No. Not Entertainment Tonight. ET. The Extraterrestrial. You know. Vulcans. Klingons. Horrible mucusy blobs and Platonic demigods of enlightenment. Squamous fungoid and rugose eldritch horrors who lie dreaming and awaiting their chance to drive mankind insane in a hideous dark apocalypse. Cool, post-theistic technocrats offering us the way of salvation via tachyon emission generators and leotard-clan United Federation conflict resolution counseling.
It is one of the articles of atheist eschatological faith that, as we move out to the stars, we are sure to encounter Aliens[TM] who, however strange and mysterious they will be, will absolutely certainly and without question do one thing: they will shatter forever the Christian faith with its smug certainty that we are alone and we are so awesomely great that God loves us humans (the only creatures in God’s image and likeness as we arrogantly believe). Christianity will never recover from that devastating blow. This is their faith and they are proud to profess it.
Ahem. Remedial reading recommendation: Lewis’ “Religion and Rocketry“?
Relatedly, as I point out here, what atheists seem to always forget is that Christianity already has, right from the start, had a theology that incorporates the reality of non-human created intelligent beings into its world view. We call them “angels” and their rebellious counterparts, “demons”. The eschatological faith of many atheists is that when ET is found, he will come in glory to confirm the atheist in his worldview by chuckling and saying, “Ah yes! Religion! We left that behind centuries ago.” Then the Righteous will be taken up in glory in a fiery chari… I mean spacecraft while the unrighteous will depart into everlasting shame reserved for theocratic fascists and their minions. In short, atheism owes a lot more to Christianity than it seems to realize.
Here’s reality: If God has seen fit to create life on other worlds that is organic (assuming he will use carbon and not silicon or some other molecule as the workhorse for alien biochemistry) the faith has no objection that I can see, since it already has no problem with God creating angels. It is not our job to tell God what he can and cannot so. And if that life is capable of reason then it is what medievals would have called “human”.
No. Really. If you are not familiar with novelist Michael Flynn (who has forgotten more about medieval science, technology, theology, culture, and philosophy than most of us will ever know) I recommend this essay, as well as his brilliant novel Eifelheim. The notion that medievals were simply superstitious rubes is one of the great fictions modernity tells itself in its stupid pride.
And, of course, the immense confidence (the proper word is “faith) that atheists have that ET will vindicate atheism seems to me like having immense confidence that, if you go far enough away, 2+2 will not equal 4. Thomas’ arguments for the existence of God hold water even on a planet full of Vulcans. I personally suspect that there is other intelligent life out there, but I have lots of confidence we will never meet it, nor they us. If we do, I think it would be hilarious if, as in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, ET turned out to be a devout worshipper of the Blessed Trinity, envious of us humans that Maleldil took on our nature. I also do not envy the human ambassador to Klaatu when he lands on the White House lawn, emerges from the spacecraft and says, “I am a pilgrim! Our planetary angels revealed to us 2000 of your earth years ago that Maleldil had visited your world in the flesh! What did your species do to welcome him?”
The atheist faith that vindication of the atheist faith will come from a heavenly visitation is one of the funniest and most content-free eschatologies in the world. At least Christians can point to a Jesus who actually existed (yes, I’m aware of the Jesus Truther fringe that denies this elementary fact). But what have atheists got to show as reasons to believe ET exists, much less will vindicate atheism? It is pure myth. And it is, moreover, borrowed from Christian eschatology lock, stock, and barrel, as is so much of atheism.