Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Clash of faiths

One question that needs to be addressed is if (or when) we contact an alien race, what would that mean to the Earth, theologically speaking?

Some Earth religions do not have a problem, or much of one, with the concept of the existence of alien sentient beings. Some feel that Jesus has visited them as well, others think that the lost tribe of Israel is on some other planet. Others mention creatures on other planets, but it is not clear if by creatures they mean intelligent creatures. Maybe the universe is teeming with life, but only Earth has high order sentient life.

And so I return to the opening question: if we contact an alien race, how will that affect us, theologically speaking? I feel there would be several possible responses, in three categories especially once we discover they have their own religion: A.it isn't anything like ours on Earth, B. at least one of their religions somehow resembles one of Earth's, C. they are all atheist.

A. Alien religions not like anything on Earth.

  • Some humans would not be able to accept that fact - some because of the challenge that represents to their own faith view, and some because they cannot accept the existence of aliens for any reason - and would claim a conspiracy by atheists of faking contact with an alien race in order to destroy all religion.
  • Some would want to convert the aliens to the One True Faith. However, there would be arguments between the various faiths on Earth, as each would deny the other the opportunity to convert the aliens. Prophets would suddenly appear, each claiming that God has chosen them to lead the way to the conversion of God's "other sheep."
  • Some would state that freedom of religious expression should not only be for humans, but for all sentient beings and thus every religion has a right to proselytize to the aliens
  • Some would claim the aliens as Satan or his followers, coming to deceive us.
  • Some atheists would claim this as evidence that religion is arbitrary while some agnostics as well as some religious would claim this as evidence that there are more than one path to heaven, and others that this shows the universal importance of religion.
  • Some would study the alien religion(s) and try to interpret them as being mentioned in the Bible or other scriptures (beyond the "and other sheep have I" Biblical passage), or that echoes of this or that Earth religion are to be found in the alien religion(s), thus minimizing to some degree the "otherness" of the alien religions - making them more of apostate or misinterpretations of the true religions on Earth.
  • Some religions wouldn't care - they don't actively proselytize.
  • Of course some people would leave their churches and embrace the alien religions, as many people are dissatisfied with religion - many go to church but are essentially agnostic or atheist in their hearts since they do not really follow their faith, and/or have major problems with it, but go out of habit or because there is nothing better or because of social pressure. Those looking for a church and have become disillusioned in their search may be drawn to this new religion, even if the aliens do not actively proselytize. And others would do so just to be rebellious, or to get attention, which may be the largest group, at least at first, since a religion that is totally alien would be difficult for many to accept (at least at first). Once people start joining it, and of course start "humanizing it," others would join as well.
  • Humans embracing the alien religion would cause some (or many) churches to attack or deny the alien religions, or fight to restrict knowledge of them. Some would go as far as work to pass laws making joining alien religions illegal on Earth. Others would work harder to force people (humans) to be religious (to a particular religion, or a group of religions) by passing more and more religious dogma into secular laws.
  • Although many people, while at first being fascinated, even if just mildly or momentarily, by the alien religions, wouldn't care or be bothered by them much after that - especially for religions that just didn't make any sense from an Earth perspective because of the totally alien environment that the alien religion came out of. Some of them would belong to the "don't bother me, I won't bother you" camp of thought.
  • However, there will be those that will seize upon this as an opportunity to stir people up in order to control or direct them and gain power in the process. Many would be world leaders and tyrants have used this concept - take some "other" and demonize them, using them as scapegoats. With this, they are often able to conquer and gain power - at least for a time. If one after another tyrant and dictator or would-be tyrants have used this against "other" humans successfully to gain control over the people of a nation or region, then how much more successful could they be using a true "other" to gain control over people.
B. At least one of their religions somehow resembles one of Earth's.
  • Some of those in the Earth religion that the alien religion resembles in some way would claim that as evidence that their Earth religion was The One True Faith.
  • However, like in A above, some humans would not be able to accept that fact, especially if their religion was not the religion that the alien's resembled in some way as it would seem, by some, as to be evidence against them. And as above, some may even claim a conspiracy by those on Earth that are against their faith of faking contact with an alien race in order to destroy their religion.
  • Some would want to convert the aliens to the fullness of the One True Faith - looking upon the alien religion as a corruption, or an apostatized, or an immature, or a misinterpreted version of the correct Earth version.
  • Some would say the resemblances are accidental, or overblown, and of no concern.
  • However, some would claim the aliens as Satan or his followers, coming to deceive us by presenting a corrupted version of an Earth religion to confuse us, or to better draw us to this false alien religion - and maybe the aliens are lying and made up the resemblance to trick us, to put us off guard.
  • As above, some atheists would still claim this as evidence that religion is arbitrary, though it would be harder for them to convincingly argue that when an alien race has a religion resembling in some ways an Earth religion. They would have to argue for coincidence (which is statistically possible, though doubtful it would be probable). It would also be more difficult for some agnostics as well as some religious would claim this as evidence that there are more than one path to heaven, especially if the alien religion would be resembling just one path.
