the history of religions”. The point being that you don’t need to state what’s officially stated on the diploma to be right. It wouldn’t be completely representative of my expertise to only state that I have a Master of Science in Information Science and leave it at that because my expertise will be in something more specific than that. Just as it wouldn’t be completely representative of his expertise to say that he has a PhD in sociology and leave it at that.

            Later, when I describe my credentials, I will probably not use the words printed on my diploma. I will probably say that I have a Master’s in archival studies & historical preservation and Joe Carter will probably say I’m misrepresenting my credentials. :)

          • Grisha

            actually history is still usually categorized with the social sciences. The idea of social sciences is a bit archaic, so most people don’t really care either away. But whatever…

            I will say, that have I have not “discard[ed] the basic principles of honesty and integrity to defend a man who intentionally deceived the public.” I don’t feel any particular need to defend Aslan. I have not read his book. I am posting simply to rebut your idea that “most academic historians as well as academic sociologists would take offense at the idea that a ‘sociology of religions’ degree and a ‘history of religions’ degree are interchangeable.” I don’t think this is at all the case. And I don’t care to have you speak for me. And apparently, given other commenters, I am not alone. It’s kind of hard to take you seriously, when you claim to speak for a field to which you do not belong.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            Okay, I’ll allow you to speak for yourself. Are you saying that you yourself would have no qualms about claiming you have a degree that you do not actually have?

          • Grisha

            You are so quick to judge others’ integrity. Now you are accusing me, in an underhanded sort of way, of misrepresenting my own credentials. Would you like a link to my dissertation?

            In fact, I take the issue of credentialing very seriously. So many schools these days turn out basically fake PhDs, that it is rather maddening. It’s simply that I do not believe that Aslan has misrepresented himself. I think you have taken an ambiguity and twisted it into something that it’s not. You have conjured what you imagine to be a crime, but you seem frustrated that you can’t find a victim.

            I have yet to hear from one academic who differs from me on this point, despite your repeated and unevidenced assertions to the contrary. You should either back up your claims regarding the historical field or you should retract them.

          • nolaboyd

            I love how you lecture academics about how they are ignorant of the academy and then propose to instruct them. Does your ego have any boundaries at all?

          • DavidM

            gee, if that ain’t ironic…

          • Kyunaga

            And it would have invited more distractions from the Fox News Host.

          • Darren Blair

            Given the nature of what he’s trying to do, one would think that he’d have prepared ahead of time for such matters, if not have learned from prior experience.

          • Kyunaga

            He was prepared and he did very well because the rest of the media is rightfully criticizing Fox News. All the academics are fine with it. It’s the laymen here that don’t realize that a PhD in Sociology can specialize in religion. So speaking in general, Aslan does indeed have a PhD in the history of religions.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            ***because the man just explained to you that the fields are so interrelated that a PhD in one may well qualify you as an expert in another field in addition to the one you have the PhD in***

            As I’ve repeated, ad nauseum, there is a huge difference between claiming that you know a lot about a field and in claiming that you have a *PhD* in that field.

            I seriously can’t believe that we are even having to argue this point. It’s really embarrassing how people will discard the basic principles of honesty and integrity to defend a man who intentionally deceived the public.

          • Aron Wall

            I don’t think you’ve proven that he *intentionally* misled the public, i.e. that he lied.

            You are quite correct that the most reasonable interpretation of his statement is that you could find “History of Religions” somewhere on his diploma. Most members of the public would expect “degree in…” to be followed by the official title of the degree. If he had just meant to say that his Ph.D. studies (which includes more than just his dissertation, by the way) involved studying the history of religion, it would have been much less misleading to state that in a more indirect way (e.g. “My Ph.D. work involved studying the history of religions”).

            What seems uncharitable, is your assumption that this was done intentionally to mislead. Maybe. But you haven’t shown that. He might have intended to communicate that the topic of his class studies were mainly in history of religion, and accidentally said it in a way which suggested it was the official title of his degree. Sometimes people make poor word choices. Have you ever acccidentally said something which gave people a false impression? He only lied if he *wanted* people to come away with the wrong impression. You can’t prove his intention from the words he used alone. It also requires a character judgement.

          • Chris Candide

            “I don’t think you’ve proven that he *intentionally* misled the public, i.e. that he lied.”
            Right, because it’s possible that he accidently forgot what his degrees were in.

          • Aron Wall

            “Right, because it’s possible that he accidently forgot what his degrees were in.”

            Or perhaps he meant to communicate that his Sociology of Religions degree involved studying the history of religions. Which happens to be true.

          • Chris Candide

            There wasn’t only one “misstatement.” He repeatedly claimed false credentials, and didn’t “mean” something else. The intellectual pretzel you twist yourself into to defend someone who invents a resume on national TV is sad. I acknowledge it was a bad interview…but it was a bad interview on both sides. Why not just admit the truth instead of defending a liar?

          • Kyunaga

            I will show this to others in a simple way to demonstrate how when driven by ego and agenda, how some people, when proven wrong, choose to double down anyway. The amount of cringe here is almost unbearable.

          • Chris Candide

            “I seriously can’t believe that we are even having to argue this point.”
            Amen.

          • DavidM

            ” there is a huge difference between claiming that you know a lot about a field and in claiming that you have a *PhD* in that field” – the ‘huge difference’ you refer to is a purely a paper one. It is purely a matter of formal qualification. Trust me: you can have a PhD and still be FOS. There is no substantive difference conferred by the fact that you have or don’t have a PhD. People who think otherwise either don’t know enough people who have PhD’s, or they are deluded.

          • mcpierce

            ***Maybe I’m dense, because I definitely do not see.***

            Yes, I think you’re being deliberately dense.

            As has been explained time and again in comments here, there is no PhD called “history of religions” or “sociology of religions”. So that ends your claim that he’s claiming some THING he doesn’t have, since neither is a specific thing that can be claimed.

            As someone who’s NOT in academia it’s understandable that you don’t understand that there is no SINGLE subject that’s studied: someone with a PhD has had to cover EVERYTHING relating to their area of research. A PhD results from writing about a single THESIS (which is not “the name of the subject that is on your diploma”), but that’s based on have a broad knowledge of all things relating to your thesis. For Aslan to have been granted a PhD based on his thesis he had to have equal knowledge of the sociology of religion as well as an equivalent knowledge of the HISTORY of religion for his thesis.

            A PhD is not a diploma, it’s not high school. A PhD covers a broad range of disciplines that are all interrelated. And your objections aren’t based on his error but your own.

      • montanajack1948

        This thread got “really depressing” long ago, building as it has on the depressingly petty post that preceded it.

      • avalpert

        “This thread is becoming really depressing.”
        It started with your depressing post. Yet you continue to double down on your ad hominem – are you that interested in appealing to a narrow set of biased individuals who will applaud anyone who puts down a Muslim that you are willing to sink any claim to integrity and credibility to legitimately criticize the press?

    • Cha5678

      I wonder if they overlap because truth is relative, and the college environment promotes those that tie scholarship towards the ends of political narratives and cultural reform. If your focus is on cultural reform, and your method involves confusing scholarship then a history degree is insufficient. One should have a sociology or anthropology degree.

  • dhebler

    These so-called university/college religious scholars can argue all they want
    about having the knowledge of Christ, however, they lack one thing,
    “the Spirit of God in them”……

    When I hear a self professed scholar touting the life of Jesus Christ, I just cringe down in my chair thinking; “what a bunch of empty vessels”. They write books about nothing! I find these scholars to be the actual zealots here, they’re empty heads, writing empty books about nothing!

    Christianity is a reality, its not a religion folks. The scholars will never understand that, and this self professed religiousness, who claims to have several degrees will never get it either. They all lack the Spirit of God……

    You incline your ear to this one fact: When wisdom enters your heart, then you’ll understand the message of Christ. It starts in Prov 1:7, and all wisdom comes from God. Either you understand the message of Christ, or you do not understand the message….

    This Muslim has no knowledge about Christianity, and most scholars have no understanding about Christianity either. Its all empty words from empty vessels….

    • Darren Blair

      You might want to re-read the comments here before going any further.

      In my case, I’m an MBA who is presently serving as the finance clerk for his congregation *and* is a frequent commenter here on Get Religion.

      Your post just dissed me simply for having a college degree.

      • dhebler

        First: Are you a religious scholar touting your stuff?

        Secondly: Do you write books on religion because your a self professed scholar?

        I read the comments. And this is why I wrote what I wrote. Only those with open eyes and open ears understand what I wrote.

        No Spirit equals no God, 1Pet 1:2…Christianity is a reality. Are you so caught up in having MBA that you didn’t understand the message I wrote?

        If you answered yes to both questions, then what I wrote applies to you. I don’t care about your degree. The colleges are filled with fake Christian scholars teaching nonsense. God has a plan for salvation, and its Christ! Its not some nut job spouting nonsense in a book!

        • Darren Blair

          Again –

          You’re basically saying that “having a college degree” is Satanic.

          • dhebler

            And again–

            Nothing was ever said about you being a Satanist, if you have a degree of some sorts. God doesn’t care about your degree, and neither do I.

            What I care about is, whether or not, you know what your talking about in God’s word. And I’ve found most religious scholars lack knowledge in God’s word. They want to write books to improve God’s word for understanding and enlightenment in the word. Knowledge is the wisdom of God. Do you have enough wisdom to read His word with understanding? It takes the Spirit, not your degree……..

            Do you understand Prov 1:7?
            Do you understand 1Pet 1:2?

            If not, then you won’t understand what I wrote!

          • Darren Blair

            Let me guess –

            By “understand _____”, you’re seeking people who understand it the *exact* same way you do, correct?

          • dhebler

            nope, its not about me or what I believe in. Its what I know through the Spirit of God. And I know the bible very very well…….

            Through the Spirit you have discernment. You cannot call Christ the Son of God unless you have the Spirit of God within you. And that’s biblical. God will open eyes. No man can open eyes to the truth. This Muslim Aslan is a self imposed scholar that thinks he has the answers to Jesus. He knows nothing about Jesus Christ, who is God with us (Matt 1:23)……his book is a waste of time!

            Their are 66 books in the bible. And I would venture to say that most of those religious scholars in the colleges today have never, let me repeat again: Never rightly divided those books in the bible for understanding to teach the truth. Example: This Butler woman in Pennsylvania calling God a “white racist”. How ignorant and blind is that theologian a Ivy league scholar. Are we equal to God? The answer:
            Jer 18:4-10, if you care to read for yourself.

            Bottom line: Study the word and God will open the door to understanding……
            This is what I teach, and this is how I teach:
            “The truth in the Word chapter by chapter and verse by verse” and that’s biblical written in the book of Isaiah ….

            Your a decent man, study God’s word and learn, then your eyes will be open to the truth in the word!

          • Darren Blair

            I’ve done more studying that some of the ministers who’ve tried to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

          • dhebler

            Maybe, those ministers don’t know what their talking about. Christ warned us about false teachers and preachers that never come to the knowledge
            of the word. That’s biblical!

            I had to earn a degree from God before I could teach. And God gave me a ton of road blocks along the way to get me into shape. It was trail and error for me, and it was twenty years of vigorous studying before the light switch came on! The Spirit now directs my path to the truth in the word….its a gift (Eph 6)…

            God chooses whom He chooses to know His word.
            Maybe its your time to go hit the books again,
            and earn a new degree in wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Prov 1:7)…..gifts are blessings. Receive God’s blessings, they’ll lead to salvation!

          • Diogenes

            What a tiresome old fool you are. “What Godless times are these! I alone know the Lord, who says …” Blah, blah blah, as if you could flatten every interlocutor with your authoritarian bluster. Don’t you know what a hoot you blowhards are, as if you could speak of/to/for/about the divine with utter authority, lording it over others! What did the Pope say the other day, “Who am I to judge?” Perhaps you could try to humble yourself as much. Any divinity worthy of the status would laugh at you.

          • Jlam1127

            It’s all about interpretation…..”understanding” is subjective.

    • c4logic

      And you have reached this conclusion based on what exactly? Perhaps you should let the Spirit search your heart so you may know what is right and what is wrong. Judging others as empty vessels and trying to separate the ‘sheep’ from the ‘goats’ is about a far from Christ’s message of universal love and forgiveness as I can possibly imagine. Why don’t you devote more energy to testing the reality of your own salvation instead of pestering others about the speck of sawdust in their eye.

    • Benidictberg

      This Christian has no idea how much Jesus would disagree with him.

  • Lori Meeks

    With all due respect, Mr. Carter, I don’t think you understand how the field of religious studies works. Aslan is well known in the field, is well respected, and made no untrue claims about his credentials. Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary field: we study in multiple areas, including history, languages, literature, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and psychology (among others). I work on Japanese Buddhism, and my areas of study include history, East Asian languages, and religious studies. I also teach in two departments at USC–Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures–despite the fact that I received my Ph.D. from a religious studies department. My book was reviewed in area studies journals, religious studies journals, and yes, history journals. This kind of interdisciplinary activity is normal for our field. The idea that Aslan misrepresented himself by saying he has a Ph.D. in the history of religions is absurd. –Lori Meeks, Associate Professor of Religion, USC (My Ph.D. is from Princeton, 2003)

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      And with all due respect to you, Ms. Meeks, I don’t think you understand that Aslan’s degree is not in the “field of religious studies.” His PhD was issued by the department of sociology.

      But let’s put your theory to the test. Imagine a newly minted PhD was applying for a tenure-level position in the Religious Studies department. On his CV he lists that he has a PhD in the History of Religions.

      Later, the dean of the department realizes that the applicant actually has a degree in the sociology. When confronted, the applicant responds, “Yeah, so what? What does it matter? It’s all the same, right?

      You seem to be saying that the dean would say, “Righto, old chap, you’re exactly right. Here in the Religious Studies field we make no distinction between sociology and history.”

      Are you *really* going to stand behind such a claim?

      And by the way, if that is really “how religious studies work” (e.g., language means whatever you want it to mean) then that field is in serious trouble.

      • Brian Hill

        This post does a great job illustrating what I just posted above. I wrote: “I think the problem is that when you hear, ‘I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions,’ you think you are hearing a statement of the title of his degree, whereas the academics posting in these comments are hearing a description of the scholarly work for which he was granted the PhD.” You just confirmed that is your interpretation with this hypothetical.

        Again, if you interpret him instead as making a statement about the nature of his scholarly work, rather than the title of his degree, his statement is not necessarily problematic. And such an alternative interpretation makes the most sense in context, given the question he was answering and the sort of answer he was giving.

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***whereas the academics posting in these comments
          are hearing a description of the scholarly work for which he was granted the PhD.***

          But even that doesn’t make sense since the scholarly work for which he was granted his PhD really has nothing to do with the “history of religions” (seriously, read the dissertation).

          And his work has *absolutely nothing* to do with early Christian history. There is no evidence that he has done any scholarly work on Christianity since his undergrad days.

          • Brian Hill

            I have in fact looked at his dissertation. As I noted above, it explicitly states it is going to try to understand Global Jihadism as a social movement by, in part, reviewing relevant history, and then proceeds to do exactly that in the main sections (Sections III, IV, and V).

            As I noted above, I don’t know what the term “history of religions” means to academics. But there is certainly a lot of history of religious topics in his dissertation, and it is really crucial to supporting the claim he is making in that dissertation.

          • Grisha

            A PhD, in all cases that I am aware of, is the sum of two parts: coursework and dissertation. The coursework happens first and is judged by what is often called a qualifying exam. Why is it called a qualifying exam? Because passing it qualifies the student as having expertise in an area of study. The dissertation topic is only a very narrow slice of this expertise.

            In my own case, my dissertation focuses on Urban Russia in the early 20th-century, but I have passed qualifying exams covering 12th century Ukraine, post-1789 Europe, central Asia (as part of the former Soviet and Russian empires), and cultural theory.

            It is perfectly acceptable for me to couch my PhD in all sorts of ways, some focusing on my coursework, some focusing more on my research.

            On my CV, I always provided the exact fields, major and minor, my committee, and my dissertation title. But in the accompanying job letters, and in conversations, I was free to focus as I wished. Usually I emphasize the modern European nature of my work, though modern Europe only technically constitutes a minor field. Now that I have been out of school for almost a decade, I have to say that no one gives a damn what my dissertation topic is. It’s all about what I am doing now, and what I have written.

      • Ben

        But let’s change the scenario: say that instead of writing your CV you are responding to a patently hostile interviewer who is seeking to impeach your work on the basis of your religion? Would you then be allowed to speak to the substance of your course of study without terror of a media critic nipping at the distinction?

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          Would you be able to lie about your credentials? No, a hostile interview does not give you license to misrepresent your degrees.

          And go watch the interview again. He was asked one inane, but not hostile question, before responding about his credentials. He actually has no actual scholarly credentials (other than his BA) related to Christian history. All of his research was done on Islam.

          If he wanted to “speak to the substance of your course of study” that would be fine. But none of the substance of his course of study has anything to do with the topic (Jesus) for which he is flouting his credentials as an expert.

          • 11185283

            Joe, you are confusing ‘flout’ (to scornfully disregard) with ‘flaunt’ (to show off). And before you ask, my BA, MA and PhD are all in English language and literature. By your standards, that may not qualify me to comment on matters of usage, but so be it.

        • Darren Blair

          As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (what most people refer to as the “Mormons”), I’ve actually “been there” and “done that”; this includes an encounter with someone who tried to tell me that I had no right to speak on matters of religion because I didn’t have a theology degree.

          What you have to do is tell the straightforward truth, and clarify matters as possible.

      • Lori Meeks

        Brian Hill is spot-on: Aslan wasn’t saying “history of religions” as a proper noun (i.e., History of Religions as a department title). As far as I know there are very few universities that grant degrees in “History of Religions” per se — usually the department title is Religion or Sociology or Near Eastern Studies, etc., while the subject area may in fact be (or include) “history of religions.” That category is widely used to refer to the historical study of any religious tradition. And yes, sociologists of religion sometimes use the “history-of-religions” approach to the study of religion. I have been on many religion-department hiring committees in which we have considered applicants from Sociology, Anthropology, area studies departments, etc. We care more about the substance of a person’s training, research, and publications than the exact title of his or her doctoral degree.

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          ***We care more about the substance of a person’s training, research, and publications than the exact title of his or her doctoral degree.***

          Early you said that Alsan was “well respected in the field” of Religious Studies. Why exactly is that? Can you tell me which of his published works in the history of religions that you think warrants his status?

          I ask with all earnestness. You yourself appear to have all of those qualities — research, publications, etc. Aslan, on the other hand, has only a couple of popular-level books. If he is so well-respected in the field, why does he not have an actual teaching position in a Religious Studies department at a major university?

          • Lori Meeks

            I thought _Patheos_ was supposed to be about genuine dialogue. Dialogue requires one to consider that his or her point of view may require some tweaking. But it seems to me that you are unwilling to reconsider your stance–you just keep pushing harder with ad hominem attacks. You’ve now moved to another line of attack, asking me to “prove” that Aslan is “well respected.”

