Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Aliens!

February 24, 2021 • 9:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo cartoon, “smug”, came with the email note, “Jesus is worried about the Mars landing.”  And on the cartoon page itself you can read, “We love it when he does that.” That of course refers to Mo’s theological malleability:

The question may seem funny, but the question of what Christians are to do with aliens has been considered by both theologians and faitheists.  One of the latter, Michael Ruse, discussed this in his book Can A Darwinian be a Christian?  (answer: of course!). I reviewed that book a wee bit critically in the London Review of Books:

Indeed, the book is a splendid example of how a trained academic can extract himself from a philosophical thicket through the relentless chopping of logic. For example, in a chapter on ‘Extraterrestrials’, Ruse wrestles with the implications for Christianity of life having evolved elsewhere in the Universe. Would this life be human-like and blighted with original sin? If so, who would save the fallen aliens? Ruse floats the possibility of an ‘X-Christ’, who could redeem sinners throughout the Universe – an intergalactic Jesus shuttling between planets and suffering successive crucifixions. ‘One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that,’ George Orwell wrote (in a quite different context). ‘No ordinary man could be such a fool.’

Ruse is an atheist, but not so much Guy Consolmagno, the head astronomer of the Vatican Observatory, who is co-author of this book. I took it out of the library but haven’t yet read it, though a quick scan shows that, as expected, it’s rife with accommodationism:

63 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Aliens!

  1. Forgive me, but my cynical side says the answer to question in the (last) book’s title is: “If we think it’ll result in them donating to the collection plate, yes.”

  2. *Snort* Here’s an easy answer; the Bible is the (supposed) history of the descendants of Adam and Eve — nobody else (not even the “other people”, as Tim Zell so brilliantly pointed out). Aliens would not be the descendants of Adam and Eve, so they wouldn’t share in Original Sin, so they wouldn’t need Jesus to die for them. Whatever sins of their own they’ve ever committed, they can straighten out their own salvation themselves.

    –Leslie < Fish

    1. You haven’t left room for the second, third etc volumes of your thesis. This is a major failing. Clearly you are not a professional theologian – there has got to be room for a sequel.
      Unless of course, your sequel is to be a non-sequiteur. That might leave you with a path to salvation (sales figures).

  3. The best you can say is that’s it’s better use of their time then raping children, money laundering, working actively to suppress the rights of women, gays, transgenders and all the other shenanigans these clerical scallywags get up to.

  4. There is a new study arguing that the accreting material forming Venus, Earth, and Mars included a substantial amount of small pebbles rich in water and CO2. So we had water during our very formation, and not by some later bombardment from comets and such. If so, then the Milky Way will be aswarm with rocky, watery planets.

  5. 🎶 “The chances of anything coming from Mars is a million to one” he said.🎶

    I’ve had this in my head all morning. Now I can rest easy knowing even the Martians with their invisible heat rays will be saved. Hallelujah!

    1. Remember to greet them with a rhinovirus-covered blanket, avoid the tripod thingys, and if that doesn’t work put on Slim Whitman’s “Indian Love Call.” That’s how you rest easy. 🙂

      1. Without googling, spread of influenza among North American Indigenous by early European settlers, War of the Worlds and Mars Attacks.

        1. s/influenza/smallpox/
          “Mars Attacks” was pretty much a re-hash of War of The Worlds, so you’re really only running two memes here.

          1. The two films have little to do with each other. True, they are both alien invasions launched from Mars. “Mars Attacks” was way more enjoyable than the “War of the Worlds” movie, IMHO, though the latter had one great scene where an alien machine first rises from underground. That was fantastically done.

        2. The first two were both WotW; rhinovirus refers to Wells’ aliens dying from the common cold.

          I’ll admit that I did not know (re: Aidan) that Mars Attacks was a rehash of it. The movie was so awful and I saw it so long ago literally the only thing I remember about it was that they made the martians’ heads explode by playing a country song. I had to look up which one.

          So maybe it’s all just one meme.

          1. The film “Mars Attacks” is based on a series of trading cards, not on Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. The imagery of the trading cards shows some influence of the 1953 film adaptation of Wells’ novel, but not much relation to the novel itself. (The influence of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” on the trading cards– most of the enemy are giant bugs– is much more evident.) The story is really quite different, too. In the trading cards, a conventional military response proves sufficient, leading to a successful Earth counterattack on Mars. In the novel, the human military is utterly defeated, and the ending is, almost literally, “Thank God for eons of natural selection!”


  6. Years ago I read the book “Wandering Stars,” a collection of Jewish themed sci-fi.One story asked the question, “Can an alien convert to Judaism?” The argument revolved around the point of how you circumcise the alien if it has no foreskin/penis.

      1. Exactly. One rabbi or mohel I heard said that the story was that God made human bodies perfect…except he deliberately put the make foreskin on as a point of imperfection to be corrected by circumcision. So the aliens should be good.

      2. Was the foreskin not some kind of offering sealing a convenant? With my completely amateurish approach, I’d say: no foreskin no convenant. But then the ways of our Lord are kinda fickle at best.

    1. I’m not sure how many angels the various theologians get onto the pinhead dance floor over this, but I would be fairly surprised if the population of Jewish parents the world over had never been faced with a male newborn with a developmental abnormality resulting in no foreskin by dint having of no penis. So they’d have had to face the problem already, and could just refer future cases to the precedent.
      That’s leaving out the ~1/1000 newborns with “ambiguous external genitalia”.

        1. I don’t really see how the Fermi Paradox feeds in here. Unless you’re postulating a universal imperative to “stay at home”, which has only failed to happen once, here. Which I frankly don’t believe – it would mark us as unfeasibly exceptional.