  • Also, as above, some would study the alien religion(s) and try to interpret them as being mentioned in the Bible or other scriptures (beyond the "and other sheep have I" Biblical passage), or others would study the alien religions, fascinated by what comparisons there are. Some would even be trying to show how the alien scriptures mention Earth. For some, this would show all sentient species are truly "brothers" and "sisters" in a spiritual sense, as there would seem to be some common ground between ours and the alien's religion.
  • Others would explain the differences as divinely inspired - adapted to the alien's non-human needs and abilities and their own particular spiritual challenges, and thus we should not be frightened or feel challenged by their religion - it's not for humans, only for the aliens.
  • Of course some people would leave their churches and embrace the alien religions, as many people are dissatisfied with religion - many go to church but are essentially agnostic or atheist in their hearts since they do not really follow their faith, and/or have major problems with it, but go out of habit or because there is nothing better or because of social pressure. Those looking for a church and have become disillusioned in their search may be drawn to this new religion, some because it does resemble in some ways an Earth religion, and may come to feel it was the Earth's religions that had apostatized, and that the alien one was the pure one even if the aliens do not actively proselytize (though it is most likely that the Earth branch of the church would change as it would have to face pragmatic reality and adapt to humans - some aspects of the alien ritual may just not be doable by humans, for instance). Others would welcome the chance to try out another religion in their continuing search. And others would do so just to be rebellious, or to get attention.
  • Possibly even more so than in category A, humans embracing the alien religion would cause some (or many) churches to attack or deny the alien religions, or fight to restrict knowledge of them. And as above, some would go as far as work to pass laws making joining alien religions illegal on Earth. Others would work harder to force people (humans) to be religious (to a particular religion, or a group of religions) by passing more and more religious dogma into secular laws.
  • Though many people, while at first being fascinated, even if just mildly or momentarily, by the alien religions, wouldn't care or be bothered by them much after that. Even some of those at first scared would calm down with time, especially if the aliens didn't proselytize.
  • However, as with category A, there will be those that will seize upon this as an opportunity to stir people up in order to control or direct them and gain power in the process. Many would be world leaders and tyrants have used this concept - take some "other" and demonize them, using them as scapegoats. With this, they are often able to conquer and gain power - at least for a time. If one after another tyrant and dictator or would-be tyrants have used this against "other" humans successfully to gain control over the people of a nation or region, then how much more successful could they be using a true "other" to gain control over people.
C. The aliens are atheists.
  • Many humans would not be able to accept that fact - because of the challenge that represents to all human faiths - some, especially those wanting to deny aliens exist in the first place, would certainly claim a conspiracy by atheists of faking contact with an alien race in order to destroy all religion.
  • Some would definitely want to convert the lost aliens to religion. Though which one? As with both categories above, there would be arguments between the various faiths on Earth, as each would deny the other the opportunity to convert the aliens. Prophets would suddenly appear, each claiming that God has chosen them to lead the way to the conversion of God's "other sheep."
  • Some would state that freedom of religious expression should not only be for humans, but for all sentient beings and thus every religion has a right to proselytize to the aliens. Others would say "to each their own" and make it illegal for humans to proselytize to the aliens, especially if the aliens find it offensive. At first this would be easy as governments would control communication with the aliens. But as contact increased, and more readily achieved by the public, this would become a concern. However, the aliens being atheists would be less of a scary threat than category B - their religion having some resemblance to an Earth religion.
  • Some would claim the aliens are deceived by Satan who is trying to deceive us through the spiritual ignorance of the aliens.
  • Some atheists would claim this as evidence that religion is not only arbitrary, but false, and non-universal.
  • Some religions wouldn't care - they don't actively proselytize.
  • Of course some people would leave their churches and embrace the alien religions, as many people are dissatisfied with religion - many go to church but are essentially agnostic or atheist in their hearts since they do not really follow their faith, and/or have major problems with it, but go out of habit or because there is nothing better or because of social pressure. Some of these would see the atheist aliens as a sign or as evidence to leave religion and become atheists themselves even if the aliens do not actively proselytize. Though I doubt it would be a majority as humans seem to have evolved a need, on average, to have some kind of spirituality. And, of course, some would do so just to be rebellious, or to get attention.
  • Some would work harder to force people (humans) to be religious (to a particular religion, or a group of religions) by passing more and more religious dogma into secular laws.
  • Again, there will be those that will seize upon this as an opportunity to stir people up in order to control or direct them and gain power in the process. Many would be world leaders and tyrants have used this concept - take some "other" and demonize them, using them as scapegoats. With this, they are often able to conquer and gain power - at least for a time. If one after another tyrant and dictator or would-be tyrants have used this against "other" humans successfully to gain control over the people of a nation or region, then how much more successful could they be using a true "other" to gain control over people.
One result, though, could be that some churches may work harder to be more relevant to their members, or to address more actively their disillusionments.

The above is by no means an exhaustive listing. This topic will be revisited from time to time, and expanded upon.

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