Neil deGrasse Tyson describes himself as an ‘agnostic‘, and that’s okay. I’m an agnostic myself, just an atheistic one.
But this tweet seems like an evasion:
“Am I an Atheist, you ask? Labels are mentally lazy ways by which people assert they know you without knowing you.”
Hmm. I didn’t ask him for his label; I asked a question about his stand on some issue, to which one could reasonably answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Sometimes I’ve seen people shun labels as a subtle method of self-flattery. “Oh, I’m so deep and complex and interesting that I can’t be put into a box.” Well, yes, you are interesting, and yes, you can be put into a box. We’re not all special snowflakes; in many ways we’re terribly like other people. I am, anyway. I consume the same products, read the same books and websites, and have the same thoughts as other people with my interests. Hopefully, once in a while I create something interesting and original, and that’s what makes me kind of special.
Anyway, I can understand NdGT not wanting to tick the box for firm atheism. He’s influential in science communication, so he wants more people to listen to him, and perhaps not turn off those who would be turned off by an atheist. We need him doing what he’s doing, and others of us can wear the atheist tag. As for me, if atheism is a label, it’s a label I’m proud to wear.