reza aslan, cont.

From the Atlantic

This realization instilled in me, first and foremost, a deep sense of anti-institutionalism. I have always been distrustful of institutions—particularly religious institutions, but also political institutions. Essentially, anyone who presents themselves as a gatekeeper to truth, or a gatekeeper to salvation, I am distrustful of by definition—regardless of anything that they are saying or doing. In a sense, that’s the impression I have of the historical Jesus as well—I see him as a man who challenged political authorities for no other reason except that they had set themselves up as authorities, over and above anything good or bad that they were doing. Just the notion that they were in this position of power was enough for them to be challenged, to be questioned.

This is one reason why I am not interested in any church, mosque, synagogue—any kind of organization. Because I have no interest in subsuming my beliefs and practices into what a group of men somewhere have decided I’m supposed to believe. The great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart once said “if you focus too narrowly on a single path to God, all you will ever find is the path.” I take that to heart.


I’m a Muslim not because I believe Islam is more correct than other religions, or that it’s more “true.” On the contrary! I’m a Muslim because the symbols and metaphors that Islam uses to talk about God and humanity, the relationship between creator and creation, are the symbols and metaphors that work best for me. That makes sense to me. They are not more valid, or more true, than the symbols of Judaism, or Christianity, say, but they just make more sense to me.
For example: There are important differences between Islam and Christianity in the metaphor for God. In Christianity, it’s the trinity. God in three forms: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The metaphor for God in Islam is tawhid, which means divine unity. The notion is that God is fundamentally indivisible. That God is, by definition, oneness. Form and substance: oneness. And as a result of that, God must be understood as inseparable from his creation. Meaning that there is no difference, there is no distance. In a sense, everything that exists only exists because it shares in the existence of God. That makes more sense to me than the metaphor of the triune God.