When Religious Aliens Come Knocking
There has been an awful lot of ink spilled over many, many a decade on the question of what the discovery of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization would mean for terrestrial religions, especially the Big Three – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That’s mainly because the Bible (and associated texts) make no mention of ET, and thus human beings are the one and only apex of God’s creations. Discovery of ET would throw that alleged apex into more than just a bit of theological confusion.
However, theologians tend to make light of this and suggest along the lines that there’s an awful lot of real estate out there, and since God can do whatever He damn well pleases Buy Glo Extracts Master Box, well maybe He populated some of that real estate with one or more extraterrestrial societies. I mean the Bible doesn’t mention Antarctica or penguins. The discovery of both didn’t upset the religious applecart, so why are aliens relevant to vie for Biblical space and commentary and why should they, if they exist, upset the religious applecart?
In short, one answer boils down to, is everything out there in parallel with everything down here, at least as far as the big three monotheistic faiths go? Do all planets with intelligent aliens have extraterrestrial Adams and Eves that muck up their alien Gardens of Eden and get the boot? Do all alien civilizations have sin, a flood, a Chosen People, a Promised Land, etc?
Now apparently the biggest of the big theological question is, assuming the existence of ET civilizations, is whether or not Jesus (assuming the reality of a Jesus of course – not a given) visited these worlds and got subjected to the ET equivalent of The Cross. Did Jesus have to hitch a ride on interstellar spaceships in order to get to all those other sinful other-worlds, assuming those other-worlds are sinful other-worlds? Methinks the questions are as similar to how many angels dance on the head of a pin!
IMHO, the odds that our religious histories in broad-brush form would happen on each and every other-world housing an extraterrestrial civilization is so remote as to not be worthy of even two seconds of pondering.
Okay, so if UFOs land on the White House lawn tomorrow, or radio astronomers detect obviously artificial radio signals from an extra-solar other-world planet that’s home to ET, big deal. Church attendance will probably not alter greatly, at least after the initial shock. If those of the monotheistic faiths embrace all of humanity as equals, then it’s not a huge step upwards to embracing extra-solar ‘humanity’ – ET – as equals as well.
But, and this is a very real but, what if our advanced aliens are not just technologically advanced aliens, but theologically advanced aliens, who in fact have a theology that bears no similarity with any terrestrial theology! Then what? Might ET take a leaf out of our religious histories and violently preach their version of hell, fire and brimstone to us? What leaf you ask?
The basic reality is that members of the trilogy of major monotheistic religions (and lots of minor ones as well) have in the past wished, and continue to wish, to impose their beliefs by any means fair or foul (usually foul) on anyone and everyone else. If fact, all too often those wishes were turned into reality.
If one had to list all of the atrocities inflicted on various cultures by Christian missionaries, including the abduction and indoctrination of young children, well let’s just say comparisons with the Nazi Third Reich regime wouldn’t be all that inappropriate. From across Africa to the Pacific Islands and points beyond, it was the Christian duty of the faithful to force-feed if necessary their religious doctrines to all those thus far spared monotheism fanaticism. And it wasn’t just a matter of polytheistic to monotheistic conversion, it was the absolute and total destruction of anything and everything part and parcel of their ‘pagan’ traditional beliefs that had to be eliminated, so much so that most of the culture, say of the Aztecs and the Incas, have now been lost forever – thanks due to God, or rather His ever faithful representatives.
Then throw in the Inquisition, the Crusades, and all manner of Holy Wars and God’s Old Testament reign of terror has been taken to heart by the faithful whose duty is to see that it is ‘to be continued’ and on, and on, and on it goes. Your option: be a living Christian; or a dead pagan. Well there’s an exception to that – the last of the Inca emperors was given this option: a relatively quick and easy death as a born-again Christian, or a very slow and very painful death as a pagan. Needless to say Christianity won out yet again. Belief in God can be very persuasive when you’re faced with being burned at the stake as an alternative.