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Easter: How Would Religion Survive If We Made Contact With Aliens



By Izu Aniagu
Astronomers have continued to locate more and more exoplanets beyond the solar system. Exoplanets are planets outside the solar system that orbit around other stars or sun, if you like. Of these exoplanets, there are 8.8 billion habitable Earth-like planets in the milky way alone. And milky way is one galaxy out of billions of galaxies which make up the universe.
With the discovery of more habitable Earth-like planets, detection of extraterrestrial life or  aliens, as humans refer to them, is more a question of when, not if. And if we made contact with aliens, how would religions react? 
The discovery of life on another planet might seem incompatible with faith in a deity. According to Carl Sagan, space exploration leads directly to religious and philosophical questions. 
Some of the questions that the discovery of intelligent aliens might raise is the question of our uniqueness – an issue that has troubled both theologians and scientists. Are we alone? Are we special? Abrahamic religion teaches that human beings are purposefully created by God and occupy a privileged position in relation to other creatures. Some people of faith may find that the discovery of aliens challenges their sense of human uniqueness.
Another issue is the principle of uniformity, which claims that the physical processes that produce life here produce life everywhere.Does this mean that the same processes God used to create the earth produced the same outcome everywhere?
In some ways, our modern scientific world was formed by the recognition of our own mediocrity, as David Weintraub notes in the book Religion and Extraterrestrial Life: “When in 1543 C.E. Copernicus hurled the Earth into orbit around the Sun (i.e revealed that it is the earth that revolves around the sun and not vise versa), the subsequent intellectual revolution … swept the discarded remnants of the Aristotelian, geocentric Universe into the trash bin of history.”
The Copernican revolution, as it would later come to be understood, laid the groundwork for scientists to eventually claim that ours is “a typical planet around a typical star in a typical galaxy”. Sagan puts it even more startlingly: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”
But how could a believer reconcile this with their faith that humans are the crowning achievement of God’s creation?. How could humans believe they were the apple of their creator’s eye if their planet was just one of billions?
The discovery of intelligent aliens could have a similar Copernican effect on human’s self-understanding. Would the discovery make believers feel insignificant, and as a consequence, cause people to question their faith?

Izu Aniagu is a litigation lawyer and content writer. He practices Agnosticism.


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