Aliens may someday take the place of the gods in the human collective consciousness. At least, that’s according to new research presented by Dr. Diana Pasulka at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Pasulka conducted a six-year study in which she travelled around the country speaking with scientists, Silicon Valley tech gurus, professionals, entrepreneurs, and other Very Important People who admit to believing in extraterrestrial intelligence. Pasulka’s study reveals that not only is belief in extraterrestrial intelligence widespread and found in nearly all strata of society, but it has also approached levels rivaling modern rates of belief in deities.
According to a recent presentation Pasulka gave under the title The Incarnational Technological Self: The Case of the Crashed UFO Artifact, this widespread belief in aliens stems from a variety of cultural factors and scientific endeavors:
Widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiquity in modern media like The X-Files, which can influence memory, and the realist effect produced by the search for planets that might support life, as well as alleged alien artifacts that have recently made news in outlets such as the New York Times.
In her new book American Cosmic, Pasulka claims that science fiction and other pop culture texts have become a means of answering questions formerly answered by religion. Through her research, Pasulka found that more than half of U.S. adults and more than 75% of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. Compare that to recent surveys by the Pew Research Center which have found that only around 68% of Americans are absolutely certain in their belief in God, and it’s clear to see that something is happening here. But we don’t know what it is yet, do we?
It makes total sense that advanced extraterrestrial aliens could take the place of gods in our mythologies. The similarities are many: both are omniscient beings who (mostly) live in the cosmic heavens and who are capable of near-magical abilities. Couple those with the mounting evidence that life likely began in space, and it’s safe to say that perhaps Scientology is only the beginning of what could be a wave of new religions which venerate alien beings as opposed to flying spaghetti monsters. Any potential discoveries of alien life will certainly lead to the creation of alien-worshipping religions, an idea which pops up in science fiction regularly. Is Earth ready for discovery, or will it lead to renewed clashes between and among the religious?