Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why He’s Uncomfortable Being Labeled an ‘Atheist’

The evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist Stephen Jay Gould famous­ly said that sci­ence and reli­gion are “nonover­lap­ping mag­is­te­ria”:

The net of sci­ence cov­ers the empir­i­cal uni­verse: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (the­o­ry). The net of reli­gion extends over ques­tions of moral mean­ing and val­ue. These two mag­is­te­ria do not over­lap, nor do they encom­pass all inquiry (con­sid­er, for starters, the mag­is­teri­um of art and the mean­ing of beau­ty). To cite the arch clich­es, we get the age of rocks, and reli­gion retains the rock of ages; we study how the heav­ens go, and they deter­mine how to go to heav­en.

But sci­ence and reli­gion, as it is wide­ly prac­ticed, do over­lap. They both make spe­cif­ic claims about the nature and his­to­ry of the Uni­verse. Some reli­gion­ists do indeed make claims about the age of rocks.

Giv­en the obvi­ous over­lap, it’s not sur­pris­ing that scientists–particularly those who work in the most fun­da­men­tal and gen­er­al of fields, like physics and cosmology–are often asked for their views on reli­gion. In this short video from Big Think, astro­physi­cist and pop­u­lar sci­ence writer Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why he is loathe to take sides on the issue, and why he dis­likes the word “athe­ist.”

“The moment when some­one attach­es you to a phi­los­o­phy or a move­ment,” says Tyson, “then they assign all the bag­gage, and all the rest of the phi­los­o­phy that goes with it, to you. And when you want to have a con­ver­sa­tion, they will assert that they already know every­thing impor­tant that there is to know about you because of that asso­ci­a­tion. And that’s not the way to have a con­ver­sa­tion.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

Neil deGrasse Tyson Deliv­ers the Great­est Sci­ence Ser­mon Ever

Alain de Bot­ton Wants a Reli­gion for Athe­ists: Intro­duc­ing Athe­ism 2.0

Stephen Col­bert Talks Sci­ence with Astro­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Comments (59)
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  • jerry says:

    Neil, no such thing as antigolfer, anti­ski­er. Maybe its eas­i­er to main­tain your cadre and a larg­er ‘friend list’ if you do not com­mit to athe­ism, but you have been on the A side for some time, per your debates and speech­es. You’re not main­stream and that’s not a bad thing. Even, Ben­jamin Franklin in his ear­ly years (1725), ques­tioned a deist form of phi­los­o­phy and only remained neu­tral to not total­ly upset those quak­ers and closed mind­ed the­ist of his day but to not alien­ate those who would bring his print­ing busi­ness more busi­ness. Neil, do you real­ly have to cow­tow to the the­ist…? You’re def­i­nite­ly not an Agnos­tic… not like­ly you’ll see this but…

  • Jessi says:

    Jer­ry, are you real­ly try­ing to tell a guy (espe­cial­ly some­one as intel­li­gent as Neil deGrasse Tyson) what he believes?

  • Phillip E. Banks says:

    Jer­ry proves the doc­tor’s point, exact­ly. He has already ascribed atti­tudes to Dr. Tyson that he may not even hold; he has assumed that, because Dr. Tyson does­n’t believe in “the big man in the sky” that he can/should be pigeon-holed with the bag­gage that accom­pa­nies that phi­los­o­phy.

  • joan says:

    i agree so ful­ly w/NDGT.

    it is not about ‑not believ­ing- in a deity.
    it is about just living,being… w/out the thought of a ‘deity’, or ‘god’, or what­ev­er ter­mi­nol­o­gy is cho­sen to be uti­lized, even com­ing in to my thought process.
    at all. peri­od. that’s it. non-issue on a per­son­al lev­el.
    does that make me an ‘athe­ist’? yes, prob­a­bly.
    does that make me a sec­u­lar human­ist? yeah.

    i go with the term ‘non-the­ist’, if i have to ‘pick one’.

    NDGT rocks.

  • Pseudonym says:

    I agree with joan, except for one nit which I think I have to pick.

    The title “sec­u­lar human­ist” does imply a phi­los­o­phy which car­ries with it an explic­it buy-in. It’s very much more than the absence of belief in deities (which is the dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tion of “athe­ism”) or absence of wor­ry or con­cern about whether or not deities exist.

