By Kerry-anne Mendoza | 2 April 2015
Christians who are busy judging Scientologists after HBO’s “Going Clear” documentary need to realize that they’re in a cult too. This is the straight talk coming from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in an interview with The Daily Beast this week.
There have been many articles and comments upon the cult of Scientology this week. But when it comes down to it, what is the difference between believing in Xenu the galactic overlord, and the virgin birth?
“So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy?” he said, responding to a question about HBO’s documentary “Going Clear,” which Tyson hasn’t seen yet. “Let’s realize this: What matters is not who says who’s crazy, what matters is we live in a free country.”
Tyson doesn’t see why Scientology isn’t technically a religion:
“But why aren’t they a religion?” he asked. “If you attend a Seder, there’s an empty chair sitting right there and the door is unlocked because Elijah might walk in. OK. These are educated people who do this. Now, some will say it’s ritual, some will say it could literally happen… It looks like the older those thoughts have been around, the likelier it is to be declared a religion. If you’ve been around 1,000 years you’re a religion, and if you’ve been around 100 years, you’re a cult.”
The UK Supreme Court agrees with him and in 2013 ruled that Scientology is a religion. But far from considering this a compliment, Tyson asserts this merely ranks Scientology properly among other irrational belief systems.
The bottom line, argues Tyson, is this: You either believe in measurable truths based on evidence, that you are willing to abandon when presented with compelling competing evidence, or you don’t. Any faith-based belief system which persists in denial of all evidence to the contrary falls into the latter category.
“The line I’m drawing is that there are religions and belief systems, and objective truths. And if we’re going to govern a country, we need to base that governance on objective truths — not your personal belief system.”
It is hard to understand why – in a developed, 21st century modern country – this argument is still in any way controversial.
Kerry-anne Mendoza is an independent journalist. She is well known for investigative reports on politics, economics and social policy and is author of Amazon best-seller “Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy”.
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