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Column 17
Jesus in space

Do aliens know about the crucifixion?

By © Martin Foreman
Word Count: 800 words
Publication date: May 29, 2005

How big is the universe? The answer is out there somewhere. One calculation is that space is expanding by at least 27 trillion cubic kilometres per second. If my math is correct, every second new space is being created that could hold 24,600 earths.

That’s a lot of space. Even if my calculations are off the wall, it’s clear that we live on a Very Small planet in a Very Big universe. And the earth is not alone – there are almost certainly billions of other planets. How many of them harbor intelligent life is uncertain – it could be none, very few, or millions or more. 

From a faith-based perspective, there are several options. The first is that God’s universe is devoid of intelligent life except for the human race. That means that in this incomprehensibly vast area of time and space, God’s only concern is with the one tiny speck we live on. Everything else in the universe that stretches billions of lightyears around us is no more than decoration.  Decoration which God can see, but which we can only glimpse with difficulty.

We cannot peer inside God’s mind, but it seems unlikely that he would create such a big, diverse and empty universe for such an insignificant and destructive species as the human race. Option two – that God created not only the earth but other planets where beings are aware of their own existence and mortality – seems much more likely.

But the existence of intelligent species elsewhere in the universe raises some important theological questions. Has God revealed himself to these alien beings? And if so, how has he done so?

Assuming that Benedict XVI is right – and since the nineteenth century papal logic has been “I am infallible because I say I am” – God can only be known through the Roman Catholic Church. That means that aliens can only be saved through knowledge of Christ and the crucifixion.

How do these aliens learn about Jesus? I suppose that God somehow drops a loud cosmic hint that salvation is available on our distant planet. Devout aliens then turn their telescopes and radio receivers towards earth and beam back copies of the Bible and pictures of the last pope’s funeral.

That leaves considerable opportunities for confusion, particularly for species who communicate in different formats or on different wavelengths from our own sight and sound. How, I wonder, does a life-form which uses smell or electrical impulse portray Christ’s life in its places of worship?

Even if these obstacles can be overcome, not every life-form will be so lucky. Some will not yet have reached the level of technology required to eavesdrop on earth. Others may be so distant from us that it may be billions of years before they hear the Good News. Are these intelligent creatures to be denied salvation?

Luckily, the Catholic Church has a ready-made solution for such unfortunate aliens. Limbo, the abode of righteous humans who have not heard the Rome-approved Word of God, can presumably be extended to accommodate non-human species.

From the perspective of Rome, therefore, all attempts to contact aliens are unnecessary since we will meet them in the afterlife. In my case, I can look forward to spending eternity in Hell with many different lifeforms who wrongly assumed that the human God was not for them. I am sure there will be much for us to talk about.

Or perhaps the pope is fallible and each species finds its own path to God. That could be through a version of Christianity, with the Son of God on a cosmic tour, moving from planet to planet, spreading the local gospel and being crucified. The specifics will vary from planet to planet, with different forms of execution for species with more or fewer than four limbs.

Other doctrinal matters also arise, such as how Jesus chooses his disciples among aliens with only one gender, and what sex is the local version of the Virgin if it takes three or more to reproduce?

The likelihood is that If God exists, he can be worshipped in many different ways, which means that none of the faiths on this planet convey the Ultimate Truth. Yet by insisting that only they offer salvation, they turn believers away from God rather than to him.

The nature of the universe is that God is a meaningless or impossible concept. When we look up from the scriptures and contemplate the heavens we understand our own insignificance – and the insignificance of gods that we create to convince ourselves our lives have meaning.

True peace comes not from belief in a petulant father-figure or all-loving son but from awe at the cosmos that surrounds us. An hour contemplating space through a telescope offers more truth than a lifetime of reading the Bible.

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

wear the Scarlet letter

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