            Look, he has published many books with good presses (there’s nothing wrong with trade presses–if anything, it means that there is real interest in one’s work), and he lectures around the country (at major universities) with frequency. I am sure that he could have a position in a Religious Studies department if he wanted one–perhaps he is choosing to define his career in a different way. His work certainly has a larger audience and more visibility than my own.

            I don’t have time to continue with this today; I need to get back to work. But I urge you to consider retreat–from my perspective, you’re making straw-man and ad hominem attacks that do little to forward true dialogue. Why don’t you engage the substance of Aslan’s work instead?

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            ***You’ve now moved to another line of attack, asking me to “prove” that Aslan is “well respected.”***

            No, I’m not asking you to prove why he is well respected. I’m asking why *you* have such a high opinion of his work. You are a serious scholar so I figured you might have some insight into why he is esteemed by his peers.

            The fact that he writes for trade publications and lectures frequently doesn’t seem to meet even the basic qualifications for getting a tenure-track position in America. I’m not saying that he needs that to write a book about Jesus. But when Aslan himself brings up his scholarly credentials as proof that we should listen to him, you can’t cry “Ad Hominem!” when we start to look at what those credentials really are.

          • Lori Meeks

            Look, I will admit that I have not yet read his books; they are outside my primary field of study. But during my service as Director of Undergraduate Studies, several of my senior colleagues recommended that I invite Aslan to campus to speak to our undergraduates (in the hopes that he would inspire more students to major in religious studies). So that’s one reason why I respect him–my colleagues think highly of him. Also, UCSB (his Ph.D.-granting institution) has one of the best religious studies programs in the country, and his advisor there is a major figure in the field.

          • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

            Okay, so other people you know think he is reputable. But it doesn’t really change the fact that as a scholar he really has no record of accomplishments, does it?

            Normally, I wouldn’t care about that. But when Aslan makes a huge deal about what a “scholar” he is it seems that his actual record should have some bearing on the topic.

            It also doesn’t change that fact — a fact that remains undisputed — that he misrepresented his degree. That is not something that reputable scholars do — ever.

            I’m no scholar but even I would never dream of doing that. When I was in college I studied behavioral sciences. Before I could finish I transferred to a school that did not have that major. On my diploma it says that I have a degree in “Liberal Studies.” You know how many times I’ve said I had a “B.A. in Behavioral Sciences”? Never. Because that would be lying. (And Aslan’s area of study, by the way, was *never* in the history of religions.)

            I don’t know you but based on your CV, I suspect that you have never told the public that you have a PhD that is not in a field that is not your actual area in which you got your PhD. If you wouldn’t do that yourself, why defend Aslan when he does it? I simply cannot fathom why you would put your own credibility on the line by defending his falsehood.

          • Nagurski

            He’s written several books on religion that have been quite well received. Are those not scholarly accomplishments? He is not misrepresenting himself; you are trying to parse his words from a frame of reference that is stunted partially because you haven’t thoroughly looked into his actual academic history. The horse you’re beating isn’t getting any more dead. Time to give it a rest and find something actually outrageous to become outraged about.

          • Dan Arnold

            Mr Carter, How can you call it an undisputed fact that he misrepresented his degree when his supervisor plainly says he did not? Your assertion is not only disputed, but debunked!

        • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

          By the way, I forgot to ask for clarification on this point. You say, “Aslan wasn’t saying “history of religions” as a proper noun (i.e., History of Religions as a department title).”

          What part of speech did he intend? Normally, if someone say they have a PhD in ________ the blank is filled by the actual subject the person has a degree in. Why in the world would we — should we — assume otherwise?

          And are you saying that if you heard someone say that they had a “PhD in history of religions” that you would automatically thing that it is *not* what the really have degree in?

          • Brian Hill

            “Normally, if someone say they have a PhD in ________ the blank is filled by the actual subject the person has a degree in.”

            I don’t think that is quite right as you are stating it. In my experience academics all the time fill in that blank with something more specific than the actual title of their degree because the degree title alone often provides very little information. So, someone might say they did a PhD in Joyce even though their PhD diploma says “English,” because saying you did your PhD in Joyce tells people a lot more about what you actually studied.

            Accordingly, there is nothing necessarily improper about saying you did a PhD in history of religions when your PhD diploma says “Sociology” as long as history of religions is a proper description of what you actually studied.

      • avalpert

        Why do you insist on continuing to dig your hole? Do you really have so little interest in the integrity of this site that you wnat to flush over a silly ad hominem on a book that almost nobody will ready or care about?

        It’s actually pathetic, and a far cry from how this blog wants to position itself.

  • c4logic

    If a more moronic screed has ever been penned on the WWW–I’ve never heard about it. The significance of the argument made by Joe the Obtuse dwindles into the infinitesimal realm of meaninglessness. The fact that you would invest so much emotion in such ridiculousness is exhibit a for your utter lack of charity and generosity–and your inability to grasp the most basic of big pictures. Your stupidity is on a scale that is simply breathtaking. How you can muster the chutzpah to publish in public is beyond my ken. You need to do some SERIOUS soul searching.

    • Darren Blair

      So…

      Tell us how you *really* feel. ;)

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      ***and your inability to grasp the most basic of big pictures. ***

      Oh, I grasp the big picture. Pointing out that Aslan misrepresents himself muddies the criticism about Fox News. And after all, that’s what’s really important, not accuracy, or honest portrayal of an “experts” credentials.

      • c4logic

        If you grasp anything at all, I have not seen the slightest evidence of it in your comments on this thread. You claim he misrepresented his materials. I claim that he did not–and you have a fatal attraction to issues of no significance. You appear to be trapped in Zeno’s paradox. You can’t get there from here.

        • Darren Blair

          If it’s an issue of “no significance”, then why are you arguing it?

  • Mary Beth Washburn

    I’ve been reading the comments attached to this article and find the academics meme that the common person simply doesn’t understand the complexities of academia dishonest at least and elitist at best. There is fact and then there are excuses offerred to deflect from the misrepresentation of Aslan’s credentials.
    My thought is you do yourselves a great injustice, making it very clear that your degree actually allows you and you alone to define truth.

    • Grisha

      if we are so dishonest and elitist, then why on earth does Joe Carter want to speak for us?

      That’s the point. Saying you don’t understand, might sound snobby, but really it’s more polite than the other alternatives… Sorry…

      • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

        ***Saying you don’t understand, might sound snobby, but really it’s more polite than the other alternatives… Sorry…***

        If you mean you speak for a small group of academics who think it’s okay to lie about your credentials, then you may be right. But you certainly don’t speak for the majority of scholars who would consider is scandalous to use terms interchangeably in a way intended to mislead an audience.

        • Dingo Dongo

          This comment of yours is inexcusable.

  • UK_Nomad_2013

    Having read this piece and the author’s expansive defense in the comments, I find the author’s initial position rather ironic. He begins by criticizing journalists for getting caught up in a viral story and overlooking “vetting” their arguments and claims. Yet, when his own arguments and claims are “vetted” by multiple prominent academics in Aslan’s field, he refuses to acknowledge that his arguments are even slightly disputable. As accumulating evidence suggest that there is no reason to believe Aslan was “intentionally deceiving” anyone in listing his credentials (which is really what should matter here), he doubles down. The author should just admit that this is not his area of, dare I say it, EXPERTISE. He missed the mark, which would have been fine if he wasn’t so fanatical about defending the image he has constructed that Aslan is a liar.

  • Ben

    In your last item on this issue you disclaimed any interest in Dr. Aslan himself, preferring to trash Terry Gross for not discussing his personal faith enough in her interview. In this item you have chosen to ignore this travesty of an interview, conducted in utter ignorance of both religion and scholarship, and you’ve chosen to act as the academic credential police on Dr. Aslan. I imagine this must all make sense to you, but it would be clearer to the rest of us if you changed the title of your blog from “Get Religion” to “Play for the Team.”

  • Matt Langdon

    There is not that big a difference between “history of religions” and “sociology of religions.” You are making a very, very fine point in attempting to belittle his credentials. I mean he has a Masters degree of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctor of Philosophy in the sociology of religion from the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s not too hard to figure out that the guy knows a thing or two about the history of religion. Besides that the study that he has done to write his books adds to what he knows. The biggest thing that comes out of this interview is how absurd Lauren Green is in questioning [again and again] how a Muslim could possibly write a book on the history of Christianity. The media coverage has helped him a lot, actually. Maybe he should thank Fox News.

  • William Olmstead

    Thanks to Carter, whose attitude makes it clear that this is not a site worth returning to.

  • Whirlwinder

    Islam makes its living lying (taqiyya) so he can say anything he wants to. Kinda like our Dissembler-in-Chief lying about the “recovery” we have been enjoying since he has been in office.

    • Jlam1127

      Seriously? This is your argument?

  • Shawn Ragan

    This is from his committee chair at UCSB and was posted in the comments of a similar post, here:
    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/07/29/scholarly-misrepresentation/

    ***
    Mark Juergensmeyer
    July 29th, 2013 | 9:19 pm

    Since i was Reza’s thesis adviser at the Univ of California-Santa Barbara, I can testify that he is a religious studies scholar. (I am a sociologist of religion with a position in sociology and an affiliation with religious studies). Though Reza’s PhD is in sociology most of his graduate course work at UCSB was in the history of religion in the dept of religious studies. Though none of his 4 degrees are in history as such, he is a “historian of religion” in the way that that term is used at the Univ of Chicago to cover the field of comparative religion; and his theology degree at Harvard covered Bible and Church history, and required him to master New Testament Greek. So in short, he is who he says he is.

    • Shawn Ragan

      His chair says he did not misrepresent himself, numerous academics and professors have said he did not misrepresent himself, what does it take?

      • avalpert

        Well how do we know his committee chair was Christian?

        • Shawn Ragan

          I have no idea what that has to do with anything.

          • avalpert

            Sorry, sarcasm doesn’t come through as well on the internet as it should.

          • Shawn Ragan

            I thought it might be, but there have been several questionable statements in these comments, so it is hard to know what is sarcasm and what is sincere.

          • onceler

            Excellent- and well-deserved ending to this..

      • NYlawyer

        The issue raised was whether his three claims were true: that he is a historian of religion, that he has four relevant degrees, and that he is a professor of the history of religion. The last two points are being ignored in favor of the argument that a sociologist is a historian in a general sense — the “sense used at the Univ of Chicago” (probably more among sociologists than historians). Even if that were true in some sense, it was not the sense given in the interview — he was making the statements about the four degrees and his professorship in the history of religion as being supportive of his claim to be a historian of religion. This isn’t the biggest issue in the world, but his claims are not supported and should not have been made.

        • BRobCleveland

          What? Did you not read what the chair of the department where he got his Ph.D. just wrote? If so, have in the hell do you still accuse him of misrepresenting something that is . . . true?

          • NYlawyer

            As my comment made clear, I am addressing what Aslan actually said, which is different from what his thesis adviser is saying.

          • Guest

            Aslan’s PhD in the Sociology of Religion seems to have thoroughly covered the history of religion. A PhD is more than just a dissertation topic, and also incorporates all of the coursework taken, papers written, and the skills necessary to properly conduct research on other topics. I am in a PhD program in the history department, yet the research we do is also being conducted by those in Religious Studies (where Aslan did most of his coursework), Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Classics, Archaeology, and yes, Sociology. The substance of his coursework and his research more than substantiates his claims.

            This is poor reasoning – zeroing in on one minute detail thinking that if doubt can be cast on this one issue it somehow negates the entire position. This argument that since his degree says “Sociology of Religion,” he must be trying to intentionally deceive people by saying he has a PhD in “history of religion” is superficial and silly. Scholars are quick to discredit someone who has lied about their credentials, but that is simply not the case here, no matter how much some wish it to be. Saying he has a PhD in the history of religions adequately and honestly describes his doctoral work and is even how USC lists him on their bio for him (maybe USC is part of his conspiracy to deceive the viewers of FOX also???).

        • Dingo Dongo

          In order to be a historian of religion with a Ph.D. in the history of religions, it is not necessary to have a Ph.D. in History. Other closely-related disciplines will also do the trick. Aslan’s credentials are perfectly sufficient to render him a historian of religion with a Ph.D. in the history of religions. So there’s nothing wrong with what Aslan said.

  • Tony

    First off let me commend the majority of the posters on this thread. I have to say they have been some of the most intellectual posts I have ever seen on a thread. But then I am used to reading youtube posts so since most of those are trash the bar is pretty low. Haha just kidding.

    However, Mr. Carter I find it very hard to understand that you have not conceded to the people posting. I don’t necessarily mean a complete reversal of your article, but more of a chance of stance. You state in your article as a matter of fact that Mr. Aslan intentionally lied to the public as an expert in his field by stating his degree was for something completely different than what his degree was actually for. And instead of the reporter continuing in her line of questioning the she should have been more like you and called him out for his transgression. (That was mean I shouldn’t have said more like you. But a better journalist period)

    Now I am no academia in fact I only have a high school diploma but even I can grasp the thought process of some of these other self proclaimed PHD’s (I only say self proclaimed because I have no idea who they are nor have I looked them up to confirm they have PHD’s. I don’t not mean it as an insult, apologies if taken that way) Their belief is that it is possible that when announcing that he had a PHD that he was describing his work not the actual title on the degree.

    Now I believe that is a reasonable point of view, that he stated what he studied and continues to study as proof that he qualified to write this book regardless of his actual faith. You believe (i think, not to put words in your mouth) that he did this intentionally and anyone who thinks he did this to help the laymen understand his expertise is wrong. And that’s where my change of stance concept comes in. You don’t have to believe what I believe but only that you understand that I believe it.

    You do not have to believe what i believe but understand that i believe it. It’s ironic that it is much like religious tolerance or rather intolerance. Which is where the reporter from the video was basing her questions on. Why does a Muslim want to talk about Jesus? An absurd question but stems from the hatred in some people that can not fathom why another person can think or believe in something different.

    Let me pose the problem from a different profession. I work in the medical field and deal with Physician Assistants more than Nurses. Now if I were to describe some of the core duties of PA the laymen can and have responded by saying “so basically a nurse”. Now although this is drastically incorrect for comprehension purposes it’s just easier to say “yes but more”. But if I were to introduce a PA to a group of other medical professionals as simply a nurse that would be simply stupid. (I don’t mean to denigrate Nurses out there but I am simply pointing out the fact that two are significantly different while being similar to certain extent) Nurses have been commonly known as assistants to the Physician but it does not make them a Physician Assistant if that makes any sense. So would it be wrong for one to agree with a patient in describing a PA a nurse just for them to understand what it is they can do. I don’t think so, maybe some would though.

    But the real question would be; do you understand why such a description is necessary. Although not completely accurate the message is understood, who this person is and what they represent. Also that their credentials are not exactly what is described but it is still understood that there are credentials that make them qualified to do the job at hand.

    So the question regarding this article is this. Can you understand why some people would understand than when Mr. Aslan stated his PHD he did so more as a description of his studies and to portray an understanding that he is qualified to speak on the subject of religious history. Especially after reading and responding to the comments. I am not asking if you feel this way but more that you understand if others feel this way regardless if you agree or not. In fact I would be surprised if did agree.

  • http://www.angrycrank.com woland

    You clearly don’t understand the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary academia, nor the terms academics use to describe themselves or their work. You are insisting on your own exceedingly rigid interpretation of how he should describe his credentials while ignoring interjections by academics ACTUALLY WORKING in his field.

    Academics – particularly those working in inherently interdisciplinary fields such as religion – typically describe themselves in terms of the focus of their work more than according to the department in which they work or which gave them their degrees. For example, someone whose degree came from a political science department but whose work focuses on international relations will often describe him or herself as specialist in the latter. In the case of topics such as religion, which depending on the university may be studied in a separate religious studies department and/or in departments of sociology, anthropology, history, etc, it’s far from unknown for someone to get their degree in a department that doesn’t precisely reflect their own sense of their work. If you get a degree from a sociology department, but your work focuses on religion and has a historical perspective, both you and your colleagues may refer to you as a religious historian, and if you focused heavily on the New Testament during your degree you’re not misrepresenting yourself – in academia at least, if you colloquially describe yourself has having a degree “in the New Testament” – your C.V.will describe the actual title of the degree, but people regularly describe their degrees as being in what they actually looked at rather than its official name. Saying “I have a PhD in the history of religions” is in no way confusing to another academic, even if you did your degree in the sociology department – if you meant you earned your degree in the history department you would say “I have a History PhD and focused on Religion.”

    Of course all of this is a failed attempt to distract from the fact that a bunch of idiots, most infamously those at Fox, have decided to trash a book that most haven’t read because its author is a Muslim. Whether or not the book is any good – I haven’t read it either – Aslan clearly possessed the credentials and experience to write a scholarly book about the topic. Attempts to change the subject by people who don’t understand the difference between colloquially describing your work – “I have a PhD in the history of religions” – and a CV description of your credentials are a nice try, but no cigar.

  • shu

    Since you’re trying to make a point on technicality, I just want to point out what he said can be interpreted to be technically accurate with a couple of commas – “I am an expert, with a PhD, in the history of religions.”, ie. an expert with a PhD and an expert in the history of religions.
    I think it’s not hard to nit pick at technicalities to prove a point and that’s just not worth much. You sound confused why so many people think your grasping at straws here, that’s the reason.
    In any case, this is not his CV and he did not speak in a context that called for him to quote the exact official title of his degree. Do you quote the exact official title of your degree every time it comes up? People often substitute interchangeable words or focus on a subtopic of their degree when it comes up in a conversation. What might be debatable is what is considered interchangeable or a sub topic of a broader field. That’s different from field to field, but it really sounds like academics in related fields who have commented here believe that “history of religion” and “sociology of religion” are interchangeable in an informal context. I think you could pick up this argument later if you find authoritative figures in the field to say that’s a misrepresentation. In that case, I would consider siding with you, but until then, I think it’s fair to consider kind of a waste of time.

  • msallyjones

    138 post pissing about whether a specific degree means expertise in some specific subject when the real issue here is Fox news once again trying to stir up trouble against Muslims. What difference does it make what exactly is stated on the PhD degree. The guy has spent his life time studying religions. He has credibility.

    Quit yammering about whether Asian has the background to write about religion. He does.

    The real issue is the honesty of Fox news. They sent a pretty lassie, who obviously hadn’t read the book, into the interview with a set of questions designed to leave listeners with the Fox bias: Muslims hate Christianity. We know this because a lot of right wing Christian pastors say so; Muslims lie about Christianity because they are vengeful. Terrorists seek revenge therefore all Muslims are terrorists. Or some such garbage. What you had was Lauren Green channeling Pamela Geller and it backfired. Good!

    Why isn’t the dishonesty of Fox the issue here instead of the credibility of Asian’s PhD? Asian’s book will not damage society or poison the political atmosphere. Fox does that daily, in spades.

