Article Published: Tuesday,
June 28, 2005 - 8:06:49 PM PST
The aliens according to gospel?
Religious leaders discuss beings on other planets
By Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
God only knows if there's life on other planets.
"War of the Worlds,' which opens in theaters today, is sure to stir meta-planetary
curiosities among more than just UFO spotters and "X-Files' fanatics.
Many Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders say the revelation of extraterrestrial
beings would not contradict their theological beliefs. Rooted in the dogma of
Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists is the existence of aliens.
And one group believes the God of Genesis was a group of space-traveling scientists.
But is the truth really out there?
"We believe that mankind originated with Adam and Eve. And their habitat is the
Earth. But (Allah) told us there are some other things we don't know, so there
could be other creatures in the universe,' said Mustafa Kuko, director of the
Islamic Center of Riverside.
Scientists have found no evidence of aliens or even microbes outside of Earth.
Mars and Europa, a moon of Saturn, are the two best habitats for life in our solar
system, said Pamela Conrad, an astrobiologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in La Canada Flintridge. The organic compounds of life have been discovered elsewhere
but not "assembled into anything that looks like life.'
The theological significance of extraterrestrial life has been debated for centuries.
In the Middle Ages, as today, some argued that God could have created worlds better
than ours; others maintained that Earth was the center of God's universe.
"Although it became heretical to deny that God could create other worlds, it was
dangerous to claim he had,' Joseph L. Spradley, a physics and astronomy professor
at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., wrote in 1998 for a fellowship of Christian
The verdict from most Christians is still out. However, many theologians say,
if God did create other worlds and other people, that would not contradict the
biblical story of the sin of man being redeemed by the son of God.
"How God shares the story of creation and of love and of the ultimate hope for
the restoration of all things in God's design, I think that can be worked out
in many different ways,' said Philip A. Amerson, president of the Claremont School
of Theology, a United Methodist seminary.
There could be different paths to God on different planets, Amerson said. Others
accept a more traditional salvation model.
"Saint Paul would suggest to indicate, and it is just a hint, that if there is
life on other planets, and these beings needed salvation or redemption, the death
of Christ on planet Earth would be a sufficient price,' said the Rev. John Jefferson
Davis, a Presbyterian and professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary near Boston.
Another possibility is that extraterrestrials would not need atonement, Seventh-day
Adventists believe. Because these beings would not have been borne of Adam and
Eve, they would be perfectly moral beings incapable of sin.
"The science-fiction version of life on other planets and the Adventist interpretations
would certainly be at odds,' said Calvin Thomsen, associate pastor at University
Church in Loma Linda.
Also at odds with widespread scientific thought would be the belief of a few thousand
Americans that aliens created humans.
The group's founder, a French journalist named Rael, claims he was visited by
an alien in 1973 who said: "We were the ones who designed all life on Earth....
You mistook us for gods,' according to the movement's Web site.
Aliens who visit Earth are gentle beings, said Ricky Lee, the leader of the U.S.
"It's not possible that extraterrestrials that can go from one planet to another
are violent or malevolent. If they were, they would have destroyed themselves
before they had the technology to leave their own planet,' said Lee, a Las Vegas
But who knows what else could be out there.
"It is an infinite universe so there are infinite civilizations,' Lee said.