ExoTheology & Space-Age Interpretations of the Bible

(religious implications of an inhabited universe)

Shabbat in space and Communion in space

I previously posted on a midrash written for Ilan Ramon, the astronaut who took a Torah scroll into space with him on the Shuttle Columbia back in 2003. I love how Melanie Fine (who wrote the midrash) imagines that pieces of the Torah scroll survived the destruction of the Shuttle Columbia and drifted out into space and reached extraterrestrials. It’s a really wonderful piece. I recommend it highly.

Today I wanted to post on Ilan Ramon and Buzz Aldrin — both as examples of astronauts who kept traditional religious ritual in space: Ramon, Shabbat (first video), and Aldrin, Communion (second video).

I don’t know of any other religious rituals that have been performed in space. If you know of another, please comment or email and let me know? Thanks.

(You might want to skip ahead to minute 1:16 in the second video, as that’s where’s the description of Buzz Aldrin performing the communion ritual begins.)

C.S. Lewis on travel in outer space, extraterrestrials (May 1963)

This is from an interview with C.S. Lewis, done in May of 1963, six or so months before Lewis died. It’s from C. S. Lewis on Heaven, Earth and Outer Space By Sherwood Eliot Wirt. “Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us.” I love that.

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

 

Coming of the messiah / mashiah will be like an extraterrestrial military invasion from outer space (Ariel Bar Tzadok)

Interesting piece (see below)! Ariel Bar Tzadok wants to break away all the fluff, so to speak, that has surrounded conceptions of the coming of the Messiah. He wants to emphasize how radical a world-changing event this will be, how it will even do away with religions as they are conceived today. He uses the popular conception of UFOs and extraterrestrials, at first, as an anology to what the coming of the Messiah will be like: it’ll be like a military invasion from outer space.

But then he seems to suspect that maybe that analogy could be a little bit more than an analogy. Maybe… “Judging from how prophecy describes the way Mashiah and his army is supposed to act, extraterrestrial invasion might be the proper way to understand the coming event. After all, Mashiah’s army will display a superiority over all the world’s technology and weapons. With the greatest of ease, the Messianic army will completely demolish the forces opposing it, just like what we would expect from an invasion from outer space” (bold mine).

I was also fascinated by his reference to a tradition in the Talmud that “speaks of the Third Temple descending down from Heaven fully built and that it will “land” of the top of an earthquake adjusted now very high peak that was once Moriah, the Temple Mount” and how parallel that is to the New Testament tradition of the New Jerusalem — for example, Revelation 21:2 — “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (NIV) and Revelation 21:10-12 — And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (NIV).

I’m including the whole text of Bar Tzadok’s piece below. It’s also available as a pdf here. I’ve bolded parts that I found most interesting.

What To Expect

When Mashiah Comes

by HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok

Copyright © 2009 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.

The nature of Mashiah is often misunderstood. Granted, Mashiah is supposed to come as a savior, to step into the middle of a very nasty war between Israel and its enemies and to destroy those enemies with an overwhelming show of force. Then once Israel is safe and its enemies no more, we are all supposed to live happily ever after. Everyone is supposed to love one another; we expect all to live carefree lives, and life will be blissful and utopian. This is what the majority expect the Mashiah is to accomplish. There is however one simple problem with all this; this utopian fantasy is not what the Biblical prophets prophesied. Read more of this post

William Lane Craig on Romans 8, Ezekiel 1, extraterrestrial intelligence, and UFO

This is a transcript from William Craig Lane’s Reasonable Faith podcast, from 17 August 2008, available here, via iTunes, and elsewhere.

[…]

Interviewer: It seems, Dr. Craig, that the Bible is largely silent about this issue [UFOs, aliens, flying saucers].

Lane: I think it is, silent, Kevin. The scriptures are given to human beings as God’s revelation to people on this planet. And therefore there’s no reason to think that there could not be persons that God has created in some unknown galaxy that we have no idea about, and he has provided a revelation of himself to them as well. I think it would be presumptuous to say that we know that he hasn’t done that.

[…]

Lane: I’m puzzled by folks who seem to think, that if life, intelligent life, were discovered somewhere else or that if it were to come here that somehow this would be a disproof of Christianity. I…  that seems to me to be a complete non-sequitor. It doesn’t follow, because Christianity simply doesn’t speak to the question of whether or not God has created life elsewhere in the universe.

[Interesting / helpful comments on the idea that the vastness of the universe points to the likelihood of extraterrestrial life.] Read more of this post

Favorite depiction of Ezekiel’s Vision (Ezekiel 1)

"Cover of the Israeli fanzine The Tenth Dimension...the vision of the prophet Ezekiel who saw a strange unwordly flying chariot"

Ezekiel’s Vision by Avi Katz

Wow, I think this might be my favorite depiction of Ezekiel’s vision.

