This paper, then entitled, “Religion and Ancient Astronauts,” was read at the 2nd World Conference on Ancient Astronauts in Zurich, Switzerland on May 30, 1975 at the Hotel Holiday-Inn/Moevenpick under the auspices of the Ancient Astronaut Society. I’ve taken the liberty of minor editing and additions.
Organized proselytizing theistic religions have had a tenacious grip on the emotion and the mind of man for as long as he feared the dark and as long as there have been high priests eager to act as God’s representatives, dispensing truth and hope to the credulous among us. There is no ultimate law, verifiable and supportable by data, which demands the existence of a god, a heaven, a hell, a purgatory, a hereafter, sin, evil, and all the other trappings of Earthly theistic religions. This is the case even if our yet-to-be-discovered ancient astronauts, themselves, brought religions of their own to our earth.
In attempting to extrapolate what changes will occur in our religions, we must assume that extra-terrestrial intelligence has visited (or is visiting) Earth. We must suppose, also, as Von Daniken has suggested, that it is not merely religion for which we may be indebted to them. They must have planted the seeds not only of their culture, their social structure, and various other concepts, but also of our very physiological characteristics. We have no reason to assume, however, that extra-terrestrial intelligences would not possess such weaknesses, thirst for power, and greed as found in man. Certainly a literal interpretation of the great religious books of man seems to bear this out. It may be that we acquired some of these very traits from them. We should, therefore, attempt in our research, to determine not only whether there is any kind of evidence to give us knowledge about their socio-cultural environment and physical characteristics.
We dare not ignore the exploratory achievements of Von Daniken and others like him. Nor must we ignore the socio-anthropological inclinations of primitive and scientifically ignorant people to stand in awe of what they do not understand – for which reason fear or instant worship evolves. Such a case is the worship of John Frum by the natives on the Island of Tanna in New Guinea as reported in the May 1974 National Geographic Magazine. The degree, to which such instant worship occurs, it would appear, is proportional to the degree of understanding and awe. The origin of such instant worship certainly lends considerable credence to Von Daniken’s thesis regarding the origin of our terrestrial religions.
Much is said about advancements and sophistications of contemporary religions. Yet, if we talk to the average man, we find he has little knowledge of these so-called advances in cultural and socio-religious concepts. He still retains the anthropomorphic whimsies that we have inherited from bygone ages. It is clear that there is a lessening intensity of belief. But, anthropomorphism tenaciously lingers in the minds of over half the people on this world. Our literature is replete with references to the subliminal drives that confuse fact with fancy. And as long ago as Epicurus, a Greek philosopher born on the island of Samos in the forth century BC, the wisdom of believing in an anthropomorphic deity was devastatingly brought into doubt when he questioned God’s willingness or ability to prevent evil.
Then He is impotent.
Is He able, but not willing?
Then He is malevolent.
Is He both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing?
Then why call Him Deity?
But Epicurus was equally devastatingly ignored by the masses of Earth’s people. Theological arguments of every degree of simplicity and complexity were used to undermine his famous argument. Generally the theologians’ answers ranged from “God wanted to create us as free agents,” to “There is no questioning His wisdom. To say the least, a god who would create us capable of questioning his wisdom and would deny us recourse to it to cure the evils his omnipotence has made possible – such a god must be viewed either as a paradigm of sadism or, to be more generous, as a practical joker.
Where philosophers have been slow to disabuse us of such fanciful concepts, perhaps Van Daniken and others will more rapidly succeed through pragmatic, empirical, and scientific approaches. When it is discovered that the concept of ancient astronauts is not a fad and will not disappear, opposition will unmistakably appear.
If we wish to meet that opposition, we must first remind ourselves of its age-old strategies and modus operandi. Simply put, the technique will be one of infiltration, as in politics, absorption, as with the theory of evolution and the inculcating of dependence. In respect to this, few men rise above their sense of helplessness if it has been conditioned early in life.
This sense of helplessness is assuaged by blind faith in a supernatural source of benevolence. Such comfort is encouraged and perpetuated by our religiously oriented society. Independence and self-confidence are mouthed on the one hand while dependence on transcendental help is indoctrinated on the other. Furthermore, by guaranteeing man his longed-for immortality, it is an easy step to capturing his mind. Since his beliefs affect his actions, there is a need to replace blind faith in authority with warranted beliefs.