            1. Frank Wilcek noted on Sam Harris’ Making Sense that observations we make are inconsistent with what would be expected for a simulation as proposed by Nick Bostrom (Bostrum?).

              I currently favor Wilcek’s arguments, as they emphasize the imperative to know if a proposal is true ir not, though I am intrigued by Bostrom’s arguments.

            2. Surely the simulation could be run by advanced insectiods. Perhaps they want to examine this dangerous but theoretically possible concept of “individuality”, but in a way safe from it affecting their society.
              Hmmm, there’s a SF story in there, struggling to break out and run away on 5 legs (one holding the Idea).

              1. It has a very low probability compared to this universe being a simulation run by advanced humanoids. They might run a few simulations for that purpose. But humans want to be entertained so they might run billions of simulations of humans for that purpose.

          1. Sadly, having read your link I agree. Though I love the way that the author concludes by saying, “Three more Wait But Why mind-benders: How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars – A post I got to work on with Elon Musk and one that reframed my mental picture of the future.”

      1. 🎶 Well I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I have my intergalactic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car…or space ship.

  7. Chillax, Jesus. Maybe those ETs on their ET planets are still having a high old time in their ET Gardens of Eden since the woman did not succumb to the serpent’s temptation to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good ‘n’ Evil.

    And, if not, hey, one Passion oughta be enough for any single manifestation of the one true god. Next time it comes to walking the Via Dolorosa, turn to the Holy Ghost or the Father and tell ’em, “Your turn!”

  8. I like how the notion of the intergalactic Jesus practically falls out of Ruse’s pen, but the serious consideration that it would be the other way around – that WE are the ones to be subsumed in an alien religion – is the furthest thing from the mind.

  9. This discussion reminds me of a single stanza of the Polish song “Łatwopalni” –
    “A my, tak łatwopalni
    Biegniemy w ogień
    By mocniej żyć.
    A my, tak łatwopalni
    Tak śmiesznie mali (albo marni)
    Dosłowni zbyt.

  10. Brings to mind the SF novel “A Case of Conscience” by James Blish.

    A Case of Conscience is a science fiction novel by American writer James Blish, first published in 1958. It is the story of a Jesuit who investigates an alien race that has no religion yet has a perfect, innate sense of morality, a situation which conflicts with Catholic teaching.

    And it turns out that out friend Guy Consolmagno, S.J., the director of the Vatican Observatory, has reviewed it in less than glowing terms with the usual whiney you didn’t read every book ever written about theology so how dare you.

    The priest in the novel is reading “an extremely convoluted and difficult novel which readers are told has been put on the Index because of the moral ambiguity which is at its heart. The book, which readers only later learn is James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, involves a series of incredibly confusing moral issues, or cases of conscience.”

      1. … and this:
        The Sparrow (1996) is the first novel by author Mary Doria Russell. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award,

        I found this book at the time unsettling and to this day I don’t know why.

        Again from Wikipedia,
         “Russell subtly raises concerns about the ways in which sophisticated cultures tell themselves cover stories in order to justify actions taken at a terrible cost to others”

    1. My favourite in the Aliens meet Christians category is Harry Harrison’s short story The Streets of Ashkelon. In which an intelligent amphibian race is visited by a young Christian missionary eager to spread the Word of God – opposed by the other human on the planet, a crusty old spacefarer.

      The aliens listen carefully, and take in all the sermons. In their desire to be saved they take things a bit too literally, and crucify the missionary. In sorting out the mess with the crusty spacefarer they realise that not only will they not be saved, they are now murderers. So they get the Catholic guilt alright, but not the absolution…

    2. Numerous studies have now confirmed that the members of some social species, such as wolves, have an innate sense of “fairness” and “equity.” Example:

      “Wolves and Dogs Both Have a Sense of Fairness” [Smithsonian Magazine]

      This has been shown in other species as well such as monkeys and apes.

      This makes evolutionary sense as such species depend on cooperation, reciprocity, etc. for their survival regardless of what the Catholic Church says.

    1. I have a couple of his books, his style is distinctive, I could always recognise that he was the artist when I saw his work on the cover of a SF book.

  11. As someone once jokingly noted that people who read Bibles literally and laugh at the theory that Jesus was some alien (out of this world) find themselves in the position of J.R.R Tolkien fans who laugh at fans of S. Lem or Philip K. Dick .(to think about in total)

    Could such information (about Jesus’ extraterrestrial origins) destroy someone’s worldview? (Assuming people get the facts to support the theory)

    Certainly not the worldview of atheists or deists (like my humble person)

    1. According to Philip José Farmer in his short story J.C. on the Dude Ranch, Jesus is a peculiarly endowed alien, albeit humanoid in nature.

      1. I haven’t read.
        Jesus birthday problems for fans, s-f is a clue (theoretically and hypothetically)
        “Immaculate Conception” etc.
        It would follow that Jesus was obviously a human with improvements.

        Of course, from the point of view of a s-f fan, not science.
        There is no telepathy or telekinesis, people cannot walk on water, levitate, or fly like Superman . But if they could, for the s-f writer, it would be good material to discuss the actualization of Jesus.(update)

        I will not write more, because I will be kicked out by the forum leader because of writing the s-f theory on a serious scientific forum.

  12. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five or at least the opening passage gives apologists an explanation. Aliens don’t have free will. So they don’t need salvation.

    See literature can give us a way of knowing these things.

  13. If every intelligent species created ‘falls’ and requires salvation, what does that say about the skill of the creator?

    1. That the system that humans function is based on science, not magic, and that errors accumulate in every system.

      The rest are the consequences of free will (changes that we do not have to accept). I do not understand the term “salvation” well, but I think it is about saving life and soul and the so-called Life without death.
      It goes beyond human abilities and skills.

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