Found it here: at epilogue.net.

“Cover of the Israeli fanzine The Tenth Dimension…the vision of the prophet Ezekiel who saw a strange unwordly flying chariot”

Kirkus review of _Heirs of the Gods: A Space Age Interpretation of the Bible_

Just found this review of Heirs of the Gods. It might be the first professional review I’ve found of the book. And not a favorable review, at that. But the reviewer gives no reasons / evidence for his/her view that this book is full of “misunderstanding.” I guess Kirkus reviews are not known for arguing their position? I hate to say it, but it seems, as often happens when the mainstream only glances at the margins, that when a reviewer feels that something is thisnew, is this contrary to the traditional worldview, that he/she doesn’t need to give evidence or reasons. He/she just needs to say, “Look how crazy!” and everyone else will agree.

HEIRS OF THE GODS: A Space Age Interpretation of the Bible
By Lee & Vivianne Cervantes Gladden

Scripture for Star Wars fans. Two lapsed fundamentalists from Southern California are casually paging through their Gideons’ Bible in a motel one night, when they get zapped by the Spirit. Five years later, after total immersion in Hebrew, Greek, theology, futurology, and popular science, they come out with a fantastic visionary tract which is by turns hilarious, intriguing, and absurd. For the Gladdens, the Bible proves, among other things, that: a) the Celestials (Jehovah and the angels) once walked this earth and are due to return, sometime before the year 2030, from their headquarters on the planet Mazzaroth (see Job: 38:32); b) Jesus was cloned by the imposition of “”Jehovah’s DNA blueprint on the genetic material of [the virgin’s] womb””; c) UFOs are actually spacecraft manned by fallen Celestials, who work out of secret undersea bases in the Bermuda triangle; d) Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but super-beings created by Celestial surgery on an already existing stock c. 35,000 B.C.; e) the biblical cherubim were robots, Ezechiel’s “”living creatures”” were “”atmospheric entry craft of advanced design,”” and the book of Revelation deals with a televised ceremony (how else explain the “”sea of glass””?). And on and on, for 300 pages. When misunderstanding reaches this level, it becomes a kind of inspiration. Ideal for trekkies, spaced-out clergymen, and jaded atheists.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1978
Publisher: Rawson, Wade–dist. by Atheneum

Updated 11 June 2012: I read a letter to the editor in the New York Times this morning (Section A18) which reminded me of this whole tendency of the mainstream / the traditional to assume it does not have to argue its position (but only to state it or insist on it). The letter-writer quotes a federal ruling — which I also found described here.

[U.S. District Judge Jeffery White] criticized the government’s purported interest in defending the traditional definition of marriage, writing, “Simply stating what has always been does not address the reasons for it. The mere fact that prior law, history, tradition, the dictionary and the Bible have defined a term does not give that definition a rational basis, it merely states what has been. Tradition, standing alone, does not provide a rational basis for the law.”

The writer of this Kirkus review knew that because the hypotheses in Heirs of the Gods were non-traditional and non-mainstream, all he/she had to do was say they represented “misunderstanding.” No reasons or evidence required, because, as I believe he/she assumed, tradition, standing alone, does provide a rational basis for… in this case, interpretation of the Bible.

Call to Worship: “the taste of death will not defile us”

Resurrection from St John Vianney Seminary

I really liked the Call to Worship in tonight’s worship:

When the tomb looms large before our eyes, remind us, Lord, who we are:

We are children of the resurrection; the place of death will not hold us.

We are the painters of the rainbows; the shadow of death will not daunt us.

We are the breakers of loaves and fishes; the taste of death will not defile us.

We are the raisers of the dead; the power of death will not defy us.

We are the people of Pentecost; the spirit of death will not destroy us!

God is our refuge and our strength.

We gather in the power and sure promise of resurrection.

We need religion in order to colonize space

I know a lot of people would assume (or, even, be very adamant about) the idea that human beings will have to shed their attachment to religious faith before they will be able to colonize space. I’m sure Carl Sagan would say that if he were here today — or that he said that when he was alive. And I’m sure Christopher Hitchens would have said it had the question been put to him (which I don’t think it was).

And I get that view. It makes sense that human beings will have to rid themselves of tribal loyalties and of anti-intellectual / anti-scientific sentiments (both of which religious faith often engenders, no doubt). But we need to colonize space.  (After all, it’s been said that the reason the dinosaurs went extinct is because they didn’t have a space program.) And there’s a certain sense in which we need religious faith to help us do that.

