Could Religion Survive Contact With Extraterrestrial Life?

Could Religion Survive Contact With Extraterrestrial Life? May 13, 2016

Spiral galaxy, illustration of Milky Way
Image courtesy iStock/alex-mit

Stephen Hawking is reaching for the stars, but he may end up finding God.

Hawking, the famed physicist, along with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur and physicist, proposed an initiative to launch probes aimed at reaching a star system about 4.37 light years away.

Breakthrough Initiatives, the $100 million research and engineering program, aims to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled nanocrafts that could fly at 20% of the speed of light and capture data from our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. Astronomers estimate that there is a reasonable chance of an Earth-like planet existing in the ‘habitable zones’ of Alpha Centauri’s three-star system.

Many view Hawking’s probe as a major step in the search for extraterrestrial life. But what does this mean for religion? If there are planets in Alpha Centauri’s ‘habitable zone,’ and if those planets support life, does this disprove the existence of God?

Maya Bohnhoff, a Bahá’í and freelance writer in Northern California, believes in God and expects humans to discover life on other planets sooner or later. According to Bohnhoff, the two beliefs aren’t mutually exclusive. On the contrary, in a Deily post entitled Faith and First Contact, Bohnhoff says, “I am certain [we will discover extraterrestrial life] because of my faith, not in spite of it.”

Bohnhoff also cites Damon Linker, who gathered references from Bahá’í, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic scriptures which seem to suggest God is not just a god of one world, but of many:

“All the visible universe comes from my invisible Being. …I am the source of all beings, I support them all, but I rest not in them.” — Bhagavad Gita 9:4

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past … hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds…” — Qur’an 1:2

“As to thy question concerning the worlds of God. Know thou of a truth that the worlds of God are countless in their number, and infinite in their range.” — Baha’u’llah

What do you think? Is religion or the existence of God threatened by the possibility of extraterrestrial life? Share this article to see what your friends think, and click here to read Bohnhoff’s post on Deily.



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