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tv   Open Phones with Reza Aslan  CSPAN  May 28, 2016 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT

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terrible, terrible idea. and yet it goes on. >> we have time for one more quick question. there was someone back here who -- yeah. >> well, i think as a gmu alumni, one of the most shocking things about especially your second book was downgrading the status of trade and talking about it's just moving stuff around. >> yeah, it is. >> it doesn't really help.p. and i'm starting -- i don't knoe if this is the right venue, i guess, but i'm very curious about this idea of it really is the local, the nature of local production that matters, you know? sort of the story i get out ofm standard economics or standard libertarian fare would be free trade had something to do with the industrial revolution. the reason for the irish potato famine was the british restricted trade that the irish were allowed to do -- >> yeah. >> but in your book you f specifically say it wasbritis
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straightforward caring capacity. >> well, you know, trade is an extremely important context. and free trade -- but, you know, i ought to have labeled this concern that i have in the second book. i should have called it the health care a r-- the harberger problem after my old colleague who pointed this out over and over again.ed the efficiency effects of trade are fine and admirable. i just bought -- last year i bought an accordion. a lady is someone who knows how to play an accordion but doesn't. [laughter] and i couldn't have built the accordion myself. and it came from sec slovakia -- czech slow zack ya, and i was delighted to have it. the it's a wonderful little instrument.
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if you cut off trade entirely, we'd all be going back to $1 a day or worse. d but the really big effect of trade is dynamic. it's more about innovation. it's more about forcing -- [inaudible] to stop not innovating about borat -- breakfast cereal.. american automobiles were not very good until we dropped quotas and tariffs on automobiles. and suddenly gm had to compete with toyota and volvo. so, you know, i'm not against trade. i'm just saying that the conventional, static belief that, oh, yeah, you just -- or
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the idea that a lot of people have that trade is somehow income itself, this is a point i've been making since i was very young, that trade is good, but it's not the same thing as income. v it's not identical.not the it's -- what you need is new ideas, new configurations and having more textiles exportedd from great britain is not what made the british rich. what made the them rich is widespread ingenuity. as i said, i'm just reading a book, a biography of friedrich nunson. it's very noticeable that in his travels around russia the people who he has to rely on are german and english and scottish by origin.
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because the russians are unreliable. they won't keep their commercial promises. so you can't buy dogs from them, sled dogs. so trade is important, but the underlying ethic of saying things like, oh, you made a fortune inventing a new steamh engine, that's wonderful, you go to it. let's have some more of that, that's really what made the modern world. >> well, thank you, deirdre. it's been fun. >> thank you.al >> and enlightening. >> i hope so. >> and i encourage -- i'm sure you won't disagree with this idea -- i encourage everyone to buy several copies -- [laughter] and read and study them. this is a remarkably important and insightful piece of scholarship.p. >> thank you.mportanc [applause]
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>> reception inside the hayek suite. you're all invited. please join us. thanks. [inaudible conversations] >> c-span, created by america's cable television companies and brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> reza aslan is joining us. his most recent book is "zealots: the life and times of jesus of new zealand roett."
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professor -- nazareth. since the last time we saw you, we have a new pope -- >> guest: yeah. >> host: -- there's been a rise in isis, and more people are identifying as atheist than ever before. >> guest: that's right. [laughter] >> host: what's your take on those topics? >> guest: well, first of all, i'm a big fan of the pope. i'm the product of a jesuit education, and the minute that i knew we were going to have a jesuit pope, i knew that things were going to be different. i mean, if anybody is familiar with the history of the catholic church and the thorn in the side that the jesuits have been in that church for centuries, i think you knew that this was going to be a revolutionary moment. and he has not failed to really live up to the expectations that a lot of us had of him. i think what i would say very quickly about this pope is that he's learned a very valuable lesson from his predecessor, cardinal ratzinger, pope
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benedict, and that is you can't really reform the vatican. the vatican is just too unwieldy for it to be reformed. but you can reform the church. and i think pope francis has really learned if he just simply stops with the bureaucracy, stops trying to overturn the bureaucracy and instead begins to appeal to the world's billion or so catholics through actions, through faith, particularly this amore rouse tissue shah which he released a couple of days ago, profound statement about transforming priests from, as he kind of put it, as from, you know, arbiters of morality, those who are there to sort of signal out your errors into actual pastors, into people who are there to -- and who have the freedom to actually approach situations in an individualistic basis with sympathy, not looking
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for some kind of hard and fast rule. i think that what's happening in the catholic church under pope francis is going to be revolutionary. >> host: isis. >> guest: you know, isis, of course, is a phenomenon that we're still trying to figure out. >> host: is it a religious movement? >> guest: well, insofar as anyone who calls themselves muslim is a muslim, then, yes, isis is muslim. i think that this debate about whether it is it is or is not muslim is kind of silly. if you say you're muslim, you're muslim. if you say you are acting in the name of islam, then we should probably just take your word for it. but to think that that in and of itself creates some sort of generalization, i think, is quite silly. i mean, the fact of the matter is that isis may be muslim, but so are the vast majority of its victims, by the tens of thousands. isis may be muslim, but so are the people who are fighting against isis, people on the
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ground who are risking their lives battling this cancer. they're muslim too. so if isis is muslim and their victims are muslim and the people who are fighting them are muslim, that doesn't really say anything all that generalizing about islam itself. >> host: and more and more people are identifying as atheists. >> guest: it's true, more people are identifying as atheists. in fact, there's been about a doubling of atheist numbers, but let's just be clear. that's now 2.5% of the united states. so, yes, there has been a surge of people identifying as atheist, but it's still in ridiculously small amounts when it comes to the united states of america which is a country that the pew form of religion in public life tells us is 71% christian. so we are still deeply influenced by christianity in this country. there's no way to get around that.
