In the wake of HBO’s devastating documentary on Scientology entitled “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson came out in defense of the controversial church – kinda.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Tyson refused to join the chorus of people bashing the church, which is alleged to have abused members and harassed critics, saying that people have the right to believe whatever they want.
“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? 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. If we start controlling what people think and why they think it, we have case studies where that became the norm. I don’t care what the tenets are of Scientology. They don’t distract me. I don’t judge them, and I don’t criticize them.”
In regards to the church’s tax-exempt status, Tyson was then asked what he thought about Scientology critics who say the organization should not be considered a religion.
But why aren’t they a religion? … [Who] is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t? 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. 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. 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?
You can read the full interview here.