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Politics, Religion, and Human Nature - Organized Religion and the Impact of Declassification PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Robbins   
Monday, 31 August 2009 06:00
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The Question of National Security
Organized Religion and the Impact of Declassification
Fundamentalism and UFOs
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Organized Religion and the Impact of Declassification

"We are not authorized to exclude that on another star beings do exist, even if they are completely different from us." -- Cardinal Nicolò Cusano, philosopher and scientist, 1401-1464

"It is absurd to claim that the worlds surrounding us are large, uninhabited deserts and that the meaning of the universe lies just in our small, inhabited planet." -- The Jesuit Father and astronomer Fr. Angelo Secchi, 1818-1876

"It seems to be in accordance with the aim of the world that inhabitable celestial bodies are settled by creatures that recognize the glory of God in the physical beauties of their worlds, in the same way man does with his smaller world."  -- Joseph Pohle, German theologian 1904

 Some months back my friend Bridget and I were discussing the potential impact which official confirmation of UFO reality might have on the country’s religious communities. Her take on the subject was of particular interest to me as she is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Bridget followed up with an email, part of which underscored a particularly serious thought, but had me laughing just the same: “The other day Jonathan and I were watching that funny and annoyingly disturbing cartoon, "Family Guy" and Peter Griffin (do you ever watch this program?) is afraid to go to the store Bed, Bath and Beyond because even though he's okay with going into the Bed and Bath part of the store, he's afraid of going into the Beyond section! They show him entering through a door where he is immediately sucked into the world of weird equations and other oddities floating all around him. … I wanted to use it as part of a sermon illustration but didn't want to admit that I watch "Family Guy"!”

Bridget’s observation is at once wise, funny and poignant. Most people seem far more comfortable in Bed and Bath than they do in Beyond. Religion offers us the potential for protection of a higher power as well as a set of beliefs that we can hold fast to and draw comfort from when the ‘Beyond,’ or unknown comes calling. The dictionary defines "faith" as "unflagging trust; belief without firm proof; belief in a supreme being; a religion.” None of us can say with any certainty how followers of the world’s religions will take to the idea that they share the universe with other intelligent beings, or with an assortment of them for that matter, something which, in the interpretations of many, is not referred to or discussed in their holy texts. Surmounting the problems associated with this perceived lapse will be easier for people of faith to overcome if their traditions allow for some latitude in the interpretation of their religious teachings, less so for those who hold that their beliefs and holy texts are sacrosanct and not open to interpretation.

We can assume that the relevant surveys and polls taken over the past few decades which indicate a majority of Americans feel there is intelligent life in space include a good percentage of individuals who, if asked, would identify themselves as people of faith. I’ve taken my own informal poll of Christian and Jewish friends, and listened to the views of Muslim and Hindu ones on the subject. To a person, all were in agreement that if our government ever confirmed the reality of UFOs, and stated that some were likely extraterrestrial in origin, their faith God and in their religions would remain unshaken. While entirely unscientific in its approach, the results of my inquiry tend to refute those of the Brookings Institution’s study, in relation to all but the beliefs of religious fundamentalists. Thankfully there is no need to lean on my data.

The September, 2008, issue of the MUFON UFO Journal featured the results of a survey conducted by Rev. Ted Peters and his associate Julie Froehlig. It was published under the title, “Is Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life a Threat to Religion?,” and is very much worth reading. The goal of “The Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey” was to test whether or not contact between Earth and an extraterrestrial civilization would result in a crisis (or even collapse) of belief among the religious traditions of Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Jews, and Buddhists. The survey found that for the most part religious persons do not fear contact.” Somewhat surprisingly, a secondary finding was that a majority of non-religious respondents were the ones most concerned about such a crisis occurring.

How should theologians react to the religious implications of the ‘official’ discovery or acknowledgment of extraterrestrial (or other unearthly) life? What models should be considered in counseling their flocks, especially the more skittish among them?

In 1937 the Jesuit theologian Herbert Thurston wrote, "From a logical point of view, Christians that accept miracles and other episodes related on the Gospel “... cannot reject in a obstinate way the reiterated testimonies of modern and reliable witnesses that relate what their eyes have seen.” There are a number of other religious arguments that can be made in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, some of which are reflected in the quotations preceding this section.

The late Monsignor Corrado Balducci was a Vatican theologian and insider best known for his public pronouncements on the UFO phenomenon. He maintained that extraterrestrial contact is a real phenomenon and "not due to psychological impairment," nor did he see this belief “in conflict with the Christian religion.” On October 8, 1995, he caused a major stir among Ufologists , and I daresay a good number of Roman Catholics, when he appeared on Italian National Television and stated, that “Extraterrestrials do exist,” and “… if 99 out of 100 {UFO reports} were false and that one was true, it’s that one that says some phenomenon exist.” It’s worth noting that some years earlier, Stanton Friedman said, “The question is not whether all UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin, but are any? The evidence indicates some are.”

It was the Monsignor’s contention that after excluding such conventional anomalies as “light effects,” atmospheric phenomena, clouds, ball lightning, etc, and factoring in some common sense, human rationalism and the testimony of hundreds of thousands of reliable eyewitness accounts worldwide, “it seems impossible to deny at a rational level that something real does exist!” It was also his belief there may be other inhabited planets, and noted that “In the Bible there are not specific allusions to other living beings, but neither is it excluded {in} this hypothesis.” A review of the Monsignor’s arguments can be found in his paper, “Ufology and Theological Clarifications.”

 

There is no way that a Prelate of Balducci’s stature would have been allowed to express the public views he did without the expressed permission of the Vatican. Whatever the Church’s innermost reasons for embarking on such a program, it represents a truly revolutionary approach to an extraordinarily complex problem: how to make the faithful aware of this presence in an officially sanctioned manner, and in the process, prepare them for at least some of the information which declassification and release would reveal. Other religious leaders who appreciate the seriousness of this situation might do well to consider applying a similar strategy tailored to the needs of their followers. I would recommend they begin by reading any of the following books: UFO and the Bible by M.K. Jessup, The Bible and Flying Saucers by Rev. Barry Downing, The Spaceships of Ezekel by Joseph F. Blumrich, and The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 13:30
 

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