I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk about the connection between ancient astronauts and religious belief. However, I think it says something that many of the people who have been writing about ancient astronauts recently (as in the last day or two) are seeing the same things that I am, even if they don’t quite conceptualize it the same way that I do.
A blogger named Mohave Rat strongly disapproves of organized religion, particularly the three Abrahamic faiths, and also considers Ancient Aliens one of his favorite TV shows. He likes Ancient Aliens because it provides him with an extraterrestrial cudgel to hit back at the claims of religion. He particularly likes Zecharia Sitchin’s claim (which actually is an article of ancient Mesopotamian faith) that humans were created as slave race to serve the gods. This, he says, is a finger in the eye of organized religion and its special creation of humanity:
Of course, mankind is determined to be special no matter what. Just being an advanced primate well on our way is not enough. NO we got to be the "children of the most high" or some such nonsense. Maybe or maybe not.
Yet the ancient astronaut theory actually does what the blogger wishes it would not: It provides yet another way in which humans can imagine themselves as the special creation of heaven.
Meanwhile, over at a Christian website focusing on the literal truth of the Torah (sorry, but the fine gradations of which group of believers emphasizes which books of the Bible is a bit beyond me) the writer is excited about a two-hour documentary on the Nephilim which gives the true “Luciferean” origins of giants, ancient astronauts, the Anunnaki, and all the pagan gods. It seems like the kind of documentary that I ought to watch and comment on, but the thought of spending two hours listening to an explication of Christian demonology is daunting.
Finally, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion produces a podcast called Research on Religion, and what do you think its topic for today is? Of course it’s ancient astronauts. The podcast is hosted by Tony Gill, a professor of political science at the University of Washington, who takes the position (though not uncritically) of an ancient astronaut advocate (which he claims to be me “mesmerized” by) in a discussion with Chris White of Ancient Aliens Debunked. For a professor of political science who wrote an entire book on the colonialist role of religion in Latin American countries, he seems remarkably unaware of the colonialist implications of the ancient astronaut theory, as the official summary makes clear:
Tony challenges Chris to explain how [Egypt’s] technologically backward society could build such monumental structures without the help of some futuristic technology. […] How could an ancient tribe build [Easter Island] statues these [sic] massive and why were they looking outward to the sea?
The noble Greeks and Romans managed to build their buildings without assistance, and the medieval Christians raised massive—and much more technologically complex—Gothic cathedrals without even the help of a steam engine, yet somehow the very idea that non-Europeans could move, raise, or stack stones is reason enough to call down the gods from heaven to explain such “impossible” feats.
White and Gill are both wrong that ancient astronaut theorists simply fail to account for the “disappearance” of the aliens after the Middle Ages. As we’ve seen, on Ancient Aliens the extraterrestrials never left and in fact (a) helped found America, (b) rustled cattle in the Old West, (c) psychically uploaded relativity theory into Einstein’s brain, and (d) continue to anally probe humans as the denizens of UFOs.
Chris White tells Tony Gill that one of the reasons for the interest in ancient astronaut ideas is that they provide a scientific-seeming story to allow the believer to free him- or herself from traditional religion by turning faith into science. (White is himself a devout Christian who believes the Nephilim were real fallen angels who mated with human women.) I disagree and think that the opposite is true, that such beliefs help the believer to reconcile science and religion and find a “scientific” reason for believing in old mythology and the literal reality of ancient religious texts. In this it is the opposite of fundamentalist creationism, which seeks bend science to religion rather than the other way around.
Nevertheless, I found it interesting that three times in 24 hours people from such disparate viewpoints all recognized that the ancient astronaut theory is essentially a religious question, and that it speaks to questions of faith and an attempt to renegotiate humanity’s relationship to nature and to the divine.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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