Over the past few days, ancient astronaut theorist and Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos has been tweeting about ancient astronauts and atheism. Tsoukalos wants his readers to know that “there are no gods,” only aliens. For him “God” is merely the “cosmic force” or “the universe” as a whole. This would seem to contradict other ancient astronaut theorists, especially Erich von Däniken, who has always been quick to emphasize that the aliens were false gods, distinct from the true God worshiped by his readers.
Interestingly, Von Däniken emphasized in his 1974 Playboy interview that “I’m definitely sure that Jesus had nothing to do with astronauts,” while Tsoukalos echoed the sentiment: “Where did I EVER say, insinuate or suggest that Jesus was an alien?” The difference, though, is that Tsoukalos apparently disclaims von Däniken's stated belief in a personal God.
But Tsoukalos’ deistic or atheistic views are very different from the views presented in Ancient Aliens S03E14 “Aliens and the Undead.” There David Childress told us that after we die our souls join the aliens on other worlds: “With our death, our passing from this existence, we are going to this other world.” Similarly, Andrew Collins added: “At the point of death, we may find ourselves at the other end of the universe.” The aliens, the ancient astronaut theorists claim, are trans-dimensional beings who can move from dimension to dimension, interacting with human souls at a quantum energy level beyond the human.
As I wrote in my review of the episode,
If we follow this line of reasoning, we end up at the position of Richard Dawkins, who told the New York Times last year that he could envision aliens that had evolved into beings indistinguishable from gods.
Of course, this is what Lovecraft imagined nearly a century ago, with his Old Ones who existed outside of our dimension, wielded the powers of gods, but had evolved like any other creature.
But since the pagan gods were believed to have been born (they were not always extant), to have lived on earth, and sometimes even to have died before taking up residence on another plane, what, precisely, is the difference between a “god” and an “alien visitor”—other than their nonexistence? And if we cannot distinguish between an alien and a god in a meaningful way, why should we propose the existence of aliens to explain the gods? Tsoukalos doesn’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God, or that Jesus was an alien. If their divinity is admittedly fictional, by what right do we then deny the same imaginative status to Viracocha, Quetzalcoatl, and Nommo?
In short: If Jesus wasn’t an alien, why would any other god be one?
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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