  • ExTexan says:

    I love this man as a sci­en­tist, but dis­agree with his por­tray­al of athe­ist. He uses the exam­ple of a golf enthu­si­ast that don’t push their game on oth­ers. They also don’t attempt to force schools to teach about golf over oth­er sports. The­ists are active­ly try­ing to force their reli­gious beliefs to be taught as sci­ence in schools when it clear­ly is reli­gion, not sci­ence. As long as the activist Chris­tians try to force schools to teach Cre­ation­ism or Intel­li­gent Design, the same thing, in pub­lic schools we will con­tin­ue to speak out loud­ly against such prac­tice.

  • Alex says:

    jer­ry has obvi­ous­ly missed the point entire­ly.

  • Adam says:

    Most peo­ple have their own views on reli­gion and athe­ism, and if you say you are one or the oth­er, apply all their views on that to you — includ­ing all their mis­con­cep­tions.
    For exam­ple, some peo­ple see all Chris­tians as bible bash­ing peo­ple who only do nice things to try and impress God but in real­i­ty hate all non-Chris­tians (or that you have to), and some peo­ple think to be an athi­est you hate Chris­tians (or that you have to), and that reli­gion and sci­ence can­not mix, there­fore one has to be wrong etc.
    @ExTexan, don’t con­fuse a small loud minor­i­ty with the silent major­i­ty of Chris­tains who either don’t care about the issue or under­stand that the two dif­fer­ent cre­ation accounts in Gen­e­sis are actu­al­ly para­bles, and its sil­ly to think both are lit­er­al truth, in the same way its sil­ly to believe that the Earth is flat, just because peo­ple in bib­li­cal times thought that was the case.

  • El Tiburón says:

    Neil is like my old athe­ist friends who lead nor­mal, nat­ur­al, ratio­nal lives but don’t active­ly pro­fess to be athe­ists.

    A lot of new athe­ists seem too focused on not believ­ing and care too much about mock­ing spir­i­tu­al peo­ple.

  • Adam Langton says:

    Sure, we don’t have a word for peo­ple who don’t golf, but we do have a word for peo­ple who don’t eat ani­mal products–vegan. Why? Because it remains the cul­tur­al norm to con­sume ani­mal prod­ucts and as such one would be pre­sumed to do so unless referred to as ‘veg­an.’
    Tyson can be as fun­ny and flip­pant as he likes, but it remains the cul­tur­al norm to believe in a deity or sub­scribe to a world reli­gion. We use ‘athe­ist’ for the same rea­son as ‘veg­an.’

  • Steve Grob says:

    While there may be a lack of words to describe non-golfers and non-skiers, there is a word to describe a non-surfer: HODADDY.

    I love that word. And as I myself don’t surf, I sup­pose you can call me one, although I’d love to learn to surf one day. So, please, don’t cat­e­go­rize me.

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson says:

    Thanks for your col­lec­tive inter­est in my Big­Think inter­view. A point I neglect­ed to make, but gur­gled up in this thread, is that you object to the infu­sion of reli­gion in the sci­ence class — a prob­lem we don’t expe­ri­ence with golfers or surfers (oth­er than via cul­tur­al pres­sures to par­take in these sports). But allow me to sug­gest that when you object to reli­gion in the sci­ence class­room, you’re doing so not because it’s reli­gion, but because it’s not sci­ence. Leav­ing me to hope that you’d be on the front lines if **any** non-sci­ence world view tried to infil­trate.

    Respect­ful­ly Sub­mit­ted
    Neil deGrasse Tyson, New York City

  • Mike says:

    It could­n’t have been said any bet­ter. Athi­ests are active in push­ing their agen­da. So active that I’ve unfol­lowed many of them on twit­ter. I don’t believe in god but I don’t need to con­stant­ly blab about it.

  • may says:

    Well said Mr.Degrasse ..

  • Preston says:

    That old tree of knowl­edge…

  • Alan Hoshor says:

    I’m an athe­ist and have no crit­i­cism of Tyson’s entire­ly ratio­nal view­point. But then I’m more of a friv­o­lous old athe­ist than a mil­i­tant “new athe­ist.”

