Sunday, January 23, 2022

Scanners Set To Discernment: Examples Of UFO Religions

 To most Americans, the idea of beings from beyond this world does not at the moment impact their lives to any appreciable degree. Usually to most people the consideration of the topic is more akin to a transient pondering that may creep intermittently into their minds from time to time. Sadly, in that way then, such entities are a bit like God to many who are, for the most part, self-sufficient in their own hearts and existentially content. However, it is because of this philosophical complacency that the idea of powers from beyond the terrestrial sphere becomes such a danger in terms of worldview since the hearts of so many are open to persuasion and influence.

Though they are at present considered to be outside the mainstream of contemporary thought and convention, there are a number of sociological cults, theological sects, and religious organizations that embrace what our culture categorizes as UFO’s or extraterrestrials as the pivotal elements of their respective belief systems. It might be asked that, if these groups and their adherents are for the most part found along the fringes of acceptability, then why ought Christians take the time to acquaint themselves with these outlooks when the church finds itself confronted by a staggering number of other spiritual challenges?

The simplest response as to why the Christian should acquaint themselves with the rudiments of UFO religions is that Christ died for these people as well. II Peter 3:9 assures that the Lord is not willing that any should perish. In I Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes that "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." These verses indicate that believers need an apologetic for these people as well as they do for more conventional styles of unbelief such as evolution or the New Age. After further study, one will likely discover a degree of philosophical overlap with these more widely known systems of thought that often serve as intellectual tributaries introducing many to worldviews embracing extraterrestrials.

There are also reasons of a more practical nature as to why the Evangelical Christian needs to have a basic grasp regarding a number of these seemingly bizarre groups. Admittedly, the most enthusiastic adherents of these kinds of ideas regarding extraterrestrials may not rank among the most conventionally gregarious of people that come to mind. Often comedians such as Jay Leno make jokes deriding the social skills of science fiction fans a regular feature of standup routines. However, members of these groups often posses a zeal for what they believe comparable to career missionaries or professional clergy in more establishmentarian religions.

World history teaches that the obscure sects of one era can become the major religions later on down the flow of time. For example, Christianity was in its early days in the time of the Roman Empire considered a minor cult within Judaism and Buddhism began as one troubled Hindu's quest to find true enlightenment. Thus, if for no other reason, the Christian needs to be aware of the basics of UFO-based systems of belief in order to protect the church against infiltration by these doctrines and to prevent loved ones from being lured into what could very well be part of the strong delusion spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:11.

Perhaps the most prominent example of a group drawing its spirituality from UFO's and extraterrestrials was the Heaven's Gate cult. This particular group earned a place in infamy when, on March 26, 1997, thirty-nine members committed mass ritualistic suicide. Though this act is not necessarily the outcome that will befall all of those embracing ideas about UFO’s, it does serve as a warning as to how seriously some of the most enthusiastic are willing to take their beliefs. For it was a belief in UFO’s that prompted the group to end their lives together.

Heaven’s Gate was founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles. The two met when Nettles served as Applewhite’s nurse during a hospitalization for a heart blockage in 1975. A relationship blossomed around a shared interest in the occult. Nettles ultimately abandoned her family to devote herself full time to these pursuits that would take on a fanatic missionary fervor.

Nettles and Applewhite were not simply interested in UFO’s from the standpoint of an aerial phenomena or even as a scientific curiosity pointing to the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Richard Abanes writes in End Time Visions: The Doomsday Obsession, “They came to believe that they were each possessed by a space being from The Evolutionary Level Above Human [T.E.L.A.H] (33).” Applewhite claimed he had been possessed by the entity inhabiting Jesus. Nettles claimed that the being humanity referred to as God the Father resided within her. The two were not satisfied simply with the knowledge that they had been selected to host such august cosmic personages. The duo wanted to spread their "revised gospel" to the world.

The message advocated by Applehwite and Nettles, who would pop up from time to time under a number of aliases such as "Bo" and "Peep" or "Nincom" and "Poop", could be described as a kind of futuristic Gnosticism. It was expected that their most devoted followers were to give up nearly every aspect of their individual human natures including names, family relations, gender identity, and sexual impulses even within the context of marriage for the chance of being deemed worthy of a place aboard the spaceship that would elevate them above mundane existence to the Kingdom of God (Abanes, End Time, 33). But whereas to many such notions end up being idol and fashionable philosophizing often in the attempt to look cool in the pursuit of picking up the opposite sex or climbing the corporate ladder, Applewhite’s disciples would take their beliefs to a shocking level.