The concept of an anthropomorphic God is long obsolete. The evolution of man’s concepts of God has run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime; from one-eyed frogs to a transcendental god affecting but unaffected by the laws of the universe.
Religion is paying the price because its god, in all his anthropomorphic trappings has never lived up to and cannot live up to the demands of his creator – man, even if “God” is an ancient astronaut. When man finally decides to strip his god of anthropomorphic regalia or do away with him entirely, then will religion become a viable institution able to fulfill the spiritual and emotional needs of human beings.
But we must not underestimate the resourcefulness of our theologians. They have done well for over 2,000 years, helped, of course, by our, as William James might put it, “Will To Believe.” And their institutions are pregnant with experts adept at giving religious interpretations of natural events. No human endeavor from education to philosophy to science to government has yet been able to withstand the force of their methods, wealth, and influence. We would be naïve to assume that the thesis of Ancient Astronauts as the source of our religions will fare any better if we do not man the watchtowers.
Our theologians have developed a backlog of what must by now be physiologically ingrained syndromes – cerebral molecular data banks. Having implanted their dogmas in subtle and elaborate conditioning processes, for over 2,000 years, they then proceed in Kantian, Jungian, or Chomskian fashion to insist that such ideas are innate. Having made this claim, they now beckon us to accept the validity of God. “How else,” they ask, in Anselmian fashion, “are we to explain the presence of these intuitive, God concepts?”
It is not probable, given the educational deficiencies of our schooling systems in refusing to examine our abuses of language, that human beings with their deeply ingrained childhood fears and their undeveloped rational capacity will ever be able to unravel the religious contradictions that permeate their view of the world. Furthermore encouraged by the religious establishment, and ignoring Von Daniken’s admonition to doubt medieval interpretations of the Bible, the Mahabbarata, the Koran, and the like, they will fight to withstand the onslaught of compelling evidence to the contrary.
The instruments through which theism has held and expanded its powers include every emotional appeal from fear to art to colorful flowing robes and particularly the power and moral support that comes from comradery born from and borne by common belief. Without such aesthetic or poetic appeals and social relationships there is reason to doubt theism’s ability to survive. Theistic religion appeals to the irrational. Its chief instrument is indoctrination; i.e., conditioning young minds. Parents and society are willing con-workers. We are persuaded to accept vacuous terms and empty concepts as referring to reality. The most compelling reward, regardless of the cruelties, the suffering, the retardation of rational thought, is guaranteed ascendancy to eternal life in God’s heaven for the mere price of true, however blind, belief.
Men with the power, the wealth, and wherewithal to disseminate the so-called “truths” of mythical and legendary figures have succeeded in making their ideas appealing. Such men stir deep psychological desires for an eternal panacea and are expert at manipulating the minds, the emotions, and the spiritual and transcendental aspirations of man.
Few of us have learned to live with uncertainty. It inhibits affirmative action, destroys our will to achieve anything at all – faced, as we are, with the transitoriness of life. Theistic religion, however teaches us the contrary – that this life is only preparation for an eternal one.
This constitutes the subtle technique of behavior modification and changes our natural course of thought and action, hence the missionary zeal that has so successfully molded defenseless minds.
In this way, irrational men offer supernatural explanations of events that they, themselves, may not comprehend. Because of our well-conditioned need to believe, and because of our ignorance about the complexities of what constitutes language, truth, and knowledge, the misuse of language by these irrational men gives us the illusions of understanding and truth. Such illusions remain the facts of our minds even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. These human tendencies to illusions of understanding are the forces with which our evidence must compete even if eventually we win the complete confidence of the scientific community.
Bertrand Russell once said of all religious authorities: “Those experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth. Like any other privileged caste, they use their power to enhance their vested interests.”
Soon religionists will invade the realm of Ancient Astronauts seeking to prove that they, too, had religion. Considering the pervasive influence organized religion has had on the mind of man, it is time to demonstrate that supernatural truths are not truths at all and that we must begin to look for what life on Earth has to offer.
