Beacon Of Centauri 7
Of course, the revelation of intelligent life outside the solar system had profound implications, not only for our place in the universe, but also for our self perceptions and philosophies. Father Bruno Guyez is a Jesuit Priest appointed to the Vatican Observatory. He has been kind enough to invite me to visit him and see some of the work that goes on there.
“The Catholic Church has been deeply interested in Science and in Scientific progress. The observatory has been in its present form since 1891, but the Church itself has been monitoring the skies for centuries.”
I am intrigued by how the Catholic Church accepted this news.
“The Catholic Church has debated the proposed existence of Extraterrestrial life – and it’s implications – for many years. Even debating this possibility meant that we didn’t find it inherently heretical. Father Gabriel Funes once said that, if they exist, “Aliens are my brother” – a far cry from what many critics thought was the actual Catholic doctrine “Aliens are my bother”.
“Of course, we wanted to make sure that the signal was verified before we made any official comments. But once it was verified, we were quite happy that this did not affect the Church’s position. Again, as Father Funes said, Extraterrestrial life does not contradict the belief in God. We were quite excited about the discovery, to tell you the truth.”
So, the church is happy to dismiss the claims of some of its critics that evidence of ETI directly contradicts the Scriptures and the Church’s beliefs – as many thought evolution did?
“Well, certainly. Just because the Bible doesn’t directly mention Aliens, doesn’t mean that God didn’t create them. Their lack of reference may be attributed to the fact that God didn’t need to mention them – they weren’t around in the creation of earth and their existence did not affect the significance of the scriptures.”
Did the Vatican (or rather does the Vatican) believe that there exists Alien forms of the Christian faith?
“That is all speculatory. For one thing, it has been proposed that Alien life forms may be free from sin, and thus not need salvation, like man. Though, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t believe in God. We are sure though, that God would be manifest in the lives of all intelligent beings around the Universe.”
Was there ever (or is there ever) a proposal for an evangelisitic mission to Alien worlds.
“Where it is perceived that our Alien brothers have fallen from Grace, it would be our duty to show them back to the light.”
What would your view be of the position of certain Christian movements, that Christ may have appeared on other world’s to die for their Sins?
“There is no mention in the Bible of any such events.”
But does it correspond to the Church’s position?
“No. The official position was summed up by Father Funes – ‘Jesus became man once and for all. The incarnation is a singular and unique event.’ This doesn’t discount that our Alien brother’s can share in God’s mercy and grace.”
It certainly seems no leap of faith to go from believing in Angels to believing in Aliens. But how does the Catholic Church feel about the views of groups (Christian and non-Christian) who advance ideas that the Bible refers to Aliens visiting the Earth in the Past – for instance, the famous claim that Elijah’s ascent to heaven is synonymous with an Alien abduction/collection.
“I think you’ll find that neither ourselves, nor the secular scientific community take these claims with any degree of seriousness.”
I have also been invited to speak to Archbishop Christopher Davies, head of the Anglican Church, in England, to talk about a protestant view of ETI.
I ask him the same questions about the different theories surrounding the Christian faith regarding ETI – those theories about Christ having appeared to Aliens as their saviour.
“Alright, let’s say that he did, but it isn’t in the Bible because it bears no significance to humanity – or he is still to do so, and we may ourselves be a part of that story. Maybe he doesn’t have to because they are without fault. There are many possible scenarios.
“The first, as I say, bares no significance to humanity, just as our salvation bares no significance to them. The Second possibility just means that we have to continue doing God’s work and living in his Love, so that we can be used by him to illuminate his love. The Third possibility means that they will help illuminate Gods Love for us and help us know how to live in Him.”
Eager to know more about other religious responses to the discovery of the signal, I meet up with the Secretary General and Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s European and International Affairs Committee, Sir Nadim Said.
“The Islamic faith is certainly not one of those you would feel to be undermined by the evidence of Extraterrestrial life. In the Quran it is written, ‘…among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and whatever corporeal creatures that He has dispersed throughout them. He is able to gather them together, whenever He wills.’ So, in fact, the Islamic faith predicted that we would find other beings, on other worlds.
“We have no problems like the Christian faith did, with whether they have been saved. We believe that all intelligent beings would have their own prophets, their own Guides, and would be party to the spiritual journey of the universe as we all are.”
The Islamic faith’s ability to cope with the revelation without any major upheaval or debate is quite possibly down to some of its key principles. It was – and remains, despite the portrayal of some of its more radical followers – a religion born out of understanding and reasoning. Some of the early Islamic empires were among the most advanced of their era. Faith and Scientific reasoning have definitely gone hand in hand.
Was there ever any question of outreaching to ETI?
“Certainly, we would want to meet them, and to be able to exchange views. But we would not be surprised as to what we found there in terms of religion.”
I was also invited to speak with the Sephardi Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem, Isaac Meir, to help shed light on the reaction of Judaism to the discovery.
“Judaism didn’t have a big problem with the discovery. For many of us the position was, ‘well lets just see it when it’s proved.’ The Jewish faith is far more interested in the soul than questions of outer space. We feel that there is so much to explore within our own humanity. That said, we had no problem with the thought that God created life outside Earth and that he loved it. We can’t exactly tell God what to create or what to Love.
“I think you will find that this is the reaction of most religions around the world. Though we may have differing faiths and pray in different ways, it is humanity’s spiritual journey that concerns us. That journey is not altered by the surprises in God’s creation, but enhanced by them. When Columbus found the Americas, God was not shaken from the heavens and man’s faith was not weakened.”
So you would say that, though your faith is more ‘humanity centered’, it is not disturbed by the presence of ETI?
“Why should it be? We believe we are God’s people, loved by him. When a new species of life is found on Earth, are we disturbed? It is a poor religion that crumbles, or trembles in fear, because of such things. They are just fearful of God’s creation and not enjoying the beautiful experience he has given them.”
I know that before the discovery, Israel was still reeling from the Wailing Wall bombing. Do you think that the revelation changed the political climate in the middle east?
“Extremists will always be extremists. What happened there was a great tragedy – one of many that has long plighted this land. The bombing itself was condemned by all religious leaders in Israel. Although we live in a turbulent region, the mainstream religious groups have begun to learn to get along. The revelation didn’t bridge any rifts, but I think some bridges were strengthened by the profoundness of the revelation. There was a realisation among some of the populous that man cannot go on squabbling against man.”