By Jeri Ballard —
For many Americans who have lost faith in God, belief in aliens and UFOs is an attractive substitute religion, says Professor Diana Pasulka in Vox News.
“One way we can make sense of this by using a very old but functional definition of religion as simply the belief in nonhuman and supernatural intelligent beings that often descend from the sky,” says the University of North Carolina academic. “There are many definitions of religion, but this one is pretty standard.”
Her research, published in the book American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, found that more than half of American adults believe in aliens, and the younger generation is even more persuaded with over 60 percent admitting they think we’re not alone in the universe.
Once the domain of the American fringe, flying saucers and bug-eyed beings are moving out of the sci-fi thriller movie and into the mainstream American psyche at a time when more people are doubting traditional Christianity.
“Often, a religion begins with contact from something divine, something beyond the normal plane of human experience, and that thing communicates with a person on earth,” Pasulka says. “And then there’s a story told about it. And then from that story, we get a larger narrative that erupts into what we call religious traditions. Something very similar is happening right now around belief in extraterrestrial life.”
Faith in space invaders is not being limited to the gullible that are easily swayed by conspiracy theory videos on YouTube. For the UFO “religion,” scientists and skeptics are readily signing up.
Pasulka cites Ellen Stofan, a former chief scientist at NASA, who declared on national television recently: “We are going to find extraterrestrial life.”
Other scientists claim to be reverse-engineering alloys and artifacts from a supposed UFO crash in the hinterlands of New Mexico.
At the same time, the New York Times legitimized faith in UFOs by documenting US research programs and military protocols when a UFO is observed. A recent Times article includes supposed footage of UFOs filmed by US airmen.
Such beliefs are easy to subscribe to if your mental framework starts with a evolutionary mindset. If life spontaneously generated here, why not elsewhere in the vast reaches of space? Never mind that Stephen Hawking postulated the theory of the multiverse (multiple parallel universes) only to improve theoretical chances of life self-forming since mathematical probabilities basically rule it out, if there’s no Divine Hand behind it.
Behind the rush to swap out Christianity for UFOism is the perception of a new crisis and the need for a new savior.
“We’re in a kind of planetary crisis at the moment, and there’s an increase in apocalyptic beliefs about our capacity to survive on earth. A lot of people see disaster on the horizon, and there’s a deep fear that we won’t be able to save ourselves,” Pasulka says.
“What will save us? Well, for some, it will be these advanced beings who come to us and tell us what we can do or how we can escape. Maybe they will help us find another planetary home, or maybe they’ll bring some lifesaving technology. Who knows? But these sorts of beliefs are lurking beneath a lot of the popular fascination with alien life.”
By contrast, Christians believe Jesus is the extraterrestrial God sent to earth to tell humanity how to escape the coming judgment.
Jeri Ballard studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.