Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Extraterrestrial Contact: Religious Reaction Expanded

Religious reaction to First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization is important, primarily because it could be a driver for overall human reaction. Vanderbilt University Astronomy Professor David Weintraub has a new book out called “Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How will we deal with it?”

I appreciate the straight to the point title. While I have not read the book yet, from the articles and reviews describing the work, he seems to cover more ground in his book than most articles or surveys have done. Particularly interesting for a quick view is the overall survey of different religions put together from his book by the Boston Globe. Weintraub says that the revelation of extraterrestrial life could actually bolster the spirits of Muslims, who have long believed that other worlds with intelligent beings exist. Perhaps most importantly, Islam doesn’t say that human religious systems have to apply to extraterrestrials, but that each world would have its own prophets. That would allow wiggle room that many other religions on planet Earth, including fundamentalist Christian sects, could not provide. It’s those fundamentalist Christians that Weintraub seems most worried about in terms of reaction.
That’s an interesting perspective. From a purely religious text standpoint, such reactions seem relatively easy to figure out. What worries me is the nexus of religion, politics and government. It is here where the real impact of religion can be felt and especially in extremist religions. Will world leaders find religious reasons to oppose First Contact with extraterrestrials? Will they try to use religion to sway public sentiment in one direction or another, in issues important to extraterrestrial contact? It seems likely, considering that such actions combining religion and political control are taken each and every day here on Earth currently and involve just about every religion on the planet. Religion does not exist in a vacuum. It is just part of the fabric making up our institutional quilt of society. All sorts of people: religious leaders, politicians, and even military despots and terrorists, pull on those strings to get their way.

I look forward to reading Weintraub’s book. Here is a Huffington Post article about it in his own words and a You Tube video.
Check out the Alien First Contact Facebook page for more questions about the impact of First Contact on the human race.





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