    • Darren Blair

      There’s a difference between saying “I have credibility on a topic because of my degree” and “I have credibility on my topic because, while earning my degree, I did supplementary work in this field”.

      • BRobCleveland

        Yeah. But he said “I have the qualifications to do this book because I have four degrees in the area, have studied and taught and written about religion for 20 years.”

        Is there any actual rational argument that that representation is untrue? No. Only this pin head dancing after realizing that the “Mooslums should not write about Jesus” card failed so laughably.

        • msallyjones

          Exactly!!!!!

      • msallyjones

        I have a feeling, Darren Blair, that the primary reason you think the man doesn’t have any credibility because he is a Muslim.

  • John Dekker

    Thanks for the link to the PhD. I see that he won a prize for his undergraduate thesis, with the topic of “The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark”, so that would seem to justify the “four degrees, including one in the New Testament”.

    • NYlawyer

      His BA is the basis of his claim to be a historian of religion?

      • bobsoper

        Did you not read Aslan’s statement John Dekker placed in quotes at the end if his comment? Remind me not to hire YOU as a lawyer next time I’m in NY!

        • NYlawyer

          In law, it is understood that context is relevant in deciding if a statement is false or misleading. “I am a scholar of the history of religion with four degrees” implies that the four degrees relate to the history of religion, which is not true. And it is extremely misleading if the lowest degree is the one that’s most relevant.

          • Dingo Dongo

            But that statement carries no such implication. I don’t see where you’re getting this alleged implication.

            And as for his Ph.D., it is in a highly relevant field.

  • Nina Ricci

    Inane person. If you took the time to read what his PhD entails you would have found out: “The Department of Religious Studies uses a variety of methods (historical, textual, ethnographic, philosophical and social scientific) through the specific and comparative study of the religious dimensions of world cultures and traditions. Its program offers concentrations in a variety of religious traditions: (Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Native American and indigenous) and areas, with particular strengths in South and East Asia, the Middle East, the ancient and medieval Mediterranean world, and North America. Faculty teach, research and publish in the study of sacred textual traditions, religion in public life, sacred space and pilgrimage, healing systems, race/ethnicity and pluralism, religious experience, religious movements, religious violence, and the implications that nationalism, globalization, science and the new media hold for the development of religion in the modern era. Cross-cultural research and interdisciplinary approaches — involving disciplines such as history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, gender studies, art history, comparative literature, and political science — are especially encouraged by the Department and supported by faculty affiliates across the university.”

    The danger of not having a PhD and having access to a mere blog is that whatever you vomit in words is not peer-reviewed. Get a degree. We will talk then.

    • NYlawyer

      You really should address issues on the merits. You did not address the issues raised — namely whether Aslan misrepresented himself as a historian of religion, with four relevant degrees, and who teaches the history of religion as his job. If you think you can argue in Aslan’s favor on any of those three points, please do.

      • BRobCleveland

        OK, NYLawyer . . . what do you do with the fact that Aslan has previously written about Muhammed and early Islam from a historic perspective, and was doing the exact same thing here with Jesus and early Christianity? Does that enter into your analysis as to whether he “misrepresented” his academic and research background?

        He said he had studied and researched the history of religions for 20 years. He has written books and taught religion at a few to universities. The idea that he misrepresented anything is an effort to ignore what he wrote. Green tried the “Muslim card,” too, and that was about as effective as this “misrepresented his qualifications” argument.

        • NYlawyer

          Then he can say “I have studied these issues for x years and I have a deep interest in them.” He doesn’t get to make false statements because he could have made true statements. (And really, if you can’t defend what he represented, your statement that “it’s an effort to disregard what he wrote” adds nothing.)

          I think the “Fox News”/combative interviewing (which is a separate issue) has triggered a nerve among some academics that has led them to make statements they would not submit for peer review in their own professional life.

      • Dingo Dongo

        Aslan pretty clearly is a historian of religion, he never claimed to have “four relevant degrees”, and he has taught history of religion for many years. So I think those three points come out in Aslan’s favor.

  • Richard Mounts

    Joe,

    I believe that you’re right, and right on the mark! This is about whether or not something is true. It is not about the fact that many, perhaps most, fields of academic study are inter-disciplinary. My degree is in psychology, and that included studying brain physiology and brain chemistry. I do not claim, in any setting, a degree in chemistry!

    My work experience includes many years of work in human resources. I do not claim a human resources degree, even though I studied human resources coursework in the psychology department. I was once hired as a consultant to a municipal public health department. I developed a disaster response plan for mass casualty events. Even though the psychology of human responses to catastrophic events is of major consideration to disaster response planning, I do not claim an academic degree in emergency management. In fact, my qualifications for the consultancy had more to do with my military work than with my degree. Oh, by the way, I do not now claim to have a degree in public health either.

    I think that I have sufficiently flogged this deceased quadruped so I’ll close by expressing my great dismay at the apparent triumph of moral relativism and proclaim the moral compass of humanity almost completely unrepairable.

  • Pluto Animus

    Must be nice to have time to pick at such trivial nits.

    • Darren Blair

      Trust me: it’s not trivial.

      There are fields where, at the post-graduate level, such distinctions count big time.

      • Shawn Ragan

        This is not one of them. History has become a very interdisciplinary field and is covered by more than just those in the history department. There is absolutely nothing wrong for him, in this context and with his degrees, to identify himself as a historian of religion. This *is* trivial. I am only a PhD student in a history department, so no need to trust me, but a number of PhDs and professors, including his own chair, have chimed in on the subject. This would not be a debate in academia, only on the internet…

        • DavidM

          Shawn, I guess they don’t teach much critical thinking in history departments: “There is absolutely nothing wrong for him, in this context and with his degrees, to identify himself as a historian of religion” = straw man. What he actually said, in context, was pretentious and inane. Maybe he was nervous, we certainly don’t need to crucify him, but let’s be honest.

          • Dingo Dongo

            Leaving aside “pretentious and inane”, I thought the issue was whether what he said was untrue or some sort of misrepresentation. And on that issue, I don’t see anything off about Aslan’s statements.

          • DavidM

            Well to quote Lisa Hajjar, PhD: “This article does catch something that Reza said during the interview that was not really accurate: that he has a PhD in the history of religion.”

          • Dingo Dongo

            There’s nothing inaccurate about that statement. His sociology Ph.D. was in the history of religion, just like he said. As an interdisciplinary field, the history of religion rarely if ever has the institutional recognition necessary to issue its own degrees, which means you cannot expect historians of religion to have a Ph.D. in History of Religion.

          • DavidM

            Well go ahead and enjoy your belief, but Dr. Hajjar from his dissertation examination committee disagrees with you.

          • Shawn Ragan

            And to quote the chair of his committee and his PhD adviser: “So in short, he is who he says he is.”

          • DavidM

            Right, and also who Hajjar says he is, that is: a guy who said something “during the interview that was not really accurate.” Q.E.D., anyone?

  • Ed Mintey

    Actually Aslan has a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the School of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which is in fact a degree in the History of Religions. Aslan is in fact a historian of religions.

    This author has made a similar kind of uninformed false assumption that Lauren Green made based on her reliance on an editorial published in the FOX News website. it was wrong.
    Perhaps this author should, (as lauren Green should) do some basic journalistic research and contact the University of California Religious Studies Dept. and actually check on what that degree entails.

  • BRobCleveland

    This is stupid. Did you actually read “No God but God”? It is a history of Islam and Muhammed. Sound familiar? Since “Zealot” is a history of Jesus? It does not matter what department he got his degree from . . . LOOK AT THE SUBSTANCE! Look at what the man has written and taught!

    Does anyone here have a beef with what he SAID ABOUT JESUS, either in the book or in the interview? Or is your “objection” that he is not a member of your religious sect, and is writing historically about the guy you claim you folow, but really don’t?

    Honestly, this is descending into what one would think would be an unfair liberal caricature of “Look how stupid conservatives are!” But you folks are doing it to yourselves!

  • Jerry Lynch

    The first time she asked, I agree it was allowable for the reasons you noted, but note the tone and body language, amplified the second time. It appeared more challenging than inquisitive, an inferred almost “How dare you.” And perhaps he was responding somewhat defensively, stretching his degree a bit, which I do not see as too farfetched. Sociology seems like the microcosm of history.
    But of course the point is that “real” journalism seems to be losing in this information age, the movement to make news entertainment and not in-depth investigation with an earnest eye for truth.

    The snickering is quick and easy, and understandable, given how Hannity and O’Reilly usually talk about Muslims. But it is not excusable.

    • BreakingDeadMen

      Exactly, she was outraged by the mere fact of the book by THIS man.

  • http://nathanrein.com Nathan

    @JOE_P_CARTER:disqus , did you know that within the academic field of the study of religion, “history of religions” or “history of religion” is a kind of old-fashioned synonym for “religious studies” or “the study of religion”? (It comes from the German, phenomenological roots of the field, i.e., Religionsgeschichte.) It doesn’t have anything to do with having a degree in history. In departments or institutions that call the discipline “history of religions,” “sociology of religion” is an area of concentration or specialization within the discipline of “history of religions.” A person who identifies him- or herself as a “historian of religion”, to an academic in the field, is simply saying “I study religion.” Easily misunderstood from a position outside the field, but hey, that’s just how it is.

  • Mark Chancey

    So many people on this thread have the point so well that this is the last I will post on the topic.

    As someone pointed out yesterday, when it comes to discussing a Ph.D., the distinction is between the official and technical terminology of the degree, on the one hand, and the substance of the work and preparation that the Ph.D. represents, on the other. Academics rather naturally talk about their degrees in both senses, and their descriptions of their degrees vary depending on the contexts, topics of conversation, and conversation partners.

    A personal example: I have a Ph.D. in Religion, according to my diploma. Saying that does not communicate much, especially to a lay audience unfamiliar with academia or my field (such as, perhaps, the random assortment of people who happen to be watching a television news show at any given moment).

    I might describe my degree in any number of ways that would communicate more fully what it is I did in grad school and do for a living. Depending on the subject matter and situation, I could legitimately describe my doctorate as being in New Testament, biblical studies, Christian origins, early Christianity and early Judaism, ancient Mediterranean religions, or the history and archaeology of Palestine in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. If I had graduated from a program that had a more specific methodological focus (I wouldn’t describe mine that way), I might draw upon that background in describing my graduate work. Regardless of their specific fields, some scholars, for example, might say they did their doctorates in method and theory in the study of religion, or social-scientific approaches, or cultural studies, or women’s studies, yes, the “history of religions.”

    At this point, so many academics have weighed in on this thread on this sort of point that it raises the question why the original blogger remains so adamant that he is in a better position to explain how academics talk than actual academics are.

    Some commenters have rightly noted that more important points include 1) whether Aslan’s book is any good (I have no idea) 2) the problem of misconceptions and misrepresentations of Islam and 3) the quality (or lack thereof) of Fox News.

    I would mention two more issues–specifically, the ones that motivated me to post in the first place.

    First: Get Religion says that it exists because so many journalists don’t “get religion.” It identifies its mission as chasing down missing details, correcting misrepresentation, and identifying sins of omission and commission in coverage of religion-related topics. In practice, it rather openly works from a conservative perspective, identifying instances where its authors feel the media has in some way misunderstood or misrepresented issues important to conservatives. This seems to me like a very legitimate mission.

    Yet too many times (not always–I’ve read some really good material here–but often) when I come to this site, the articles display the same sorts of bias that the site supposedly decries: sins of omission and commission, lack of research, rhetorical sleight of hand, reactionary responses that themselves misrepresent the item under discussion.

    In my opinion, the original blog posting here could have really contributed to the conversation about Aslan’s book by highlighting its and his strengths and weaknesses. More research and nuance would have made this article a great post. Unfortunately, the article went down a different path. Instead, now there are stories all over the Internet about how Aslan is a liar. I’ve never met the man and may never read his book, but I think this site should ask itself some hard questions about quality control and the biases it is willing to tolerate and promote.

    My second issue is similar and relates to First Things, for which the article’s author is web editor. That site is heavily promoting this blog’s line of argument. As with Get Religion, this is not the first time that First Things has posted what are in my opinion under-researched, poorly argued, and uncivil attacks. I’m all for fact-checking, exposing, blunt, hard-hitting, passionately written articles that lay things out the way they are and, if need be, expose those who are misrepresenting important facts and issues. I am not, however, for ill-informed hatchet jobs that show little effort at generosity of spirit. How does posting such articles point that site’s readers toward the “first things” that matter? How do such articles “advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society”? How do they help us cultivate “first principles” or “the right ordering of public life?”

    • NYlawyer

      The supporters of Aslan are not responsive to what the post is about: whether Aslan misrepresented himself by claiming to be a “scholar of the history of religion with four degrees” — which can only be understood to claim that the four degrees relate to scholarship in the history of religion — and by claiming to be a professor of the history of religion. His four degrees do not all relate to that; the degree he uses for his actual professorship is an MFA. So far I have not seen anyone actually defend what he claimed, as opposed to the issue of whether a sociology PhD can in some sense be a history PhD — which is not what’s at issue and is a pretty poor claim to defend anyway.

      Your claim of another’s lack of civility is more than a bit heavy handed — civility should also demand that the respondent address what is actually stated, rather than create alternative issues to address, as you and many of Aslan’s defenders have chosen to do.

      The issues about whether the book is any good is a good issue, but does not actually respond to the issue of this post.

      I have to say that the First Things summary of the dispute is carefully stated — certainly it provides no claim for the charge that it is “under-researched” or “poorly argued,” especially compared to these comments. When has it been considered bad form to point out a falsehood? Shouldn’t it be bad form to state a falsehood?

      • Dingo Dongo

        You are wrong in your understanding of Aslan’s claim to be a “scholar of the history of religion with four degrees”. That claim does not carry any implications about whether all of those degrees relate to the history of religion. It only states, with no further implications, that Aslan has four degrees and that Aslan is a scholar of the history of religion. So the fact that one of those degrees is an MFA does not show anything to be wrong with Aslan’s claim.

        Since I don’t see anything else that could be wrong with Aslan’s claim, I don’t see what the problem is.

    • jdens

      Applause! I would upvote until my mouse died if I could.

  • Teto85

    Fox still blew the interview by basing its attacks on Aslan’s religion in the first place and then repeating those attacks. His credentials as he represented them are open to inquiry and maybe attack if he did indeed misrepresent himself. Does that damage his credibility? Probably. Why did Fox interview him in the first place if not for sensationalism? Religion is all bullshit anyway.

  • RalphCooper

    Carter is a hatchet artist. Why try to explain how he hacked up this issue?

  • Dan Arnold

    I have followed GetReligion almost since its inception and followed
    tmatt’s writing since his days in Denver, so I’m not new to this site. My understanding is that this site is to discuss how the media does and does not cover (or get) religion, principally Christianity but not exclusively. I find very little in this post about how the media covers religion and very much about Mr. Carter’s concern that Dr. Aslan misrepresented himself. (A point that has been addressed by his PhD supervisor which should be enough to put any further questions to rest.) I have read Aslan’s earlier work, No God but God and found it to be a popular level history advocating a more Westernized (you could read that as liberal) interpretation of Islam. I would expect Zealot to be similar (although I hadn’t even heard of it until Mr Carter’s first attack). I
    hate to say it, but this post comes across not as a critique of the press coverage, but rather a dogmatic personal attack
    on Dr. Aslan.

  • Anon rust

    Poor Joe Carter. An awfully lot of words on a topic he knows nothing about. Because: “Religious.” “Zealot.”

    Got it now.

  • DavidM

    “Are you claiming that in the heat of the interview Aslan completely forgot what sort of degree he had?” – Not to mention – and perhaps more importantly -, did he forget that his actual current work, what he actually does (e.g., with his latest book), is *creative writing*? It would have been awfully honest of him to mention that, though, wouldn’t it? It’s sad that the PhD-holders commenting here apparently don’t know any people who are able to remain honest when under pressure. Even if a PhD in sociology were the same as a PhD in history of religions, the fact that one has a PhD in some general field (either one) obviously(!) does not imply that one is qualified to write a scholarly book on any random subject in the field. PhD’s are just as FOS as anyone else when they want to be, they are just able to be more pretentious about it.

    • Grisha

      1. Scholars frequently change topics quite a bit during their careers. In fact, when applying for your first job straight out of grad school, you are supposed to have a second topic in mind which MUST significantly differ from your thesis topic. Ideally, you have already researched this topic a bit before you even have your thesis in hand. This does not mean that they are full of sh*t. It means they have to work their butts off to master a second sub-field. Aslan’s range of topics is hardly even broad by this standard. Sorry.

      2. The idea that PhD holders here are forgiving of dishonesty is BS. The point is that the PhDs recognize that Aslan was following the accepted norms of the field in describing both his expertise and his PhD. The reality is that academics take this topic SO seriously (it’s really a death penalty issue for us) that we have little patience for these sorts of flimsy attacks, particularly when they are made in our name (as John Carter has, repeatedly, without evidence).

      3. The fact that Aslan has a job in creative writing does not somehow invalidate his PhD. In fact, conservative historians and scholars for years have been pushing the importance of readable and narrative history. And many creative writing departments are hiring talented non-fiction writers to help serve this conservative-friendly direction of scholarship.

      4. If you want to insult us as pretentious and full of sh*t, that’s just fine, just don’t pretend to speak for us, and don’t pretend understand the rules of the field.

      • DavidM

        Guess what, dude? You are pretentious. Get over it. You know nothing about me. I know plenty of PhD’s. Some are impressive. Most are not. I’m not speaking for you. I’m speaking about you. And I’m generalizing. You have no knowledge of me and my experience and knowledge. Thus your comments are incredibly FOS and pretentious. And that’s obvious. Your response is nothing but red herring, straw man, and ignoratio elenchi. Whatever.

        • Grisha

          I guess that’s all you have left.

          • DavidM

            Pointing out the truth? Yeah, I guess…

  • DavidM

    “Get a degree. We will talk then.” – Sadly, this comment gives a pretty good indication of what most degrees are worth (fat ego, terrible reasoning skills). (And it’s irrelevant, but yes, I do have a few degrees myself.)

  • KSV

    The purpose of this blog is to analyze how the press (and in this case extended to television interviews) treats religion, not how Reza Aslan describes his degree. Except for a throwaway line about how bad the interview was, this blog is engaging in ad hominem attacks on Aslan and not focusing on his press coverage. The Fox interviewer was apparently ignorant about the role of Jesus in Islam (as well as the definition of debate.) She had not done her homework, was antagonistic from the get go and is clearly unfit to cover religious news of any sort. Your prior attack on Aslan covered not news but Terry Gross’s radio interview show (more op ed than straight news) and was similarly a bash-Aslan opportunity that ignored the first minutes of the interview and treated a synopsis as a transcript.