The technognostics of the Heaven’s Gate sect believed all trappings of the physical needed to be eliminated before the essential inner self could be deemed worthy of the Next Level. In pursuit of this objective, six male members of the group (including Applewhite) castrated themselves in order to free their flesh from sexual desires. Female acolytes were required to downplay their feminine characteristics by cutting their hair. And of course, members were drilled in the importance of submitting nearly every single thought to cross their minds to the leadership of the group, referred to reverently as the “Older Members” (Abanes, End Time, 35).

If not for an otherwise wondrous event, the Heaven’s Gate group would have likely remained just one of those idiosyncrasies jotting the California intellectual landscape. They would have otherwise likely never gained all that much attention beyond the notice of specialized religious scholars and UFO enthusiasts. But towards the end of 1996, the Hale-Bopp Comet began drawing in the direction of Earth.

When astronomers had to adjust their trajectory for this celestial body, a number of zealous ufologists began circulating the idea that this course alteration had been carried out by extraterrestrial intelligences in order to conceal their spacecraft flying close behind the comet as it made its way around the solar system. Such enthusiasm erupted that the amateur astronomer taking a photograph of an object behind the comet (ultimately believed to be the star SAO141894 by more dispassionate researchers) debated his findings on Coast To Coast (a national radio program focusing on paranormal esoterica) that a UFO had been discovered with the comet’s co-discoverer Alan Hale. For his troubles, Hale was denounced in an Internet smear campaign claiming he was part of a government conspiracy for failing to embrace the extraterrestrial hypothesis (Abanes, End Times, 40).

The leadership of Heaven's Gate picked up on this unfolding controversy. At last, Applewhite concluded, a craft was arriving to whisk the initiated away from the calamity about to commence and upward into expanding levels of enlightenment. The thing was, though, the group believed that the physical body was an inherently corrupt distraction that had to be discarded before this great journey or transmigration could be undertaken. Since the comet (or rather the craft using this interplanetary wanderer as a disguise) was not going to wait around and allow each of the members to saunter aboard at the end of a natural course of life, the adherents of this belief acted preemptively by taking their own lives. On the scene, police found thirty-nine people wearing the same black uniform, draped in a purple shroud, laying in bed with their hands at their sides (Abanes, End Time, 32).

Granted, the Heaven’s Gate sect represents the most extreme example of a UFO cult. Most such groups, though just as dangerous to the eternal well being of an individual’s soul, would much rather keep their followers alive if for no other reason than the continued propagation of the group and to get as much as possible out of the adherents in terms of either finances or contributed labor. In an age of tolerance and diversity where one can face the loss of a job or even jail time in certain countries for expressing anything less than glowing approval regarding the motivations of the proponents of certain minority viewpoints, it can take courage to point out that some have not so much gotten aboard the UFO phenomena out of a sense of philosophical sincerity but rather as a way to turn a quick buck or two. Foremost among the examples of such that quickly come to mind is none other than Scientology.

Most Americans passingly familiar with Hollywood celebrity culture have at least heard of Scientology because of that movement's association with household names such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The movement has achieved a degree of popularity in entertainment circles as a technique whereby these often troubled souls hope to gain a degree of control over their mental and emotional lives. However, once an individual gets involved with the group, they might find out too late that they have gotten involved with something that will not so much assist them in keeping them grounded in reality but may actually result in them losing their grip on it by ushering them into a fantasy realm surpassing an effects-laden summer blockbuster.

Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a pulp magazine and science fiction author, so skilled at his craft that, even to those critical of him, it can be a challenge to decipher where the facts about him end and the imaginative yarns begin. If nothing else, one could not question this particular writer’s sense of self. According to Richard Abanes in Religions Of The Stars: What Hollywood Believes & How It Affects You, to his supporters, Hubbard is nothing short of “the single most influential author and humanitarian of the modern age” whose works are “the definitive statement on the human mind and spirit (100).” Yet others dismiss him as little more than a creative charlatan.

