Neil deGrasse Tyson Has Something To Say To Christians, And They Aren’t Going To Like It

By Kerry-anne Mendoza | 2 April 2015
Addicting Info

Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. (Image: Miller Mobley / Redux)

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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  1. It's a shame he's turning the focus away from the abuses which is the main thrust of the doc and book. Yes, the beliefs are crazy and deserve to be mocked, but the abuses deserve exposure and criticism. Unless you wiretap your wife's phone, lock your comrades in rooms for years at a time, and take all your friends' money, you have every right to call Scientology crazy. And you should. The only requirement is that you be a human being who cares about the suffering and exploitation of others.

  2. Hubbard realized he could get rich by creating a “religion”, thereby scamming people. Not much different from Crelo Dollar and Benihana and their ilk. But Scientology does not believe in the God of the Bible like Jews and Christians.

    Scientology scams people of ALL their money, imprisons members who don’t toe the line, won’t allow members to associate with nonmembers, people are punished by doing hard labor and or menial tasks with no pay, and when people leave they are harassed. If anyone files a lawsuit against Scientology the organization will do anything to make the accuser miserable and ruin their lives, literally.

    Why Scientology is defended by non members is truly baffling.

    • I get what he’s saying though., but I still agree with everything you said. However, the point he’s trying to make is, setting aside all the evil shit that Scientology has been exposed of doing, their beliefs and overall organization is no different then any other. Most of the religious, non-Scientologist people have been mocking Scientology for its beliefs long before any of this awful stuff had come to light. Now that that amazing Going Clear documentary has come out and reached widespread attention, those same people are just using it as an excuse to bash the belief system that isn’t there’s and therefore wrong. They mock Mormonism in the same way and act like those people and their beliefs are completely ridiculous and yet they still believe a certain man born 2000 years ago was magic and rose from the dead. It’s hypocritical.

      But with that said, yes, Scientology is definitely a massive scam being perpetrated by those at the very top on its well-meaning followers. The organization and those in charge are almost like comic book villains: everybody knows who they are, what they do and the evil they’re capable of yet they have so many powerful connections that they get away with it.

      But it’s still not very different than any other religion.

  3. In his presentation, Tyson makes the statement, “Maybe there is something in the brain wiring that positively prevents some people from ever being an atheist”. That seems like an uneducated, unscientific, ludicrous statement to me.

    And, what about the recent inclusion of “God” by the quantum theorists? Tyson does not address this relatively new philosophy which includes God within the scope of science.

    The Einstein letter that Neil presents reflects Einstein’s feelings regarding a personal God and organized religion. It, however, does not address his perception of a masterful god that is a significant component of his concept of the universe ( i.e. quantum theory).

    I do agree that there should be an impenetrable wall between church and state. However, when you consider the harmful effect that Supreme Court decisions have on the general public, then I have second thoughts. Consider the deleterious effect on the country by the recent decision that allows corporate influence in our election process. The power of the people is diminished when a special interest group can sway the outcome of an election. Corporate priorities have no place within our democratic election process. When corporate wealth buys an election, their goal is to increase profits without consideration to the needs of the general electorate. The amassing of wealth then takes precedent over the needs of America. Greed is then sanctioned over basic human rights. This is a violation of the fundamental framework upon which America was built. By allowing corporate priorities to interfere with those of the populous, the premise of our democracy is corrupted.

    If not religion, maybe we need to include traditional Judeo-Christian ethics in the governmental process. When greed rules, it leads to the deterioration of the ethical treatment of the many by the few. America’s founding fathers addressed individual human rights, not the right of corporations to make their own rules, or to enable the wealthy class to control the country.

    • Judeo-Christians have done every bad thing the Scientologists are accused of, and worse, over the hundreds of years they have been a dominant force. Including their ethics in governmental processes would be a quick route to an exclusive theocracy that would burn or stone anyone who didn’t toe the line. It would be the implementation of Christian Sharia law in the US, and the end of the ideals of this country.

  4. There is no God. Now, what?
    An ostentatious amount of time and energy is poured into the God vs Science debate. So much of this energy serves as nothing more than wasteful distraction from the root cause of suffering on a global and a personal level. Let’s help humanity ‘grow up’ and take the next developmental step. To shift focus away from the product aspect (belief) of the brain to the Process aspect which is where it’s all at
    I would like to draw your attention to my recent publication, 'Dirty Tricks of The Brain – Keeping Humans Ignorant, Divided, and Dangerous.'