The Latin word, “religio,” originally meant to “bind,” “to band together.” It is perhaps for this reason that not only have the socially recognized institutions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism been called religion but so also have social, cultural, and secular groups; viz., atheism, science, ethics, communism, etc.
In each of these cases, religion so defined, instills personal and social values. In some cases, these values are considered transcendental and in others pragmatic and social. Many people consider transcendental sources of value to be products of superstition, myth, and ignorance. They result from pre-scientific modes of thought originating in fear of darkness, the unknown, and the inexplicable. But because they were introduced in an aura of religious authority, they are accepted as values emanating from God.
These values, as well as so-called religious truths, were born out of pre-scientific ignorance. Freighted with religious association, they have by no means flourished in a rational environment, the necessary condition to an open-minded and rational social structure. Such an environment, had it existed, could have nurtured acceptance of ethical values without the confusions of conflicting supernaturalisms. Such religious fantasies of the successes of our present scientific culture and disenchantment with religion because of its failure bring a parallel effect upon values.
It is perhaps for this reason that religion has been slowly on the decline and on the defensive for many years. At one time only two percent of the world population did not believe in a god. Today at least 20 percent does not. This decline and defensiveness has been brought about, partly and perhaps particularly by the exponential advance of scientific and otherwise verifiable data.
The contribution of The Ancient Astronaut Society, too, will no longer be able to be ignored. But, coupled with the evidence of this decline and with the recognition that theistic religion has not purified the world is religion’s culpability for a large share of the world’s suffering.
However, it is not the destruction of religion that is to be sought. Rather what is sought is its humanization and revitalization. It must become a source of love, dignity, and morality in fact, rather than merely in principle. It must cease to be a force for developing closed minds, and incapacity to recognize blind, unreasoned acceptance that becomes the catalytic agent for prejudice and bigotry. It must, also, become a unifying force that will erase from the world the evil, the suffering, the fear, and divisiveness that it has fostered.
In no way can these ills validly be charged to the unbeliever.
On the one hand, it will be claimed that extra-terrestrial beings, too, believe in God. We can, therefore, expect an intense growth and resurgence first in religious research to interpret the facts accordingly, then in a tremendous outpouring of theistic propaganda and finally in an immense growth in the religious population. On the other hand, if extra-terrestrial beings have religions radically different from ours, our institutional religions will suffer immeasurably and will greatly decrease. We are already so over-burdened with diversities of religions that even to say “there’s always room for one more,” could very well be “the last straw” particularly if the visiting intelligence is far superior to us.
But the issue, here, is not extraterrestrial astronauts but, rather ancient astronauts. There are two determining factors influencing our beliefs. The first is the distance from which they came. Certainly we will no longer believe that we are God’s chosen or that we are the sole arbiters and the image of His nature and existence. But our theologians are expert dogmatists and can make phrases like “faith is the highest form of reason” seem believable to those uninitiated in the intangibles and complexities of language. The second is the appearance of our ancient astronauts. If they are radically different in any form, intelligence, morality, etc., these will not constitute a bar to fertile religious minds.
We would be justified, however, in believing that a more advanced and scientifically inclined intelligence would be less prone to accept the contradictions, and ambiguities of theistic religion.
Furthermore, our ancient astronauts may not be representative of the beliefs held by the society from which they came. This, of course, would be of no import to our theologians. Religious authorities are in a superior position to disseminate their interpretations of ancient astronauts to the religiously oriented society awaiting word from the pulpits and the religious presses of the world. But a countervailing force would be at work. The media would be disseminating information also – some objective, some conjectural. Consequently, the conflict that had inflamed the relationship between science and religion for decades past will be rekindled in greater force. But concomitantly, the dust spores will give birth to new offspring of an entirely different character.
History records religion’s writhing adjustments to new incontrovertible facts and social forces. Religion maintains its balance by re-interpreting those facts in its own best light. For instance, the advent of Darwin led some to acceptance of evolution as “God’s way.” Such tergiversations resolve (or emerge if you prefer) into a more secularized functioning stance with religion now attending more to mundane and pragmatic matters such as abortion, population, welfare, material wealth, politics, etc., than to preparation for the hereafter. This in not to say that appeal to fear of eternal punishment is not still resorted to. But it is well on the wane, as are the classical religious expressions of fire and brimstone. Even our TV sermons at the end of each day turn mainly to understanding of human relations giving lip service to the old religious and metaphysical expressions. These latter are usually reserved for revival meetings and spectacular TV assemblages with the indoctrinated bussed in to hear emotional phrases and “tried and true” Biblical expressions carefully excerpted to depict God as eternally omnibeneficent.
