On Sunday the BBC hosted a debate on the ancient astronaut theory in which a panel questioned whether Jesus, Krishna, and the Buddha were space aliens. The Big Questions delivered 23 minutes of ancient astronaut speculation in the guise of probing the mysteries of religion. The Big Questions is a debate program that typically covers more serious subjects of moral, ethical, and religious concern. The preceding segments on the show were about counter-terrorism efforts in schools and how to improve democracy.
Host Nicky Campbell predicated the discussion on the NASA’s discovery of earthlike planets that might support life.
“It will be no surprise to the followers of those religions who’ve long believed that life—possibly not as we know it—exists elsewhere in the galaxy,” he said. “Life which has possibly exerted its influence here on planet Earth. Have beings from other planets guided our religions?”
Campbell’s panel of experts included the head of the Aetherius Society, a spiritualist, a scientist who is also a committed Christian, and a Christian bishop. There were no panelists who represented secular or skeptical viewpoints, nor were any mainstream historians interviewed. In fact, no Hindus or Buddhists were on hand to discuss their faiths either, according to published accounts. (I am not able to view the show from America due to geo-blocking by the BBC.)
The scientist, Liz Weston, defended traditional Christianity using C. S. Lewis’s tilemma—that Jesus must be lunatic, liar, or Lord. (Lewis did not invent the argument, but he is closely associated with it after using it on the BBC.) Weston said that the trilemma left no room for Jesus to come from another planet, though logically speaking, that would probably fall under the category of liar. She demanded to know where the evidence is for space alien religious figures, while declining to offer evidence for the historicity of the Biblical narrative of Jesus.
Mark Bennett of the Aetherius Society told Campbell that religious figures are from Venus, and that Venusian civilization cannot be detected from the earth because it vibrates at a different wavelength from civilization on earth.
“We believe that various religious leaders from history have an inter-planetary origin. We believe that Jesus and Buddha came from Venus, that Sri Krishna came from Saturn, that Saint Peter came from Mars, and so on,” Bennett said.
The Aetherius Society is a Theosophy-influenced UFO cult founded by George King in the 1950s. Like Theosophists, they believe in spiritual masters who come to earth from other planets in their flying ships, which they identify with the flying saucers of UFO mythology.
The Aetherius Society has been in decline for decades and is believed to have only a few thousand members around the world.
Bishop Jonathan Frost echoed Weston’s views and added that Christianity is superior to the Aetherius Society because it is “down to earth” and makes “a real difference in people’s lives.” I believe that Scientology makes similar claims for their e-meter. The practical ends of a belief system imply nothing about the truth value of its claims.
Bennett countered by suggesting that the ancient astronaut theory is more logical and scientific than traditional religion, a claim that ancient astronaut theorists have been making since the first UFO Christian preachers started using it in the 1950s.
“I would say that it makes much more sense to say that Jesus was an interplanetary being who came to earth to help mankind, than to say that God created a one and only son, who was also himself at a random point in history, who came to come to earth and forgive people their sins for some reason we don’t really know.”
Viewers of the BBC program took to Twitter to express their shock and outrage that the taxpayer-funded service was giving air time to insane theories, with some viewers wondering whether Ancient Aliens had influenced the selection of topic. The story was picked up by the UK edition of the Huffington Post, which collected some of the Twitter responses.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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