    Aslan’s book is well in the tradition of the historical Jesus narratives, as written by Jews, Christians and secular scholars. His book focuses on the history of Roman jurisprudence and political behavior as it intersects with the life of Jesus. The fact that he doesn’t accept Jesus as Christ is irrelevant. Would you expect that from a Jewish scholar? Having a different conclusion is far from bashing Christianity and is no reason to bash Aslan.

    • DavidM

      Aslan is the one with the PhD, not the interviewer. He is supposed to be able to explain shit to people who know less than he does. THAT is his job. DOCTOR, anyone? Docet me, amabo te! Why couldn’t he just do that? Why the pretentious bullshit?

      • RobS

        Because explaining his academic credential lends huge weight to the opinions he then expresses. DO you seriously contend that if her were a Muslim janitor or kindergarten teacher his opinions on Christianity would be equally valid and that his extensive background in the study of Religion at a PhD level holds no bearing on his writings about religion?

        • DavidM

          Dude, you’ve completely ignored my point here. I could ignore that you’ve ignored my point and get into a debate with you, but that would probably be a waste of time given the evidence you’ve provided here for the kind of debater you are (i.e., one who doesn’t get the point when an argument is made).

          • RobS

            You have demonstrated a fundamental flaw of debating seen in those with an inflated sense of self importance, I have not ignored or misunderstood your argument, I have heard it and understand it, I just disagree with it. I think the fact that the topic is intimately related with the topic of his undergraduate and doctoral studies is a perfectly appropriate justification for publishing on a topic. Are there other reasons? Sure, however I totally disagree with your argument that giving that as a justification is somehow idiotic.

  • DavidM

    If I wrote a book about Islamic philosophy (since philosophy is the field of my PhD) and an Islamic interviewer asked me why I, as a Christian, wrote this book about Islamic philosophy, trust me, I wouldn’t say: “it’s what I do, I am a scholar, it’s my job, I have a PhD in the history of philosophy.” That is simply a freaking dumb response. Respect Aslan all you want, he may have done some good work in the past. In the present, however, his response is dumb and pretentious. You shouldn’t need a PhD to see that.

    • RobS

      What would have been a “non dumb” response to questioning a scholar of religion why he wrote a book about religion?

      • DavidM

        First, you, like most of the others, are again misrepresenting the facts: that was not the question he was asked. Honesty, anyone? Second, a ‘non dumb’ response would obviously(!) be one which answered the question in an informative way.

        • RobS

          We obviously have a fundamental difference of opinion because I think the fact that he wrote this book because it is the topic to which he has dedicated the bulk of his undergraduate, post graduate and doctoral studies is a quite informative and valid justification for his authorship. She asked him why, he gave his reason, you think it is a bad reason but that is a difference of opinion not a difference of fact.

          • DavidM

            But Rob, I deny that he gave his reason. He most assuredly had a real reason, and he most assuredly did not give it when he started pretentiously rambling on about his academic qualifications. Deny that if you want, but I don’t see how any reasonable person could.

          • RobS

            You may not be able to see how a reasonable person could disagree with you, that doesn’t make you right.

          • DavidM

            That’s true, but the fact remains that what I said was right and obviously so. The fact that you can’t see that doesn’t mean I’m not right. [Read the guy's bio, for crying out loud; or better yet just drop the defensive posture and think about it - what I'm saying is right bloody obvious.]

      • Mike M

        Give the intro to Aslan’s appearance on Fresh Air a listen. Rather than ask him the question, they simply answered it in the introduction, using a quote from his book. That would have been an appropriate answer.

        Aslan wasn’t surprised by the question. He anticipated it and specifically wrote an answer to it in the introduction to Zealot. He was deliberately confrontational hoping to stir up controversy and Fox News hate so that he could sell more copies of his unoriginal rehashing of second rate scholarship. And it worked, so, good for him, I suppose. For the interviewer’s part, I don’t know why she kept harping on the issue. Was that the only question she had prepared for the interview? When he gave his pompous, confrontational response (seriously… what kind of an insecure, ill-mannered half-wit goes on a tirade about how he has four degrees?) she should have moved on instead of boorishly demanding an answer to a question that was far from important in the first place. What’s really bad about the interview is that there were no questions about the dubiousness of “scholarship” that claims to reconstruct a historical figure in a way that’s completely at odds with every historical account of him, and to do so on the basis of relatively few historical data points, most of which either have clear (and not supernatural) alternative explanations within the ancient texts or are not clearly related to the figure at all.

  • Ben

    Moderators – This has been an entirely poisonous discussion, yielding almost nothing of profit. May I suggest you post Shahram Vahdany’s comment as a post-script to the article and then close the comments?

    • Ben

      Or, rather, the post with his thesis adviser Juergensmeyer’s statement.

    • Saints and Sceptics

      Agreed. I feel compelled to defend Mr Carter, who made a reasonable point. The press should critically evaluate a “sales pitch” (although there’s nothing wrong with using a “pitch” to promote a book!)
      But some of the comments seem more aggressive than illuminating. So I’ll retire from this discussion.
      GV

  • DavidM

    Please notice that when I point out that PhD’s are often pretentious BSer’s, I am criticizing both all of the people with PhD’s who have focused on the fact that Aslan’s degree may(!) be (not *is*) relevant to his latest book while ignoring the fact that, regardless, his reply was pretentious BS (which proves my point – they would notice that that’s what his reply was if they were attuned to avoiding this sort of thing); and Joe Carter, who has apparently bought into the notion that it would have made a big difference if Aslan did happen to have the right words written on his hallowed PhD parchment (that is really not the issue).

    • manfredo

      aslan was asked what qualifies him to write a book on jesus. he cited his academic credentials. i’m sorry you have such hostility to academia, but aslan’s answer seems to me to be completely reasonable in the face of a hostile interviewer.
      as for mr. carter’s attempts at suggesting that aslan was misleading us when he listed his academic credntials, well, the overwhelming response from people in aslan’s field should put that matter to rest. but it has been entertaining watching mr. carter continue to insist he knows more about their field than they do.

      • DavidM

        “aslan was asked what qualifies him to write a book on jesus…” – except that’s NOTwhat happened. I’m sorry you have such hostility to the truth (and such a narrow view of ‘academia’ that you think that I’m hostile to it)…
        Read Lisa Hajjar’s (reported) comment: she claims he was being “harangued” when he came out with his pretentious list of qualifications, and that that excuses his lapse in accuracy – now good for her if she has a PhD, but that is simply contrary to the verifiable facts, so the appeals to the authority of the PhD’s here is pretty pathetic. (And then you have Grisha, who needs to read an introduction to critical thinking so that he can start avoiding a few of those fallacies he has committed.) It’s very sad that people are so easily misled by people who have ‘credentials.’ (…Or has Joe Carter ‘doctored’ the tape, so that I’m the one who is ill-apprised of the facts? Joe? Now that would be naughty indeed.)

        • manfredo

          “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
          clearly that question calls into doubt his qualifications to write a book about christianity. as for appeals to authority, you are generally correct that that can be a dangerous path to logical fallacy. but in this case, we are talking about the semantics of how academics refer to themselves. so appealing to their authority in this instance would seem to be instructive.

          • DavidM

            “clearly that question calls into doubt his qualifications to write a book about Christianity” – no, the question suggests nothing about qualifications. The question is “why did”, not “what qualifies you to”. Sad you can’t immediately see the clear difference between the two. And the fact that he distorted the question in this way, along with the fact that a number of PhD’s seem to have no problem with his doing this, just proves again how pedantic and pretentious many PhD’s are. (Again, I know this from extensive experience – I do not hate academia.)
            As for the “how do academics refer to themselves”-issue, that is not at all a clear-cut issue. For starters, read what Hajjar herself says (reportedly): he slipped up. And in any case, I’ve already explained that that’s not the real issue anyway. (If it were, we would still have to ask what was his rhetorical intent in the actual context in which he made his claims, and the answer is pretty obvious. So the PhD’s in the crowd, ‘bright’ though they are, would still be largely missing the point.)

          • manfredo

            well, we disagree about the implications of the question. i took it to imply the same things as aslan as others. you saw it differently. i think your interpretation is overly generous to the interviewer. but, to be sure, i just watched that part of the interview again a bunch of times and i stand by my interpretation. she seems to be saying “what do you know about jesus? you’re a muslim.” i think aslan’s citing his academic credentials in answer to that question is reasonable, on point, and not at all pretentious given our shared interpretation of the question’s implications.
            what do you think the purpose of her question was?

          • manfredo

            in fact, watching the whole interview again, the interviewers sole purpose appears to be to undermine his credentials for writing the book. so, yeah, i think your interpretation just doesn’t hold up. and your conclusion that aslan is being pretentious should be revisited. the reason why this video went viral is that the interviewer is so openly hostile to aslan’s writing the book in the first place because he is a muslim. his answer that he is writing, not as a muslim, but as a scholar with a PhD in the history of religions (which he clearly is based on any basic reading of the facts of his studies and thesis, despite disingenuous claims to the contrary in the above post) is completely justified.

          • RobS

            What was clear was that she only knew three things going into this interview, The topic of the book (but none if it’s actual claims or content) the author’s personal religion (as though that was her trump card and nothing else matters when in fact it is of zero consequence to his writing) and that another fox commentator had questioned his legitimacy in writing the book also based on nothing but his his personal faith.
            What she thought was going to be a trump card was actually a xenophobic irrelevancy easily dismissed by the author, as was the other fox commentators opinion based on the same premise. All that was left was the clear unassailable proof that she had not researched the contents of the book in any way and so was left to continue to repeat her opener over and over again. This was a xenophobic, poorly researched interview where her “gotcha” moment was quickly shown for the baseless bigotry that it was and she completely understandably is now being pummeled for her puerile approach.

          • DavidM

            It is not a question of implication, it is a straightforward matter of plain meaning. And again, the fact that you and others choose to read implications into the question only speaks to your… (but I won’t repeat myself yet again – as you’ve already demonstrated: if you don’t want to hear what I’m saying, you’ll choose not to hear)

          • manfredo

            not only did i hear and consider what you were saying, i returned to the source material to see if my original impression held up in light of the opinions you introduced into this discussion. have you watched the interview? are you honestly saying that the purpose of her question was not to impugn aslan’s motives and credentials? because, watching the actual interview, i don’t believe that interpretation holds up at all.

            here is a link to the entire interview:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY92TV4_Wc0

            you should check it out.

          • DavidM

            If you did hear and consider what I said, why did you then ignore it in your reply??…
            Again: it is not an interpretation, it is straightforward English comprehension. She did not ask about his qualifications.
            Also, logical point: If he made a stupid, misleading reply to the first question (and the second), whatever happened in subsequent questions doesn’t change the prior facts and somehow justify his prior stupid, pretentious, misleading responses.
            So, honestly, I never said she wasn’t trying to impugn his motives (I don’t know her intentions, especially as these pertain to the whole interview); but I will say that her *actual* question (as opposed to one of the many distortions thereof by all the ‘clever’ defenders of Aslan here) was perfectly legitimate and deserved an intelligent response. The fact that he was unable to give one is the salient point for me, regardless of how the rest of the interview went. (Sorry, but I’m simply not interested in trying to defend (or condemn) the interviewer’s performance as a whole.)

          • DavidM

            There is so much to criticize here, manfredo, but in reviewing the record did it not strike you as preposterous, ludicrous, either incredibly dishonest or incredibly stupid, that this hack with a PhD can claim that his book overturns everything that Christianity (and Islam) believes about Jesus, but that his book is not an ‘attack’ on Christianity? Wtf! Seriously? That you can find time to criticize the interviewer when this idiot spouts such nonsense amazes me – but not really; I know that people hear what they want to hear and often are less than fond of the truth.

          • manfredo

            it is clear that you think that aslan is a pretentious idiot. for all i know you could be right. i just didn’t see any evidence of that in this interview, admittedly, i don’t know much about aslan and i haven’t read his book. you have your opinion and you are entitled to it. but remind me, what was it that jesus said about the mote and the beam? because, frankly, david, you really don’t appear to be as smart as you think. and humble is far from the first word i’d use to describe how you come off in your comments. that said, it’s been a pleasure. all the best.

          • DavidM

            “but remind me, what was it that jesus said about the mote and the beam? because, frankly, david, you really don’t appear to be as smart as you think.” – ouch. So first you think “why did you write” actually means “what are your qualifications for writing”; then you think I don’t appear to be as smart as I think I am. Gotcha. Thanks for enlightening commentary. (You should get a PhD – then at least you could pad your substanceless comments with some boasting about your credentials.)

          • manfredo

            sorry you didn’t like what i had to say. that’s too bad. but, as somebody who is really smart and not at all pretentious once said, some people “often are less than fond of the truth.”
            like i said, best of luck. it’s been a pleasure.

          • DavidM

            oh, absolutely, a real pleasure!

  • Gregory Peterson

    At the time of his death in 1920, Max Weber was planning to write on ancient Islam. Would he have been asked by the interviewer why a non-Muslim would do such a thing? The sociology of religion examines the history of religions with sociological tools and theory. The question is: How much sociology is in “Zealot?”

  • shamgar

    Joe, you need to stop trying to apply things like common sense or standard use of language to higher academics. Such is the path to frustration. You read “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” or “I am a historian. I am a PhD in the history of religions.” and parse that to mean “PhD in History – specializing in religions.” But for academics, “history of religions” is not such a specific term, and can be applied as long as history and religion were involved somehow. Likewise, “historian” has no rigorous requirement. So he is not misrepresenting his degree according to the technical terms of academia. That common people might misunderstand his statements is not relevant to academics.

    I think he’s totally blowing smoke with his credentials. He’s not misrepresenting what credentials he has, but he is inflating their relevance to the subject at hand. Whether that is deliberate or just academic hubris, I couldn’t say.

  • Cha5678

    The fact he is a Muslim shouldn’t be an issue. There are a number of atheists in the field, and some produced great work, but they have the credentials. Aslan lied, and like most of us who commit a sin, reacted in a defensive if not wholly combative manner to defend and restate the sin less our conscience out us. I hope Aslan finds time for reflection and an environment seeking good will so he can come to terms with his lies. Sadly I get the sense there is an environment that will privilege him as long as he maintains his lie and plays his part in planting the seed of doubt and confusion into the mainstream literature about Christ. Heck, he might even join one of the liberal college religious studies programs referred that collects any scholar how irrelevant their resume that is willing to play the game. With the initial book deal, speaking tour and subsequent reaction to the interview tells me that may have been their plan all along. Bad press is good press if you own the press. Never miss a crisis to exploit.

    • RobS

      He didn’t lie, he described the topic of study of his Sociology PhD accurately and truthfully as backed up by his PhD supervisor.

  • Joshua Little

    The way Aslan represents his credentials is important because it says something about his goals in writing and academia.
    Namely, it says that he doesn’t really care about the finer details of an academic discipline (“sociology” or “history”) but is simply trying to address a more popular audience and influence the broader debate. He’s not trying to record what actually happened in the life of Jesus, he’s trying to influence the debate. Which is why this whole conversation began in the first place.http://www.scienceandreligiontoday.com/2010/05/28/reza-aslan-on-the-academy/

    • RobS

      Or that perhaps he chooses to use lay descriptive terms when addressing a lay audience and would use academically technical terms when addressing an academic audience. This book is targeted at a wider lay audience and this interview was certainly in the non academic realm therefore I see no issue with him using a descriptive term for his PhD which accurately represents his core focuses in attaining that title as confirmed by his PhD supervisor over the weekend. I think it is refreshing to see an academic who is capable of moving freely between the lay and the academic world and be understood in both.

      • Joshua Little

        I would agree, except for the fact that he doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of clout or respect on the academic side (see the interview I linked to)….which lends credence to the point that his book was mostly opinion.
        Ideally, (especially with controversial topics like these) an academic would want to bring some measure of clarity to the lay audience. It seems instead that he just threw fuel on the fire.

  • Lucas Jensen

    I don’t know if anyone else has said anything similar to this here, but the titles of degrees and programs can be pretty fluid. My degree program and department name have changed multiple times since I started my Ph.D. program name. At one time we were a part of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology and now we’re a part of Career and Information Sciences. Do these two things sound remotely similar to you? No? Well, my program, once known as Instructional Technology and now Learning, Design, and Technology, is still the same, even though it’s been involved in some major names changes. If I said I had a degree in EPIT or a degree in CIS, they’d sound radically different, but they’d all basically be the same thing: Instructional/Educational Technology. And I wouldn’t even be lying. My point is that these semantic shifts in field name are a matter of course in academia, and we can debate how meaningful they are. I think you should try to convey a clear message with your department/program/degree name, but there is so much overlap between fields that it’s hard to pin these down. Especially in the humanities and social sciences. Most of the time the name is what sounds catchiest and/or satisfies the most number of stakeholders. And I use all of the names pretty interchangeably. On the spot on a TV show, I’d probably mash them all up.

  • RobS

    This nitpicking about the title of his degree when his PhD supervisor has clearly stated that describing his PhD as being in the area of history of religions is perfectly accurate regardless of it’s formal title is just inane. The bigger issue is this woeful intellectually bereft attack on an academic for daring to have an opinion on his topic of expertise because of his personal beliefs. Saying a non Christian academic can’t write on Christianity despite being an expert in religions is as intellectually vigorous as arguing an Oncologist can’t publish on oncology if they don’t have cancer. You do yourself, and religious academia, a great disservice by losing sight of the bigger picture here in favor of quibbling over a descriptive reference to his PhD in a non academic setting.

    • Noah Smith

      Nice to see so much push back against such a ignorant blog post

      • Ridgid_Member

        I second this statement. So now it looks like one has to be an alcoholic who happens to be a researcher with a Ph,D. in order to do research and publish papers/textbooks on alcohol addiction.

  • Bonnie Gibbons

    I guess everyone who studies music should snap shut all of Charles Rosen’s books such as The Classical Style since his Ph.D. is in French literature or something like that, rather than music.

    • Crystal Paull

      Ha! I love the classical music reference. That was one of my degrees but according to Joe Carter, I would not be qualified to speak on vocal music education because I am now in the history field. ;)

  • societal_indifference

    That was dumb.

  • perfectlyGoodInk

    For what it’s worth, Joe Carter is much funnier than Green. He just doesn’t seem to realize that the longer and louder folks make the ad hominem attack without addressing arguments in the book itself, the longer this story stays in the news cycle. The only people who would buy this line of attack are people who wouldn’t have bought the book anyway.

    The reason the video went viral was because it was inane to characterize Aslan as not being qualified to write the book, and whether or not the Ph.D. is in history of religion or sociology of religion is irrelevant to that already inane question because they are both about religion and, by comparison, Green has shown herself to not be qualified to even ask questions about the book.

    Your Average Joe doesn’t care about the distinction anyway. Only academics would, and they’ve already weighed in here on the topic loud and clear. Joe’s reaction to dig deeper merely reinforces the liberal caricature of religious conservatives being intolerant bigots who would clutch at straws to discredit the character of anybody who says anything they disagree with.

