Religion Gone Global

Reza_new_smallNathan Schneider interviews Reza Aslan in The Immanent Frame:

NS: Last April in Pasadena, California, I heard you announce, for the first time, your support for a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine situation. What convinced you of that position?

RA: What has brought me to the bi-national state, instead of the two-state solution, are the enormous obstacles, both political and religious, in the way of implementing the peace process as it was defined in UN Security Council Resolution 242. To be as frank as I can possibly be, there’s not much left of a Palestinian state. Every single day, more Palestinian land is being irretrievably lost to Israeli settlements, so time is running out. These are the realities on the ground in the region.

I also have to say that, for years now, the two-state solution that I’ve been championing in my writings, speeches, and discussions with political leaders has not been exactly aligned with my political and philosophical outlook. I am a globalist. I believe fully in the promise of globalization. We are fast approaching a world without borders, without boundaries, and the ethno-nationalist conception of nationhood that was so much a part of the twentieth-century way of thinking, especially when it came to the establishment of the state of Israel, is no longer feasible in the twenty-first. A two-state solution is anachronistic. The rest of the world is starting to look like the EU, so why are we trying to create something that would be anathema to that in Israel-Palestine?

NS: In this and other questions of geopolitics, how does your training as a scholar of religion affect your thinking?

RA: When I say that I’m a scholar of religions, people sometimes think that what I do is textual exegesis. My job is to talk about the role that religion plays in human societies. We have to understand that all religions, in all parts of the world, are always more a matter of identity than they are a matter of belief. We in the United States, a quintessentially Protestant country, have been lulled into the false idea that religion is about one’s private, confessional experience. It’s not, not even here in the United States. When one says “I am a Muslim,” “I am a Jew,” or “I am a Christian” that person is making an identity statement. Religion is about who you are in an indeterminate world. It’s about your worldview. It encompasses every aspect of your identity, from where you live to how you vote. To think that we can have a full and complete conception of the world, and of international relations, without literacy in religion is, in the twenty-first century, absurd.