Science | June 5, 2019 10:31 am

How Belief in Alien Life Is Becoming a New Religion

For some, belief in aliens is becoming a kind of religion

Belief in UFOs is far less fringe than you may think.

Extraterrestrial beings have long been the stuff of science fiction, but as belief in intelligent alien life continues to grow among scientific communities as well as the general public, aliens are becoming a new religion.

A 2015 poll revealed that more than half of Americans believe in intelligent life, which, according to the Pew Research Center, is similar to the rate of those who believe in God.

In a recent interview with Vox, Diana Pasulka, a professor at the University of North Carolina and author of the new book American Cosmic, spoke about the growing religiosity surrounding belief in extraterrestrials as a reflection of changing attitudes toward religion and technology in society.

According to Pasulka, modern belief in extraterrestrial beings harkens back to “a very old but functional definition of religion as simply the belief in nonhuman and supernatural intelligent beings that often descend from the sky.” She adds, however, that scientific credibility separates the UFO narrative from traditional belief structures.

“The belief that UFOs and aliens are potentially true, and can potentially be proven, makes this a uniquely powerful narrative for the people who believe in it,” she told Vox’s Sean Illing.

While the idea of the scientific community may conjure images of wild-haired, nutty-professor types, Pasulka explained that research focused on extraterrestrial life is actually backed by an earnest community of reputable professionals and credible organizations and institutions.

“These are all extremely educated people who have prestigious positions at credible agencies or research institutions,” said Pasulka, who added that their work tends to be independent and largely kept under wraps.

Pasulka likens faith in extraterrestrial life to a new kind of religion in that it both mirrors and breaks with traditional modes of religiosity.

“Often, a religion begins with contact from something divine, something beyond the normal plane of human experience, and that thing communicates with a person on earth,” she said, adding that interest in extraterrestrial life follows a similar pattern. However, Pasulka also noted that this new kind of belief has attracted a more diverse cast of followers.

“What fascinates me about this new form of religion is that scientists and people who generally distance themselves from things like miracles seem to embrace this new religious form.”

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