    It makes this whole story even funnier (and sadder) than it already was. Nice job. I sure hope Aslan is paying you well.

    • DavidM

      “it was inane to characterize Aslan as not being qualified to write the book” – another inane misrepresentation of the facts of the case.

      • perfectlyGoodInk

        A plumber would be qualified to write the book. We live in a free society, after all, and this is why the question is inane. O’Reilly wrote a book on Jesus despite only having an undergraduate background in history (his graduate work being in journalism).

        The non-inane question is whether Aslan was able to write a book worth reading, but the qualification required to answer that question is actually reading the book.

        • DavidM

          “A plumber would be qualified to write the book” – exactly! (Whereas Aslan is likely totally unqualified to do any plumbing.) The PhD is irrelevant – so why the hell did Aslan bring it up? Because he’s a pretentious blowhard, like so many PhD’s.
          As for the qualification for assessing whether a particular book is worth reading, this actually (obviously) involves a great deal more than the mere ability to read the book. (For example, a lot of (unqualified) people would read Aslan’s claim (in “Zealot”) that ‘gospel’ is a Greek word meaning ‘good news’ and think to themselves: “Wow, this book is so interesting; I’m even learning some Greek! And this guy really knows his stuff! He’s a scholar – he even took some undergrad course in Greek and became fluent in the language! I think I can feel myself getting smarter just by reading this scholarly book by this scholarly man published by Random House!”)

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            As someone who works in educational technology, I work with a lot of Ph.D.s and managed a team for a couple of years that included Ph.D.’s. I have to say that performance correlated poorly with the level of education. Indeed, the person we hand-picked to succeed me didn’t have a degree in the field, but in a related one.

            I would also agree that there are certainly folks with Ph.D.s who are eager to remind you of it, and there are plenty who are more down-to-earth. Aslan certainly seems like one of the former, but that says more about whether I’d want him as a dinner guest than whether his books are worth reading (I’m on chapter 4 so far, and the book itself doesn’t read that pretentious). I would also think the pretentiousness of having a Ph.D. and announcing it is probably not a plus for the Fox News crowd compared to the NPR crowd.

            So why did he bring it up? Because the Ph.D. does signify a certain seriousness about a subject, and with most interviewers, it would have put an end to such an inane line of questioning once and for all so he could talk about the book. The tactic didn’t exactly backfire, as her amusing refusal to drop the subject is exactly why the video went viral. I can’t imagine Aslan’s target audience for this interview was ever Fox’s viewership, so perhaps he also intended to be provocative. If so, judging from posts like this and the book’s sales number, he has succeeded in spades.

            As for assessing a book’s worth, it seems rather elitist to suggest an advanced educational background is needed to judge whether you enjoyed a book or not. As far as book reviews go, I trust my friends and large numbers of online reviews (e.g. GoodReads and Amazon) far more than that of somebody with an advanced degree who hasn’t read the book.

          • DavidM

            “with most interviewers, it would have put an end to such an inane line of questioning once and for all so he could talk about the book” – Wow, you’ve got it completely bass-ackwards here: She asked him why he wrote the book; he’s the dumbass who started talking about his irrelevant PhD. (That’s right: IRRELEVANT. People don’t write books simply BECAUSE they have PhD’s. That’s the stupidest reason ever, justifying WHY you wrote a book.)

            ” it seems rather elitist to suggest an advanced educational background is needed to judge whether you enjoyed a book or not” – ouch! Another straw man. Here’s the point: If you enjoy reading a book that makes you dumber, then I would say that the book is not worth reading. You may disagree, maybe you’re a short-term hedonist and short-term pleasure is all that matters to you, but I disagree with such a position.

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            DavidM: “he’s the dumbass who started talking about his irrelevant PhD.”

            That someone has the amount of interest in a topic to go through a Ph.D. program is a good indicator that they have enough to say to write a book on the topic. And given the stellar results upon his book sales, I have a hard time characterizing the action as dumb. The reason he did the interview in the first place was to publicize the book, after all.

            DavidM: “If you enjoy reading a book that makes you dumber, then I would say that the book is not worth reading.”

            So… are you saying that the book makes you smarter, or that the book is worth reading? I’m not sure how to disagree with such a position.

            Also, I’ve never ever read a book that made me dumber. Even a dumb book, much like dumb arguments, will cause me to think about what exactly makes it dumb.

            Are you somebody who reads books?

          • DavidM

            “The reason he did the interview in the first place was to publicize the book, after all.” – Of course you have a point there; but it takes my reference to dumbassery out of context. If presenting himself as a dumbass intellectually was actually a calculated move to increase book sales, good for him: that was smart – sort of… provided that it worked. Any evidence for that, btw? (I should also point out that if someone does something dumb and happy results happen to follow, this does not imply that what he did was not dumb. You may have heard the expression ‘dumb luck’? – if you are, like, someone who reads books and stuff?)

            “So… are you saying that the book makes you smarter, or that the book is worth reading?” – ?? You might want to take another read at what I wrote.

            “I’ve never ever read a book that made me dumber.” – I bet a lot of people believe that. But is it true? (As for me, no, of course I don’t read books – don’t be silly, silly.)

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            DavidM: “If you enjoy reading a book that makes you dumber, then I would say that the book is not worth reading.”

            Let me break that down for you. Your statement is in the form, if P, then Q, where P is “enjoy reading book that makes you dumber, and Q is “the book is not worth reading.” This is logically equivalent to if NOT Q then NOT P.

            In other words, your claim is that if the book is worth reading, you must enjoy reading books that make you smarter.

            DavidM: “If presenting himself as a dumbass intellectually was actually a calculate move to increase book sales, good for him: that was smart – sort of… provided that it worked. Any evidence for that, btw?”

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=zealot+book+sales

            perfectlyGoodInk: “I’ve never ever read a book that made me dumber.”

            DavidM: “I bet a lot of people believe that. But is it true? (As for me, no, of course I don’t read books – don’t be silly, silly.)”

            I’ll let this conversation speak for itself.

          • DavidM

            “Let me break that down for you.” – Accurately? Let’s fix this up a bit: “Your statement is in the form, if P, then Q, where P is “you enjoy reading a book that makes you dumber,” and Q is “the book is not worth reading.” This is logically equivalent to if NOT Q then NOT P.” But notice the statement is just: if (B is myd) then (B is nwr) where B is “a book”, myd is “makes you dumber”, and nwr is (not worth reading).

            In other words, you butchered my claim. My claim is NOT that “if the book is worth reading, you must enjoy reading books that make you smarter.” Notice how you shift from “the book” to “books”? That is not an innocent change. A *correct* contraposition of the original if-then statement would be: “if a book (that you enjoy) is worth reading, then it is not the case the book (that you enjoy) makes you dumber.” So, good try, but way off.

            And your link: are you suggesting that if the book is selling well, then the high sales must have been caused by Aslan’s having presented himself as a dumbass? Post hoc ergo propter hoc kind of thing? Riiight. Smrt.

            “I’ll let this conversation speak for itself” – Well that’s just common courtesy, isn’t it? (Thanks, all the same.)

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            DavidM: “If you enjoy reading a book that makes you dumber, then I would say that the book is not worth reading.”

            perfectlyGoodInk: “In other words, your claim is that if the book is worth reading, you must enjoy reading books that make you smarter.”

            DavidM: “Notice how you shift from ‘the book’ to ‘books’? That is not an innocent change”

            Let me fix it then. Your claim then becomes, “If the book is worth reading, you must enjoy reading a book that makes you smarter.” Better?

            DavidM: “are you suggesting that if the book is selling well, then the high sales must have been caused by Aslan’s having presented himself as a dumbass?”

            As I’ve pointed out in my first comment, Aslan’s marketing strategy from the start has clearly been to court controversy, not avoid it. It’s not worth the time trying to isolate the effect of each individual variable within that strategy, but I don’t think you can argue with the overall results.

          • DavidM

            “Your claim was “a book” not “the book,” and thus is a general statement.” – Oh, you poor thing. Of course it’s a general statement. But “a book” is no more general than “the book”; the shift from the indefinite to the definite article merely indicates that it is the same book being referred to in each case. (Now it is you who has stepped way deep into dumbassery. Ridiculous.)
            “It’s not worth the time” – that’s for damn sure! Meanwhile, his dumbassery is dumbassery (from an intellectual perspective), regardless of whether it was calculated dumbassery (from a financial perspective) or not.

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            DavidM: “But ‘a book’ is no more general than ‘the book’”

            Alrighty then.

          • DavidM

            (this should have been obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense: given that in the context in question ‘a book’ and ‘the book’ have the same referent, they must have the same degree of generality)

          • DavidM

            “Let me fix it then. Your claim then becomes, “If the book is worth reading, you must enjoy reading a book that makes you smarter.” Better?” – No, you’re still not understanding (a) how articles work (you start indefinite, then shift to definite when referring to the prior indefinite); and (b) the fact that enjoyment is implied in both the antecedent and consequent when it is stated in the antecedent, but not when stated only in the consequent. But I already cleared up your mistake once, so it begins to look suspiciously like you’re intentionally being a jackass at this point. Or you simply have terrible verbal skills.

            (Also: ‘makes you smarter’ is not the negation of ‘makes you dumber’ so on this count also your contraposition is invalid – maybe you ought to spend some time learning a little logic before attempting to engage in a discussion like this.)

  • BreakingDeadMen

    This is so typical of right wing polemics. You nitpick at the semantics until you find something you can distort and then act like you have a gotcha. But you don’t.

    • RobS

      All whilst missing or ignoring the gross attack on religious freedom that this Fox News interview ironically represents. The idea that one can’t discuss a religion unless they follow it personally is a fundamental attack on freedom of religion. Ignoring that whilst attacking the academic because you dont agree with the way he described his PhD, a description which by the way his PhD supervisor supports, represents a totally deranged sense of perspective of what is truly the issue here. This article is the embodiment of the phrase “they can’t see the forest for the trees”.

      • DavidM

        “The idea that one can’t discuss a religion unless they follow it personally is a fundamental attack on freedom of religion.” – Yet another stupid misrepresentation of the facts of the case.

        • RobS

          She repeatedly questioned why a non Christian would want to write a book on Christianity, they are exactly the facts of the case, and I don’t see the need to resort to ad hominems.

          • DavidM

            Ignoratio elenchi or red herring? I think the former.

  • Dan Josselyn

    overkill. He’s clearly qualified to write the book he wrote. He has 4 degrees as he said he had, he has a PhD. He may not have described his various degrees in the most complete manner possible, but he is an academic and a historian. He knows Greek, and most Greek scholars have studied the New Testament, which was written in Greek. People with degrees in theology sometimes describe themselves as biblical historians, people with degrees in sociology that focuses on the sociological history of religious movements might likewise describe themselves as religious historians. He may not have been perfect, but he didn’t seem dishonest to me. It was a live interview, he was being harassed by a half wit, and his academic credentials are as extensive as he said they were, Let it go Joe.

    • DavidM

      Such silly libel. Just because she’s pretty and works for Fox doesn’t make her a half-wit. Just because he has a number of academic credentials doesn’t mean he’s not. How can you say the guy is qualified to write the book, when he’s apparently not even qualified to answer the simple question “why did you write the book,” without resorting to pretentious, irrelevant BS about his academic credentials and claiming that he wants to undermine everything Christianity believes about Jesus without attacking Christianity? But people like you think that’s fine! It’s the interviewer we should excoriate as a half-wit! What an Orwellian little world we live in.

      • Dan Josselyn

        Never said anything about her being pretty or working for Fox. He is clearly qualified to answer the question “why did you write this book” because he DID answer it; he’s an academic with a professional and personal interest in the subject for decades. He did not try to undermine everything Christianity believes about Jesus. I apologize for being blunt, but everything you said was wrong. Everything,

        • DavidM

          “Never said anything about her being pretty or working for Fox.” – No, but she is pretty and does work for Fox….
          And of course he’s ‘qualified,’ and he did ‘answer’ the question, but you miss the point: his answer was ridiculously pretentious, dishonest, evasive, contained obvious factual errors (about Islam!), etc.

          “He did not try to undermine everything Christianity believes about Jesus. I apologize for being blunt, but everything you said was wrong.” – I appreciate your bluntness, but you in fact are wrong. Go to dude’s website, read for yourself. You are wrong. [I suspect you know absolutely nothing about Christianity (not plausible) or absolutely nothing about Reza's book (more plausible) or you are just being a jackass here (also more plausible).]

          • Dan Josselyn

            the fact that she is pretty and works for Fox is irrelevant and brought up by you, twice now. It sounded like you were assuming I was making assumptions about her, which I was not. My assessment of her as a half wit was based on the fact that ” but why would you, as a Muslim, write about the founder of Christianity” is an alarmingly stupid question which she repeated multiple times. The rest of the interview wasn’t better. Aslan tried to do research into the historical Jesus, that is not attempting to undermine everything Christians belief. Christian scholars have come to many of the same conclusions as Aslan. I don’t agree with all his conclusions, but calling them an attempt to undermine everything Christians believe about Jesus is unfounded. Finally, calling me a jackass for proving you wrong is not a very Christian thing to do. Read the Sermon on the mount’s admonitions against anger and name calling. I forgive you.

          • DavidM

            …is irrelevant to what?? What makes that question alarmingly stupid? The only reason I could think of for you saying that is that you’ve got a hate on for pretty interviewers who work for Fox. Or do you just hate Lauren Green in particular? It seems to me that your assertion that the question is alarmingly stupid is an alarmingly stupid assertion. Please explain.

            As for the ‘calling you a jackass’-thing (that’s not actually what happened), why do you think it’s okay for you to call Lauren Green a half-wit, thou hypocrite, if I’m not allowed to suggest that you might be behaving as a jackass?

          • Dan Josselyn

            Irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I don’t care that she is pretty and I don’t care that she works for Fox and I don’t know why you keep bringing it up, it’s weird. The question she asked is alarmingly stupid because there is no reason to be surprised that a non Christian has an interest in Jesus or Christianity. None AT ALL. Christian scholars write about Muhammad, Jewish scholars write about Buddha, atheists and agnostic scholars write about each other and theists. You don’t have to be Roman to write about Julius Caesar or to find him an interesting historical figure, you don’t need to be Christian to write about Jesus or to find him an interesting historical figure. You did finally say something correct though, finally: I should not have called her a half wit while complaining that you called me a jackass. I stand by my assertion that her question was alarming stupid and the interview awful, but one bad interview is no reason to call someone a half wit.

          • DavidM

            She didn’t say she was surprised, did she? A Muslim will likely have different reasons for writing about Jesus than a Christian. Everything you write here is just so irrelevant. Her question was what is was, not what you want to pretend it was, and it was perfectly legit. (I appreciate your acknowledgement of your hypocrisy. But you’re still wrong about the nature of her question.)

          • Dan Josselyn

            She certainly looked surprised, even baffled. She repeated the question incredulously even after he gave a perfectly reasonable answer. If you were to ask me “what is 2+2″ and I said “4″ and you replied by twice more asking me in a puzzled facial expression and tone of voice “but WHAT is 2+2?” I would think that was a stupid question. I think it’s odd that you think my comments were irrelevant. They weren’t. You’ve made a slew of irrelevant comments, the closest I came to making an irrelevant comment was when I asked you why you keep making the same irrelevant comments. I appreciate your appreciation though. We all say things we shouldn’t some times, but acknowledging that fact helps. You should give it a shot someday!

          • DavidM

            Have I made ‘irrelevant’ comments? Where? (Is there any relevance to your making this assertion here?) Anyway, somehow you’ve managed to miss the fact that he did NOT give a perfectly reasonable answer (i.e., you’re simply begging the question, in the most bald way possible). Furthermore, your analogy is terrible and constitutes yet another dishonest misrepresentation of the interview. (Btw, I also was surprised by his answer – it was uncommonly pretentious and evasive.)

          • Dan Josselyn

            Every time you mentioned “pretty and works for Fox news” it was irrelevant. We disagree on whether or not his answers were reasonable or not, but following this thread it’s pretty clear his fellow academics DO think his answers were reasonable, including the professor that was his thesis advisor, Prof. Mark Juergensmayer:

            Since i was Reza’s thesis adviser at the Univ of California-Santa Barbara, I can testify that he is a religious studies scholar. (I am a sociologist of religion with a position in sociology and an affiliation with religious studies). Though Reza’s PhD is in sociology most of his graduate course work at UCSB was in the history of religion in the dept of religious studies. Though none of his 4 degrees are in history as such, he is a “historian of religion” in the way that that term is used at the Univ of Chicago to cover the field of comparative religion; and his theology degree at Harvard covered Bible and Church history, and required him to master New Testament Greek. So in short, he is who he says he is.”

            His fellow scholars, including the man that advised him on his thesis, all agree with me and think you are wrong. But you still insist everything I say is either irrelevant, or terrible, or a dishonest misrepresentation. You appear incapable of admitting error, even when the proof is absolute and overwhelming.

          • Dan Josselyn

            Thought I already posted this once, but it appears to have disappeared:

            Irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I don’t care that she is pretty and I don’t care that she works for Fox and I don’t know why you keep bringing it up, it’s weird. The question she asked is alarmingly stupid because there is no reason to be surprised that a non Christian has an interest in Jesus or Christianity. None AT ALL. Christian scholars write about Muhammad, Jewish scholars write about Buddha, atheists and agnostic scholars write about each other and theists. You don’t have to be Roman to write about Julius Caesar or to find him an interesting historical figure, you don’t need to be Christian to write about Jesus or to find him an interesting historical figure. You did finally say something correct though, finally: I should not have called her a half wit while complaining that you called me a jackass. I stand by my assertion that her question was alarming stupid and the interview awful, but one bad interview is no reason to call someone a half wit.

          • DavidM

            ” I don’t care that she is pretty and I don’t care that she works for Fox and I don’t know why you keep bringing it up, it’s weird.” Dan, it may seem weird to you, but I explained to you why I brought that up, so to me it seems weird that you still don’t know why I brought it up – when I just explained it to you!

          • Dan Josselyn

            you gave an explanation that made no sense, it was still irrelevant. Her gender and her employer never factored into anything I said about the interview and there was no reason to think it did, you made a wild guess as to my motives that you pulled pretty much out of your ass. No judgment there, you can pull anything out of your ass you want, it’s a free country!

  • msallyjones

    The real issue is the honesty of Fox news. They sent a pretty lassie, who obviously hadn’t read the book, into the interview with a set of questions designed to leave listeners with the Fox bias: Muslims hate Christianity. We know this because a lot of right wing Christian pastors say so; Muslims lie about Christianity because they are vengeful. Terrorists seek revenge therefore all Muslims are terrorists. Or some such garbage. What you had was Lauren Green channeling Pamela Geller and it backfired. Good!