Trying to decipher who exactly L. Ron Hubbard was beyond a prolific weaver of tales could be an undertaking with all of the mystery and intrigue equal to a big-budget Hollywood thriller. According to J. William Smit in The Seductive Power Of The New Age: Where Do We Draw The Line, L. Ron Hubbard, who spent his early years on his grandfather's Montana cattle ranch, was noted for his love of adventure from an early age as epitomized by his involvement in scouting and blood brother membership in the Blackfoot Nation (43). However, whether that thirst translated into heroic physical exploits or simply imaginative feats of the mind would be another matter entirely. For example, despite claims of acts of valor in World War II such as fleeing imprisonment from the island of Java on little more than a raft, sinking two submarines off the coast of Oregon, and sustaining a partial loss of eyesight, no definitive record of these adventures exist anywhere in the archives of the U.S. Navy (Abanes, Religion, 102). If anything, what records do exist seem to paint him, to use highly technical language, as something of a screw up that would put Gomer Pyle in the league of first rate military greats such as Hannibal and General Patton.

According to Richard Abanes in Religion Of The Stars, Hubbard claimed that when he commanded the patrol boat the U.S.S. PC-815 on a supply run to San Diego, he spotted two submarines that led a pursuit resulting in the release of depth charges. Navy investigators would later conclude that no such enemy craft were in the vicinity despite the considerable excitement (103). However, that would not be the conclusion of Hubbard’s bumbling aquatic escapades. Soon after the encounter with the phantom u-boats, Hubbard unwittingly dropped anchor in Mexican waters where he proceeded to conduct live fire exercises in close proximity to Mexican nationals. As a result of these actions and in conjunction with a recurrent ulcer, L.Ron Hubbard would not go down in the annals of naval history as the dashing hero he hoped to become (Abanes, Religion Of Stars, 107).

What L. Ron Hubbard lacked in the applied military sciences he more than made up for when it came to applying imaginative and esoteric concepts to the printed page. During the 1930’s, Hubbard’s science fiction, fantasy, and adventure stories earned him a reputation likening him to such authors as H.G. Wells and Edgar Allen Poe (Smitt, 44). However, the modest success such literary undertakings might have brought him would not be enough to satisfy his expansive ego.

In one of his most remembered comments among friends and associates, Hubbard remarked that the real money was not so much in churning out stories for a pittance per word but rather in starting a religion. Left a bit shiftless and morose following the conclusion of the Second World War, Hubbard would begin steps down the path that would free his imagination from being seen as something only fanciful no matter how much it might be appreciated by readers to become something disciples would stake the very well being of their souls upon.

In the mid 1940’s, Hubbard’s interest in occult philosophy that he had had since his teens upon reading the works of infamous Satanist Aliester Crowley was sparked with renewed vigor upon making the acquaintance of Jack Parsons. Through his verbal acumen, Hubbard ingratiated himself to, as described by Richard Abanes in Religions Of The Stars, the "odd mix of Bohemian artists, writers, scientists, and occultists" that had taken up residence in Parson's California domicile (107). This residence turned out to be something of a forerunner to a commune complete with the sex and drugs even if it was a few years early for the rock and roll. The mansion also doubled as the headquarters of a local chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis (an occult society founded by Aliester Crowley). Hubbard's motivations for associating with such a group are open to dispute. Scientologist doctrine would claim that Hubbard infiltrated the sect on behalf of naval intelligence (Smitt, 45). Others, including Hubbard's own son, point out how Hubbard would come to view Crowley as a very good friend and how many of Hubbard's writings borrowed considerably from the infamous occultist.

Even if Hubbard had infiltrated the group to gather information on its activities, the extent to which he was willing to participate to maintain his cover was downright disturbing. In 1946, Parsons and Hubbard undertook a ritual, which was essentially a glorified orgy, where it was hoped that nearly two weeks of ongoing fornication with Marjorie Cameron would impregnate the aspiring actress with the Antichrist as Hubbard and Parsons channeled an entity referred to as "Babalon" (Abanes, Religious, 108). Hubbard absconded a few weeks later with Parsons' girlfriend and ten-thousand swindled dollars.

The sensitive might remark that the aforementioned anecdote was included for no other reason that to titillate in a carnal or sensationalistic manner. It does little to shed light on the subject of extraterrestrial spirituality. However, as this analysis progresses, and in harkening all the way back to the traumatic encounter where the Hills believed they had been violated against their wills, it will be seen that human sexuality and reproduction are central issues of focus in these varied encounters with intelligences from beyond our physical world.

