Apologies to Neil deGrasse Tyson

neil
Do you know what I hate? Catching myself talking smack just for the sake of hearing my own voice. When you’re firing a ton of vitriolic guns, there can be a few casualties along the way; modesty and thoughtfulness come to mind. As you might imagine, I was less than pleased with myself when I read this snarky post I did back in 2012 concerning science’s new Golden Boy, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I may have been a little harsh:

If you haven’t watched Neil’s disappointing and rather insulting Big Think video, I recommend you do; it’ll demonstrate what I feel is his intellectual cowardliness in regard to the fundamental issue of his belief. While he’s being vetted as Carl Sagan’s spiritual successor, Neil lacks this man’s intellectual courage, particularly when it comes to fighting the evils of irrational thinking…

That a movement exists at all is a testament to the fact non-believers are still viewed with contempt and mistrust. Being an out-group trying to survive in a sectarian world has indeed forced us to create a makeshift community, and while I’m not always happy with the way some of us behave, to condemn us all under the same banner smacks of plain ignorance….I can’t stand when people still placate the ignorance of superstitious belief while simultaneously decrying the lack of critical thinking in the world. Get some fucking balls, dude!

I guess time has a way of spanking your ass sometimes. While I was on the money about Neil being the next “Carl Sagan”, his remake of Cosmos takes a pretty hardline against religion and the dangers of superstition. He’s also facing plenty of backlash for it, so I have to take back all the lame smack-talk from before. I’m sorry dude. That was a different Jacob talking; living in a different time.

Still, I hope that by now, Neil understands that the reason atheists like me were so insulted is that he failed to realize the importance of public figures coming out as proud nonbelievers. African Americans are still overwhelmingly religious, and having a role model to aspire to can often be enough to help shake off the chains of religious oppression. He’s right that labels can often mean being assosiated with ideas and opinions you never had. I wonder, however, if merely avoiding labels is worth the potential value stepping out of the atheist closet would have. Something to think about.

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