Ufologist Claims Belief in UFOs is Similar to a Religion
UFOs and extraterrestrials are significant in most major religions, in addition to spawning new "UFO religions." The general belief in UFOs also poses similarities to a religion in itself, according to a lecture by Open Minds' Alejandro Rojas today at the Roswell UFO Festival in New Mexico.
Rojas partially took inspiration from the book by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. While Jung did not necessarily discount the possibility that UFOs exist, he believed that regardless, belief in UFOs and aliens fulfills similar psychological needs as religion. Jung was particularly interested in the role of symbolism in psychology, and he felt that at certain points in time, aliens represented the human need for some kind of "angel" figure: a transcendent, higher being that can protect us.
However, there are just as many narratives that depict aliens as evil or indifferently, scientifically curious. They also seem to reflect our anxieties regarding our own insignificance, as many portrayals of extraterrestrials underscore the hubris to our conviction that our lives have meaning. The Raelians, for example, believe that all human life is nothing more than a scientific experiment on the part of extraterrestrials who are intellectually and technologically superior. Jung explains this by asserting that aliens are like any other modern myth: they symbolize whatever anxiety is most prominent in society at the time. Even when they are symbolic of humanity's newfound nihilism in the face of our discovery that we are very small in the universe, the myth is similar to a religion because it fulfills a collective psychological need.
Generally, extraterrestrial life and religion have been viewed as incompatible. SETI astrobiologist Paul Davies claimed that finding intelligent extraterrestrial life runs contrary to the beliefs of many major religions. He stated that religions such as Christianity are predicated on the idea that God will save the human race on this planet, not extraterrestrials on other planets. According to Davies, aliens and religion are only reconcilable if religious leaders invent other iterations of messiahs that saved the races on other planets, or explain why humans would be particularly worthy of God's attention. As a result, he hypothesized that, were we to find definitive evidence of intelligent extraterrestrials, religious doctrine would utterly collapse.
Rojas argued that this is most likely an exaggeration, as many religions' doctrines contain references to UFOs. In the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, there was a despairing outcry to beings called the Merozul, inhabitants of a planet called Meroz who had previously come to the earthlings' aid. The Hindu god Indra supposedly said, "Consider the myriads of universe that could exist side by side... can you presume to know them, count them or fathom them?" Not to mention major religions such as Mormonism and Scientology, both of which include significant references to aliens in their respective doctrines.
He also cited a 2010 poll conducted by the Royal Society of London that seemed to indicate that world religions would not collapse into a crisis at the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Only 8% of Catholics, 11% of Jews, and none of the Buddhists surveyed believed that the revelation of extraterrestrial life would affect their personal beliefs, and 22% of Catholics and 18% of Jews believed that it would affect their religion as a whole. We asked Rojas if he found it problematic that the study relied on the responders' ability to gauge their own future reactions, when these projections are not necessarily accurate. He responded that, at the very least, the study demonstrated that people's perceptions of their reactions to extraterrestrials are somewhat muted, which means the study still indicates that SETI researchers such as Davies are overestimating the impact of extraterrestrial life on religion.