Proof positive that Ancient Astronauts did visit Earth will probably seriously diminish the need to worship. This is the crack in the wall that cannot be repaired. For religion without worship is not the theistic religion of the Bible. If religion loses its power to instill awe and worship, it is doomed. Already, the ground is fertile. There is little doubt that the success of Von Daniken’s findings is due to his expert research, his literary distribution, and to the effects science has had on the world. It is due, also, to a general disenchantment with the supernatural. The world appears to be making a choice between two imponderables and seems to be opting for what is possible in terms of the scientific principles it has come to respect. Through science we have been prepared to question, to examine, and to analyze. We have seen religious authorities publicly disagree over religious matters. Whatever other effects have ensued from such public display of gentlemanly religious disagreement, loss of worship has been the price they’ve had to pay. It is loss of instant worship that permits new ideas to wedge and pry.
The idea of extra-terrestrial intelligence is just such an idea whose time has come.
Witness the sub-heading of an article in the May 1975 issue of Scientific American: “There can be little doubt that civilizations more advanced than the earth’s exist elsewhere in the universe. The probabilities involved in locating one of them call for a substantial effort.” It is such a significant idea that transcendental religious concepts will be compelled to give way to secular religions.
It will burst the dam of transcendental religious concepts that has held in check the wide spread secular religious values that rarely been given their due – i.e., cultural, ethical, and social expressions of man’s spirit, altruism, good, dignity, potential for greatness, etc.
If the extraterrestrials were to bring their own religions with them, there would be three forces at work here on Earth: 1) a reinforcement of the value and declared validity of religion; i.e., elements common to those in Earth’s religions would be sought; 2) a further dilution of Earth’s religions would follow; 3) an absorption of the religious values of ancient astronauts into our religions would be unavoidable.
If it were verified that ancient astronauts did come to Earth and that they are our Gods, religion on Earth would suffer immeasurably. The values of those conditioned to the need for a God would deteriorate. Social disorder would be on the upswing because no educative process has yet been devised to fill what would then become the religious vacuum.
What would be the psychological ramifications of people having verified for them that God never existed? The psycho-historical background is too physiologically ingrained to dispel religious urgings. Reason will conflict with emotional and conceptual needs. But only a diminution or cessation of religious propaganda will permit new data to take hold. Therefore, the religious institutions, in order to retain their domains of power and influence, will counter scientific data with an outpouring of religious propaganda, grasping every half-truth as the nucleus for other dogma.
Man has proved his mettle in the history of the world and will surmount sure knowledge that his gods were only extraterrestrial, finite beings. He will begin to look to himself to trust his own inner resources. In gaining insight into them, he will develop his self-confidence and sense of his own worth and independent ability to achieve without recourse to mystical, miraculous, or illusory powers. No longer subject to the illusion of religious understanding and of the consoling subconscious urges to wish-fulfillments, he may at last give in to the urge to fulfill his self-growth. He will then truly understand the meaning of, “God helps those who help themselves.” In this case the converse necessarily follows that those who don’t help themselves, though they may get help from other fellow human beings, most probably will not get help from an Ancient Astronaut – not soon at any rate.
Man will grow to his full stature once released from the hypnotic force of hypostatized theistic succor, i.e., those who have been released will. Contemporary knowledge (scientific or otherwise), heretofore by-passed for love of God and religion, would now be their only recourse if they are to fill the vacuum left by the recognition of the truth about their gods. This, in contrast to the promises of religion, can be fulfilled.
The seeds of sound reasoning and the compelling arguments against the existence of an anthropomorphic God have been well planted in the fertile ground of contemporary life. It is only the constant cultivating of theistic conceptual weeds that stunts their growth. Pull out the weeds and the seeds of reason and scientific knowledge will flourish. Man will finally come into his own with an understanding of his spirit, potential, and dignity.