Dr. Reza Aslan Is This Year's Speaker for Religious Understanding
Religious scholar Dr. Reza Aslan, who wrote the bestseller
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, spoke with students as this year's Class of 1952 Endowed Speaker for Religious Understanding. Dr. Aslan travels the world speaking to people about religion, and particularly about understanding religious conflicts.
"A huge debate is going on in the United States about how responsible Islam is for acts of violence," says Dr. Aslan. "As with most debates, it's become very polarized and simplistic, the conversation does not have a lot of nuance. But if we are going to understand what is going on in the world and, more importantly, if we are going to address it and come up with a way to deal with the role of religion in violence around the world, we have to bring nuance to it, we have to have a better understanding of what religion is."
Dr. Aslan was born in Iran and moved to the United States as a child. He describes his mother as a "lukewarm Muslim" and his father as an "exuberant atheist." During his childhood, he distanced himself from his culture and religion to fit in. Eventually, he developed a deep interest in learning about religion. He earned a bachelor's in religious studies from Santa Clara University, a master's of theological studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in the sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Milton Cellist Will Play at Carnegie Hall
When Andrew Byun (II) plays his cello, he immerses himself in the instrument and the emotions in the music. It is not surprising that one of his favorite composers is Sergei Rachmaninoff, who wrote challenging, emotive and melodic pieces. Andrew can also easily switch gears and entertain his peers with "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay during a morning assembly.
"Music is one thing I truly enjoy doing. No one has to persuade me to practice. It's always been a part of my life," says Andrew, who practices up to three hours a day. He grew up in Canada and Korea, member of an artistic and musical family. His mother is a painter, his oldest sister is an opera singer in Korea, and his other sister studies piano at the New England Conservatory.
Andrew recently appeared onstage at Jordan Hall in Boston for the taping of the 300th episode of "From the Top"—an NPR program "dedicated to celebrating the stories, talents, and character of classically-trained young musicians." He played the third movement, Andante, from Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19, by Rachmaninoff and the third movement, Danza Finale, from Suite for Solo Cello by Gaspar Cassadó. The latter piece Andrew played onstage during last year's Dance Concert, at the center of the choreography performed around him.
Listen to Andrew's "From the Top" performances.