  • Daniel says:

    I think it might be worth point­ing out the extent to which Mr. Tyson’s field of astro­physics was itself devel­oped in oppo­si­tion to Church doc­trine. Galileo was not the only sci­en­tist to shake up the Church’s view of the world. Pay­ing close atten­tion to phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­na tends to put you at odds with offi­cial sto­ries, the church’s or oth­er­wise.

    I love Mr. Tyson’s pres­ence as an explain­er and pop­u­lar­iz­er for sci­ence, but duck­ing the reli­gious debate puts him in false oppo­si­tion to athe­ists when the real ques­tion is how he rec­on­ciles his beliefs with the dom­i­nant cul­ture’s God, not whether he accepts a par­tic­u­lar vein of polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion to that divin­i­ty.

  • Dan Colman says:

    Thanks Neil for stop­ping by and chim­ing in. Real­ly appre­ci­ate that.

    Dan (edi­tor)

  • Susan Ferguson says:

    Labelling your­self as a athe­ist can have pret­ty seri­ous con­se­quences depend­ing on what part of the world you’re from. In some places like Pak­istan or Indone­sia you could face impris­on­ment or the death penal­ty for vio­lat­ing blas­phe­my laws. To label your­self as “non-reli­gious” is not the same as say­ing you’re “not a golfer”. Being athe­ist, pro­fess­ing a non-belief in god is some­thing that you are, not some­thing that you do. And is some­thing so pow­er­ful that there are peo­ple who will risk their lives for believ­ing in it. It’s also a pret­ty tired argu­ment a lot of reli­gious peo­ple use to play down athe­ism. As for the “in your face” athe­ists. I have yet to meet an athe­ist who harass­es peo­ple in air­ports, bus sta­tions or goes knock­ing on peo­ple’s doors to “spread the good word”. I don’t see many hate­ful athe­ists protest­ing funer­als or dis­rupt­ing church ser­vices because they don’t like what peo­ple are say­ing inside. (Like some reli­gious peo­ple tried to do at the Rea­son Ral­ly in Wash­ing­ton DC last year).

  • Mike Springer says:

    I don’t think Tyson has entire­ly ducked the debate. In his com­ment above he puts a sharp­er point on what he sees as the issue. It isn’t only the reli­gious extrem­ists who try to block sci­en­tif­ic progress and infil­trate the sci­ence class­room. Just think of cli­mate change, and the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic pow­ers work­ing to sup­press sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence in that area.

  • Tim says:

    It’s mul­ti­ple choise, you are either;

    A some­one who believes in god or gods
    B some­one who does­n’t
    C somoeone who thinks there might be

    So Tyson is B but not an athe­ist because that would put him along­side oth­er athe­ists that he does­n’t want to be asso­ci­at­ed with because they are a move­ment that he wan­t’s no part of. Thanks for the insult!

  • elizabeth woodside says:

    Neil is log­i­cal and artic­u­late. I was raised by a sci­en­tist and an artist. Both fields are depen­dent upon obser­va­tion for suc­cess; yet each found a need for prayer and belief. Evi­dence born of human explo­ration is com­pat­i­ble with the spir­it.

  • Kevin says:

    Thanks to the few athi­ests on this thread that man­age to put NDGT down for his per­son­al views and for label­ing all chris­tians and athi­ests with broad strokes.

    Sci­ence and Reli­gion look at the world and uni­verse with dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. There are bil­lions of peo­ple in this world with dif­fer­ent life expe­ri­ences and a unique world view.

    Don’t force your view on oth­ers instead sit back, lis­ten and share. This is where Sci­ence and Reli­gion are have a com­mon thread, it’s called per­spec­tive. In Sci­ence we do not try to bring pre-con­ceived or emo­tion­al notions to the table while study­ing and dis­cov­er­ing. In Reli­gion we should always avoid bring­ing pre-con­ceived notion of oth­ers and their beliefs as we meet and inter­act, to do so would not allow us to see the great­ness of the per­son in front of us.

    To reduce Sci­en­tists, Athe­ists, Reli­gious and “Unla­beled” peo­ple to a nar­row cat­e­go­riza­tion over­looks the com­plex beau­ty of our Uni­verse and Life.

  • Denny says:

    How about respect oth­ers opin­ions like them or not? I’m a Chris­t­ian. Neil seems like a cool dude. Agree to dis­agree and move on to some­thing else.

