Lutheran Pastor: Congregants Increasingly Interested in Ancient Aliens as Explanation for Bible Mysteries
Yesterday UFO Sightings Daily announced that the producers of Ancient Aliens requested permission to use the site on an upcoming episode of the show—which, of course, means that there will be yet another season of it. Although Prometheus Entertainment is not paying UFO Sightings Daily for use of their material, they did have the site sign a contract allowing images of the website to appear. Isn’t that nice? When my material from Skeptic magazine appeared on Ancient Aliens in 2009 and America’s Book of Secrets this year, no one asked for my permission, and Skeptic had only given them permission to reproduce a drawing, not my article.
Interesting, isn’t it, that there is a different standard for UFO believers?
Also yesterday a Lutheran pastor named Russell E. Saltzman shared his observations about the steady increase in ancient astronaut believers he’s witnessed in the pews of his church. It makes for fascinating reading, especially since Saltzman, approaching the topic from a Christian perspective, comes to the same conclusion I have: that ancient astronaut theories are not about science but about faith, euhemerizing religion to make it palatable in a scientific world.
Saltzman starts by reviewing the case of a parishioner who repeatedly attempted to proselytize about UFOs and ancient astronauts at church, and his efforts to engage the man in a logical discussion of the evidence for ancient aliens. He discovered that the arguments were simply circular: the ancient astronaut theory proves aliens exist; the likely existence of many alien worlds makes the ancient astronaut idea a near-certainty.
As a result, Saltzman decided to teach a class on the Bible and UFOs, and he reports his surprise at how interested parishioners were in the subject. At his next parish assignment, he repeated the six-session course, with similar results.
It taught me pastors should be alert to the pseudoscientific weird factor in American life, the influence it has upon some of our parishioners, and the questions arising from the weirdness that people find just ordinarily intriguing. There is hardly any doubt in my mind that not a little of it has drifted into the pews, the simple perplexity honest Christians feel when trying to make sense of things in the context of their faith. Assailed by ancient alien gods, how does an interested Christian sort it through? With the pastor’s help, I hope.
I truly hope that the pews are not dividing into hostile camps of young earth creationists and ancient astronaut theorists battling to define which euhemerizing rationalization of faith should take over from mainstream religion. But what does interest me is how Saltzman views the appeal of the ancient astronaut theory for his parishioner:
Adam and Eve and that garden thing, really? It made no sense to him, unless they were part of an alien genetic experiment. The old story no longer carried any freight for the guy, and, well, Darwin was too cold and impersonal. He needed a story, a deep story, and since the one he was given didn’t work anymore, he found one that did.
Saltzman then complains that modern science “says we must” see ourselves as insignificant specks of cosmic dust, the random result of the laws of physics. Science, of course, doesn’t “say” we “must” view ourselves in any way; that is a question of philosophy, not of science. The larger point, however, that ancient aliens reinvigorate old stories is an important one. Although not organized as one, ancient astronauts are a cultural revitalization movement, no less an attempt to reverse the trauma evolutionary theory caused to traditional supernatural beliefs than its funhouse mirror version, creationism.
11/22/2013 06:33:53 am
I spent about half an hour trying to wrap my mind on what 'euhemerizing' means. I've never encountered that word before.
11/22/2013 06:36:20 am
It comes from Euhemerus, a Greek scholar who tried to rationalize myths by proposing what he thought were rational explanations for them, turning gods into ancient kings and monsters into misunderstandings. He pretended these had a basis in fact when they actually were simply fact-like, deriving only from his imagination. The term refers to using the appearance of reason without supporting facts.
11/22/2013 06:43:37 am
You did a much better job of explaining that. I looked at a number of different sources and none of them properly provided any kind of statement about why, just gave the history.
1/3/2014 03:35:19 pm
Into Google, you can type: "define [word]" and you will be presented with a definition.
11/22/2013 08:13:01 am
I visit UFO Sightings Daily when I need a good laugh. Scott Waring has never run across anything he doesn't consider to be signs of aliens. He's really fond of claiming random clouds UFO's and any rock with a shadow on mars is a life form. If they are dipping into his cache of insanity then they are truly just throwing things at the wall.
11/23/2013 03:13:43 am
Dr Warring also sees faces everywhere! And there are cities on the moon and Mars. NASA sends tiny cryogenic squirrels to Mars? You are correct YSD is a great place for a laugh. Too bad for a person who claims to teach English as a second language you would expect his grammar to be more accurate and correct. Look forward to seeing some of Scott's hallucinations on AA in the future! Also can not wait to read Jason's critique of this lunatics material!
11/22/2013 09:02:02 am
Personally, I find most arguments for religion and any god become quite circular also.
11/22/2013 09:57:09 am
I can agree to that, even as someone who has faith. If someone wants to defend a position hard enough, circular argument can become the default position.
11/22/2013 12:15:23 pm
I don't think your comments will get you banned. Maybe on a fundamentalist (what ever that is) christian forum, but not here.
11/23/2013 01:31:33 am
The reason why 1 Enoch wasn't canonised is because it was a pre-Christian text.
11/23/2013 01:42:55 am
The canon of the Old Testament closed before 1 Enoch was written
11/22/2013 12:47:17 pm
You won't get banned for making a joke. When reduced to their bare plots, every myth, legend, story, and scripture sounds like a cartoon. Consider: "A Scottish king gets fooled by some witches who only speak in rhyming riddles and dies when his castle is attacked by men dressed as trees."
11/22/2013 01:45:42 pm
11/24/2013 12:28:41 am
Here is the version for those with short attention spans, like myself...
11/24/2013 10:38:03 am
Actually, the whole idea that mankind is in need of redemption comes from the fact that people act like dicks to each other, instead of like the "ideal" of any person. The Judaic triad of faiths uses the dietary-advice snake story to justify why people act like dicks. Other faiths have other explanations, up to and including "the gods are evil."
The Other J.
11/28/2013 05:27:16 am
If we had a TARDIS, it'd be interesting to go back in time and witness how other religions began, and if they followed a similar sociological trajectory as this ancient aliens movement -- the current myths aren't working for people, so they look for a new myth-train to hop on. Maybe after enough texts and generations have passed, the movement shifts from being a fad to being a cult or a religion.
1/13/2014 11:54:49 am
The aforegoing comments offer a very interesting read to one apparently less theologically educated than most of the contirbutors. So what is the primary "takeaway" here?.....that a faith-based religion IS, other than merely defined as, essentially based on faith & you must consequently accept or reject it as you are given to understand it's interpretation?
8/12/2019 08:50:06 am
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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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