Michael Altman at The Immanent Frame:
Aslan’s “all religion is the same and it’s all about being a good person” claims would be fine if he positioned himself as a spiritual guide or religious teacher, but Aslan insists that he is a scholar of religion. The opening credits say so four times. But such claims are not scholarship. In his “Theses on Method,” scholar of religion Bruce Lincoln summed up the religious scholar’s job well:
When one permits those whom one studies to define the terms in which they will be understood, suspends one’s interest in the temporal and contingent, or fails to distinguish between “truths”, “truth-claims”, and “regimes of truth”, one has ceased to function as historian or scholar. In that moment, a variety of roles are available: some perfectly respectable (amanuensis, collector, friend and advocate), and some less appealing (cheerleader, voyeur, retailer of import goods). None, however, should be confused with scholarship.
Aslan permits the reforming Aghori to define their own terms, his “all religions are the same” approach ignores the temporal and contingent, and so he has ceased to function as a scholar. It’s up to viewers to decide which of the other roles suites him best. Moreover, these same things that get in the way of his role as scholar are also the cause of his troubles with his Hindu critics. By saying that he knows what Hinduism (and religion) is really about he abnegates his role as scholar and offends Hindus who have their own ideas about Hinduism’s truths.