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Opening Arguments

Is our God their God?

Metaphysical question of the day: Is your religion ready to meet ET?

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.

[. . .]

An affirmative answer to the question "Does life exist anywhere else in the universe beyond Earth?" would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions about our place in the universe. If extraterrestrial others exist, then my religion and my religious beliefs and practices might not be universal. If my religion is not universally applicable to all extraterrestrial others, perhaps my religion need not be offered to, let alone forced on, all terrestrial others. Ultimately, we might learn some important lessons applicable here at home just from considering the possibility of life beyond our planet.

[. . .]

Let's examine a seemingly simple yet exceedingly complex theological question: could extraterrestrials be Christians? If Jesus died in order to redeem humanity from the state of sin into which humans are born, does the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Earth, also redeem other sentient beings from a similar state of sin? If so, why are the extraterrestrials sinful? Is sin built into the very fabric of the space and time of the universe? Or can life exist in parts of the universe without being in a state of sin and therefore without the need of redemption and thus without the need for Christianity? Many different solutions to these puzzles involving Christian theology have been put forward. None of them yet satisfy all Christians.

Most religions, it seems to me, are premised on the assumption that we are unique in the universe and that the supreme being (whichever one we believe in) created us to be special. But if we're not alone, it sort of blows that whole deal. And we most probably are not alone. As the author points out, astronomers have alrwady identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars and, at the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century. It seems highly unlikely that there will be no life anywhere out there.

You will need to ask: Is my God the God of the entire universe? Is my religion a terrestrial or a universal religion? As people work to reconcile the discovery of extrasolar life with their theological and philosophical worldviews, adapting to the news of life beyond Earth will be discomfiting and perhaps even disruptive.

Posted in: Religion, Science


Larry Morris
Wed, 01/07/2015 - 10:10am


You know my answer to this, we’ve talked about it on several occasions.  Religion was our creation.  Created, in most cases, by a people grossly oppressed by another people, or created to help control people.  As we grow and mature as a species, and this will ultimately involve finding other sentient species, we should realize it is a local phenomenon.  Other species on other planets may have their own religions that grew out of their history.  If you have to ask a question, I think the question to ask might well be “will they want to impose their religion on us?”  After all, isn’t that what intelligent species do?  

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 5:37pm

The truth never changes.  Our perceptions change all the time with new information.  With religion, which god is the real one?  Throughout history it has changed.  Is it Baal or Jehovah?  Was Jehovah only a Hebrew god or was he universal for everyone (an exile question)?  Did he (why the gender?) have a son?  Why was the early Christian church heavily influenced by a Greek (Plato).  Why was it later heavily influenced by another Greek (Aristotle)?  The perception of Abraham's god changed with Islam.  It changed with Luther.  When life is found on another planet, the perception of God will changed again.  But, there is only one truth.  

Leo Morris
Thu, 01/08/2015 - 8:33am

The article I linked to had this interesting passage:

Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe that aliens have already visited Earth, the first evidence of life beyond our planet probably won't be radio signals, little green men, or flying saucers. Instead, a 21st century Galileo, using an enormous, 50-meter-diameter telescope, will collect light from the atmospheres of distant planets, looking for the signatures of biologically significant molecules.

We will search the heavens for tantalizing little clues and hope they eventually add up to a convincing case that we are not alone in the universe. Different people will make the call at different times that the evidence is in, and some won't make it at all. Sort of like our search for God, huh?