Neil deGrasse Tyson Sticks Up for Scientology: ‘Believe Whatever You Want’

“Who is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t?” astrophysicist asks

Last Updated: April 1, 2015 @ 3:14 PM

Sounds like Neil deGrasse Tyson is Team Scientology — or, at least, he’s not interested in condemning the faith-based belief system.

With Scientology once again awash in controversy following the premiere of the HBO documentary “Going Clear,” pop astrophysicist Tyson defended the religion in an interview with the Daily Beast, suggesting that the beliefs of Scientology aren’t any more fantastical than those of other faiths.

“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?” Tyson asked, when the subject was broached. “Let’s realize this: What matters is not who says who’s crazy, what matters is we live in a free country. You can believe whatever you want, otherwise it’s not a free country — it’s something else.”

Tyson, who said he had not seen “Going Clear,” but had heard about it, added that the tenets of Scientology “don’t distract me. I don’t judge them, and I don’t criticize them.”

Challenging the argument that Scientology shouldn’t receive tax-exempt status as a religion, Tyson compared Scientology to the Jewish ritual of Seder, noting, “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. But religions, if you analyze them, who is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t?”

The scientist went on to posit that Scientology might not be regarded as legitimate by some because it hasn’t existed as long as other faiths have.

“If you’ve been around 1,000 years you’re a religion, and if you’ve been around 100 years, you’re a cult. That’s how people want to divide the kingdom. Religions have edited themselves over the years to fit the times, so I’m not going to sit here and say Scientology is an illegitimate religion and other religions are legitimate religions,” Tyson said. “They’re all based on belief systems. Look at Mormonism! There are ideas that are as space-exotic within Mormonism as there are within Scientology, and it’s more accepted because it’s a little older than Scientology is, so are we just more accepting of something that’s older?”