BTS 5/22/06: Religion, Politics, and War; International Endowment for Democracy

Listen: Chris Hedges / Reza Aslan / Jonathan Kirsch - Bertell Ollman

Tonight we look at the vexing questions of religion, politics and war with Chris Hedges, Jonathan Kirsch and Reza Aslan. All three have original and illuminating analyses of the intersection of religion, war and politics today. Chris Hedges writes of the intoxication of war and the solidarity and comradeship on the battlefield – and at the same time worries that the Christian right in the US is more dangerous than political Islam in the Middle East. Reza Aslan’s latest book, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, challenges dogmatic views on both sides of the political divide -- the right-wing conflation of the battle against terrorism with a Christian crusade, and liberals' fear of Middle Eastern groups that call for the establishment of a religious state. Aslan offers a surprising answer to the question: Why do they hate us? Aslan says it's really not about "us" at all. Islamic terrorism, he argues, is for the most part a symptom not of a clash of civilizations but an internal conflict within the Muslim world -- a centuries-old battle over the future of Islam. "In God Against the Gods, Jonathan Kirsch tackles the central issue bedeviling the world today -- religious intolerance. Filled with fascinating anecdotes, Kirsch traces the historical origins of this relatively recent malevolent human tendency focusing on the tipping points in history when people began to kill other people solely because they held different religious beliefs. We’ll have a roundtable discussion.

In the final segment on Tonight’s BTS we talk to Bertell Ollman about his new project, The International Endowment for Democracy, which deliberately mimics the name of Allen Weinstein’s National Endowment of Democracy, -- Bertell calls it the National Endowment for Hypocrisy Democracy. The IED was established to support democracy in the country that needs it most – the USA. Be sure to stay tuned for this illuminating (and yes humorous) discussion.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Reza Aslan is a research associate at the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in History of Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Until recently, he was both Visiting Assistant Professor of Islamic and Middle East Studies at the University of Iowa and the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Slate, Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Nation, and others, and has appeared on Meet The Press, Hardball, The Daily Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, and Nightline. His first book, No God but God, has been translated into half a dozen languages and was short-listed for the Guardian (UK) First Book Award. Born in Iran, he now lives in Santa Monica and New Orleans, where he is the Middle East commentator on Marketplace and a regular Op-Ed contributor to the Los Angeles Times.

2. Chris Hedges is a New York Times reporter and veteran war correspondent. He has reported from war-torn countries for fifteen years. He was a member of the New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of the acclaimed War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning and Losing Moses on the Freeway: America 's Broken Covenant With The Ten Commandments, published by The Free Press. He holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.

3. Jonathan Kirsch is the author of ten books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible; King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel; Moses: A Life, and The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of the Jewish People. Kirsch is also a book columnist for The Los Angeles Times, an attorney specializing in intellectual property and publishing law, and a guest host and commentator on NPR affiliates KPCC-FM and KCRW-FM. A member of the National Book Critics Circle and a three-time past president of PEN Center USA West, Kirsch lives in Los Angeles, California.

4. Bertell Ollman is a professor of politics at NYU, and has written and edited over a dozen books, including Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, Social and Sexual Revolution: Essays on Marx and Reich, Dialectical Investigations, How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World, and most recently Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method.