After parting ways with Parsons, Hubbard returned to his literary undertakings. However, following his excursion into the world of intensive occultism, Hubbard’s musings began to turn from adventuresome space opera towards a more openly metaphysical bent. Buzz was afoot that Hubbard was developing a new science of the mind. Enthusiasm for it was not confined to obscure circles of science fiction fandom. In a time when news was less than instantaneous, no less a public figure than Walter Winchell, whom many would consider one of the primary journalistic figures of the mid-20th century on whom Matt Drudge would model his own persona, reported in 1950, “There is something new coming up in April called Dianetics, a new science which works...the physical in the field of the mind. From all estimations, it will prove to be as revolutionary for humanity as the first cavemen’s discovery and utilization of fire (Smitt, 45).”

First introduced in the May 1950 issue of the science fiction magazine Astounding, Dianetics would eventually serve as the path through which many would be introduced to the ideas that would serve as the foundation of Scientology. Dianetics postulated that the mind consisted of the analytical or conscious component and the reactive component consisting of the mental records of everything experienced by the individual that Hubbard referred to as engrams. These held over mental impressions, that we are usually not necessarily aware of, are what lead to human misery and prevent the individual from actualizing their full potential. It was these for a fee, of course, that the organized practitioners of this brand of mind science would assist the maladjusted in releasing so that the person might be made whole or rather “clear”, to use the technical parlance.

So far so good. No one is locked into any particular worldview or religion for agreeing with the assertion that the individual can become bogged down from the traumas and disappointments of the past. However, this near universal truth that draws the initially unsuspecting in through Dianetics’ promise of emotional health and mental vitality is eventually swapped for an entirely different variety of metaphysics as aspiring members move higher up the levels into the Church of Scientology. This was the movement’s more outrightly religious arm established by Hubbard when he ran afoul of business partners and the critical eye of the psycho-medical establishment. Hubbard wanted the wider leeway granted to expressions of religious belief under the First Amendment.

All very interesting, the student of Apologetics might remark. But apart from the fact that Hubbard spent part of his public career as a science fiction author, what does this really have to do with this chapter’s topic of examples of UFO religions they might ask? As one moves up the ranks of Scientology (all for a fee of course), one learns that a number of the engrams wearing down the human psyche, which Scientology’s auditing process claims to expunge, are not necessarily the mental residue left over from the disappointments of childhood or the other let downs we all experience as we travel through life in a fallen world.

According to Scientologist doctrine, the individual at his core is composed of an immaterial spirit body known as a “thetan” which is a manifestation of theta or the ground and source of all life (Smit, 51). Thetans, in turn, created the physical universe as a form of amusement but became so enchanted by their own handiwork that they lost touch with their origins transcending the matter/space/time continuum in which we now find ourselves mired. Since the thetans go through a continual cycle of embodiment and disembodiment, unresolved engrams compile over multiple lifetimes spanning back eons.

The goal of the Scientology auditing process is to reach the level of Operating Thetan. However, once one reaches this threshold where one is on the verge of achieving what can be described as nothing short of super powers such as astral projection (the ability to travel outside of the physical body) and to perceive reality without reliance upon the senses, one learns that there are yet additional levels one must progress through before the individual can truly reach total liberation of consciousness. Foremost among these is where what would be considered extraterrestrials come into play. Not only must we expunge our own emotional shortcomings and disappointments, Scientologist doctrine insists, but each of us has latched onto us any number of disincarnated "Body Thetans" that must also be removed.

This is the result of an intergalactic warlord named Xenu. Seventy-five million years ago, to solve interstellar overpopulation Xenu conspired to have billions of his subjects massacred by imprisoning them on jetliners capable of space travel which where to be flown into volcanoes over which H-bombs would be detonated (Abanes, Religions, 114). These disembodied thetans then roamed the Earth in search of hosts. For his crimes, Xenu was imprisoned somewhere beneath the Pyrenees and Earth was declared to be off limits to most alien civilizations with the planet to be used primarily as a penal colony (one might suppose as something reminiscent of the original intentions for Australia).