    'Dirty Tricks of the Brain' focuses attention on how the human brain creates beliefs (e.g. GOD) and then seduces us into treating these beliefs as truths – ‘absolute truths.' The instant one treats any belief as an absolute truth; the instance one has been sucked in by the brain.
    The dire consequence of treating beliefs as truths is examined.

  5. When you say "There is no God", you are claiming this as "absolute truth". What a dirty trick your brain has played on you. Did we create God in our minds, or did God create us? I agree with Einstein – it makes infinitely more sense to believe in a Creator than to believe in random chance and pure dumb luck when you consider the wonders of our universe.

    But as you say, this debate does not get at the root cause of all the suffering in the world. I believe the root cause is related to the self-rightous pride in all of us that seeks to glorify ourself at the expense of others. This is perhaps the greatest mark against many "religious people", but it is equally true of many "secular" people, and many of the atheist faith. I believe the only true cure is taught and lived out in the life of Jesus Christ who said the greatest commandment is to " Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself". The One True Creator God demonstrates His Love, Forgiveness , Grace, and Justice through the life of His Son who gave His life for all of us to restore our relationship with the living God. He is glorified rather than us when we too choose to die to self and demonstrate the same Love, Forgiveness, Grace, and Justice to one another.

    • With all talk about the adult problems with religions, where is any thought given to children growing up in this,,,,,My religion is better than yours and I will kill to prove it, with the help of MY god of course. And if there is any thing you don’t understand?,, the disasters we like to call natural disasters that kill hundreds of each year regardless of age or religion, and as for the children that are born blind, limb less, or worse, ,,,,,,well god works in wonders was doesn’t he,,,,his son died for you but you must have faith…Blind faith ,,, STOP ASKING QUESTIONS ,,,????

  6. He’s a planetarium technician. Why does anyone listen to him?

    ‘Religious people have faith’. Duh. Thanks for that snippet of wisdom. Did you know that water is wet?

  7. From the Diamond Sutra If a disciple is able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of phenomena or about phenomena he will immediately become a Buddha

  8. I think it is sad that Dr. Tyson needs to desperately convince religious scientists to get on board with the “crazy” notion that a “God” exists, as if he is afraid of people believing in a Superior Being. Yes, Superior. I also feel some scientists believe they have it “all figured out” case closed.
    Well first scientists do not picket Churches and Synagogues and Mosques etc because they are getting their way in the public schools. Why would they waste their time. Also 40% do believe!
    However, a public school child has one venue. His/her parent has to PAY for a choice of learning Intelligent Design and must PAY tuition to utter the Words Jesus or take out a Bible and pray in a private school. This is why parents picket.
    Also I feel many scientists especially Dr Tyson feel a superiority not to be sureendered before a powerful omniscient God. It is to me an arrogance and a form of blind pride.
    It is an insult to say “some people are wired to not be an atheist.” This is arrogance at its worst.
    Many intelligent people, scientists, doctors of all backgrounds, educated free-thinking people – many many scientists- believe in God for good reason.
    First, how far from earth have you travelled Dr Tyson? You rely on CGI photos of earth and say it is a pear-shaped oblate when all NASA photos show a perfectly round sphere.
    Which is it?
    You know math and physics revolve around “invisible formulae, Symbols and abstractions” which are merely represented in pictoral images so they may be written and calculated and manipulated.
    Much of your knowledge is based on acceptance of your forerunners. You accept their veracity with Faith, even though for example “gravity” has never been satisfactorily explained.
    When “evolution” hit the mainstream back in the 1800’s it was Not based on much actual empirical evidence and no science. It was theory and Darwin himself realized a creator was likely.
    Bone fragments were pieced together and fabricated and interpolated into “species” that we as everyday people were just expected to accept with blind faith.
    No one can carbon-date an earth or a universe as billions of years old.
    An educated assumption based on assuming all calculations and theories are true, that stars are gases, that die, that the Sun is in a flux of Constant nuclear fusion, that Black Holes definitely consume and destroy… Well, so it is written. That is fine.
    But where are the experiments, the data, the empirical evidence of proof?
    The real proof? We know stars are there. We read how they act, function and life cycle.
    But you have NOT remotely PROVEN by all the data and experiments and calculations that a God is NOT there – HAS NOT CREATED. You cannot prove that.
    You simply cannot prove it.
    I mean, it is a nice design on paper, the Theory of Everything. Emphasis on Theory.