  • Shea says:

    I know I am late to the par­ty, but this is where you’ve annoyed me, Neil. I am an athe­ist, and I am not an activist. I have friends who are both athe­ist and agnos­tic, and none of them are activists. I fol­low a few Face­book athe­ist pages, and they are run by a cou­ple of small groups of activists, but the major­i­ty of the fol­low­ers and those com­ment­ing? Just reg­u­lar folks. So you see, your con­flat­ing the term athe­ist with activist is a mis­un­der­stand­ing on your part. You are doing to athe­ists the very thing that you said you don’t like peo­ple to do to you — assum­ing things about peo­ple who proud­ly call them­selves athe­ist and stick­ing to your assump­tion. Fun­ny, that. Oh, and of course you know that there are dif­fer­ent types of athe­ists, as there are dif­fer­ent types of agnos­tics. The major­i­ty of athe­ists aren’t so wed­ded to their non-belief that they would rigid­ly deny evi­dence to the con­trary and have no inter­est in things we can’t see or things that are cur­rent­ly beyond our under­stand­ing. Just like you, I change my posi­tion on things as the evi­dence shows me what’s true, and I have noth­ing against the search. Maybe you just know a lot of athe­ists in your field who are rigid jerks? Please stop using your beau­ti­ful and respect­ed mind to neg­a­tive­ly and incor­rect­ly label oth­ers as you fear would be done to you.

  • C. Michael Turner says:

    If you choose to believe in “no God” in the cre­ation of the uni­verse, then you are faced with a vio­la­tion of the fun­da­men­tal laws of physics, a per­pet­u­al ener­gy cre­ation machine. The uni­verse has a begin­ning, it has mat­ter that fol­lows set laws, and it is finite. With­out an infi­nate num­ber of uni­vers­es exist­ing, one uni­verse pre­arranged to allow us to exist seems obvi­ous that a plan was set in motion. If you have a prob­lem with that, you will nev­er under­stand the plan…
    One uni­verse three dimen­sions
    The ele­ments come in three forms for life to exist, sol­id, liq­uid and gas, and exist as pro­tons, neu­trons and elec­trons. Pro­tons and Neu­trons break apart to how many quarks each?
    Seems like the begin­nings of an obvi­ous plan with a mas­ter plan­ner who shows his rela­tion­ship to him­self in all of the uni­verse, from big to small.

    • skylights says:

      No. The law of con­ser­va­tion of ener­gy states that ener­gy is nei­ther cre­at­ed nor destroyed. Again: Ener­gy is nev­er cre­at­ed — it only changes form. All the ener­gy of the uni­verse was con­tained in the sin­gu­lar­i­ty before the Big Bang.

  • Zane says:

    As an agnos­tic myself, I appre­ci­ate the way Tyson has ded­i­cat­ed him­self to objec­tiv­i­ty. That’s the code any self-respect­ing sci­en­tist should live by, any­way. Part of why he’s try­ing to dis­tance him­self from the “athe­ist” label has to do with the con­de­scend­ing and (iron­i­cal­ly) pros­e­ly­tiz­ing man­ner in which oth­ers act who car­ry the same ban­ner. That’s not to over­gen­er­al­ize — that would go against objec­tiv­i­ty — but enough athe­ists act so aggres­sive­ly that it becomes a stereo­type. That being said, I have athe­ist friends who are total­ly cool, tol­er­ant, and non-judge­men­tal, as I’m sure some of you read­ing this are. Anoth­er point I’d like to address is the “agnos­tics are just athe­ists with­out balls” argu­ment — if you believe that, you are mis­tak­en. Like Tim above, you may have fall­en for the false dilem­ma fal­la­cy. There real­ly is noth­ing tying your hands togeth­er forc­ing you to choose between extreme view­points. Thank you, Mr. Tyson, for being a bas­tion of ratio­nal­i­ty and mod­er­a­tion.

