How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror
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How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  517 ratings  ·  83 reviews
A cosmic war is a religious war. It is a battle not between armies or nations, but between the forces of good and evil, a war in which God is believed to be directly engaged on behalf of one side against the other.

The hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, thought they were fighting a cosmic war. According to award-winning writer and scholar of re...more
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Published April 21st 2009 by Random House Audio
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Aslan, an American citizen who is an Iranian by nationality, begins his book with a historical overview and an exploration of definitions, eg Jihadism vs Islamism, that show how loosely and inaccurately terms are bandied about in the media and most political discussions. He traces the processes of nationalism and globalization, showing their influences on political and religious movement and alignments over the past century and a half. And many of his observations can be usefully applied, eg, to...more
Hannah Brandeis
I went to get a quick cup of coffee with the intention of reading the first chapter of this book while I was drinking. Two and a half hours later, the book was finished and my coffee wasn't. How to Win a Cosmic War is an eloquent, informative, and captivating read.
Although principally billed as an analysis and commentary on the so-called 'War on Terror' (ie - against Islamic Jihadists), the book is actually a wider discussion on religion, identity and violence. Perhaps the concept that bests summarizes his thoughts is that of al-wala' wal-bara', which would roughly translate to "faith and infidelity"; a "us vs. them" paradigm. A battle between those who share the same beliefs, and those who do not. This is not purely a Islam and Christianity treatise, bu...more
Sanjana Rajagopal
Interesting book, pleasantly surprised to see that it referred to a book that I had partially read for my Seminar class- Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. Throughout the whole book I couldn't help but think the two were somewhat similar in their arguments.

However it felt like it went nowhere and I especially didn't like the cliche ending-- Obama being sworn in is by no means some kind of solution to anti-Muslim sentiment or the end of racism as we know it in America. The whole book questions...more
Aslan has a wonderful ability to take a complicated subject that is so commonly misunderstood and misrepresented in present day media, and break it down to its more coherent pieces, while maintaining its integrity and providing thoughtful analysis. Aslan frames the current "Cosmic War" between Islam and the West within the context of today's failed War on Terror and a modern day version of the Christian crusades.

His writing is remarkably easy to follow and written with a contemporary understand...more
Daniel Solera
This was one fantastic read. I had a recent conversation with a close friend, where we talked about the modern-day dangers of religion, and how some of the harshest critics frame the issue unfairly. They choose to single-out religion as the main cause of terrorist acts such as 9/11, instead of looking at the situation from a sociopolitical standpoint. Granted, religion was involved, but it many other elements were at play.

Aslan's book takes this approach in attempts to rationalize the intent of...more
The "War on Terror" was, Aslan argues, an unwinnable war - a war that participants believed was being waged on a cosmic level as much as a planetary one; a war that was for eternity, not the here and now; a war that transformed the killing of innocents into an ethical act, since doing God's will was the only thing that mattered - concern for other people, even children, was irrelevant compared to serving God. Christian, Jew, or Muslim - certain members of each faith subscribed (subscribe!) to th...more
I was really unimpressed by this book. I'm unsure of what the author was trying to say. It's not just that he didn't answer his questions as that he never really posed questions to start with. On top of that he would start to pose interesting and inflammatory questions and then step back, leaving them on their own. It was like throwing firecrackers around as if they were chicken feed, unwilling to actually place them somewhere that can be useful. He also made a lot of sweeping historical general...more
Overall, this book was almost exactly what I was after. It's well-written, well-reasoned, and well-supported with citations and plenty of background. My two gripes are:
1) there are some places where the author pieces together one-liners from various experts. I immediately felt like the author was trying to convince me of a particular point-of-view rather than presenting the topic from differing perspectives. Also, the context from which these quotes were drawn isn't clear to the reader. Simply i...more
No time for a real review, as usual. Short Version: Informative and well-written. Not an academic treatise, but instead written for those who follow the news closely, but would like a little more insight. Invaluable for presenting important distinctions typically glossed over in standard news and feature coverage (especially the difference between Islamism and Jihadism).
An interesting, and surprisingly impartial, book speculating on what it takes to spur some religious people to wage war in the name of God, or to use the language of the book, to wage a 'cosmic war'.

Far from concentrating solely on one religion, Aslan is clear to include religious extremists from Judaism and Christianity and how their bleiefs manifest themselves on their surroundings.
The focus for the majority of the book is understandably on Islam which has itself been often scapegoated as bein...more
Emma Sea
Enlightening and fascinating. This put in one corner piece and a big section of cloudy sky in my understanding of 21st century globalization.
Ken Emery
I found this book interesting thought-provoking and certainly relevant, but I didn't enjoy it as much as No God but God.
Clocking in at a brisk 175 pages (not counting citations and an index) the thesis of Reza Aslan's "How To Win a Cosmic War" can be boiled down to this: Until the United States stops framing the War on Terror in the same "good versus evil" terms as the violent jihadists we are fighting, we can never prevail. Thankfully, Aslan does flesh it out a bit more than that. Engaging in tone and quite readable, Aslan offers a condensed version of the history of mankind's "Cosmic Wars," those fought with th...more
Following the attacks of 9/11, anger eventually led to confusion about who it was and why it was that they hated America enough to commit such savagery. This book, written by an American Muslim from Iran, does an excellent, and I feel, balanced job of putting all of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, that is the Middle East, into place. The difference between Islamists and Jihadists is explained, while the similarities among all of the players, including nation-states and the three involved major...more
A facetious reviewer might subtitle this book "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Islamism." I won't, because I'm not sure whether even a panel of experts on the book's subject could agree on how many stars to give it. In its favor, the book is a short, easy-to-read 173 pages asserting first a difference between Islamism and Jihadism and looking at a history of religious-inspired social movements from Masada to the present (not in that order).

