ET and God

Monday, December 1, 2014

Yeah, it’s a headline that might raise a few eyebrows and bring about some heated discussions, and yet that was the topic of Vanderbilt professor David Weintraub at the Rotary Club of Murfreesboro recently. He has just published a book called Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?

During his presentation to the club, I learned that in 1995 the scientific community only knew about one planet in one universe other than our own. With the development of new technologies in just 20 years almost 2,000 planets have been discovered in more than 475 galaxies far far away. I had no clue. I thought movies like Interstellar were pure fantasy. Not so much any more. But then, my flip cell phone did look a lot like an original Star Trek communicator.

Question of God and Conact

What does finding all of these new planets have to do with God? Well, God as we see him (or her), no matter your faith, is Earth-centric. So, if there is intelligent life out there on another planet, would our concept of God fit whatever that life might be? Anyone see the movie Contact? The question of God and faith on earth was a huge part of the story.

It is food for thought. If we met ET, would that meeting transform our view of God? Even in my lifetime I have seen massive changes in the faith I grew up with. Somewhere in the last – let’s say more than 20+ - years my faith “lost” purgatory. I have often wondered about all those souls stuck someplace that no longer exists. And Catholic Pope Francis has made accepting comments about evolution. There have even been many stories in the news about finding the “God Particle.” That particle had a “role” in the movie Angels and Demons.

Historical Perspective

Recently I have been reading a lot about religion. All religions. Going as far back as the earliest archeological finds mankind has had a sense of a spiritual force. Historically, religious dogma have changed as man has developed, but the belief in a greater power has always remained strong. The fertile mother. The father who watches over us from above. Sometimes the gods are nurturing. Sometimes they are terrifying. But they are always the creators of mankind and all the creatures of the world. If religion is ever evolving, then I think Dr. Weintraub’s discussion certainly brings up an interesting question.

Anthropological studies show that as mankind has grown and developed, the gods have changed. The gods of hunter gathering societies 10,000 years ago were different than those of agricultural societies. And the gods of societies with no written language were different than those of societies with alphabets. Peaceful societies had different gods than warrior nations. Those who lived in areas of plenty had much gentler gods than those living in harsh conditions who had gods who craved human blood.

Can We Learn From Sci-Fi?

In Gene Roddenberry’s StarTrek world, humankind accepts all creatures that live out there in the stars and their beliefs. Can we find this acceptance and move on? Will our faith change with the altered circumstances? Or will there be a clash of faiths in the stars, as we have on the earth?

 I think of the message from the movie Independence Day, when all the peoples of the world come together to defeat a common enemy from space. Will having a peaceful visitor from space bring us together? Or will we need an alien like Klaatu, from The Day the Earth Stood Still (original version), to slap our hands and threaten us before we can all get along? I wonder?

For another view on the subject, catch this article in a 2003 Atlantic Monthly.

Lee Rennick is a freelance writer, former Vice-President of Marketing and past Executive Director of the Business Education Foundation of Rutherford County, TN. She shares her interests and knowledge about working, learning and living at

photo: morgue files: thechunkymonkey