  • Cory says:

    You can claim to be “agnos­tic” all day long, but at the end of the day, you are either a the­ist or not, you either believe or not. If you do not believe, then you are an athe­ist. It is not a title, it is not a “label,” it is not inher­ent­ly a move­ment, it is a descrip­tion. Yes, there are those who car­ry the word like a title, and there are those who push an anti-reli­gion agen­da, but this does not encom­pass all of athe­ism. Dr. Tyson lacks a belief of a deity, by his own admis­sion, and that makes him an athe­ist, regard­less if he accepts the descrip­tion or not (this is sim­i­lar to cre­ation­ists claim­ing they are not part of the pri­mate fam­i­ly, just because they don’t want to be in the “cat­e­go­ry” does not mean they are not.) If you want to be an agnos­tic, then you have to not know what you believe. Sor­ry Dr. Tyson, while I respect you immense­ly, on this, I will stand next to the state­ment that you are very wrong in your assess­ment.

  • MS Kati says:

    Cory, you are miss­ing sev­er­al points entire­ly. First, Mr. Tyson has stat­ed that he does not like being called an Athe­ist not because he does not believe in their view­point, but because he dis­likes the oth­er asso­ci­a­tions with the word and asso­ci­a­tions with words in gen­er­al. He does­n’t want to be asso­ci­at­ed with the move­ment, even if the descrip­tion is apt. Sec­ond, Agnos­tics are typ­i­cal­ly those that the­o­ret­i­cal­ly believe a deity could exist, but do not believe in any cur­rent­ly wor­shiped deity; this is unlike the Athe­ist who is thought to believe in a whol­ly deity-less uni­verse. Final­ly, Mr. Tyson is stat­ing his opin­ion on the mat­ter of being labelled, leav­ing no fac­tu­al state­ment for him to be “very wrong” about.

    In short, you may not have giv­en this com­ment the prop­er amount of thought.

    • Joe says:

      I put it this way, NDT dis­likes being labeled an athe­ist, and he has every right to deny the label. But he does not hold a belief in any god cur­rent­ly. So peo­ple aren’t wrong when they label him an athe­ist any­way. An agnos­tic in the case of the ques­tion of exis­tence of god(s) is some­one who does­n’t claim to know if a deity exists. If a per­son, even an agnos­tic holds a belief in a god(s), then they are a the­ist, if they lack such a belief they are an athe­ist. You can be agnos­tic and either athe­ist or the­ist. Agnos­tic isn’t a neu­tral third option, it is a stance on a dif­fer­ent ques­tion alto­geth­er.

  • roger says:

    To believe or not to believe and be asso­ci­at­ed is the topic…let us all be mind­ful that what­ev­er or whomev­er you decide to give thought too, there are end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties above us all that can’t be mea­sured.

  • UJ Kim says:

    “Athe­ist” is an unnec­es­sary term, because it is the default. You don’t call healthy per­son non-patient or healthy con­di­tion a‑disease. “Patient” and “dis­ease” are enough. There­fore, “the­ism” and “the­ist” are enough.

    • That is a ‘good idea’ but we are yet to reach that stage of evo­lu­tion of the human species.nnnWe live in a time and a civ­i­liza­tion where more than 90% of peo­ple are believers.nnnI can talk con­fi­dent­ly about India where that per­cent­age is more than 95 or 99.nnnIt’s there­fore incum­bent upon me to make it clear that I do not sub­scribe to the reli­gion of my parents.nnnEverybody else in my soci­ety does.nnnSo, the label of ‘athe­ist’ is a proud and nec­es­sary one as of now.nnnMay be not so in Europe.nnn:-)

  • The bag­gage of athe­ism is clear­ly less than that of religion.nnnIf you choose to make clear that you are not an athe­ist, then reli­gious types and God-believ­ers will claim you as one of theirs.nnnThe choice is up to us to decide whether we wish to be ‘mis-under­stood’ as ‘reli­gious believ­ers’ or ‘atheists.‘nnnI think it’s incum­bent upon Dr. Tyson to make it clear that he does not believe in the God of the Old or New Tes­ta­ment or Quo­ran or the Hin­du scriptures.nnnI think it’s sim­pler to just say ‘I am an atheist.‘nnn:-)

  • Michele Plotts says:

    Excel­lent inter­view. I under­stand your point as to not label­ing your­self.

