Having spent most of my life as a nerd (I don’t count the years before I could read.) it is fair to say that aliens are a huge part of my life. My favorite movie as a child was ET: The Extraterrestrial. Part of ‘family time’ in my house involved getting together on Saturday evenings and watching that scary bastion of humanism, Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of my favorite novel series involves an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth during an alternate World War II. I was a believer in UFOs for years (and am now recovering), and even took a “UFOs in American Culture” class while in college.
So obviously my brain has been running with the possibility of aliens for my entire life. Unfortunately I’ve also come to terms that if there is intelligent alien life somewhere else in the universe, I will probably not live to see them. Unless they are far more scientifically and technologically advanced than we are, it will take a long time for any intelligent species to reach us. The Universe doesn’t seem to lend itself to short trips across its expanse.
Still, it’s fun to think about!
What most people seem to concentrate on when they discuss first contact with aliens is whether or not they’ll be friendly. Independence Day, Contact, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind cover the three most likely possibilities. But that’s not what I’m interested in. Here’s my question:
What happens to religion when we make contact with intelligent aliens?
The simplest explanation for what will happen, and the most likely, is that the religions will scramble for a good many years and possibly decades until finally reinterpretting all of their scripture to include the existence of intelligent beings other than humans.
Along with being the most likely scenario, it’s also the least fun. I see a definite possibility for the self-destruction of several religions when this event happens, and the growth of a few more.
Scientology will almost certainly see an increase in their numbers.
Judaism, at least the liberal kind that I am familiar with, will pretty much ignore the aliens when it comes to their religion. It wouldn’t be surprising to many of them that their god could have created more than just humans.
Many of the more extreme Islamic sects will, I predict, think these aliens are demonic and, unfortunately, attack them. And I’m sure certain Christian sects will agree with them. Whether they attack physically or verbally depends on how far in the future this takes place.
The Mormons, I predict, won’t be surprised at all…though they might be if they discover that the aliens hold no religion for themselves.
Liberal Christians may actually be pulled, finally, away from the faith when something happens that obviously has no reference in their holy book.
Evangelicals will freak out for a few years before the apologists come up with some excuse that god could have created aliens and not told them in the bible. Then they will feverently learn the alien language in an attempt to evangelize and create new alien Christians.
As for Humanists…we may have to change our name (Beingists?), but otherwise not much will change.
But these are just the fantasies of my mind. What do you think?