    But Dr Tyson, giving all you “see” you have not first handedly experienced what you expect us to blindly believe. The Big Bang, primordial Soup being electrified into living tissues and then a gazillion years later the Soup was clever enough to evolve into humans wired to believe in a trickster God that doesn’t exist.
    Your agnosticism is based on your small belief that you have s bead on what really happened billions of years ago and understand every answer – answer every scientific question?
    I am sorry but how disrespectful to say religious people deserve respect because they can’t help it.
    You cannot and have not and will NEVER prove there is no God. With all your Science and Data, you have not proven the lack of creation. It is all rhetoric.
    What troubles me is why on earth are you so determined to make your lack of Faith or lack of belief in God a matter of urgent consequence???
    And why are you so angry to let the debate for Intelligent Design into the classroom?? Our taxes pay for education and you do NOT have the corner market on the free will, freedom of thought, and freedom of choice over of the rest of us, the decent 90% represented as you said who believe In Someone much larger and greater than themselves and their small world.
    You cannot rob God from the hearts and minds of people who believe, sometimes with great struggle.
    Also, I’m sure you are a generous man, and quite smart and powerful in some circles. I do weep for the day that you discover you are by no means omniscient, all loving, all powerful, all merciful and infinite and eternal.
    If some of are not positive there is a God, we believe because we are humble enough to know we are not one! We know our limitations and believe we have purpose beyond selfishness, sadness, the daily grind. We believe that pain and suffering are not going unnoticed and ignored; they grow compassion, empathy and selflessness.
    We believe there is Someone always constant, never changing and trustworthy and Who, in spite of knowing our weaknesses, gives us peace, strength and good reasons to keep going, a single mom or dad getting up every day to care for their children, or caring for a sick parent, a disabled child with love, a stranger just because they are a suffering living being.
    Someone Who somehow sends help when we are hurt, afflicted, damaged, crippled and also teaches forgiveness when we are hurt by others not because it makes sense but because it helps us heal.

    Science does not explain compassion, remorse, sacrificial love, it does not explain why I feel sorry for your hubris.
    What would it matter to me?
    Science does not diminish countless miracles and coincident that lack logical explanation.
    I feel denying a creating God, who made every type of flower, creature and all natural wonders and put them in place for you Dr Tyson, to study, gawk at, sit in wonder of, try to explain the origin of, is denying YOURSELF THE JOY OF HIS WONDROUS GIFTS TO YOU. It is sad to deny God his due. It is sad to not appreciate Him/Her.
    And I know he is real. I have a story if you’d like to hear it. It is not a miracle really it is just proof positive!
    Maybe we aren’t the ones wired wrong. Maybe you snipped the wrong color wire as your head swelled with the knowledge of the Cosmos (as the meaning of Art, the fundamentals of Music, Dance and the reason we challenge ourselves and look for newness and danger to experience life to its fullest and love unconditionally are not encompassed by science) you forgot that God is not competing with science.
    The laws of science were administered by God implemented and devised by God, set in motion and configured by God down to the sub sub atomic particles. DNA drawn out as if by an architect by God.
    Remember the lesser “Promordial Soup” does not create the greater Human Eye, multi-core processor or Brain Surgeon (i.e. Dr Ben Carson :) )
    A four year old knows that.
    Back to my story; maybe you would just say
    my brain is wired wrong. What a sad dismissive remark to sum up the billions of people who know better.

    • Dr Tyson is a superb communicator of science and its foundations I am a research physicist and have been a believer in Christ as my savior and lord since my elementary school days. I have studied various religions as a mental exercise and have found that they all follow into two categories…

      First, the religion of human achievement. Man seeks to come to God on his own merit..

      Second, the religion of Divine accomplishment. God does in Christ what we cannot do on our own. By turning our lives to Him, He then empowers us to do good works inHis strength and not our own… He uses our abilities to accomplish His good in this world.

      The first is based on PRIDE
      The second is based on HUMILITY


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