  • Greg says:

    I’m laugh­ing real­ly hard read­ing some of these respons­es. Some of you are still attempt­ing to ratio­nal­ize sim­ple log­ic here. To say “You either believe or you don’t, either you’re a the­ist or athe­ist,” miss­es the point entire­ly. Look, I was raised in a bap­tist church, but I don’t believe. I don’t real­ly like the term athe­ist either, sim­ply because I don’t like any title that makes folks auto­mat­i­cal­ly stereo­type or lump me into a group with all sorts of pre­con­ceived notions. At the end of the day, I real­ly don’t care what you think of me, but I’d like to be real­ly clear, I have no reli­gion or affil­i­a­tion, I’m just sim­ply me. Fun­ny how some so quick­ly are will­ing to say “Be your­self” and then add a lit­tle sub­text in fine print that says (as long as being your­self puts you into one of our pre­sort­ed and orga­nized cat­e­gories so we can file you with like peo­ple, and not have to actu­al­ly get to know you as an indi­vid­ual). For those of you that have watched South Park, it’s like an episode where Stan joins the lit­tle ‘goth’ kids. He asks what he has to do to be goth, and one of the goth kids, who are so obsessed with non-con­for­mi­ty, tell him he has to do every­thing they do, i.e. lis­ten to the same music, dress the same way, talk and act the same. You folks argu­ing over a title are doing the same thing. Real­ly, a lot of you are pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­al at best.

  • Xeriscape says:

    I per­fect­ly respect Dr. Tyson’s desire not to adopt a label. Think of it in terms of polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy: I sup­port many left/progressive causes/issues, but I design to call myself a “lib­er­al,” NOT because cer­tain peo­ple con­sid­er it a pejo­ra­tive word, but because it lim­its my views. If there were, say, one con­ser­v­a­tive issue that I would sup­port because I felt strong­ly about it for some rea­son, I would­n’t want any­one to assume what my view­point. I’d much rather think for myself than mere­ly fol­low what oth­ers have already thought.

    Anoth­er issue, and one that no one seems to bring up, is the fact that athe­ism is such a pre­dom­i­nant­ly white move­ment (let’s face it, people…it is) and that Dr. Tyson, as a per­son of col­or, might right­ful­ly not feel com­fort­able with the cul­tur­al aspects of that. Just sayin’.

  • Sayuri Kirin says:

    I am a Chris­t­ian (real­ly I like to call myself, an “open-mind­ed Chris­t­ian”

    And I real­ly like this man Neil DeGrasse. And like him, I hate it when peo­ple are labeled and then JUDGED on those labels. Athe­ists can be just as guilty as Chris­tians and oth­er reli­gions of judg­ing oth­ers.

    I’ve noticed many sci­en­tists are afraid to say they are of a par­tic­u­lar faith in due to it imme­di­ate­ly label­ing them so oth­ers can judge them.

    Sci­en­tists do not want the dead alba­tross hang­ing around their necks that is the­ism. They want their work to be enjoyed and thought-pro­vok­ing and influ­en­tial to oth­ers. Work that could speak to any­one.

    I applaud the Carl G. Jung for step­ping for­ward and declare his belief in God. I don’t know how he did it. I always had a fas­ci­na­tion of both him and Freud. And Freud was an Athe­ist. And he declared his belief in athe­ism strong­ly. Even though I am a Chris­t­ian, I could care less if he believed or did­n’t. Freud’s and Jung’s ideas I love to pon­der upon. I love sci­ence, I love psy­chol­o­gy, I love pon­der­ing over good and evil.

    I feel in my heart, that exis­tence itself will clear­ly nev­er be ful­ly com­pre­hend­ed by human beings. I believe that exis­tence leads to to infi­nite dimen­sions, oth­er intel­li­gent life, par­al­lels from this dimen­sion to oth­er dimen­sions we can’t see. I myself had a run in from some­thing from anoth­er dimen­sion. And it spooked the hell out of me. Beings that can infil­trate from their dimen­sion to ours malev­o­lent or benev­o­lent.

    There is noth­ing wrong with some­one say­ing they feel like they’re agnos­tic. I know a lot of peo­ple that are. I under­stand where they are com­ing from.

    Chris­tians (oth­er reli­gions) as athe­ists need to stop the hyp­o­crit­i­cal judg­ing of oth­ers. All in all it makes you look like the igno­rant, not the one you are judg­ing of igno­rance.

  • Sayuri Kirin says:

    Also I want to point out that I don’t believe every­thing in the Bible. I just can’t. And I hon­est­ly don’t care if peo­ple say I’m a “luke­warm Chris­t­ian” and that I’m not a true Chris­t­ian because I don’t 100% agree with the Bible. As afore­men­tioned, I DON’T care about the opin­ions of oth­ers because of this.