Because such a belief flies in the face of what most for now are willing to accept as rational, the Church of Scientology has gone to considerable lengths to keep what it classifies as Operating Thetan Level Three out of the public limelight. In pursuit of such a goal, lawsuits were filed in the attempt to block the release of this teaching beyond paying members. Even in his recounting of it, researcher Richard Abanes went out of his way to point out that the version he consulted came from publicly available Internet files rather than from documents obtained from disgruntled Scientologists, no doubt attempting to protect himself from the vindictive tactics Hubbardites have often been accused of inflicting upon critics of the group (Abanes, 128). However, not all such groups that hold beliefs regarding non-terrestrial entities at the center of their respective worldviews resort to the intimidating nature of America's system of adversarial jurisprudence to keep knowledge of these kinds of doctrines confined to the respective sect's higher-level initiates. Some actually publicly acknowledge their embrace of extraterrestrials as the intelligences from beyond the Earth that imbue their lives with meaning and go to considerable lengths to secure the attention of the media through a variety of outlandish stunts and claims to promote this viewpoint.

One such group is known as the Raelians. The members of this group, also known as “the Structure”, follow a French-Canadian former race car driver named Claude Vorilhon. Vorilhon changed his name to “Rael” after extraterrestrials contacted him to be their messenger to prepare mankind for the pending arrival of these beings from beyond the stars (Larson, 171).

Though the balanced Christian realizes that the Bible contains figurative language allowing an infinite God to convey His message to His finite human creatures in a form we are capable of comprehending, for the most part believers take the holy text to be a record and revelation of actual events that have or will take place. For example, when it says in the Book of Genesis that in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth, the good Evangelical believes that the omnipotent spirit being referred to as “God” made the world and everything in it out of nothing as a result of His own power, goodness and love.

Raelians, on the other hand, believe that what is referred to as God in the pages of the Bible is actually a reference to extraterrestrials from beyond the Earth. According to this perspective, that is why in the Old Testament that God is called "Elohim". The Hebrew plural does not signify the triune nature of the unified godhead, as insisted upon by orthodox systematic theology, but rather because there was more than one alien appearing to primitive man that did the best he could to record these encounters in the pages of the documents now considered to be the Scripture.

Thus, the Bible is reinterpreted in a manner less than supernatural but with more intervention on behalf of humanity than if the species was left to fend on its own in a universe without the oversight of any higher order intelligence. In Raelian theology, man did not come into being by God sculpting him from the dust of the ground and breathing life into the nostrils of Adam. Instead, the Elohim through genetic intervention advanced the native hominids of primordial Earth to man’s current physiological configuration, which bore considerable resemblance to that of the Elohim. This is what was meant when the text reads in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image.”

This kind of hermeneutic is applied to other Biblical narratives as well. For example, the pillar of smoke that guided the Israelites through the wilderness in the Book of Exodus was the exhaust of a spacecraft. The Ark of the Covenant was a nuclear-powered communication device through which the Elohim relayed messages to the nation of Israel (Larson, 172).

Likewise, Raelian interpretations of the New Testament are no less fanciful and thus as dangerous to the soul. For example, when Christ walked on the water, the act was not the result of His divine power that even the winds and waves had to obey, but rather the deed was the result of highly sophisticated anti-gravity technology (Larson, 173). Even more spiritually threatening is the Raelian notion that Christ's Resurrection from the dead was not the definitive proof of His own godhead as described in Matthew 12:39-40. Instead, the resurrection of Jesus was the result of the advanced medical knowledge of his extraterrestrial benefactors.

Upon hearing what those in the Raelian movement profess, at first it can elicit a bit of amusement in realizing that people can believe something as fanciful. Upon additional reflection, one cannot help but feel a bit of sadness for those so desperate to avoid the realization that they are a sinner in need of redemption through the work of the Savior that they feel the need to construct or assent to such elaborate scenarios to explain away the intertwined simplicity and profundity of the Gospel message. However, the Christian must realize that the Raelian movement presents a greater threat than a momentary sense of glum pity the believer might feel as they see those professing such concepts strolling past the church window. As with many worldviews and religions, the Raelians hope to influence the universe around them.

As has been pointed out earlier in this exposition, most groups and individuals involved with paranormal intelligences to the point that these beings influence the way those holding these assumptions perceive and approach reality have a preoccupation with the human reproductive process or have been victimized by those that do. In the case of the Heaven's Gate sect, profound disgust with human physicality led to the members of the sect first mutilating themselves through the act of castration and later suicide so that the adherents might be able to shed their material bodies in order to ascend to the next level of enlightened existence. It would be an understatement to say that the Raelians held to an opposing perspective.

