Alone in the Universe?

Today, the good people at Maryland-based Space Telescope Science Institute is releasing a series of photographs of galaxies colliding taken by the Hubble telescope in celebration of the 18th anniversary of this telescope.   I was hoping to insert some photographs of these amazing galaxy formations but there seems to be a glitch with wordpress’ program since their most recent upgrade.   Stay tuned I will try again. 

Any way, this announcement and these remarkable photographs got me remembering a conversation I had years ago when I was still very much a staunch christian with another staunch christian.  I made the heretical comment of life being on other planets.  [I should have realized then I was on my way out] His comment was that god had his hands full with sinful humanity on earth and therefore would not create life elsewhere.  I thought this was a very arrogant statement to make.  It also questioned god’s omnipotence–another theological doctrine but at the time, that thought did not occur to me. 

I don’t know how many people believe today that we are alone in the universe.  With the proliferation of successful sci-fi television series and movies with themes of inter-planetary interactions, it is hard to know if people are more accepting of the possibility of life elsewhere or not.   While interaction with extraterrestial beings remains within the realms of fiction and hypnotic trances, there is no proof that we are alone or that we have counterparts in the universe.

If first contact with an extraterrrestial did occur, what would that do to the majority of our world religions?  Would it disintegrate the truths they espouse?  Or would it shine a light on the exclusionary facets of many world religions and only those facest would fade away making the world religions more inclusive more universal in thought?    

There was an excellent movie several years ago entitled: Enemy Mine with Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, Jr in the leading roles.  The story line was an intergalactical war between two species, Humans and Dracs.  The lead stars in this movie chase each other to a hostile planet and in order to survive have to work together.  In the process, Lou Gossett, Jr.’s character begins to teach Dennis Quiad’s character about the Drac religion which had strikingly similar values to our world religions.  The movie is a fable about tolerance and acceptance of others different than ourselves but for our discussion here it asks the question “if life did exist elsewhere, what truth that we see as truth remains?” 

There is a fear, at least in fundamentalist Christianity, that if one iota of doctrine is found to be untrue or unaccepted that the whole fabric of the faith will unravel.   I have heard this argument regarding the doctrines of creationism, virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus, homosexuals, original sin and many other revered religious doctrines. 

I think my friend would include life on other planets into this unraveling because he would likely quote me John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (New International Version).  If there was life on other planets, How would god save them from their sins?  He already sent his only son to us?  He already “so loved [this] world”; how could he so love another?    Again the questioning of god’s omipotence.  I really do have to talk to him about his contradictory theologies. 

If there is life on other planets, and this universe is so vast and wide to deny life on other planets ‘would be illogical’ to quote a wise Vulcan; but what remains of faith?   One of the wisdoms of Unitarian Universalism is that it is not hinged to a specific doctrine or doctrines or even specific events being true in order for Unitarian Universalism to retain its integrity.  We are a non-creedal faith.  If there is a hinge or an anchor to Unitarian Universalism it is to the values that we seek to live in our lives.  

The value of inherent worth and dignity of every person.   This value is not dependent on some event in order for it to be true.  The verse I quoted earlier supports this value, “For God so loved the world…”  but it is not contingent on god [or even the existance of god] to make it true, each person has inherent worth and dignity in and of themselves.  This value does not disintegrate if we discover that we are not alone in the universe. 

The question then remains… how committed are you to your values that they will not be shaken by the removal of your doctrines?  Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond 

Published in: on May 1, 2008 at 4:42 pm  Comments Off on Alone in the Universe?  
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