    Oh and the user­name that began with “X” let’s not make this a race thing. That has got to be one of the most retard­ed and RACIST things I’ve ever read. Think about it!

  • Brandon says:

    I love this man. I could­n’t artic­u­late my point of view as clear­ly and indis­putably as he did at the time, but I’ll nev­er for­get mak­ing my defense very well known on the Atheism/Atheist label­ing mat­ter back in my first Phi­los­o­phy class in Grade 11 in High School. I could not pos­si­bly agree more with Neil and I thank him so much for record­ing this so elo­quent­ly for oth­ers to lis­ten and learn.

  • theresa aka tree says:

    I like your com­ment Steve Grob!

    Also : athe­ism and anti-the­ism are not the same thing.(basic lin­guis­tics) Some­thing asym­met­ric is not anti-sym­me­try it’s just with­out sym­me­try… as an athe­ist I’m con­stant­ly accused of hat­ing prayers or reli­gious songs and I don’t! I just don’t believe in god(s).

    Hash­tag yes peo­ple (theist/atheist/agnostic) have bag­gage
    Hash­tag peo­ple can be super defen­sive about their bag­gage

  • Ashton Kate says:

    I rather have a mind set of a child than that of the most bril­liant sci­en­tist in the world. Chil­dren see the truth for what it real­ly is, and accept it uncon­di­tion­al­ly.. They believe with their hearts, instead of their heads. How quick­ly we lose site of that when we grow up. Faith will always be stronger than sci­ence.

  • Angela says:

    I am one of those athe­ists who does like to be labelled as such, and, as it hap­pens, also a sci­en­tist. I have great respect for the efforts of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and oth­ers to pass on their knowl­edge and enthu­si­asm for sci­ence. Keep up the good work!

    But I dis­agree with his remarks that sug­gest­ing that athe­ists are wast­ing their time. He likens them to non-golfers who come togeth­er to dis­cuss how they don’t play golf. Sure, there is that for­mal anal­o­gy, but he over­looks that fact that golfers do not:

    - Indoc­tri­nate, and even muti­late their chil­dren
    — Receive mas­sive priv­i­leges from the state
    — Dis­crim­i­nate in the work­place against non-mem­bers
    — Con­sid­er them­selves the only source of moral author­i­ty
    — Sub­scribe to an activ­i­ty that through­out human his­to­ry has been, and con­tin­ues to be, the cause of war, strife, cru­el­ty and suf­fer­ing.

    … and all on account of a belief in some imag­i­nary being with (equal­ly imag­i­nary) mag­ic pow­ers.

    If it wasn’t for the above, I wouldn’t both­er to be an athe­ist either.

  • Honor says:

    Hooray for using words incor­rect­ly to avoid being mis-cat­e­go­rized by oth­er peo­ple who use the words incor­rect­ly!

    I’m gonna decide I’m not a human, because humans eat cilantro! I don’t eat cilantro! It does­n’t taste good to me. I don’t have time for that! So, no, I’m not a human.

  • Sean says:

    The only thing that caus­es strife is mans own sslcishness,not God.i believe ic you were to look at sci­ence objec­tive­ly you would see all tbis beau­ty had to be cre­at­ed. No sci­en­tist has ever answered the ques­tion, ” were every­thi g came from.“You can’t admitt God is real because that forces you to admitt that you may be liv­ing wrong and your own pride cant have that.

  • Sean says:

    Sci­en­tists indoc­tri­nate all kids all the time. Evo­lu­tion and big bang are taught as fact even though they are only the­o­ry.

  • S says:

    That still does­n’t mean there is a “God”. For all we know, there is a uni­ver­sal con­science influ­enced by things we can­not even com­pre­hend. Things that no tech­nol­o­gy or tech­niques of obser­va­tion can even come to close to see­ing. This real­i­ty is very con­fus­ing. No reli­gion has answers, either.

    The only poten­tial, it seems, is through spir­i­tu­al advance­ment in med­i­ta­tion. There is no rea­son peo­ple can­not try and con­nect to a uni­ver­sal con­science using what they already have.

