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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Extraterrestrial Religion

Are there planets where there is life? Is such life self-aware, and/or able to communicate ideas to others? Are there religions on other planets? I wish to muse about these things. (I recently mused about a similar topic, namely the religion of robots.)

Some authors have supposed that there is such life on planets in our own solar system.

C. S. Lewis, in Out of the Silent Planet, the first novel of his space trilogy, described Mars (Malacandra) as a planet with water, and life, in canals on the planet's surface. There were three intelligent species living there, all three worshiping the Oyarsa of Mars, approximately an archangel. They had some knowledge of Maleldil, Christ, and his redeeming sacrifice. Lewis also supposed that Venus (Perelandra) was inhabited by an intelligent race, human in appearance, who were subjected to a temptation similar to that described of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

At least one author, Zenna Henderson (see also the Wikipedia page on her) had her aliens, who were indistinguishable from humans in appearance, living on earth, among us, but with a religion that was central to their culture. This religion seemed to be compatible with Christianity.

Harold Myra supposed that the Fall had made our part of the universe into antimatter. He had several unfallen worlds in his galaxy.

Dolphins, chimpanzees, and perhaps other terrestrial species may be self-aware, and have some power of communication, enough to develop a religion, perhaps. So far as I know, there is no evidence that they have such. There are a number of works that suppose dolphins or whales to have such capacity. I am not aware that any of them propose that these creatures have any religion.

Other authors have also considered these themes.

Does the Bible say anything that would preclude intelligent life elsewhere? I don't know of any such thing. Conversely, it doesn't say anything that proves that there is such life.

If there is intelligent life elsewhere, is it necessary that it have a religion? I suppose not, but would be surprised if there were no such, if other species with intelligence exist.

Did the Fall affect other planets? Did Christ die for other planets? Probably, as I read the scripture, although I don't think the Bible is absolutely conclusive on these matters. Romans 8:18-25 may mean that when it says that the "whole creation" has suffered until the time of Paul's writing.

Thanks for reading these musings.

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Note added June 23, 2011: A recent post by a Christian author of fantastic literature claims that there can be no non-human intelligent life in the universe. Some other Christian authors disagree, in the comments.

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Added November 11, 2012: Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, claims that, if there is intelligent life on other planets, "any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but they can’t have salvation." Ham is responding to statements by a Vatican astronomer, to the contrary. That is, the astronomer claimed that intelligent extraterrestrials could be redeemed.

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Added July 27, 2015: A planet with physical characteristics similar to ours has recently been discovered. In response, apparently an atheist wrote that this discovery made belief in God (or in Judaism or Islam) impossible. Benjamin L. Corey begs to differ.

6 comments:

Starving Econ Grad said...

I do not believe intelligent life exists anywhere else in the universe.

Even if it did it there's no guarantee that intelligent beings would have eternal souls. God may not have created them in his image or likeness.

Martin LaBar said...

Well, you may be right. We just don't know about either of these questions.

Thanks.

david ellis said...


I do not believe intelligent life exists anywhere else in the universe.


I take it you mean by that what could be more accurately stated as:

"I believe there is no intelligent life anywhere else in the universe."

since the absence of belief is not the same as being convinced of the falsity of a proposition.

If that's what you meant I have to ask "why are you convinced of this"?

I agree with Martin that there is little or no biblical (or scientific, for that matter) reason to reject the idea of extraterrestrial life out of hand.


Even if it did it there's no guarantee that intelligent beings would have eternal souls. God may not have created them in his image or likeness.


Interesting speculation. Being a nontheist though, I'll leave such speculations to you.


C. S. Lewis, in Out of the Silent Planet, the first novel of his space trilogy, described Mars (Malacandra) as a planet with water, and life, in canals on the planet's surface.


Coincidentally, I happen to be reading that book for the first time right now (and am about four-fifths of the way through it). Its quite good. While I don't share any of Lewis's religious beliefs I don't find this an obstacle to enjoying the book and would recommend it to anyone---theist or nontheist.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, david ellis.

I believe that Lewis' descriptions of Malacandra were more consistent with the science of his day than with that of our day.

There are some interesting touches in OSP, one being Lewis's attempt to describe how waves, and other physical entities, would be differently shaped in the lower gravity of Mars.

Starving Econ Grad said...

I take it you mean by that what could be more accurately stated as:

"I believe there is no intelligent life anywhere else in the universe."


Actually no. I'm not convinced of the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. It may be possible but we don't have the information to know. I doubt it.

david ellis said...

That's why I asked. The way you stated it didnt make it clear which you meant---it seemed, in the context, that you meant the more definite claim.

Of course, you are right in saying we just dont know one way or the other. The only thing we have that, I think, suggest the likelihood of life are the twin facts that there is a massive amount of "real estate" out there where life might develop and that life seems to have arisen, in the form of micro-organisms, very quickly here.

But I don't think thats enough to base much of a judgement on---especially as to the likelihood of, not just life, but intelligent life.

Who knows though, we might live to see SETI settle the question.....or we might not.