In the 1500s, the good-looking Italian cosmologist Giordano Bruno published his opinion that the universe consisted of infinite solar systems with infinite habitable planets housing an infinite array of beings.
To Bruno’s mind, as a devout Christian, an infinite God could conjure these things in a day and a half of creative labor and thereafter easily
and cheerfully manage the menagerie for its entire multi-billion year existence.
But the notion of extra-earth beings did not align perfectly with the reigning Christian orthodoxy of 1500s Europe, and so handsome Giordano Bruno and his handsomely bound books were burned to cinders.
In fact, no ancient religion dreamed of other worlds or moved beyond its local locale, even though some ancient notions of God included divine attributes like omnipotence and omniscience, two bullets on a heavenly resume that should suggest ease in supervising many billions of inhabitants on many billions of planets.
Just as a human being cares nothing for the near endless eons that precede or follow his ninety years of oxygenated existence, so too a human being cares not a whit for the near endless cosmic spaces that surround his square patch of Tierra de Madre, Mama Earth. Hence the adage, coined just this minute by yours truly: As with time, so with space: no one cares.
Theologies in all historic moments only confirmed these prejudices, until century twenty.
UFO was coined in 1953 and it refers to unidentified flying objects presumably piloted by beings from other galactic neighborhoods than our own.
It is one thing to imagine life beyond the third stone from our sun. Most educated people can admit this is likely. It is quite another thing to think that other planetary beings have been flying low over rural New Mexico since the 1940s. Some educated persons believe this but most do not.
It is quite another thing entirely to think that extra-terrestrials, ETs for short, are communing with, and abducting, human beings. Most disbelieve this, although some educated persons of stable mind (both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial) have testified to its truth.
Finally, it is another issue completely when someone draws a religion out of the whole UFO universe. But this was indeed done, beginning the latter half of the 1900s.
For these many UFO religions, belief in extra-terrestrialism is either a peripheral tenet of the faith (but nonetheless important), or it is a central tenet of the faith. In America’s Nation of Islam (unrelated to Islam, per se), extra-terrestrialism is peripheral but important. In Raelism, extra-terrestrialism is central.
UFO religions disagree about who UFO pilots and passengers are. Are they golden Gods? Or are they simply messengers of the Gods? Or are they only pasty-plated creatures like us?
For some UFO religions, ETs are the Gods that earthlings have been referring to all along: these ETs created life on our planet un-miraculously with simple materials and measuring spoons.
For other UFO religions, ETs bring divine messages from the Gods (usually warnings about imminent disaster). And for still other UFO religions, ETs are merely religious seekers, not unlike Homo sapiens.
A field of inquiry called Exo-Theology arose in the late twentieth century, attending to ETs.
As with all theologies, exo-theology speculates on something it knows absolutely nothing about, namely (what alien entities from distant galaxies believe about, compose creeds about, and debate to death about) the inner life of God.
Featured image ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’ by Hubble Heritage via Flickr commons