    Real­i­ty is just too com­pli­cat­ed to believe that there is no spir­i­tu­al val­ue to things, or that there is only a mate­ri­al­is­tic expla­na­tion. Dog­ma has no place in a uni­verse that has prob­a­bly exist­ed lit­er­al­ly for­ev­er. Assert­ing that there is some being who decides the fate of peo­ple based on life choic­es is just as pet­ty as assert­ing that every­thing hap­pens pure­ly because of chem­i­cal reac­tions.

    Free your­self.

  • Jeremy says:

    But athe­ism is not a phi­los­o­phy. It has no dog­ma, no rules, no struc­ture. It is mere­ly the rejec­tion of a claim, by the­ists, that a deity exists; reject­ed because at that moment, no cred­i­ble evi­dence is offered. That’s it. That’s all it is.

  • Mary says:

    He iden­ti­fies as agnos­tic in the first few sen­tences, then in the last few sen­tences, he con­firms, again, that he iden­ti­fies as an agnos­tic, but it’s only NOT be iden­ti­fied with athe­ists, who he has made clear that he dis­likes because, of course, all athe­ists are alike, and he knows that because .… they’re athe­ists.

    He can­not see that he is doing exact­ly that which he claims to dis­like so much:
    “The moment when some­one attach­es you to a phi­los­o­phy or a move­ment, then they assign all the bag­gage, and all the rest of the phi­los­o­phy that goes with it, to you. And when you want to have a con­ver­sa­tion, they will assert that they already know every­thing impor­tant that there is to know about you because of that asso­ci­a­tion. And that’s not the way to have a con­ver­sa­tion.”

    Like he does to athe­ists.

  • Ben says:

    It is so sad that the user­name that began with an “X” does­n’t even real­ize that he/she is a racist. There are many racists who do think that they are not racist while they are.
    I do agree that “athe­ist” is loaded with bag­gage. I pre­fer Non-believ­er or Non-the­ist.

  • Ath says:

    Athe­ism is sim­ply the lack of belief in a God.

    You are agnos­tic if you’re not sure whether a diety might exist or not.

    You are a the­ist if you believe such diety exist.

    That’s it.

    NDGT is an athe­ist, how­ev­er, since athe­ism is default at birth there’s no need to label your­self as being one, it’s a word that makes sense only to oth­er the­ists for label­ing no believ­ers.

    I believe only two terms make sense:

    the­ist and agnos­tic.

    Agnos­tics are the unsure ones and they might become the­ists at some point in their lives, they nev­er real­ly reject­ed the idea of God.

  • Maria says:

    I don’t know whether athe­ists reject the notion of an “intel­li­gent” cre­ation. I assume they do, because intel­li­gent gen­er­al­ly refers to some­thing pos­sessed by a being. How­ev­er, it is beyond my com­pre­hen­sion that any­one, espe­cial­ly a sci­en­tist of Neal’s intel­li­gence, can study the sci­ence of the uni­verse, and/or see the clear order in nature that gov­erns the lives of ani­mals and plants, etc.……and not SEE evi­dence of intel­li­gent design. I total­ly accept the con­cept of evolution.……it seems you would have to be blind to reject it. For the same rea­son, I reject the idea that this very struc­tured and amaz­ing uni­verse has no intel­li­gent, ordered design, of what­ev­er type, behind it.

  • James says:

    There is much con­fu­sion through­out this thread for one par­tic­u­lar rea­son.

    The three views have been poor­ly defined, and there­fore unin­ten­tion­al­ly mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ed amongst the par­tic­i­pants. Using the def­i­n­i­tions as fol­lows will hope­ful­ly help clear it up a bit:

    1. Athe­ist — active belief that a god(s) does not exist.
    2. The­ist — active belief that a god(s) does exist.
    3. Agnos­tic — uncer­tain of the exis­tence of a god(s).

    Of course, there are vary­ing degrees for each, but these are the main head­ings under which any per­son will fall. Even if one says they don’t care, they will still, inevitably, fall under one of the above defin­tions.

    Mr deGrasse Tyson can appro­pri­ate­ly say that he does­n’t believe in God, and yet remain an agnos­tic rather than an athi­est. “Not believ­ing some­thing” is quite dif­fer­ent from “believ­ing some­thing is not”. The for­mer does­n’t require a choice to be made, where­as the lat­ter does.

  • Michael Bell says:


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