If belief in extraterrestrials is the bedrock upon which the Raelian movement is built, then sex is the oil that keeps that movement lubricated. In what might be considered a carnal distortion of the Vulcan philosophy from Star Trek of infinity diversity in infinite combinations (known as the "IDIC") Vorilhon teaches that any form of consensual sex is acceptable as a form of sensual meditation that transports the individual closer to infinity (Larson, 174). For the really spiritual, there is the longing for sexual union with the Elohim to bring about an ecstasy that those in the group might describe as simply out of this world. About the only kind of relationship Rael seems to frown upon is traditional monogamous marriage where the partners stick together even through the times of unhappiness and ebbed feelings for the sake of the children. Partners are encouraged to abandon spouses that no longer interest them and to pawn off on social service agencies unwanted children.

As can be seen, Raelians can theoretically pack a wallop in terms of ravaged relationships and broken families. Sadly, in this day of moral and cultural relativism where it is constantly insisted that what is right for you is not necessarily right for me, not much can be done about those whose lives that have been knocked out of orbit by this extraterrestrial sect other than perhaps enforcing child support laws against the parents attempting to run out on their families when the idea of an earthbound domesticity no longer seems like an idea out of this world. There is little the Christian can do on behalf of the average Raelian other than to be a personal witness and perhaps a shoulder to lean on when lives are shattered as is the inevitable result when lives are lived in a manner so alien to what God intended. However, it must be noted that members of the Raelian movement are not simply content to live their lives in seclusion in a continual spate of nihilistic debauchery. Like so many aberrant sects, this one hopes its beliefs will have an influence upon the world beyond the organization’s formalized membership.

Most Americans, including this author, first heard of the Raelians in the opening years of the twenty-first century in regards to a story serving as an example of how the lines between news and science fiction are growing increasingly blurred. In 2000, a biotech company called Clonaid announced plans to produce a clone. This research would be undertaken primarily for the benefit of homosexual couples wanting a child of their own or parents that had lost an offspring in death as was the case of the wealthy couple serving as the effort's primary financial backers. Children theoretically engineered through a cloning process would differ from test tube babies brought into existence as a result of more conventional invitro fertilization techniques. For whereas the children coming about through established laboratory insemination procedures still exhibit the same kind of genetic fortuity or divine artistry (dependent upon one's perspective) resulting in an individual whose composition and traits are not known beforehand like in a conception brought about through natural copulation, a clone would be the genetic duplicate of the individual being cloned.

The haughty advocates of a pure science divorced from any apriori philosophical presuppositions might insist that Christians ought not bring religious principles or ethical concerns into what ought to be considered merely an exercise in technological advancement. If that is the case, the same counsel should be extended to the Raelians as well. As with their counterparts in the more blatantly political arena, often the spokesmen and leaders of sects of questionable forthrightness are masters of media manipulation and carefully weigh everything that they say. For example, in a 2002 CNN interview, Rael or Claude Vorilhon explicitly informed anchor Carol Lin that Clonaid --- the biotech company conducting research into this variety of human replication --- is organizationally distinct from the Raelian movement. However, it cannot be denied, and Vorilhon admits as such, that his unique spiritual perspective serves as the inspiration behind the corporation’s undertakings. In fact, the head of Clonaid Bridgette Boisselier --- who holds two doctorates and has taught college level chemistry --- has also served as a bishop in the Raelian church (Meekins, 28).

A number of renowned scientists such as Issac Newton credit as inspiration for their experimental undertakings the desire to think God's thoughts after Him. In regards to cloning, the Raelians do not simply want to understand how the extraterrestrials they view as mankind's creators brought our species into existence through tinkering with lower order primates. Rather, the sect's goal is for humanity to master the technology so that we might, to quote words uttered during another moment of cosmic hubris whose repercussions echoed down through the ages, "be as gods". However, in this instance, those would be little green men that zoom about in flying saucers.

