Over at The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has posted this “Big Think” video of Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing whether he’s an atheist or agnostic. Some of Hemant’s analysis, taken from his piece, “When did Neil deGrasse Tyson start using the arguments of Christian apologetics?” is below, and I agree with him. Either Tyson doesn’t seem to know the difference between “atheist” and “agnostic” (if, indeed, there is a difference!), or is deliberately avoiding the characterization of “atheist” because of its pejorative connotations in America.
Tyson clearly conflates (perhaps deliberately) “atheism” with active atheism: that brand of disbelief that organizes movements, writes antireligious books, and prosyletizes. And Tyson, as he says (somewhat self-servingly), is simply too busy to do that—he’s more interested in bringing people to science. That’s a great thing to do, and Tyson does it superbly, but this explanation leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not going to tell people what they should call themselves, nor do I require Tyson to be an active atheist, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . .
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