RNS has an interesting essay on the academic response to Reza Aslan’s CNN special series on religion (the first episode of which I watched and really disliked) titled Reza Aslan and the ‘pettiness of academia’. In short, Aslan attributes the scholarly reaction to ‘pettiness’. In reality, he should stick to sociology, his chosen field, because as a scholar of religion he’s been weighed in the balances and found to be very wanting.
People who don’t know anything about religion like his special, in the same way that people who don’t know anything about the Bible like ‘bible specials’ and movies like ‘Noah’ and ‘The Shack’. What needs to be remembered is that the fact that someone likes something doesn’t mean that what they like is real or true. Likability, in other words, isn’t a criterion of facticity.
Aslan’s upset at academics because he wants approval. Truth and accuracy, on the other hand, are not quite within his field of vision.
Anyway, the essay linked above says it fairly well-
After a six-week run, Reza Aslan’s “spiritual adventure” series “Believer” completed its first season. Although we don’t yet know if CNN will approve a second season, one thing is certain: Scholars of religion didn’t really care for it.
Some have criticized it for sensationalizing religion for the sake of ratings (including myself over at my YouTube channel). Others have accused Aslan of conducting sloppy research and failing to cite leading experts of the religions he chose to showcase.
Still others argued he transgressed basic religious studies methodology, trading in his role as a neutral scholar of religion for the role of a “spiritual guide” or “retailer of import goods.”