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Vigilans
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24 Jan 2011, 5:27 pm

I'm curious, to those here who believe in extraterrestrial life, and who are also religious, or one or the other;
If we were to encounter extraterrestrial microbes in this solar system, would that affect your views on the universe? Do you think that genesis of life on other planets and the genesis of the Bible or other religious scripture are compatible? (As someone who isn't religious, I do..)
If we were to encounter an intelligent civilization without religions, would you see it as necessary to convert them?
If we were to encounter an intelligent civilization with religions, do you think these beliefs could impact terrestrial views, and do you think some would begin trying to find analogies between their religions and ours, ex, Jesus was also born on another planet, and died for their sins too?

There are many more questions I have that I can't think of at the moment; but the impact of alien life on terrestrial religions is something I have often wondered about. Any thoughts from the good people of this forum?



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24 Jan 2011, 5:58 pm

Maybe god is/was some alien intelligence who was playing at terra-forming, hence the creation of it in 7 days.

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If we were to encounter an intelligent civilization with religions, do you think these beliefs could impact terrestrial views, and do you think some would begin trying to find analogies between their religions and ours, ex, Jesus was also born on another planet, and died for their sins too?


I'd think so. Religious ideas seem to mingle when alien cultures meet.


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24 Jan 2011, 6:02 pm

The Bible is completely silent on the existence of extraterrestrial life. Whether the universe is teaming with intelligent life or if we are alone in the universe, it has no effect ion the credibility of the Bible.
We would not convert them because Jesus died for mankind, not aliens.
The question whether alien religious beliefs are compatible with human belief systems cannot be answered until we have some idea of what the aliens (if any) are like.


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24 Jan 2011, 6:08 pm

I bet I could read the bible as an extra terrestrial space opera.


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24 Jan 2011, 8:17 pm

I do not think it would be a major issue.

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24 Jan 2011, 9:18 pm

I think this would be religiously significant for a text like the Bible, which emphasizes a special relationship between man and the divine. Some religions will likely find the existence of aliens irrelevant, as I would imagine the Eastern religions would due to a greater focus on personal salvation than something special about man.

With the Bible, however, there are a few varying issues:
1) The incarnation is a doctrine that is difficult to make compatible with extra-terrestrial life, as Jesus was wholly man and wholly God, but, if we had extra-terrestrial life, we would have to have to have multiple incarnations, each of which would have to be wholly the native race and wholly God, and this would result in an amplification of the absurdities of the regular incarnation.
2) The creation of man is in God's image, but the issue with multiple intelligent creatures is that either we have a subhuman creature, or in all likelihood we have to posit that God has multiple images, and either way we have an absurdity. (Note: we could argue that man and alien have the same image, but this possibility is unreasonable for any sort of extra-terrestrial life form)
3) Honestly, Biblical cosmology had Heaven in the sky, so, the idea that there is all of this out there, and yet a grossly insufficient theology for the people of the time just brings up a lot of very difficult questions. These difficult questions already exist(brought up by Jesus flying up to heaven, but not having anywhere to go), but, aliens just bring Biblical cosmology into more question, as the falsehood has more significance under the notion that something the outright opposite of the ideas is found.



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24 Jan 2011, 10:17 pm

You guys do realize that Christianity has already been through this exact theological crisis before, right? Christianity survived the discovery of the New World; it would also survive the discovery of extraterrestrial life.


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24 Jan 2011, 10:19 pm

@Moog: I've thought about that before, a God being some kind of alien being from an earlier universe 8) Very Lovecraftian actually
@John_Browning: I agree that it doesn't affect it's credibility. What I find interesting is what official church stance (regardless of denomination) would be on accepting aliens and invariably baptizing them or ordaining priests and missionaries
@91: That picture made me laugh out loud!
@Awesomelyglorious: Those are a lot of good points. I wonder if perhaps there would be slight change in doctrine to explain the new intelligent beings; such as God/s not wanting to reveal the whole story to Humans but rather giving them the space to figure it out



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24 Jan 2011, 10:24 pm

Orwell wrote:
You guys do realize that Christianity has already been through this exact theological crisis before, right? Christianity survived the discovery of the New World; it would also survive the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

That is very true. I never thought Christianity or other religions wouldn't survive this discovery; but there is a bit of a difference between the New World and an extraterrestrial. For one thing, many priests recognized the fact that natives were 'worldly' and thus made by God, this led many of them to attempt to convert them with varying degrees of success. However there is a clear distinction between 'worldly' and 'other-worldly' here.



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24 Jan 2011, 11:23 pm

Vigilans wrote:
Orwell wrote:
You guys do realize that Christianity has already been through this exact theological crisis before, right? Christianity survived the discovery of the New World; it would also survive the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

That is very true. I never thought Christianity or other religions wouldn't survive this discovery; but there is a bit of a difference between the New World and an extraterrestrial. For one thing, many priests recognized the fact that natives were 'worldly' and thus made by God, this led many of them to attempt to convert them with varying degrees of success. However there is a clear distinction between 'worldly' and 'other-worldly' here.

Not really. In the context of the time, it was the same thing. Here was a completely alien people with an alien culture, and not only had they never had a chance to hear the message of Christianity, it was hard to fit them into the theological framework of the time. On top of that, there was no satisfactory explanation for why they existed or how they got there.


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24 Jan 2011, 11:46 pm

Orwell wrote:
You guys do realize that Christianity has already been through this exact theological crisis before, right? Christianity survived the discovery of the New World; it would also survive the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

The New World people are not quite as different as aliens are.

