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Is alien life a threat to religion? Show more Show less
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When Copernicus and Galileo championed a heliocentric view of the universe, they were demonised by the Catholic authorities for fear of threatening their legitimacy. Would the discovery of alien life on other planets threaten the power and importance of modern religions in a similar way?

The existence of alien life would be a threat to religion Show more Show less

Alien life would challenge the legitimacy of modern religion. Religions have a clear set of beliefs, and some of them do not account for life on other planets. Some reject the possibility outright. The discovery of aliens would conflict with what these religions teach, undermining their credibility.
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Human religions will appear infantile after contact with advanced aliens.

Contact with superior civilizations with advanced knowledge may produce more sophisticated ideas about where religious concepts come from. We may learn more about our origins, about consciousness, and science in general. Science will turn religious ideas into natural ideas.

Context

Communication with advanced intelligent beings will undermine our religious beliefs.

The Argument

Contact with other worlds will bring many of our cultural beliefs into question. Extraterrestrial beings may well be secular and irreligious. Aliens who are intellectually superior to us are likely to find humanity's religious beliefs primitive.[1] Intelligent aliens may have outgrown our ideas long before humans come into contact. Even if advanced beings do have a religious or spiritual life, it is likely to be so far removed from our own beliefs that it casts doubt on organized religion. Intelligent beings may have a more sophisticated understanding of consciousness, death, and creation. Alien knowledge of the universe will cause a radical shift in human religious life, and even if it does not destroy it entirely, it alters the current understanding of spirituality radically. Alien life will add ammunition to the "God of the gaps" argument; that God fills the gaps where science ends. Whenever science is unable to explain a phenomenon, the supernatural explains it.[2] We will be left with a "cosmotheology", in which nature explains religious concepts. Spiritual concepts are likely to be radically altered by super-intelligent beings with advanced knowledge. This knowledge undermines traditional religion, as we increasingly more towards natural explanations for God.

Counter arguments

As a planet and a species, we are always evolving. While we might come to find that in comparison to alien races, we are lacking, that in no way removes the fact that we are still developing. If the truth of the matter is that humans are not the dominate species, that does not mean that we must abandon all that we know to conform with these new ideas.[3] Countless times have new religions come forth, believers converting from previous faiths, others leaving as science evolves. These religions were all infantile once upon a time, and yet now they are well known, have followers all over the globe. It might be intimidating at the start to suddenly be around beings with knowledge and faiths far beyond our understanding. This discovery does not have to change human beliefs or religion. For thousands of years, people have not allowed it to change. Not from colonizers and not from war. Extra-terrestrial visitors might challenge peoples faith but they will not destroy it.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Intelligent aliens who are capable of contacting us will have outgrown religion. [P2] Aliens may provide us with a better understanding of scientific phenomena that fuel religious thought, creating a religious revolution.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/feb/18/aliens-atheists-richard-dawkins-tweeted
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/09/et-and-god/376856/
  3. https://www.livescience.com/48208-religion-extraterrestrial-life.html

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 15 Oct 2020 at 21:20 UTC

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