So I agree with William Sims Bainbridge and blogger “SpakKadi” (both below) that religion will have a significant role to play in future human space colonization. Bainbridge’s view is that a “galactic religion” would enable human beings to see space travel as well as the heavens themselves as sacred which view in turn would likely motivate us to colonize the universe.

…we need a new definition of spaceflight that will energize investment and innovation. I suggest a return to the traditional view: The heavens are a sacred realm, that we should enter in order to transcend death.

…creation of a galactic civilization may depend upon the emergence of a galactic religion capable of motivating society for the centuries required to accomplish that great project. This religion would be a very demanding social movement, and will require extreme discipline from its members, so for purposes of this essay I will call it The Cosmic Order.

— from Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0 (August 20, 2009) by William Sims Bainbridge

And, if the history of human colonization on earth is any indication, blogger “SpakKadi” has a point when he/she points out that religion and money will likely be the prime movers in future off-earth colonization. This is from Religion in Space (April 05, 2005) by “SpakKadi”:

When I think about colonizing space, I think back to the colonization of the Americas. The two primary motivations for the European colonization of the Americas were money and religion. And the two primary enablers of colonization were governments and the Catholic Church. Other than governments, religions are the most effective organizations at collecting large sums of money by taking a little bit of money from a lot of people. They are also great at utilizing a natural resource known as people. When people go on mission trips, they are almost always asked to go outside their comfort zone to do something they never would have done otherwise. When well known religious leaders say something, a lot of people listen. Imagine if the Pope said that colonizing space was a moral obligation. What would that do for manned space exploration?

… I think religion may have to be a prime mover if man ever wants to move beyond our little blue sphere.

And here’s an actual example of the power of religion in human space exploration (in this case, in Soviet Russia). (I wish I had an easy way to get a copy of this pdf!)

Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy
Volume 7, Issue 2, 2009
Viewpoint: Space and Religion in Russia: Cosmonaut Worship to Orthodox Revival
DOI: 10.1080/14777620903113857
Virgiliu Popa* pages 150-163 Available online: 06 Jul 2009
Abstract
This article follows the evolution of the relationship between the Russian space program and spirituality from an astrosociological perspective. It demonstrates that the Russian space program has its roots in Nikolai Fedorov’s Cosmism, which envisaged the technological resurrection of the dead and space colonization, and in Marxism, which used space exploration as a means of proving atheism. Whereas the conquest of space has been perceived throughout the world in an ambivalent way, either as an act endorsed by Divinity or as a blasphemous feat, the Soviets took pride in reinventing the “Tower of Babel” in order to “make a name for themselves” and dethrone God (Genesis 11:4). Moreover, the technological miracles of spaceflight and the worship of Yuri Gagarin support the view that Soviet Communism was a state religion. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Orthodox Christianity brought its own contribution to the Russian space program. It will be also shown that, even during the Soviet period, appearances contrasted with the feelings of many of the cosmonauts.

PDF VERSION: Lee and Vivianne Gladdens’ _Heirs of the Gods: A Space Age Interpretation of the Bible_ (1978)

Gladdens- Heirs of the Gods COVERI just found a pdf of the Gladdens’ Heirs of the Gods: A Space-Age Interpretation of the Bible here –> http://store.nicapages.com/store-fyl/Heirs/heirs.pdf

The quality of the “print” is not great (it’s too-low resolution), but having the book in one file is probably better than the pdf version I was going to post here. (The scanner I used allowed only so many pages per document, so I ended up with 10 or 12 pdf documents for the one book.)

And just in case that link goes away in future, I’ll post a copy directly onto this blog, as well. Gladdens- Heirs of the Gods ONE PDF

van Gemert: “there is a ‘galactic club,’ an established network of old advanced civilizations, and […] Earth is under a certain ‘quarantine.'”

Nice article on the question of extraterrestrials and the possibility of interstellar travel: The ETH and the Likelihood of Interstellar Travel by Jean van Gemert.

Gemert explains one of his views:

This author favors hypothesis three, that there is a “galactic club,” an established network of old advanced civilizations, and that Earth is under a certain “quarantine.”

And here’s Gemert’s conclusion / summary:

Assessment of the feasibility of interstellar travel indicates that it should be easily accomplished by an advanced society. Arguments, such as that they would not have had enough time to find us yet because of the number of stars to visit, are seen to be implausible [Hart, 1975; Jones 1976, 1995; Hoerner, 1995]. Neither technical feasibility, nor energetics, economics, and social factors are likely to prevent interstellar travel or slow the colonization of the galaxy [Papagiannis op. cit., 1980]. The probabilities appear to be heavily in favor of aliens turning up on our doorstep, which I suspect they may already have.

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