Aslan devotes key parts of his analysis to the m...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
All through history, violence has been carried out in the name of religion. Although we would like to think that those dark days are behind us, Reza Aslan reminds us that when we continue to use language that used to be reserved for religion to describe political issues, we continue to participate in intrinsically unwinnable religious wars. In his usual straightforward prose, Aslan focuses on this as the reason that "The War on Terror" of the last decade has been such a morass. Peeling away the...more
Excellent introduction to radical religious mindsets in Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Reza Aslan author of the popular new revisionist biography of Jesus, "Zealot". Written in a engaging narrative style (as well as a scholar of religions Reza Aslan also teaches creative writing)the book combines history, contemporary analysis and personal anecdotes to offer a brief, insightful overview of the subject. Aslan also wishes to offer solutions, and suggests the only way to combat radical religiou...more
I saw Mr. Aslan at a book reading in Portland before I read this book. That was a mistake. This book was an excellent review of the fight groups like al-Qaeda are trying to make. It was also excellent in distinguishing the groups, like al-Qaeda, a global organization with no political goals save from war to bring about the end of the world, from groups like Hamas or the Taliban, which are largely nationalist groups with political agendas.

While Mr. Aslan does insert his domestic, political belief...more
It kills me to give this book only two stars. Overall summary: It's good, but it's no "No God but God."

The purpose of this book is to explain several aspects of the "war on terror:" how we (Bush) played into the jihadists' hands; who exactly is attracted to Jihadism, why, and how; how Christianity engages in its own Cosmic War rhetoric; and so forth.

Aslan is a great writer. But honestly, this book would have been a little more timely a few years ago. Especially with Obama in office and the "us o...more
Dana Woodaman
One of the best things I have read in quite some time on how to defeat those in this world - be they Muslim, Christian Jew or whatever religion - who think that only they know the word of God and that all who disagree with them should be killed.
Its a sure bet, as it says in the book, that guns won't do the trick, since these extremists are only abetted by violence. Not by any means do we not defend ourselves from attacks, but as John Kerry pointed out 5 years ago, these people are criminals, and...more
Interesting beginning that provides a good background to religious extremism in the main monotheist religions and in particular the current challenge posed by Jihadism. Quite weak when it comes to offering solutions: the author's ideas to bring Islamist parties (I.e. The Muslim Brotherhood) into mainstream politics, independently from the really high cost in terms of values and concessions to what many see as institutionalised fanaticism, has failed in practice in many countries from Egypt to Tu...more
An fascinating read describing the history of Islam and Christianity and how these two religions tie into the War on Terror. Unfortunately while the book provides a fascinating look at the history of these religions drawing parallels to their respective histories with the conflict we see today, it falls short in spending more than a handful of pages actually describing and supporting how the author proposes to win a cosmic war.

Shortcomings aside, I found the book hard to put down. I loved that i...more
Extremely thought provoking. not add good as "Zealot" but it kept me engaged, was well researched and definitely changed the way I think about war and religion.
Sep 09, 2009 Nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: inquiring minds
This was exactly what I didn't realize I was looking for. A comprehensive study of Jihadism, the "war on terror" and what happens next. Aslan lays down several theories that were easy enough to buy into, but what I most appreciated was his description/comparison of radical Jihadism and American Evangelicalism. Fascinating.

An overall smooth read with the exception of the first chapter which lays out so many religious factions that its hard to keep them straight. This thesis is clear, as are his d...more
Book does a good job of trying to find a new angle in explaining the war on terror, and how certain words and sentences can ultimately change points of view on how this war is fought. The basis behind a cosmic war is that there is no one enemy to defeat. The war is without an ending. As Aslan writes the only way to defeat a cosmic war is to refuse to take part in it. I think the author also does a fair job in showing the ways our two most recent presidents have so far approached this conflict, a...more
This is a great book. Reza Aslan is a creative writing professor, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and this combination of expertise really shows in this book. His style is anecdotal, and is really easy to read, but it's not dumbed-down. On the contrary, it's a very intelligent and well thought out book. It's a great tool to understand the thought process behind acts of terror, and he makes some very important distinctions regarding the perpetrators of those acts. I thoug...more
Shubham Srivastava
A good effort but could have been more interesting...Nice read
A Persian-American Muslim breaks down the simple dualistic thinking done by both sides in the "War on Terror." A lecture by Reza Aslan during my freshman year of college was the catalyst for my entry into Middle East Studies, and this book provides an excellent discussion of how the world really works. I also loved how Aslan had similar experiences to me in places from the West Bank to Cairo to Heathrow. At less than 200 pages, it is probably the first book anyone should read if they want to bec...more
Temple Dog
This has to be one of the best books I have read for 2009!

For anyone who wants to understand the issues that divide Muslims and Christians, particularly as it relates to Israel and Palestine, this book is an exceptional primer.

I learned more in this one book than the numerous books on the similar subjects i.e. Lewis' "What Went Wrong," Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations," etc.

Aslan takes a very complex topic and presents in a manner that appeals to both the historically astute and the lay...more
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  • The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East
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  • Believing Women in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an
  • The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008
  • Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope
  • The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election
  • Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is author most recently of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and abou

More about Reza Aslan...
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities

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