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>> host: 202 is the rare code, 748-8200 in the east and central time zones, 202-748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zones. we'll begin taking those calls in just a minute. reza aslan is also a creative writing professor at the university of california-riverside. where were you on that day of the shooting in san bernardino? >> guest: i was actually in haiti. i was shooting an episode of my new cnn show, "believer," which will premiere next year. it's sort of a spiritual adventure series where i go around and i take part in
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religious rituals in various communities as a lens to opening up different worlds, different beliefs. and it was, you know, obviously quite a shock that it was so close not just to to my home, but to the place where i work. but i think, look, we need to get to a point where we recognize that the united states is not immune to the appeal of these organizations like al-qaeda and isis, that there are muslims in the u.s. in absolutely infinitesimal programming of them, but nevertheless they do exist who feel as though their identity is under a certain is sense of crisis and who are looking to these e transnational groups as a way of identifying themselves, of expressing their grievances sometimes in horrifically violent ways. now, we are nowhere near the problem that europe has, i mean, let's be clear. we've had about 3,000 or so
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europeans who have left to join isis and almost zero, very close to zero of them in america. and i will also say that this overwhelming focus that we have on islamic terrorism and islamic extremism in the united states is absurdly exaggerated and, more dangerously, i think it hides the true threat. the department of homeland security, the fbi and 74% of every single law enforcement agency in the united states all say that the greatest threats to americans is right-wing extremism, right-wing terror. right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more americans since the attacks of 9/11 than islamic terrorists have. you are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an islamic terrorist. as awful as the san bernardino shootings were, as horrific as
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that experience was, that was the 355th mass shooting in america in 2015. and that year, last year, ended with 372 mass shootings. so, yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country. this is not islamic terrorism. >> host: reza aslan, your new series? >> guest: "believer." >> host: and when does it premiere? >> guest: 2017. >> host: bob is calling in from overland park, kansas. bob, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: greetings, peter. once again, i'd like to say you're a national treasure. i always enjoy listening to you on weekends. my question is, and it centers around just my perception of, you know, at the dawn of the millenium we were very worried about the y2k virus in our computers. i would assert that the true y2k virus was religion in the form
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of a virus that infects the human operating system. so one of the things that i've always been interested in is the political assertions that were made at the council of -- [inaudible] when they made the determination that christ had been physically reborn and had come back from the dead. we have, upon discoveries of the library that was discovered in 1945, conflicting accounts of that. and their recollections of the resurrection was more in the form of persons' dreams and recollections of christ's teachings as opposed to a physical resurrection. it was more a memory. >> host: all right, bob. let's get a response from our guest. >> guest: great question. first of all, i agree, you are a national treasure. [laughter] secondly, let me just say that i wouldn't necessarily call religion a virus since it's been around since the dawn of human evolution.
