Monday, 2 July 2012

On Gods and Aliens

One of my students shared a link on our class Facebook group that shows some examples of religious art that might represent ancient encounters with alien astronauts.

Ancient astronaut theory – the view that aliens visited the Earth long ago and made contact with our ancestors, and may have been responsible for the development of human technology, religion, or even human life itself – is certainly intriguing. It’s easy to understand why an encounter with a highly advanced alien race would have a profound impact on an ancient civilisation, and how such beings or their technologies could be seen as magical or even divine. Actually, we know that something similar has happened in the case of cargo cults in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hey if, you can mistake Prince Phillip for a divine being, anything’s possible...

On the other hand, it’s safe to say that the ancient astronaut theory is currently very much on the fringe: I can’t see it appearing on your A level RS syllabus any time soon to compete with the views of Freud and Marx on the origins of religion.

I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek, so I have a certain soft spot for daft theories involving aliens and outer space. The connections between religion and science fiction are interesting, but I think a much simpler explanation is that religious art has influenced the depiction of aliens rather than vice versa – certainly, it would be easier to show how science fiction has drawn upon religious themes and imagery than that religion originated with a bunch of pre-historic E.T.s visiting planet Earth.

I won’t spend too long talking about the evidence or the problems with ancient alien theory, though if you want to check out some of the problems with it, this site seems fairly comprehensive. Ancient astronaut theory has been the subject of a recent History Channel series, which has inspired somebody to make a whole film dedicated to debunking it. 

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