Neil deGrasse Tyson defends Scientology: "They don't distract me"

"If you've been around 1,000 years you're a religion, and if you've been around 100 years, you're a cult"

By Joanna Rothkopf
Published April 1, 2015 1:24PM (EDT)
Neil deGrasse Tyson                          (AP/Frank Micelotta)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (AP/Frank Micelotta)

In an interview published on The Daily Beast on Tuesday, super nerd and world savior Neil deGrasse Tyson defended the right of Scientologists to believe in Xenu the galactic overlord, while laying into the concept of religion as a whole.

"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."

"I don't care what the tenets are of Scientology," he continued. "They don't distract me. I don't judge them, and I don't criticize them."

Tyson also objected to the idea that Scientology isn't technically a religion and shouldn't be granted tax-exempt status.

"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 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."

Joanna Rothkopf

MORE FROM Joanna RothkopfFOLLOW @joannarothkopf

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Belief Freedom Going Clear Neil Degrasse Tyson Religion Scientology