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we can go back with material ed at least 100,000 years ago. -- material evidence. but now a group of scientists who call themselves cognitive anthropologists would say we could go back as late as, perhaps, 400,000 years ago and see signs, very clear expressions of religious impulse in human beings. so if it's a virus, it's one that has been there since the dawn of our evolution. secondly, i think you're absolutely right about the nicene creed and the way it calcified a particular kind of theology or kristology i should say when it comes to christian belief. even the gospels themselves indicate a wide variety of beliefs about what the resurrection meant, how it was to be understood. remember, in the gospel of mark, the very first gospel, there is no resurrection. the time is just simply empty, and the gospel -- which
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originally ends on chapter 16, verse 8 -- simply says that a young man in white told the women to tell the rest of the disciples that jesus would meet them in jerusalem, and that's the end of the gospel. by the time you get to matthew and luke, you have a real attempt by this early christian community to say what did the resurrection actually mean? was jesus a ghost? well, we have a story in which jesus eats fish and eats bread, so he can't be a ghost. but was he physically -- did he have a physical body? well, we have a story in which the disciples are all sitting around in a room, and jesus suddenly pops in as though he is a ghost. so even in those gospels at the earliest moment of the formation of christianity, there seem to be an enormous diversity of belief about what the resurrection actually meant. but you're right, it wasn't until around the nicene period that that became calcified as
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what we now know as the the new nicene creed. >> caller: hi, good afternoon. my question for you was what were the pagan beliefs and traditions that affected jesus and his preachings and actions? thank you. >> guest: wow. i love that question. i never get to talk about this. zoroastrianism is a religion that was born in ancient persia even before it was persia, probably i would say around 1100 b.c., that's give or take. that's what we would say. so a little before abraham, i would say. the prophet of zoroastrianism is widely regarded as the first monotheistic prophet. he created the very concept of heaven and hell, he created the
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concept of angels and demons. these things did not really exist before he began to speak about them. and more importantly, he talked about how human morality is what decides where you go in your afterlife, if you have good thoughts, good words, good deeds, that's the formula, then you will go to a good place in your afterlife, heaven. if you have bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds, then you would go to a bad place. this was revolutionary. now, the reason zoroastrianism is so important is because it becomes the state's version of the persian empire. now, if you're familiar with history, cyrus the great was the persian king who defeated the babylonian empire and set the jews free from their babylonian captivity, sent them back to the holy land, gave them the money to rebuild their temples. and so the jews -- post the
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babylonian exile -- were heavily influenced by zoroastrianism. that's how they adopted these notions. for instance, the best example of this is the concept of the devil or satan. if you read the hebrew scriptures or the old testament, satan is not an evil character. he is not the adversary of man. he is part of god's court. in fact, he is known as the satan can with a lower case s. he is the adversary. but he's one of god's messengers. god sends him out to do his bidding. but by the time you get to the new testament, this is a completely different satan. this is satan with a capital s. this is not man's adversary, this is god's adversary. he is an evil, demonic being. well, that shows you the influence of zoroastrianism. if i were to be very grip -- and
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i am being here -- i would say christianity is what happens when you combine zoroastrianism and judaism. >> host: next call is george in king of prussia, pennsylvania. george, we're listening. >> caller: hello. i have a couple questions regarding how christianity reconciles jesus as god. one point in the gospel jesus says the father knows the time of the final judgment, the final coming, but i don't. and then again -- and i went to church today -- in the gospel today -- [laughter] and several times after the resurrection jesus appears to his disciples and others, but they don't recognize him. i never heard, well, what does he look like, what form does he take. >> guest: yeah. well, that, actually, is very much connected to the first
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conversation we had. yes, post-resurrection there are certain resurrection narratives in which jesus appears kind of ghostly, you know? the disciples don't recognize him, he changes the way that he looks, suddenly he breaks the bread and suddenly they do recognize him. just as there were an enormous amount of ideas and controversy among the early christians about what the resurrection actually meant, there was an equal amount about whether jesus himself was god or what his relationship was with the father. you see this again in the gospel. once again, the gospel of mark. at no point in the gospel of mark does jesus ever identify himself as god. in matthew and luke, there are verses that can be sort of interpreted as though jesus perhaps is equating himself with god because of the powers that he possesses. he acts by the finger of god, he says, and if he has the finger of god, then maybe what he's saying is he himself is god in some form. and then you get to the gospel
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of john, the last of the gospels. and in that gospel, jesus is barely human. he is pure god. he says i am the father -- i and the father are one. this slow evolution is a perfect example of this conversation that was taking place in the early christian community over what the relationship between what jesus and god was. again, as with the resurrection, that conversation came to an end at nicea when the doctrine of the trinity -- god in three forms, father, son and holy spirit, one substance, three forms -- became the creed of christianity. and all those other creeds, including the aryan movement which believed that jesus was just a man, those who believed jesus was just god, that he had no human attributes at all, that actually when you saw him, what you saw was an illusion, an illusion to a human being, but he was pure god. those views were violently
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suppressed x what we now understand as the trinity became the founding doctrine of christianity. >> host: we only have ten minutes left, unfortunately, with reza aslan. jim in mercer island, washington, you're on the air. go ahead. >> caller: yeah, thank you, peter. really good to talk to you again, reza. i called in a couple years ago on your three-hour program. it was just wonderful. and one question i have is i know when you came to the usa, you became a christian. in fact, i think you became a fundamentalist christian, if i recall. >> guest: that's right, yeah. >> caller: but then went back to islam. and i'm wondering why. what was the motivation for you to go back to islam, and do you prefer -- i guess you do prefer islam over christianity and why. i'll hang up and listen to your question. >> guest: thank you for that question, thank you. yes, it's true. so i, you know, was born and raised a muslim, though really a cultural muslim. my family was not very religious at all.
