Sunday, October 28, 2012

Angels and Aliens

As a Christian science fiction writer, perhaps it's no surprise that I'm interested in both angels and aliens as topics for stories. What I do find surprising is that some people don’t believe there is any difference between the two. 

Such angel = alien correlation has a variety of forms:

American Astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out in 1995 that stories of alien encounters here on Earth resemble stories of demonic capture of earlier times—or of the appearance of angels, or fairy creatures, or gods or demi-gods of even earlier times. Sagan believed that intelligent extraterrestrial life likely exists because he was persuaded evolution most certainly would not have produced life only on Earth—yet he denied that aliens would actually come to Earth and would clandestinely visit and/or abduct people (he was convinced if aliens had come all this way, they surely would have announced themselves). For him, the fact that these kinds of appearances have always existed demonstrated that this is a phenomenon that springs forth from the human psyche rather than what aliens do or do not do. For him, at least one kind of alien, the kind who are supposedly visiting Earth right nowand angelsconsist of the exact same thing, pure neurotic human imagination.

Also surprisingly to me, the atheist Sagan is quoted by an Evangelical Christian website to show evidence for a belief that Sagan would never have agreed to. The creators of the site would concur with the Biblical concept that God has created creatures that serve Him in the spiritual realm—angels—some of whom rebelled against Him and are now called demons. For the creators of the website, Alien visitors to Earth are real but are actually demons. For them, the fact the phenomenon of human beings having reported bizarre encounters with strange beings throughout history demonstrates that the demons are real and have been active for a long time—but now disguise themselves as “aliens” or are mistakenly reported as such. In looking up background information for this post, I stumbled onto an entire sub-culture of Christians concerned about demons posing as aliens. If you’re curious about what they have to say for themselves, I found an interesting place to look around.

By the way, I don’t claim to know what the reality is behind stories of alien encounters and abductions. I’m inclined to agree with Sagan that if an alien species were to travel all this way (which is not at all an easy to do according to the best human understanding of the science of interstellar travel), it would not likely content itself with random captures of lost truck drivers and lonely housewives in remote areas…but I in fact don’t know what aliens would do in reality. One of the prime characteristics they are supposed to have is to be different from human beings—perhaps that means they would do strange things we would not do ourselves. I also in fact believe there are fallen angels operating in the spiritual realm—and I further believe there’s such a thing as human imagination and hysterical hallucination (not to mention hoaxes). Which of these is responsible for the alien abduction phenomenon? I don’t know, but it seems at least possible to me that there may be multiple causes...

As far as the correlation between angels and aliens are concerned, there’s another point of view worth mentioning: the “ancient alien” perspective, the notion that aliens came to Earth in ancient times and were mistaken for spiritual beings. So when the Bible talks about heavenly creatures, these creatures “really” were aliens. Barry Downing in 1968 wrote The Bible and Flying Saucers  in which he laid out this idea. He also claimed, by the way, that Jesus was an extraterrestrial, eventually called up to “heaven” by a UFO…It’s interesting to me that Biblical narratives are supposed to accurately capture what aliens look like (as the description given in Ezekiel 1 would be taken as accurate), but then when these supposed aliens land, everything they talk about concerning, say, the morality and religious practice of ancient Israel either 1) Would not make a lot of sense coming from aliens, 2) Is contradictorily taken as being an inaccurate representation of what really happened. Yeah, I’m definitely not in agreement with this particular concept…

But note the variations among the notions that hold aliens and angels to be the same: 1) Both are imaginary 2) Both are spiritual 3) Both are extraterrestrial. I think all three ideas, while interesting, are wrong.
I believe in the reality of the spiritual realm and accept the Biblical descriptions of angels, as far as they go (there are actually quite a lot of details about angels the Bible never addresses). Aliens, life existing on other planets in our physical universe, would not be the same thing as angels (duh). I think Aliens may or may not exist (for an original idea of mine on this topic, please see a previous post for ideas relating to the Biblical seraphim) but I believe it’s possible they do; I have Christian friends who would disagree that aliens can exist—perhaps I will address their objections in some future post...but I want to make it plain I hold that any alien life would be created by God as much as life on Earth has been created by Him.

Having clarified that, what story ideas can the commonplace confusion between aliens and angels offer a writer? Well, I think playing up similarities between the two would be inherently interesting. In fact, in the  Avenir Eclectia story anthology I contributed to, you would see exactly that. In that story universe, a certain set of intelligent undersea aliens with telepathic abilities are called "angels" by the people of the world Eclectia and their sinister cousins are called "demons." Grace Bridges wasn't equating aliens and angels in the world of AE she created, but rather playing with perceived similarities to create an unusual story situation in which the differences between the two things are blurred in people's minds. I found this very interesting, which is why I wrote a number of tales featuring an "angel" for AE. There are even story arcs I didn't write that mention human beings worshipping the-aliens-partially-confused-with-angels. Which I think would realistically happen—and it would be interesting to see the effects on human beings...

Another potential story idea could create alien races that like us have accounts of a creator God and a fall into sin and a redemption...and also of heavenly beings that serve God but resemble the aliens, literally "alien angels." What would these look like? And if you put them into a story from a point of view that takes faith in God seriously, would these angels be the same set of angels that on occasion interact with human beings, just "in different clothing"? Or could it be that the one creator God would retain a whole entirely different set of heavenly beings for this other purpose—who are not mentioned in the Bible because we humans don't "need to know" about them. If so, what would the relationships be like between angels we know of and the alien angels?

Wouldn't it be interesting if some sort of alien angelor alien rather like an angel—resembled something we think of as evil but was not evil? So imagine one that resembled dragons...or (entirely innocently) one that had cloven hoofs and horms...


1 comment:

  1. Did you read Jeff Gerke's UFO's and the Christian Worldview. Interesting and along the lines of what you've written here.