    • John Osborn

      Don’t fool yourself, this was a win-win interview and didn’t backfire on anyone. Fox was long discredited among the crowd who were outraged by this interview, and the people who like Fox were probably happy with the interview. Fox will continue to rake in ratings from their loyal hard-right base and from those who watch it to hate it. Of course, this was also a hugely successful for the publicity of Aslan’s book, so it’s was win-win. I suppose it backfired if you really think Fox News has a cultural agenda, but I tend to think their agenda is selling alternate reality entertainment to people with a cultural agenda. In that case, the interview couldn’t have gone better for Fox.

      • Grisha

        agreed. Fox wants clicks and eyeballs. They don’t care whether you are watching the interview because you hate it, or because you love it. They just want you to watch it. Mission Accomplished.

        • msallyjones

          That’s fine for an entertainment channel. It’s dishonest if you say you are a news organization. And right there we are back to the problem of FOX honesty.

          • John Osborn

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the honesty of Fox News, but they’re clearly not aiming to create that perception in the mainstream society so judged by intent, nothing backfires in such interviews. If you’re a con artist, a successful con does not build you credibility as an honest person, but you couldn’t call it backfiring.

          • BreakingDeadMen

            I agree, it’s red meat for the base and only slightly lower than what liberals such as myself expect from Faux News. But, you know, there are plenty of people who are not Fox News partisans but who are more conservative than they are liberal, or are at least moderate in their orientation. Some of them are bound to be put off by seeing such a McCarthyite display against someone who isn’t a part of the usual partisan circus. This type of behavior will doubtless make them even less credible outside their bubble to those who still think they have some credibility.

          • John Osborn

            It’s certainly possible that there’s someone out there who BOTH retains some respect for Fox News AND dislikes such interviews. Maybe there are even several such people, but likely not nearly enough to worry the corporate execs.

  • John Osborn

    Has anyone here offered an explanation of his claim that he is a professor of religion and does that for a living? It’s possible I missed it in the 100s of comments. I’ll take the academics word for it, that sociology and “history of religions” are interchangeable, but I’m curious that you’re all focused on that point and I haven’t seen a single explanation for his claim to be a professor of religion for a living. He doesn’t even make that claim himself, on his own website, but claims that he is an associate professor of creative writing. I’m no academician of religious studies, so perhaps one of you will inform me that besides seeing no serious difference between Sociology and history in Phd. content, the religious studies field also sees no real distinction between a professor of religion and a professor of creative writing with a Phd in Sociology. I really don’t care or have a stake in this dispute, I’m just curious that this entire conversation has focused on his PhD, when claiming sociology of religion PhD can be the same as a history of religions Phd. seems far less of a stretch than a associate professor of creative writing claiming to be a professor of religion. Why spew so many words defending the honesty of one of his claims while completely ignoring the honesty of a much more questionable (at least it seems to me) claim?

    • Dingo Dongo

      He taught religion for years. Now he’s a successful author, and he teaches creative writing. I think that’s pretty straightforward.

    • Grisha

      I have a PhD in history. I was hired by lit to teach history, and then by history to teach history, then by lit to teach lit. Now I am out of academics, writing and directing theater. Life is complicated. I am referred to as all sorts of things, and I have referred to myself as all sorts of things. It’s fairly common these days for creative writing departments to hire non-fiction experts, like historians. Perhaps some might complain about the exact titles – but only if made officially and in print – pretty much everyone else would prefer to actually focus on the work. Academics here aren’t defending Aslan because of politics (in fact his work was not exactly drawing raves on my facebook feed of PhDs). They are defending Aslan, because Joe Carter is after a scalp, rather than the truth (whatever his claims) and his is using the the name and prestige of the field to push it.

      • John Osborn

        Calling yourself a history professor or a literature professor if you teach the history of literature might make sense I guess. Calling yourself a religion professor when you teach creative writing still seems like a stretch. That really seems like a bit more than getting the “exact title” wrong; calling yourself a professor of theology when your technical title is professor religion would seem more like not getting the “exact tile.” It’s not been my experience that people are so informal about what they are a professor in, but I’m only a grad student so I won’t die on that hill.

        For the record, I don’t find all this too relevant in regards to his credentials to write the book. For the actual historical part of his work, I think everybody’s looking in the wrong place for his credentials. Somewhere I saw where his thesis for his Masters in Theological Studies was done on the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark. That would involve in depth research into one of the three important documents in Historical Jesus, would involve understanding textual criticism, and probably means much of the rest of his master work was closely related. That seems about 100 times more relevant to this book than his dissertation on the sociology of Jihad, so it’s rather curious that everyone is focusing on the latter and not the former. Just because his doctorate is his most advanced degree clearly does not mean it’s his most relevant degree for this book. I’d say his Master qualifies him for the book regardless of his doctorate.

        I also think everyone’s overplaying the importance of the nature of his credentials for the purpose of this particular book. There’s not a wealth of data to deal with in historical Jesus research. If they’d just go with the deconstruction part of the job, and stop with saying that we don’t know a great deal about Jesus as a matter of the historical discipline, I’d think more of the endeavor, but such a conclusion, of course, is not going to sell the same way an imaginative reconstruction. Generally, they do admit that much, but then they can’t resist going onto the highly speculative reconstruction stage. For the reconstruction stage creative writing is probably about as good a discipline as history anyway.I find the idea of Jesus as revolutionary/zealot to be one of the least likely reconstructions, but there’s simply not enough data to settle the matter, so he’s safe in making such speculation. It’d be one thing to say that we just don’t know who Jesus was, but to say ALL his followers (who recorded anything) missed what he was about by 100% is almost on the level of conspiracy theory type thinking.

        • Chil_Cruise

          Well, he did emphasize during the interview that one of his degrees was on the New Testament so, yes, it is other people who have chosen to focus on his PhD instead.

          Regarding the field of his current teaching position, it may be in Creative Writing now but he once held a visiting professor position at the University of Iowa on Islam. That may be quite misleading in regards to his statement (that it’s not what he does currently) but, like I said above in another comment, it’s all just ad hominem parsing.

          • John Osborn

            Does holding a professorship allow you to claim to be a professor in that field even after you’ve left? I know you can once you’ve put in enough years and retired, but it seems a real stretch in his case, and a bit more than a technicality. At any rate, I agree that it’s irrelevant to the substance of his book. A few hard hitting questions on that could have actually been more much more devastating to his case, in my opinion.

          • Chil_Cruise

            It really is just nitpicking on technicalities in the context of the content of the book itself IMO. I blame his “stretching of credentials” to that moment’s passion in defending his capability to write about the subject. I am sure he would gladly clarify if asked in the future.

            It would have been great if she actually debated with him on the book’s content but it was obvious she hadn’t read it and would not have been qualified anyway even if she had. They should have had an actual biblical scholar like Bart Ehrman who has done a garguantan amount of past (and is actively doing current) scholarship and teaching on the subject discuss the book’s content with him but that would have run counter to Fox’s agenda. :p

          • Chil_Cruise

            Also, I just read somebody claiming to have personally asked Aslan’s PhD supervisor that even if his PhD the title was technically Sociology, the focus of his studies was more in line with History of Religions.

            EDIT: Not sure if you’re read all the comments here but I just read the original source buried down below (posted by Shawn Ragan). He wasn’t asked but he posted this comment about 3 days ago (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/07/29/scholarly-misrepresentation/):

            Mark Juergensmeyer
            July 29th, 2013 | 9:19 pm
            Since i was Reza’s thesis adviser at the Univ of California-Santa Barbara, I can testify that he is a religious studies scholar. (I am a sociologist of religion with a position in sociology and an affiliation with religious studies). Though Reza’s PhD is in sociology most of his graduate course work at UCSB was in the history of religion in the dept of religious studies. Though none of his 4 degrees are in history as such, he is a “historian of religion” in the way that that term is used at the Univ of Chicago to cover the field of comparative religion; and his theology degree at Harvard covered Bible and Church history, and required him to master New Testament Greek. So in short, he is who he says he is.

          • John Osborn

            Thanks, yes the accuracy of calling his PhD a history of religions PhD seems to be universally agreed upon, at least by the academics that have swarmed this blog, so I’ll take their word for it. I found the claim that he is a professor of religion to be the more problematic one anyway. I agree that it’s not important for his qualifications to write the book though. The Masters is far more relevant for that anyway.

            Here are some good questions that I’d like to have seen:

            A key argument in your book is that Jesus was a violent revolutionary because he was crucified and Rome only crucified people for sedition, are you really claiming that large oppressive governments never find peaceful resistance/subversion a threat? If so, are you really claiming that Rome never punished people for the wrong crimes? Your book relies on a concerted and controlled effort to erase the true identity of Jesus just a few decades after Jesus’ death, yet with Christians ranging from proto Gnosticism to Ebionites in the 2nd cent. there was apparently no such uniformity, was there even a single sect that preserved your version of Jesus as a wannabe guerrilla fighter?

            If the purpose in making Jesus a pacifist was to get along with Rome, why didn’t they stop with just deleting the violence instead of going onto create a radical and seemingly impractical peace ethic of loving your enemy, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, giving the inner cloak when they ask for just the outer cloak? If the purpose is getting along, why didn’t they make Jesus out to be normal, instead of turning him into the radical opposite of what he was? Why did the early Christians who supposedly invented the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, put that ethic in the mouth of guerrilla fighter, and not pick a more fitting symbolic founder?

            If being crucified by the Roman Empire really proves that one is violent revolutionary, how come none of the Christians, who actually lived in the Roman Empire and were first hand witnesses of crucifixions and the way the Empire operated, caught onto this crucial fact. How come it took 2000 years for this to be discovered by a “professor of religions” in America when from the beginning Christianity spread across the Roman Empire with the claim that Jesus was crucified? If the crucifixion is evidence of being a violent revolutionary, why is this not one of points that we find the early church fathers having to dispute?

          • Chil_Cruise

            You know those questions are only appropriate on C-span or in conferences or classrooms, not on mainstream media, especially NOT on Fox. LOL

          • John Osborn

            Yes, for the obvious reason that those of us who are theology and religious history nerds and are interested in such questions, are too small a demographic to target. One can dream though…

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            Great questions. I wish more journalists did their homework.

            “there was apparently no such uniformity, was there even a single sect that preserved your version of Jesus as a wannabe guerrilla fighter?”

            Although he talks about the crucifixion point in most of the interviews, the book seems to rest more on chapter 6 where he details Vespasion’s brutal crackdown on Jerusalem.

            I have no answer to the others, as I’m not actually convinced of Aslan’s zealot theory. I mostly just object to ad hominem attacks, and find it amusing because such tactics don’t strike me as being particularly Christian (unless you view him as preaching zealotry).

          • John Osborn

            The crushing of the Jewish rebellion in 66-70 and then the crushing of the Bar Kochba revolt are thought to have been crucial in the destruction of Jewish Christianity as well as gentile Christianities’ distancing themselves from it and turning increasingly anti-Semitic. However, I believe there were still ebionites passed this point, who rejected Paul and saw Jesus’ mission as that of teaching and giving the example of how to be a perfect Jew. They accepted Matthew’s gospel, presumably with its’ Sermon on the Mount and I know nothing of them or anyone else portraying Jesus as a zealot.

            I accept the orthodox version, as a matter of faith, but there are much more historically convincing non-orthodox reconstructions in my opinion. The weakest two historical links of the orthodox version are that Jesus saw himself as God and that he sought to establish a new religion, rather than just a movement or sect that would remain entirely within Judaism. The alternative to those orthodox views are stronger historically because you can actually point to a Christian sect that maintained that alternative picture of Jesus, it fits with the fact of Jesus’ Judaism better, it’s somewhat easier to explain why the community of Jesus followers would move from not thinking He was God to to thinking he was, than moving in the other direction, and the synoptic gospels are somewhat sparse in supporting the orthodox side on these points. In other words, those points of our faith, take more faith. The ethical core of Jesus’ teachings, though is a link in the orthodox chain that I consider historically much stronger and harder to dispute, but for whatever reason that’s the link his book apparently chose to go after.

          • perfectlyGoodInk

            Thanks, that was very informative!

          • Shawn Ragan

            He has at least taught one class of a religious nature (on Sufism) at UCR and he may be teaching others this upcoming year.

          • NYlawyer

            The ad hominem seems quite the reverse — rather than addressing the merits of this column (a rather tame exposure of three falsehoods made by Aslan), the academic commenters are lashing out at the columnist. (The apparent thinking is, Aslan might not be a professor of the history of religions, or have four relevant degrees, or have a PhD in history, but by God he has a PhD so let’s circle the wagons and defend him against the barbarians.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            “but by God he has a PhD so let’s circle the wagons and defend him against the barbarians.”

            That’s a straw man. I don’t think that’s what most people defending his PhD are actually saying. All they’re saying is that PhD titles can be quite ambiguous about the exact nature and breadth of their studies.

            Did you read his thesis adviser’s comment? I re-posted it above.

  • Shrikantha Prabhu

    The place where I studied associate professors never introduced themselves as professor. Surprising why Reza was not pulled up for that. That is very serious misrepresentation.

  • DavidM

    It rather amazes me that people don’t know (or are pretending not to know) what a non-dumb (and honest) answer to the interviewers first question would be. Here are some possibilities: “I thought it would sell well and that I could make some money with a book on this topic.” “I feel that I have an original perspective that others could learn from.” “I would like to change the way people – Muslims, Christians, etc. – see Jesus.” “The figure of Jesus is important to me as a Muslim and has fascinated me since I became a fundamentalist Christian when I was 15-y-o. I have never made a sympathetic study of the living tradition of historical Christianity, but I have read the NT, from both fundamentalist and anti-fundamentalist (but never an orthodox) perspectives – and sometimes even in Greek! (Not that that’s relevant – but I sure must be smart to have learned koine Greek, right? – at least the limited subset thereof that appears in the NT.) When, as a naïve and impressionable young man, I entered religious studies, my professors taught me that the Christian faith is false, so I stopped believing, and now with my book I want to teach others to doubt, just as I was taught. I can add that I’m an academic (I have a PhD) and that’s just what we do. (Okay- to be honest that’s not what all of us do, but you get the point.)”

  • mary whall

    My PhD is in Philosophy but I routinely describe myself as having a degree in the History of Ideas. If pressed on the matter, I explain that this is not at all like having a degree in History, that it is really more a focus of my studies; this is something other academics already seem to grasp. I think Aslan, like me, has gotten used to describing himself that way as it better conveys to most people what his area of focus is. So, I think that calling him out as a liar is a bit harsh.
    I haven’t read his book; it may or may not be well researched. But that’s another question.

  • DavidM

    “By adding a chronological narrative to this jumble of traditions, Mark created a wholly new literary genre called gospel, Greek for “good news.”” – Now what kind of pretentious sophomore would write something that stupid, you ask? – Turns out it’s Reza “I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek” Azlan (PhD) (Zealot, p. xxvi). Hi-larious.

    • DavidM

      (Still don’t believe me that PhD’s are often pretentious and FOS?)

    • DavidM

      (The funny thing is that this actually got published. …Of course, by whom? Random House – so not exactly Routledge or Cambridge University Press – but maybe Random House is considered to be a prestigious scholarly publisher in the funny little world of religious studies? – others will know better than I.)

  • markkrite

    I wouldn’t want to venture in here and make any assumptions as to the veracity of Mr. Aslan, but I would ask this: is it possible that Mr. Aslan is one of those so extant today in the academic world, that is, over-educated but UNDER-INFORMED? Seems to me that so many who are active today in writing either as a columnist, blogger or whatever, have a philisophical addiction to “radical egalitarianism” and are messianic neo-marxists who attempt to color EVERYTHING they write with such bilge, i.e., radical egalitarianism or messianic neo-marxism. Also, hasn’t he written a rather unorthodox book on Savior Jesus that kind of de-divinizes said Savior in an attempt to make him more “human?” Just asking, no meanness meant. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

  • DavidM

    Lauren Green (quoting): “…Its conclusions are long-held Islamic claims, namely, that Jesus was a zealous prophet-type who did not claim to be God.” Um, that…
    Reza (interrupting): That’s actually NOT what Islam claims about Jesus…
    Seriously, Reza? And Lauren Green is a half-wit? Give. me. a. break. Can any of you ‘bright’ defenders of Aslan verify that little claim Reza made about Islam? According to Islam, Jesus DID claim to be God and he was NOT a zealous prophet-type, in the mold of Moses? Green’s quote was entirely accurate according to every Muslim I’ve every talked to. Anyone? Defend this guy’s pretentious BS?

    • TellMeSumn

      Instead of snipping out what you want from his response, you should have listened to his whole response. He said the conclusions of the book does not conform with Islamic beliefs ie. He was not born of a virgin, nor escaped crucifixion.

      • DavidM

        Please, don’t be so silly. If I say something stupid and false, then say something that is true, the truth I stated does not magically cancel out the stupid falsehood I stated before that.

        • TellMeSumn

          Islam does not claim that Jesus is a zealot prophet-type. It is a FACT still apparent in the Bible that Jesus did not claim to be God.

          • DavidM

            If that’s what you want to believe…

  • Saints and Sceptics

    To be clear, Dr Aslan has every right to write a book on the Historical Jesus. But time is short, and those of us who are interested in the Quest for the Historical Jesus will want to know if this book is worth buying and reading. Dr Aslan’s credentials will be factored in by many who are considering buying the book. Indeed, if he is using his credentials to sell the book, these must be evaluated by journalists.
    That said, the fact that Dr Aslan is NOT a New Testament scholar (but has some knowledge of New Testament studies and a deep, wide knowledge of the history of religion) could actually be a SELLING point. Perhaps he has new insights and arguments.
    But Fox and its cultured critics do not seem very interested in Aslan’s research. The web seems more interested in the spectacle of a disastrous interview and Fox seems more interested in appealing to its core viewers. No-one seems very interested in Jesus, history or religious truth.

    The press does not seem to “get” religion. So, to my mind, Joe’s point stands.

    GV

    PS Many commenters here display less than an irenic spirit; this seems odd in a conversation about academic credentials.

  • Rosemary58

    The scholar made an error. I was surprised to hear him say that Jesus’ crucifixion and death gave birth to the greatest religion in the world. Is that something a true Muslim can say?

  • C. Ritchie

    I’m Lying to people when I say I studied piano for four years. Because my major is ACTUALLY IN MUSIC TECHNOLOGY. I’m the lyingest liar ever. I only hope nobody as smart as you is around to call me out on it when I do my Fox news interviews.

  • KSV

    You know, the writers of this blog used to cover the way the press didn’t understand religion and how it affected the coverage of religious issues. When did it become a place where interviewees of the press were subjected to the ad hominum attacks by the writers? This interview is in fact an example of how the press (Green) doesn’t get religion and doesn’t get journalism either. Where are our blog police focusing on press criticism?

  • John Pack Lambert

    He is clearly claiming to have a Ph.D. in religious history, which he does not have. We should not let people parade around falsely their credentials. He is free to write a book if he wants, but he should not claim background in history he does not have.

