Is the Hindu God an extraterrestrial
"It's not that simple," warns Jennifer Wiseman. Christianity, in particular, could have big problems with aliens. One of the basic Christian principles is that people have sinned. God has to redeem them and for this he sends his Son Jesus Christ to earth, who dies for humanity on the cross.
But: does this redemption also apply to intelligent life forms on other planets? Are aliens included when it says in First John that Jesus Christ is the atonement "not only for our sins, but also for those of the whole world?" Or has God already revealed himself in a different form on exoplanets? That would be a heretical thought for devout Catholics.
"The possible challenges for Christianity are downplayed by the religious leadership", criticizes the British physicist Paul Davies in his book "The Eerie Silence", in which he calls for an intensified search for extraterrestrial life. In addition to a second creation, a second salvation in particular causes great difficulties for the church. "Christians are in a dilemma," says Davies, an avowed agnostic. "Your god only redeemed humanity, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on strange planets."
Other religions do it easier. Islam knows neither the original sin nor the incarnation. Every believer, regardless of the planet, is responsible for his own salvation. "There are even passages in the Koran that can be interpreted in the direction of extraterrestrial life," says Nidhal Guessoum, astrophysicist at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
Allah is often referred to as the "God of the worlds", while elsewhere it is said that living creatures are distributed "over heaven and earth". "Of course it is all too easy to just look for suitable verses from the Koran," says Guessoum, "but that is the characteristic of Islamic thought."
Corresponding passages can also be found in the relevant writings of Judaism, says Howard Smith, astrophysicist in Cambridge in America and an Orthodox Jew. Rabbi Rashi, an influential Talmud commentator from the Middle Ages, expressly speaks of possible life in the vicinity of other stars. "There are no problems with salvation either," says Smith. "In Judaism this is open to all creatures with a moral conscience."
The Mormons even explicitly assume other forms of life in their writings. You'd have a problem if Kepler & Co. would not find any life-friendly exoplanets. And Far Eastern beliefs, which are traditionally not so focused on Earth, are also calm about aliens.
Despite all the differences, when the news of the first extraterrestrial signals comes one day, people of all faiths will sit up and take notice. And then? Is chaos breaking out on earth like it was in 1938, when Orson Welles' fictional radio play about "The War of the Worlds" rattled off the radio? "You can't compare that," says Seti astronomer Shostak. "At that time the aliens should have landed in New Jersey, but we will only pick up a radio signal." Even then, people's long-term beliefs would be questioned, but there would be little excitement in the short term.
A third of Americans believe in aliens
Shostak, a quick talker with a pinch of humor, should know. After all, he has already discovered extraterrestrial intelligence - at least for a few hours: on June 24, 1997, around four o'clock in the morning, a signal suddenly appeared on the Seti screens that looked like an interstellar "hello". The researchers euphorically sent e-mails to their friends, secrecy did not and does not exist at Seti. Even so, it took five and a half hours to finally find an editor for the New York Times called.
That's it! Don't panic, hardly any interest. "This indifferent reaction was very informative for us," says Shostak - especially since it was only discovered during the course of the day that the extraterrestrial signals were a beeping from the solar satellite Soho acted upon accidentally slipping through the Seti automatic filters.
Today, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, the reactions are likely to be less relaxed. Shostak still doesn't expect the big uproar, and he has a few numbers to back it up: 80 percent of Americans already believe that the government is keeping information about aliens under lock and key. A third is even convinced that the aliens were already among us. "And yet," said Shostak, "there is no riot on the streets."
So the world won't go nuts? Shostak shakes his head. He smiles. Finally he says: "That would assume that she isn’t already crazy."
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