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my father, indeed, was a hard core marxist-atheist who hated everything about religion. when we came to the united states, this was a time of, you know, severe anti-muslim sentiment, the early '80s. this was the height of the iran hostage crisis and so, you know, we kind of scrubbed our lives of any kind of outward signs of religiousity altogether. i've always been deeply fascinated by religion. i think partly it had to do with my childhood images of revolutionary iran. you know, when i was 7 years old, i experienced what it meant to have an entire country transform in the name of religion. and that never left me. and so i had an abiding interest in religion and spirituality but really no way to kind of, you know, live that out, at least not in my family. when i was 15, i went with some friends to an evangelical youth camp in northern california. i heard the gospel story for the paris time. i'd never heard anything like
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this before. it was a transformative experience for me. i immediately converted to a very particularly conservative brand of christianity. then when i went to university, i decided i was going to study the new testament for a living, and it was there under the tutelage of my jesuit professors that i discovered a different kind of jesus, the historical jesus, the jesus a that ultimately becomes the central figure in zealots: the life and times of jesus of nazareth. and that transformed the way i felt about christianity, but i was still desirous for some kind of spiritual edification. and i started learning more and more about what religion truly is. i think this is the core of your question, and that's why i'm so glad that you asked it. i think we have to understand that religion is not faith. these are two different things. faith is subject subjective, it's individualistic, it's mysterious, it's ineffable, it's impossible to express.
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religion helps you express it. that's it. religion is a language. now, it's a language made up of symbols and metaphors, but it's a language nevertheless that allows people of faith to express to themselves and to other people the ineffable experience of faith, of transcendence. and so to me, it really doesn't matter which language you choose. whether you're speaking frenchover german, you're saying the same thing. if you're speaking english or mandarin, you're saying the same thing. and so i truly believe whether you choose the symbols and metaphors of christianity or the symbols and metaphors of buddhism or the symbols and metaphors of islam, you're still expressing the same sentiment, just in a different language. and so i think it's important to choose a language, that's all. i am a muslim because i think the symbols and met to -- metaps of islam make more sense to me. i'm not a muslim because i think it's more right than christianity or more correct
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than christianity. i don't think that way. i just think that the language that it uses to describe the ineffable experience of the divine, the relationship between creator and creation, that language works for me. the buddha once said that if you want to draw water, you don't dig six one-foot wells, you dig one six-foot well. islam is my six-foot well. but i also recognize, as the buddha did, that the water that i am drawing from is the water that everybody is drawing from. finish. >> host: a couple of viewers have referenced the longer interview that we did with reza aslan. if you go to booktv.org, that was in july 2014, i believe it was. you can watch all three hours of our discussion with reza aslan online. just two quick quotes from "zealot: the life and times of jesus of nazareth." reza aslan writes that the
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common depiction of jesus as an inveterate peacemaker who loved his enemies and turned the other cheek has been built mostly on n the tale of his -- [inaudible] of the politically turbulent world in which he lived. that picture of jesus has already been shown to be a complete fabrication. the jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. >> guest: that's right. >> host: kim in easton, pennsylvania, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hi. well, i wanted to know a brief summary of what your book was about. but if he could go into more detail of why your book is different from other scholarly books on jesus. >> guest: sure, sure. >> host: thank you, kim. >> guest: my book is about the world in which jesus lived, this incredibly turbulent,
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apocalyptic era in the first century, an era in which the jews were living under the boot of an imperial roman occupation that controlled every aspect of their lives including their religion. and the way in which the jews, over that first century, repeatedly rebelled against that roman rule and how jesus fits into it. so the quote that peter just read is a perfect example of what i mean by this. jesus lived in an era in which it would have been impossible not to be aware of what was going on, the political and religious and economic turmoil that had affected the life of every jew in judea and galilee. and in that era, to stand up and say i am the me ice ya -- messiah, to stand up and say i am the descendant of king david, i am here to reestablish the kingdom of david on earth, that is a political statement. so if i were to put it in its simplest form, this book is not about who jesus was, whether he
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was god or the son or god or the messiah, it just makes a very simple argument that whatever else jesus was, whatever else he was, he was also a man. and as a man, he lived in a specific time and place. his teachings were addressed to very specific social ills. his actions were in response to very specific religious and political leaders, that whatever else he was, he was a product of his world. and a divorced catholic, it is

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