Strong views and strong emotions are evoked by the whole subject of Unidentified Flying Objects, which are almost as varied and diverse as those on God or gods. Is that just coincidence…?
I may be giving away my age here, but Close Encounters of the Third Kind was one of the few movies I watched many times over, early on in my life. It was almost a religious experience for me, and I suspect, for many other people. In fact, the brilliant Steven Spielberg must have been capitalising on this phenomenon: the emotional and spiritual attachment, the dream and the hope in many that hyper-intelligent, super-powerful beings are only one step away from us.
It was the scene at the end of the movie, where Richard Dreyfuss is gently and lovingly escorted into the mothership by child-like forms, which pulled very strongly on my emotions, before I was a Christian. The image of the alien leader is indelible on my mind: who could not miss its god-like qualities of love, wisdom and power cleverly portrayed in the face and demeanour? And who noticed, in the extended version, that Dreyfuss was crying with joy inside the ship?
I wanted to be in Dreyfuss’ place. I wanted to go with those loving, gentle creatures, into their utterly awesome and enormous ship, away from this earth, away from my unsatisfying world, and up into the stars-the heavens- with god-like beings, where beauty reigned, and where the problems of life were far behind. Nothing else in life had moved me to this extent. This was my pseudo-but-not-quite salvation experience (which ended in emptiness and frustration after the movie). Well done, director Spielberg-you really are a genius, and deserve your millions.
To put the entire image of aliens in our minds into balance, along came, a few years later, the very antithesis of the “Third Kind” alien; the antichrist of all movie space-beings, as seen in “Independence Day”. These seemingly all-powerful stinkers were intent on wiping out life on earth, and when the US president inquired of one what it was they wanted us to do, the answer was: “Die!”
Rene Descartes reasoned that there must be a God, and that the concept of God must be innate, because we have no natural experience of infinity. With this in mind, where does the concept of hyper-intelligent aliens come from? The answer from all you alien believers will be that humans have indeed experienced aliens. There are those among us who, with religious fervour, would die-or kill-defending the existence of aliens. And there was a time when, while I wouldn’t have gone that far, was as convinced as I thought I could be, that real creatures from space regularly visit us.
And why not? With that innate view of the Eternal we wish and long for someone and something beyond the strictures and the confines and the smallness of human nature and experience. We want someone to lead us out of this limitation we all feel. The “God-shaped vacuum” of Pascal’s (though he never said those words exactly) is strong in us, just as the Force was strong in Luke. The death-grip of mortality we all find ourselves in is not really natural at all-as the evolutionists want us to think it is-but is actually un-natural: it’s not the way we were originally made. We were made for something much greater, and deep down inside…we all know it.
And so many people look to the skies, convinced that in all that unimaginably vast universe out there, there has to be intelligent life, and so more meaning and purpose than we find here on earth. But what are we Christians to think of it all? Should we agree? Should we care? And if there is alien life, what are the consequences to our faith? I hope to address some of these questions in this mini-series. Please come back for part 2. Any comments or thoughts are welcome, either here or at firstname.lastname@example.org