Do I think Christianity would survive though? Probably, but that's mostly because it is a very strong "meme" so to speak, but I'd say that Christianity has been intellectually dead in many ways for awhile. Some people continue to try to resurrect it, and show signs to suggest "Hey, that's a heart beat", but honestly, the only Christianity that can continue would probably have to be some form of Christian atheism, and probably not even in the Altizer sense, but more like secular Judaism.



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24 Jan 2011, 11:48 pm

Orwell wrote:
Not really. In the context of the time, it was the same thing. Here was a completely alien people with an alien culture, and not only had they never had a chance to hear the message of Christianity, it was hard to fit them into the theological framework of the time. On top of that, there was no satisfactory explanation for why they existed or how they got there.

I think it is a shock, but I don't think it is a shock of the same magnitude. I am also not sure that there is a real needed explanation for the existence of these people. The only doctrine at risk with this is just the views on Adam as first man, but the issue is that some form of ad hoc mechanism can easily be invented.

As for "never had a chance" well, honestly, a lot of people have only had a very weak at best opportunity anyway. Modern pluralism is probably more of a threat than those folks.



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25 Jan 2011, 12:20 am

^^^

An atheist prognosticating about the future of religion is a bit like an undertaker providing first aid in an ER.


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25 Jan 2011, 12:32 am

91 wrote:
^^^

An atheist prognosticating about the future of religion is a bit like an undertaker providing first aid in an ER.

Ok? That only goes back to the medical experience of the undertaker. I would imagine that an undertaker with a medical background would do about the same as any other person with that medical background.



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25 Jan 2011, 12:34 am

Vigilans wrote:
I'm curious, to those here who believe in extraterrestrial life, and who are also religious, or one or the other;


Ooh, cool. I am religious, a Christian to be exact. I don't have any opinion about extraterrestrials, but I'm open to the possibility that they exist. I love alien questions! :D

Vigilans wrote:
If we were to encounter extraterrestrial microbes in this solar system, would that affect your views on the universe?


A bit, maybe. I think that the news would rock my world, not because of any paradigm shift, but because I just love aliens and science-fiction topics so much. I imagine that the universe is teeming with life, not that I have any evidence to back that up.

Vigilans wrote:
Do you think that genesis of life on other planets and the genesis of the Bible or other religious scripture are compatible? (As someone who isn't religious, I do..)


Sure, I think they're compatible. For the Bible to say, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth, oh, and by the way, there are 300 million other civilizations living in the galaxy right now..." would be meaningless to the people who originally received the Bible. It's not surprising that Genesis doesn't mention aliens. Even if they do exist, they would be totally irrelevent.

Vigilans wrote:
If we were to encounter an intelligent civilization without religions, would you see it as necessary to convert them?


Here's an intriguing idea. The way I see it, human beings are set apart from other sentient beings (animals) by the presence of free will*. Free will, I think, implies the need to be saved. Perhaps there is a species that has the cognitive capacity of a human being, but no free will, and therefor no need for salvation. I would imagine that perhaps they would have a connection to the divine without the need for organized religion. Or perhaps they have free will and their society evolved to exclude religion.

Vigilans wrote:
If we were to encounter an intelligent civilization with religions, do you think these beliefs could impact terrestrial views, and do you think some would begin trying to find analogies between their religions and ours, ex, Jesus was also born on another planet, and died for their sins too?


I think that alien religions would affect Earth's religions in a huge way. Maybe they would try to evangelize us. I think you would have lots of New Religious Movements formulating belief systems based on combinations of alien and Earth religions. As for Jesus dying for the sins of aliens, well, maybe truth is stranger than fiction.





* For the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to define free will as the ability not just to make simple decisions, but to act directly counter to both nature and nurture. A dog choosing between two treats would be a simple choice. A soldier jumping on a land mine to save his comrades, even though he is by nature selfish and was raised in an every-man-for-himself kind of environment, is demonstrating free will.


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25 Jan 2011, 12:35 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
I think this would be religiously significant for a text like the Bible, which emphasizes a special relationship between man and the divine. Some religions will likely find the existence of aliens irrelevant, as I would imagine the Eastern religions would due to a greater focus on personal salvation than something special about man.

With the Bible, however, there are a few varying issues:
1) The incarnation is a doctrine that is difficult to make compatible with extra-terrestrial life, as Jesus was wholly man and wholly God, but, if we had extra-terrestrial life, we would have to have to have multiple incarnations, each of which would have to be wholly the native race and wholly God, and this would result in an amplification of the absurdities of the regular incarnation.
2) The creation of man is in God's image, but the issue with multiple intelligent creatures is that either we have a subhuman creature, or in all likelihood we have to posit that God has multiple images, and either way we have an absurdity. (Note: we could argue that man and alien have the same image, but this possibility is unreasonable for any sort of extra-terrestrial life form)
3) Honestly, Biblical cosmology had Heaven in the sky, so, the idea that there is all of this out there, and yet a grossly insufficient theology for the people of the time just brings up a lot of very difficult questions. These difficult questions already exist(brought up by Jesus flying up to heaven, but not having anywhere to go), but, aliens just bring Biblical cosmology into more question, as the falsehood has more significance under the notion that something the outright opposite of the ideas is found.

The aliens would have to hold a Judeo-Christian belief system even before first contact with humans for any of that to matter.


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