    • RobS

      His PhD supervisor has said he thinks that “history of religion” is an accurate description of the topic of Dr Aslan’s PhD, you will forgive us if we weight the opinion of someone who spent several years supervising his research more than yours on the accuracy of his claim.

  • Mike M

    I think that the scholarship that Aslan relies upon is mostly garbage, but I’m not sure what point Carter is trying to make about Aslan’s degree. Do we doubt Aslan’s ability to take scholarship that’s been hashed and rehashed and to put it into an account for a popular audience?

  • chloe85

    “History of Religions” refers to a specific school of thought within Religious Studies. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267723/Religionsgeschichtliche-Schule It’s perfectly legitimate for someone who has a degree in Sociology of Religion to position themselves in that way. I also have a Masters in Theological Studies, but will occasionally say I have a Masters in Biblical Studies (my concentration), because that’s actually more accurate. I didn’t take any classes on theology proper, I either took language classes or classes on the history and social context of the Bible. If you look at Harvard’s current MTS requirements you’ll see that he easily could have completely specialized in the NT – there are no real distribution requirements at all.

  • William Powell

    OK, another actual Ph.D. weighing in about how wrong Joe is.

    My doctoral degree says “Music” on it. So by your “logic,” I wouldn’t be able to call myself a musicologist or a music historian, both of which I am. You would want me to call myself, what? A musician? Well, that’s clearly not the same as a Ph.D. in Music with a concentration in musicology. I always call myself a musicologist or a music historian. Musicology is actually a broader term than music history, but I sure did take a lot of music history both as an undergraduate and in graduate school. Those seminars on medieval motets, Monteverdi, or Berlioz were nothing if not music history. And yet my degree says Music.

    So these terms are not as clearcut as you are trying to argue they are.

    • Chil_Cruise

      Exactly. This is just unnecessary parsing. And shouldn’t somebody who holds a PhD in Sociology concentrating on religion be well versed in its history? How can you possibly write a dissertation on the contemporary issues facing religion without knowing its history? Not to mention that he spent 4 years studying religions in undergrad, then another few years at Harvard studying more about the New Testament before he got into UCSB’s PhD program.

      At the end of the day, the criticism should really be about the content of the book itself and not ad hominem. This one was done by a New Testament scholar: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/reza-aslan-on-jesus_b_3679466.html He has several points of praise and criticism but that is par for the course in any scholarly discussion.

    • hydrochloriawk

      I don’t know how the field of music works, but as a musicologist, does part of being an expert in that field include contributing peer reviewed articles in the subject? and if you, for example, only taught and wrote about 20th century music (not that Aslan has written extensively- a jstor search of his name turns up an article on Feminism and Radical Islam- an extremely modern, sociological, topic* and another article on American foreign policy), would you be considered qualified to write about first century C.E. music, for example?

      *A search for Aslan under the fields of Religion and History turn up nothing on JSTOR.

      • William Powell

        To answer your first question, yes. Your hypothetical “[I]f you…only taught and wrote about 20th[-]century music…” is moot as I don’t (only) work in this area. I present at conferences and publish research in four discrete areas of musicology, only one of which is my dissertation subfield. Since my work keeps passing peer-review muster, I must be doing something right. But back to Aslan: my point was that trying to corral a scholar by dictating what he or she can and cannot do based on the wording of their degree is beyond idiotic. Having a Ph.D. in a field doesn’t only mean incredible depth in one small sub-sub field; it also means possessing a sweeping breadth of knowledge of the discipline as a whole (my oral exams confirmed that fact for me).

  • MEBello

    Let’s also be clear… it would be nearly impossible to earn a PhD in the sociology of religions if that did not include a rigorous and thorough understanding of the HISTORY behind it all. The worst you could say is that he misspoke when he said ‘history of religions’, but honestly… you’re seriously splitting hairs, here. The man has got the cred to speak and write on the subject of religion, especially when he’s done his research.

    • hydrochloriawk

      mispoke? he went through the program and spent probably a year working on his dissertation. he knows perfectly well what his degree is in, and it’s not history of religions.

      • BreakingDeadMen

        You think you have scored a point, but it is increasingly evident that it is what soccer fans call an “own goal.”

        • hydrochloriawk

          sorry?

          • BreakingDeadMen

            I accept your apology?

          • hydrochloriawk

            Not sure what I have to apologize for. I hope you continue to enjoy yourself!

  • C.O.

    As another Religious Studies academic, I have to chime in and support Chancey and others here. I agree that Aslan was a little heavy-handed with his recitations of his degrees, and that the relevance of his postgraduate work to his book may (or may not) be questionable.

    But maybe this will help clarify things for Mr. Carter and others who are not familiar with this area of academia: unlike many other subjects in the humanities, academic Religious Studies is not a discipline, it is a field. It draws its theories and methodologies almost entirely from other disciplines: history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, etc. There may be a PhD offered somewhere in History of Religions, Sociology of Relgions etc., but generally it is simply in Religious Studies (or Study of Religion, or whatever term your department uses). So it’s conceivable that in a single department, people looking at the historical Jesus, Buddhism in China, the neurophysiology of religious experience, ancient mystery cults, religious dimensions of fundamentalism, or a comparison between Native American and Siberian shamanism can all be awarded the same degree: PhD in Religious Studies – even though these are “really” history, sociology, anthropology, classics, philology, and brain science. While it would not be appropriate for these people to say, “I have a PhD in History of Religions” or whatever, it *is* appropriate to say they have one in “the history of religions”. A subtle difference, but an important one: the first is a formal title, the second is a description.

    Furthermore, asking “why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus” is not a “fair question — a softball question” at all. It is an ignorant question, a confrontational one, and an implicitly racist one, assumption that as a Muslim, Aslan *must* be writing critically of Christianity (though we don’t know this because the interviewer scarcely asks about the book’s content). Must an ethnologist justify “why would someone from an industrialized nation want to write about hunter-gatherers?” Or a historian: “why would someone living in the present want to write about people from the past?” Or “why would a free white person want to write about the history of American slavery?” Absurd, yes, but no more so than the interviewer’s question.

    Not everyone in the world operates on the assumption that just because someone doesn’t share your religion or culture it must mean they’re secretly out to get you, as this interviewer does. Like many uneducated people, she doesn’t seem to understand that there’s
    a difference between Theology and Religious Studies. She seems to assume that
    *everything* must be from the perspective of personal faith, and that there can be no such thing as genuine attempts at objective, historical inquiry…. at least not coming from Muslims writing about Christianity.

    • DavidM

      “Furthermore, asking “why a Muslim would want to write about Jesus” is not a “fair question — a softball question” at all. It is an ignorant question, a confrontational one, and an implicitly racist one” – What is ignorant about it?? Do you know what the word ‘ignorant’ means? And do you actually think that Islam is a *race*? (It’s actually – holyshit newsflash! – a *religion*.)

      • BreakingDeadMen

        Any of these seem applicable :

        Ig·no·rant adjective ?ig-n(?-)r?nt

        Definition of IGNORANT
        1
        a : destitute of knowledge or education ; also : lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
        b : resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence
        2
        : unaware, uninformed

        • DavidM

          LOL! How so? Take off your ideological straitjacket for a moment and allow yourself to think. Allow yourself to wonder, “why did that guy, who is a Muslim, write that book?” Now, IF you manage to succeed in carrying out this simple experiment, please tell, what was it that you became ignorant of when you dared to ask yourself that question?

          • BreakingDeadMen

            The answer is that no one can fully know an author’s motivations, not even the author. That said, considering that he studied and written on religious history across different extensively, a reasonable guess is that he is interested in the history of religions generally and finds the history of Jesus a worthy subtopic.

          • DavidM

            Oops, you totally missed the point of the exercise. Oh well. (It was about asking the question, not answering it.)

      • C.O.

        I thought I’d demonstrated what was ignorant about the question by giving examples of similar types of questions, like should an ethnologist have to justify “why would someone from an industrialized nation want to write about hunter-gatherers?” The interviewer’s question shows ignorance because she seems to be unaware that an academic of any religion or culture can study any other without automatically having a hidden religion-based agenda. Does anyone challenge her as to why, as a non-Muslim, non-academic woman, she is qualified interview a Muslim academic man?

        Of course I’m aware that Islam is a religion, not a race. “Racism” is, however, commonly used as a short-hand term for Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and other types of bigoted thinking. Apologies for agitating you with a casually wrong use of a word.

        • DavidM

          C.O., this is a straw man: “why would someone from an industrialized nation want to write about hunter-gatherers?” – her question was not, “why would someone who was Muslim want to write about Christianity?” There is nothing wrong with that question, btw, but it is completely different from her question: “why did *you*, a Muslim, write *this book* about the founder of Christianity?” If you are really too obtuse to see that this is not a challenge to his qualifications, but an inquiry about his motivations, then I am wasting my time trying to explain anything to you.

    • hydrochloriawk

      But it seems that, in fact, he does not have a PhD in religious studies. He has a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. I don’t see a sociology of religions program on the UC Santa Barbara website, but the fact that his dissertation was “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement”, I think we can say he wasn’t focusing on history, but rather sociology, and that he certainly wasn’t focusing on Jesus or the New Testament.

      Perhaps by “have a degree” Mr. Aslan means “took a course once”. So “degree… in the new testament” would be come “took a course once in the new testament”. That clears so much up.

      • BreakingDeadMen

        There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore
        what they already know.–Jonathan Swift

  • DavidM

    “She seems to assume that *everything* must be from the perspective of personal faith, and that there can be no such thing as genuine attempts at objective, historical inquiry….” – This is actually an extremely important point of misunderstanding. When someone chooses to write a book, it is ALWAYS a personal matter, involving personal motivations, beliefs, faith, etc. Obviously in writing the book an author can attempt – and with more or less success – to be objective, to state the truth, etc., but that is completely irrelevant to the question as to WHY DID YOU, A PERSON, PERSONALLY CHOOSE TO WRITE THIS BOOK? WHY DID YOU, A PERSON, PERSONALLY UNDERTAKE THIS COURSE OF ACTION? This is obvious. It is bizarre that Aslan’s defenders/Green’s detractors somehow fail to grasp it. — And the crazy thing is, we have all these self-righteous ‘tolerant’ types getting their hate on for Lauren Green and FoxNews based on this very stupid failure to make a perfectly obvious distinction. Gosh, man! – people are so whack!

    • Chil_Cruise

      Well, he did say at one point in the interview that he’s been obsessed with Jesus for over 20 years. Maybe he really is fascinated by the subject, which is why he decided to write about him? Maybe he was more interested in the money and maybe his publisher gave him a bigger advance for this one because No God But God sold well and that a book on Jesus by him will probably sell even better? But that’s not necessarily mutually exclusive with a genuine interest in the man. Is that the sort of answer you want to hear from him?

      • hydrochloriawk

        But then why didn’t he just start out with that and not, snottily, ‘IT’S MY JOB’ and ‘I’M AN EXPERT’? Many actual experts whose job it actually is to study the historical Jesus choose not to publish pop theology books. It’s a perfectly legitimate question that he answered in a very suspiciously defensive way. And contrary to what he says, I actually would expect a Christian scholar or writer who writes a similar book about Mohammed to be asked the same question. I was honestly baffled by his hostile approach and apparent unwillingness to just answer the question, and also baffled by everyone’s blind defense of him.

        • Chil_Cruise

          I did read somewhere that he read the cited articles in the interview days before the show and expected what Fox’s agenda was going to be so he prepared himself to answer the way he did. It’s the palpable context, tone and agenda of the interview that his answers need to be framed in. I have seen him on TV and Youtube many times before this brouhaha and this is a very unusual. He would definitely have given very different answers to the same questions on C-Span (where the question is only gonna be asked once anyway and not in 7 different versions within 10 minutes).

        • BreakingDeadMen

          Why? Because the question was inherently prejudicial and offensive. Maybe there’s a non-offensive way to work up to it, maybe there’s a non-bigoted way of inquiring about the man’s faith, but the way the question was posed was inherently hostile and he was in the right to respond that way.

        • Chil_Cruise

          The same anchor interviewed a Christian who wrote a book on Islam a year or two ago but was not interrogated this way, BTW. Was not even asked why he wrote the book.

          • hydrochloriawk

            He certainly should have been!

          • Chil_Cruise

            Well, that tells you exactly how biased the interviewer is.

          • hydrochloriawk

            I’m not defending Fox News or the interviewer. I could care less about them and their faux journalism. I would never voluntarily watch them. What I’m questioning is the hero worship of a man who couldn’t answer a question he should have expected without twisting the truth. Just because Fox News is idiotic and did what they usually do doesn’t mean the entire nation should cease to think critically, fail to actually examine the “expert” here, and flock to buy his book.

          • Chil_Cruise

            Maybe we should all just read the book and judge its contents instead so we can actually ascertain how much of “expert” he actually is.

          • hydrochloriawk

            Those of us who have a desire to read his book should. His lack of peer-reviewed published work in the field he is quoted as saying he is an expert in is extremely relevant. This attitude of not examining people’s claims about themselves flies in the face of journalistic truth telling. He calls himself an expert, he calls himself a historian. I am as much of an historian as he is, and, as with him, you will not find any peer-reviewed academic history articles written by me.

          • Chil_Cruise

            Here is one peer review for you:

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/reza-aslan-on-jesus_b_3679466.html

            He provides several praise and negative points.

          • hydrochloriawk

            a “review” of a piece of pop theology is not the same thing as peer-reviewed academic publishing. as far as i can find he has not been published in an academic journal in the subjects of history or religion. thank you for the link though!

          • Chil_Cruise

            At the very least, his Master’s thesis on Matthew should be available in the Harvard journals.

          • hydrochloriawk

            Can’t find anything like it. You could be referring to his undergraduate thesis on the messianic secret in Mark, which would not turn up in any journal and would not qualify as an academic publication.

          • Chil_Cruise

            Not all articles are available for non-members. They may not be available online at all.

          • John Osborn

            In my opinion, the negative points outweighed the praise in that review. The praise seemed rather generalized and vague: he sets “Jesus in a plausible historical and cultural context,” he has “done a great deal of homework, offering material that will instruct many specialists from time to time.” That seems like the kind of praise you offer when you have sympathy for a book or author, but cannot find anything too specific and substantive that you like about the book. The criticism, on the other hand, was quite specific and went straight to the very thesis of the book. He doesn’t really seem to accept him as a peer in this particular field. This statement is polite but damning: “Aslan has also worked in New Testament studies, and Zealot contains references to a vast amount of literature, yet the book also betrays that he is not immersed in the literature of that field. Aslan is a spectacular writer, and his portrait of Jesus is spiritually if not intellectually compelling.” He seems to pit Aslan against the “professionals,” for example, “first, the book contains some outright glitches, things a professional scholar would be unlikely to say.” I’ll be interested to see how other NT and early church scholars respond. Reviews like this one are way more civil than the Fox News interview, but ultimately much more harming to his reputation.

          • BreakingDeadMen

            “I am as much of an historian as he is, and, as with him, you will not
            find any peer-reviewed academic history articles written by me.”
            I surely believe your third clause, but that hardly proves the first and the second. While most of his peer-reviewed work seems to be on contemporary politics in the middle east, that work does seem informed by his historical understanding of the region’s history–religious, social, political and all points in between. And as for being ‘as much of an historian as (Aslan),’ please enumerate the monographs you have published with major houses, academic or otherwise. Also, please cite where your popular books have been reviewed in academic journals such as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Religious Studies Review, as Mr. Aslan’s have.

          • hydrochloriawk

            Dude, it’s a figure of speech. I mean he’s not a historian. And whether his knowledge of history has informed his works on Jihad or American foreign policy is sort of irrelevant. I really struggle to see your line of logic that these things demonstrate an intimate knowledge of the historical Jesus. He has not submitted his assertions about Jesus to peer-review. He has not written about history, and he certainly has not written about religious history. In no way can he be considered a historian or a religious historian. His area of interest seems to be in modern politics with regards to modern day Islam, which is wonderful for him, but makes his little book about the violent Jesus pretty irrelevant. Have a good day!

          • DavidM

            So what? An interviewer is allowed to have biases. So are scholars. Biases are actually not just allowed, they are unavoidable. Acquisition of multiple degrees does not expunge bias, as Aslan seemed to believe in this interview. [What matters is honesty, openness, not pretentious, obfuscatory, boasting about one's credentials.]

          • Chil_Cruise

            Granted that everybody has biases, but a good journalist should, at the very least, pretend to be impartial and, at best, attempt to be fair.

          • DavidM

            I disagree: I think a good journalist (or academic) should be *honest* about her biases, not pretend they don’t exist. And a good journalist should certainly be confrontational sometimes – I’d have been way more confrontational with this ninny – without, of course, being a closed-minded jackass. And I’m not claiming that Green is a good journalist, partly because if she had better reasoning skills she would have asked her perfectly legit question and then demolished his smarmy response.

          • Chil_Cruise

            You don’t agree that a journalist should at least be fair? Would you expect – now that everybody knows how differently she treats Christian and Muslim authors – for Muslims to come in open minded and not be defensive and guarded at the outset (or even come in the first place) to her show? Given that, how do you expect people to give the answers you prefer?

          • DavidM

            I said she should be unfair? Certainly not. Why should a Muslim have a right to not be cross-examined by someone who frankly admits that she disagrees with him?? My field is philosophy, so maybe I’m weird, but that seems bizarre to me. You call that kind of attitude ‘academic’? ‘scholarly’?

            The other thing is, even if he was facing a hostile and ‘unfair’ interviewer, how does that justify him acting like a pretentious twit? Unless he was intentionally bating her, as some have suggested (I don’t buy that, but I guess it’s possible)…

          • Chil_Cruise

            Well, you just focused on the partiality. She was unfair in that she wasn’t condescending towards a Christian who wrote about Islam she interviewed prior to him. He said (on Reddit I think) that he already knew how he was going to be treated days before the interview but he didn’t expect it to go on an on until halfway towards the end. He was already prejudiced because of what the Fox website had written about the book and then she only confirmed the hostility as the interview went on. This is where my point about making a guest not feel guarded/defensive is relevant because it makes them give substandard, even irrelevant answers.

            And at one point he did give the relevant answer saying he was obsessed with Jesus but she ignored it and went on with her rant , which tells you she really wasn’t interested in the answers you prefer either.

          • DavidM

            What rant?? You ‘tolerant’ types are such anti-intellectual cry-babies when people don’t say exactly what you want them to say. Take some responsibility for yourselves. If someone asks you a question you don’t like, you don’t thereby have a license to launch into stupid pretentious posturing. For shame!

          • Chil_Cruise

            I just instinctively used the word commonly used on her when I actually didn’t feel it was much of “rant” when I finally watched it. So it may not be a rant but more like nagging. She kept repeating basically the same question (basically what you’re doing) but he kept giving the same answer and, although he did give the relevant answer for 3 seconds, she ignored it (much like you you did here) because she didn’t get the answer she wanted. What she probably really wanted him to admit was that he aimed to decimate all the sacred beliefs about Christ so he could elevate Islam to the more exalted position it deserves to be at.

