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.
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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