Extraterrestrial life Religion

Guardian: Will religion survive when the space aliens land?

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Yesterday, we heard from the people who think they know why we might never hear from alien civilizations. Today’s turn goes to Santhosh Mathew at the Guardian, who wonders if religion will survive if we do hear from them:

The interaction with alien life is not just being discussed in the domain of philosophy any more, it has entered into the traditional scientific realm. Realising this possibility, Nasa, in 2014, gave $1.1m to the Center of Theological Inquiry, an independent institution, to support an initiative to study “the societal implications of astrobiology”. Nasa was criticised by some for providing money to an organisation rooted in Christian theology.

Yes. That’s because it sounds to many of us like a solution in search of a problem. We keep looking for evidence that most religious people much care.

The core question would be, does God’s creation extend beyond a single planet? If so, would the inhabitants of those planets believe in the same gods as humans do? How could the creator of the universe deny the inhabitants of those worlds a chance to redeem their sins? Does that mean that God incarnated as Jesus in those worlds contrary to Bible teachings that say that the redemption in Christ was a unique event meant for humans on Earth?More.

One can’t think what “Bible teachings” Mathew is referring to, teachings that entail that space aliens do or don’t exist, that they need salvation, that they are offered salvation (or not) or how. He doesn’t follow the usual custom of providing the reader with references.  19th century poet Alice Meynell, a schoolbook choice, tackled the idea, and it sometimes comes up in apologetics essays. But really? Isn’t this just another idea in search of a Templeton grant?

See also: Why we might never hear from alien civilizations

Suzan Mazur: NASA, tax dollars, space aliens, and religion…

and

Suzan Mazur: NASA, tax dollars, space aliens, and religion… Of course, it’s yet to be determined that most religious people have much invested in the matter one way or the other, relative to their irreligious neighbours.

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10 Replies to “Guardian: Will religion survive when the space aliens land?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Guardian: Will religion survive when the space aliens land?

    Why shouldn’t it? Will it survive unchanged is perhaps a more interesting question.

  2. 2
    harry says:

    Christianity deals with our fallen human nature. It restores what was lost in the fall and gains for humanity more than it lost.

    The question for me would be whether intelligent aliens had fallen, and if so, had they been redeemed?

    If aliens had the intelligence necessary to traverse the vast distances of space to get here, they would be intelligent enough to realize that the Universe and the life within it couldn’t have been mindless accidents. Their religious debates, I suspect, would not be about whether or not some Supreme Being had created the Universe and the life within it, but would instead be about the true nature of that necessarily existing Supreme Being.

  3. 3
    Florabama says:

    Harry @ 2, CS Lewis’ space triology contemplated this very idea. It’s been years since I’ve read them, but in one of them (I don’t remember which but want to say, “Out of the Silent Planet”) the creatures were confronted with the same moral choice given to Adam and Eve, and as I remember, passed the test. This would leave theological room for unfallen creatures to coexist with us in the universe. Whether or not the two could interact — the fallen with the unfallen — is a much stickier theological question. If I remember correctly Lewis addressed this question as well in The Great Divorce and said the unfallen cannot coexist with the fallen. The whole molecular structure of the unfallen world was different and a blade of grass had the hardness of diamonds to the fallen in an unfallen world.

  4. 4
    cmow says:

    Florabama,
    Perelandra. This is Lewis’s Eden re-telling — the second of the trilogy.

  5. 5
    DennisM says:

    “One can’t think what “Bible teachings” Mathew is referring to…”

    Yes, one can. Probably the first that comes to mind for most people is the Bible statement in John 3:16-17 that God’s love for this world sent Jesus, the “only” son to save it. There is also the parable Jesus told (in Matthew 18 and Luke 15) about a shepherd who had 100 sheep and lost one, so he left the 99 to search for and rescue the one that was lost.

    In the context of life on other worlds, these Bible teachings would imply that our world is the lost one, and any others will be unfallen, morally pure and upright.

    The mere presence of extraterrestrials wouldn’t impact religion much, but the question about their moral character certainly would, at least as far as Christianity is concerned.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    “Will religion survive when the space aliens land?”

    Religion?

    What’s that?

    I searched the Bible and found this:

    Acts 25:19

    Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.

    Acts 26:5

    They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.

    Colossians 2:23

    These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

    James 1:26

    If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

    James 1:27

    Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

  7. 7
    asauber says:

    Perelandra. This is Lewis’s Eden re-telling — the second of the trilogy.

    I read this a couple times back in the day, and I recently listened to it in audiobook form.

    I can’t recommend it enough.

    Andrew

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    @6:

    “Will religion survive when the space aliens land?”

    Religion?

    What’s that?

    I searched the Bible and found this:

    Acts 25:19

    Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.

    Acts 26:5

    They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.

    Colossians 2:23

    These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

    James 1:26

    If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

    James 1:27

    Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

    The worst crime in human history was committed in alleged defense of religion: Christ was crucified.

    In alleged defense of religion Saul of Tarsus (Paul) persecuted and approved the killing of Christians.

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    The Guardian headline for the given article denotes a deep confusion of terms and concepts. Is that the information people read to misinform themselves?

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    We have so many important issues to deal with here in this world, why bother with things so far away?

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