            So she was basically acting like an internet troll like you.

          • DavidM

            yeah, ‘probably’ and ‘basically’… (facts and details be damned, right? – that’s for people who understand nuance and care about reading carefully so as not to misrepresent others – not smrt guys like chil_cruise)

          • Chil_Cruise

            Yeah, you’re probably better off moving on to (or staying yet again in?) 9th grade finally this year because you’re definitely gonna find your playmates there so you won’t have to troll all day. Basically.

          • DavidM

            Wow, now you’re really confused!

          • Chil_Cruise

            Was the Ken doll your dad gave you for your birthday not good enough for you?

          • BreakingDeadMen

            Only in the partisan media is an interviewer ‘allowed to have biases.’ In nonpartisan (i.e, fair and balanced as opposed to ‘Fair and Balanced’) journalism, the interviewer is expected to be neutral or at least to submerge any biases during questioning.

      • DavidM

        Definitely – the sort of stuff that a) actually answers the question and b) wouldn’t make anybody with any kind of healthy aversion to pretentious posturing cringe.

        • Chil_Cruise

          But you know full well no serious author is gonna admit that he’s all in it for the money during an interview.

          Anyway, like I said below, having seen him being interviewed over the past few years, this is not the usual way he answers questions. He would have given a totally different answer if asked the same question on C-Span. It’s all about the context.

          • DavidM

            Well of course. My only point was that talking about money would not have been pretentious and would have actually provided an answer to the question, albeit not a very interesting one. A good answer would have involved a reference to his intellectual interests (NOT his academic qualifications!) and how these hang together with his personal motivations in actually writing *this* book.

          • Chil_Cruise

            Cummon, dude. It’s just not a realistic answer on TV (or a webcast or whatever that was). And again, like I said, your last sentence is very likely the way he would have answered in another setting. You have posted basically the same complaint on here about 30 times. I fail to see how that advances your cause. Maybe you should just interview him yourself to get the answers you want from him and get it done and over with. LOL

          • DavidM

            LOL! A good answer is just not a realistic answer on TV? That’s a new one.

            “You have posted basically the same complaint on here about 30 times.” – Your reading comprehension may be failing you here; that never happened.

            I’m also not interested in interviewing the guy; where did you get that impression? (Again with the deficient reading comprehension?)

          • Chil_Cruise

            Can a true philosophy major be truly this naive about human nature and the realities of PR/media and promoting a product?

            I never said you wanted to interview him but I suggested it so you’d stop complaining about him because you’re never gonna get satisfied with any of his answers and what we say here. (Hope that’s easy enough for you to comprehend.)

            I get it. You’re just trolling. LOL

            I’m not playing the game. Ciao.

          • DavidM

            No, you’re not playing the game. That would require knowing the rules and having competence (reading comprehension, critical thinking, basic logic, honesty – that kind of thing). Ciao.

            ["Can a true philosophy major be truly this naive about human nature and the realities of PR/media and promoting a product?" - I take it that you're implying that I said that he should have actually talked about making money as his motivation for writing the book. I never said that. Again, I fear your reading comprehension is not so good.]

          • Chil_Cruise

            You don’t even understand that trolling doesn’t employ any of those and that you’re doing it.

            Your idea of “logic” is concluding that I said you’re interested in interviewing him just because I suggested it? Ever heard of non-sequiturs?

          • DavidM

            LOL! So you suggested I interview him, but didn’t mean to imply that I would be interested in interviewing him… So why DID you make that suggestion, smrt-guy?

          • Chil_Cruise

            (Copied and pasted from above. But if comprehension is the issue, there’s nothing I can do about that.)

            I never said you wanted to interview him but I suggested it so you’d stop complaining about him because you’re never gonna get satisfied with any of his answers and what we say here. (Hope that’s easy enough for you to comprehend.)

          • DavidM

            Right, smrt-guy: so the implication, read in context, is that you think I’d be interested in interviewing this guy – why? – “to get the answers you want from him and get it done and over with. LOL” – Forget about that bit? Context is so important.

            “You don’t even understand that trolling doesn’t employ any of those and that you’re doing it.” – Could you explain?

          • Chil_Cruise

            My (Me, NOT you) wanting you to interview him was in the service of MY desire for you to get the answers you want from him so we could end all this. You may want certain answers from him but it does NOT mean that you actually want to interview him. Did you get the non-sequitur there, philosopher?

          • DavidM

            Yes, I did. Let me explain it to you, non-philosopher. You have assumed that I am interested in his answers, because I am interested in critiquing his non-answer. That, non-philosopher, is a non sequitur. (It’s not really that hard, but it would help if you weren’t so arrogant.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            “Chil_Cruise; Is that the sort of answer you want to hear from him?

            DavidM: Definitely – the sort of stuff that a) actually answers the question and b) wouldn’t make anybody with any kind of healthy aversion to pretentious posturing cringe.”

            Liar. What does “definitely” mean? LOL

            So if you’re not interested in his answers either way, what are you doing here? Trolling.

          • DavidM

            “Definitely” signals agreement. “Definitely” followed by a dash followed by an explication, naturally, means more than that… Remember, dumbass, CONTEXT? It’s important. I’m serious. (It’s so cute the way you call ME a troll.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            Which means “yes.” LOL

            It’ll be cuter if I call you doll.

          • DavidM

            Doll? So now ya fancy me, do ya? Well I’m glad we can end this on a loving note. Besos, amigo.

          • Chil_Cruise

            I fancy your head. Unattached.

          • DavidM

            Oh, I get it – you’re a Muslim. (Sorry, you set me up there and I couldn’t resist.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            Corny

          • RobS

            Ahh interesting we see a racist streak emerge, that informs all the previous comments and lends some weight to the nagging feeling that there was some other concealed factor behind David’s persistent criticism of Dr Aslan.

          • Chil_Cruise

            He’s just a troll. I saw it even before I made my first reply but I gave him the benefit of the doubt by attempting a serious discussion, until it devolved into him finally proving it once and for all. And this last one is indeed cherry on top of the cake. The way to deal with trolls is to starve them of the attention that they crave, but sometimes it’s also fun to play their game and then watch them self-destruct and expose their true nature.

            I realized he probably came to that conclusion when I replied to him once nonsensically in a foreign language (Muslim!) because I wasn’t taking him seriously anymore. Funny thing is I’m actually an agnostic who dislikes the Abrahamic religions, especially Islam.

          • Chil_Cruise
          • DavidM

            LOL! – this is so depressingly stupid. Islam is a religion. Islam is not a race. This comment is also a classic example of a fallacious ad hominem. Get a life, Rob, seriously.

          • RobS

            What is depressingly stupid is your childish insinuation that all Muslims are violent extremists. Go away you sad mean little xenophobic troll.

          • Chil_Cruise

            The fact that you need explanation for the 2nd contention is proof for it.

          • DavidM

            That’s a curious claim. Could you explain that one?

          • Chil_Cruise

            QED 2.0

          • DavidM

            I suspected as much. (Ya – yer an ijit.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            You don’t prove somebody’s an idiot by repeating it to yourself until you believe it.

            And I didn’t even do it; you proved your idiocy for yourself.

            Trolling is sad but the troll not being not aware of it is just tragic.

          • DavidM

            Hmmm… well not *everything* you just said was false, so… *thumbsup*! Have a nice weekend.

          • Chil_Cruise

            Buh-bye! Have fun with your Ken doll, doll!!!!

          • DavidM

            “I never said you wanted to interview him but I suggested it so you’d stop complaining about him because you’re never gonna get satisfied with any of his answers and what we say here.” – btw, how is that not a non sequitur?? good grief!

          • DavidM

            chil_cruise: I fear I must excuse myself from this moronic conversation. you be a lost cause, it appears. cheers

          • Chil_Cruise

            Bye, troll.

          • DavidM

            Definitely one of your finer arguments. (So much more straightforward than your senseless non sequiturs.)

          • Chil_Cruise

            Ang lake siguro ng butas ng puwet mo.

          • RobS

            Your logic is leaving you now David, his suggestion of actually asking Reza the question was clearly made on the basis of it being a way to solve an impassable difference of opinions, not on the basis of any indicatation that you were interested in nterviewing him.

          • DavidM

            So, Rob, perhaps you can explain to me how his (honest) answer to the question would contribute to resolving our disagreement? FWIW, I think I know the answer: “My hope with this book is to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.” (Reza Aslan, “Zealot,” p. xx)

          • Chil_Cruise

            So what did you mean by this?

            “LOL! A good answer is just not a realistic answer on TV? That’s a new one.”

            No, it’s a “new one” only for idiots. Everybody knows you should not appear like a moron on TV when promoting a product. That would be a major turn off especially when you’re promoting yourself as a serious author, who is supposed to be in it mainly for the discussion. So it is not realistic in the context of promoting on TV to say that you just want to sell books (no matter how honest it is). Of course it is already implied! There’s no need to even say it. That is not a new one.

            “I take it that you’re implying that I said that he should have actually talked about making money as his motivation for writing the book. I never said that. Again, I fear your reading comprehension is not so good.]”

            In an earlier post:

            I said: Maybe he was more interested in the money and maybe his publisher gave him a bigger advance for this one because No God But God sold well and that a book on Jesus by him will probably sell even better? Is that the sort of answer you want to hear from him?

            DavidM

            • 2 hours ago

            “Definitely – the sort of stuff that a) actually answers the question and b) wouldn’t make anybody with any kind of healthy aversion to pretentious posturing cringe.”

            Not only do you not have logic, you don’t have short-term memory either.

          • Chil_Cruise

            “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
            Albert Einstein

    • RobS

      You keep repeating the line that we fail to grasp your opinion, I will keep repeating that what you fail to grasp is that it’s not that we don’t understand your opinion, it’s that we disagree with it.

      • DavidM

        That’s simply not accurate. [You have demonstrated time and again a failure to grasp my arguments.]

        • BreakingDeadMen

          Yes: your opinion is simply inaccurate.

          • DavidM

            Which opinion?

        • RobS

          I understand your argument, I think you are incorrect.

          • DavidM

            Which argument?? (Have I made only one?? – you people are too funny.)

          • RobS

            The one you have repeated ad nauseum that extensive academic study in a field is no justification for writing a book in said field. You seem to have a total inability to even consider a circumstance in which you may be wrong and others right, a fatal flaw in critical thinking.

      • perfectlyGoodInk

        He fails to grasp that his liberal use of all-caps is a dead giveaway that he’s lost the argument but still chooses to dig himself in deeper. Very much like Joe.

        I wish more people understood sunk costs.

        • DavidM

          Oh look – three upvotes for the stupid non sequitur, Rob! Bully for stupid non sequiturs, right?

  • John Osborn

    I finally actually watched this interview. Aslan did come across as a pretentious snob and I think the “it’s the interviewers fault” is a cop out. People who are secure and not overly sensitive, don’t immediately go into pretentious overdrive and refer to themselves as “quite the prominent thinker” just because they’re facing really dumb questions. Sarcasm I’d get, but pretending you’re heaven’s precious gift to scholarship, not so much. Granted we shouldn’t judge his entire life or even his book, by a ten minute interview, but can’t we agree that he came off as pompous and stuck up for this ten minute period, and the interview doesn’t fully excuse such manners? Maybe, it’s a cultural thing, but that how it came across to a Midwest country boy anyway.

    • perfectlyGoodInk

      That was my initial impression as well, but then I found out that Aslan had seen John S. Dickerson’s response to his book on the Fox News website before the interview, which relied upon ad hominem attacks.

      So it’s not too surprising that he was on the defensive before the interview started (and rightfully so).

      Watch his other interviews about the book, and it’s like a different person.

      • John Osborn

        It was fine to point out his credentials and defend himself. But there had to be less pretensious ways to do it. I mean “You may not know, but I’m known as quite the prominent Muslim thinker,” really? But it really isn’t important…

        • RobS

          She was trying to portray him as some Muslim guy with an opinion about HER religion, he was trying to dispel that. Did he come across as defensive? Probably, so would most people having their right to express an opinion on the topic of your ~12 years of study questioned. The very idea of FoxNews questioning anyone right to say whatever the hell they wanted to is bizarre, he should have simply said “because I am an American and I wanted to”

          • John Osborn

            Yes, the interview was bad. But I don’t think it’s either/or here: either she gave an okay interview or he gave an okay response. It is, in fact, theoretically possible for both to have been atrocious, and in my opinion that is the case; from the standpoint of reputation and image that is, from the standpoint of business this was a win-win for both parties. It’s just an opinion of course, and not one I’m particularly invested in, so moving along…

        • perfectlyGoodInk

          As I’ve stated elsewhere, having worked with a lot of academics, I do think the perception of academics of being pretentious isn’t entirely unfounded. Of course, whether or not he is pretentious more irrelevant to the quality of the book as whether or not his Ph.D. is in sociology of religions or history of religions.

          I also think he was trying to be provocative, hoping for something like what happened with Russell Brand’s appearance on Morning Joe.

    • Chil_Cruise
  • joenotafan

    I watched the interview and I thought Green was very weak–frankly, I was mystified. No penetrating questions. He came across as evasive, and altho I didn’t suspect he was a phony, I didn’t think he demonstrated much credibility. But, as I said, she did a poor job. It was like watching NBC throwing softballs to Obama.

  • DavidM

    “My hope with this book is to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.” (Reza Aslan, “Zealot,” p. xx) – This quote is really quite funny when you consider that it gives the answer to the first question that Aslan was asked – and ASLAN is the one who gives the BS answer about his ‘qualifications’ and then goes on to complain that the hostile interviewer doesn’t want to talk about the content of his book. Hello, dummy? You have read your own book, right?

    • RobS

      Have you noticed that no one has up voted any of your comments David, it is quite clear no one agrees with you that ~12 years of scholarship in a field is a “BS” reason to publish in said field. You made the distinction in an earlier comment that if he had said “because it is my intellectual interest” rather then his academic interest it would have been perfectly acceptable to you as an answer. Honestly your polemics here are just staggering, how many people spend 12 years studying a field, achieving a PhD, that they don’t have an intellectual interest in? You really are clutching at straws with semantic arguments with nothing substantial to back it up.

      • DavidM

        No one has up-voted me? – oh, then I guess no one agrees with me and I must be wrong. (seriously Rob? – are you that dumb?). As for your further straw man, implying that his answer was “because it is my academic interest,” again I’m not impressed by straw man arguments or any other kind of intellectual dishonesty. Could you please stop misrepresenting facts and saying things that make no sense?

  • Topnife

    I think that the issue of Dr. Aslan’s academic credentials is quite valid. I was initially somewhat intrigued by his description of the concepts of his book, but having learned that his statement of his credentials is mendacious, I’m now not inclined to buy or read his book at all. Is it indeed a “scholarly” analysis, or simply a cleverly conceived instrument of Muslim Taqiyya?

  • Darren Blair

    Forbes has now officially begun to call out Azlan about possible issues with his credentials: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2013/07/31/how-reza-aslan-became-a-media-messiah/

  • TheMessengerProphet

    I have read your excerpt and while you covered ones particular topics one has left out many facts! It’s upon the heart of mankind to inherently do evil! Just what does this mean? It means even ones greatest scholars will strive to compensate for themselves and to gain their own glory as one initiate! This also means trusting the historical words of another without all the facts then will become biased especially when one places his own assumptions within this mix! I’ve per-viewed this countless of times! Fact is this is why change without all given the facts doth transpire! Jesus’s Historical accomplishments are also covered within another book. A book not even considered but who truly knows or who even cares for eminent truth? And this is actually wherein one doth greatly err! I will tell one when! when everything finally comes to full fruition for then will this book suddenly spring forth in importance and relevance even beyond ones scholars greatest of minds today as this book contains the actual, factual truth and the crux of the matter! Be patient as time is the pervading factor and when my words suddenly spring forth in infinite truthful consequences only then will one listen to me!

    The blessings of the LORD be upon thee and the LORD bless thee and keep thee,
    Jan R. Hershberger

  • ChasBono

    We can’t learn anything from a debate that offers only attacks but little in the factual area. Carter walked into it by claiming he knows what others would “take offense at,” but nolaboyd does the same thing, and the only support he offers for his point is his claim that he’s a “professor in a religious studies department.” Where are your data, surveys, etc. fellas? I see nobody addressing Carter’s overall premises, including 1) that Aslan’s background is fair game for discussion since he claims to be an expert, and 2) that there are some details that raise questions about the validity of his claim to be an expert.

    And let’s not get all outraged about that Foxnews interviewer’s confrontational approach. It was, in fact, great, which is why it garnered so much attention. Aslan claims he is an expert on a subject, so his background is fair game. Carter points out some great areas to explore further: for example, you claim to be an expert having studied Christianity for 20 years, but your employer hired you for your expertise on Islam. Transcripts might clear it up or maybe former professors’ endorsements.

    Most of all, in characterizing his book as a biography, Aslan is, at best, misleading his readers.

    He calls his book an “elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel.” But in the book he says that we only know two concrete facts about Jesus and because we “only have a few of the pieces in hand; one has no choice but to fill in the rest of the puzzle”!! That’s some biography… He would have been more honest and fair if he had described his book as an “elegantly written novel with the pulse of a fast-paced biography,” but then he would have to compete with Dan Brown.

    This looks like where Aslan’s professorship in creative writing (another contradiction?) comes into play.

  • Justin Bourret

    Did you read the book, Joe? Did Green? I would guess no. Instead of discussing the book (that greater admires Jesus), she decided to question whether a Muslim should write a book about Jesus. The public and media rightly criticized Green for denigrating a man for his religion rather than the book. Shame on her. Shame on you. Shame on Fox News.

  • MarionDelgado

    “Aslan also received a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, focusing in the history of religion, from the University of California, Santa Barbara.1″ Which is what he said. He actually said the words “the history of religions.” Joe Carter has done us all a favor by highlighting his own shoddy scholarship. No future need to pay attention to him.

    Also: “Aslan’s degrees include a bachelor of arts in religious studies (New Testament; minor in Greek) from Santa Clara University; a master of theological studies (history of religions) from Harvard University; a Ph.D. in Sociology (focus on religions) from UC Santa Barbara;”

    On edit, noting Carter is showing the flag for the only-accredited-in-2007-but-supplying-the-Bush-admin-with-what-it-wanted-before-that Patrick Henry College (one of the Big Three of mock colleges alongside Regent and Liberty U) I guess it’s pretty clear that Joe Carter’s got the same target audience as Andrew Schlaffly and that the fact that us literates would snicker at him is pretty much money in the bank.

    1. Wikipedia entry on Aslan
    2. http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/events/2013/10/28/best-selling-author-and-ucsb-sociology-phd-alum-reza-aslan-t.html


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