Raelians do not believe in a traditional conception of God per say, at least in terms of an incorporeal omnipotent intelligence. This does interestingly raise the question of how far back into infinity does this leapfrogging of advanced space travelers to raise what pass for apes on other worlds to the level of reflective self awareness extends. To the Raelians, God is simply the leader of the extraterrestrial council that came to Earth to engineer our world’s version of humanity. Interestingly, Lucifer was the scientist among the Elohim that actually bestowed humanity upon our species and Satan the leader of the faction opposed to our creation because of the violent tendencies he realized that would be within mankind (Palmer, 80).

This creates a bit of a problem when, in terms of fundamental being or existence, your God is not all that different than you with the exception that he has more advanced toys. Part of the appeal of any religion is what it offers as an escape from the inevitable decline we all realize that lays before us that will ultimately result in death. The carnal allure of Raelianism with its emphasis on sexual pleasure is not without its appeal. However, even that does not keep away the terrors in the middle of the night no matter how buxom or virile your slumber companion for that evening might happen to be.

Thus, since Raelianism is circumscribed by the boundaries of a closed materialistic system, the hope of the eternal it offers must reside within that narrow sphere of finitude. Thus, the observer of religious affairs has uncovered the motivation for the fascination Raelians possess for a branch of science that at best has only taken a few baby steps beyond a fringe status and is still many light years away from the respectability of the conventional medical establishment in terms of application to the generation of full scale human beings.

Raelian doctrine holds that the key to continued existence beyond the traditional biological lifespan (eternal life if you will) is to be found in cloning. This sacrament within the Raelian faith has been proposed in a variety of conceptual variations. Initially referred to as a regeneration of the cellular plan, it was originally taught by Rael that such bio-reconstitution would be carried out by the Elohim themselves for the benefit of mankind (Palmer, 84). In anticipation of such a day in a manner reminiscent of the way many Christians prefer burial in anticipation of the resurrection, part of Raelian funerary ritual consisted of removing a small portion of bone from the forehead for storage in a Swiss bank vault. It was taught that the Elohim would reconstitute the person from the preserved portion of DNA if the individual was deemed worthy of such from the records in the databanks of the Elohim's computers that monitor the actions of all individuals (Palmer, 60). Some will note that the forehead is also the location of the third eye, prominent in a number of occultic and esoteric traditions, that is considered the seat of mystic or psychic power.

However, over time Rael has altered the doctrine slightly. While the hope of intervention on the part of the Elohim is still held out for those that have already passed on, other promises are extended (like a hand regrown as a result of cloning) to those still alive at the moment. If one waits until after death to grow a new body, one wades into a philosophically murky dilemma of how identical the resurrected clone would be to its progenitor. For the life experiences of the clone would be different from those of the genetic source (perhaps the Raelians ought to get together with the Scientologists to work out a way engrams could be transferred from the neural network of one brain into another).

In this revised message, Rael insists that the Elohim may not be as directly necessary as once thought. As cloning technology advances, members could simply replace failed tissues and organs with bioengineered upgrades, thus theoretically postponing physical death indefinitely. This could also take a bit of pressure off of Rael and prevent his entire movement from collapsing if the Elohim do not manifest themselves visibly on Earth by 2035 as predicted.

In terms of success, the aspirations of the Raelian movement may outpace what the group is capable of accomplishing. This is evident in regards to the issue over which the group has garnished its largest portion of public attention, namely this one of human cloning. Despite such enthusiasm and bold statements attempting to place the Raelian movement or those inspired by the sect at the forefront of this biotechnical revolution, their involvement in such endeavors has come to a screeching halt. It seems the crescendo was reached around Christmas time of 2002.

On December 26, 2002, Bridgette Boisselier announced to the press that birth had been given to a cloned child referred to, of all things, as “Eve”. The Raelian geneticist assured the world that both the interests of the child and the integrity of the scientific method were utmost priorities. Matters such as DNA testing were to be overseen by an international panel of independent scientists.

As the days progressed, Boisselier backed down from one claim after another. First, she claimed that, though she wanted the child to be genetically tested, she was not going to rush the parents into anything. Demands to see Baby Eve or at least her parents would extend beyond the court of public opinion as epitomized by the press to be made in an actual court of law. Even with threats of contempt of court charges made against them if they did not disclose the whereabouts of Baby Eve, Clonaid executives refused to reveal the location of the child. Eventually, Boisselier announced to the press that Baby Eve would be cutting off contact with the Raelians and Clonaid so as to effectively disappear.

No conclusive proof was ever provided regarding Baby Eve despite the considerable hoopla surrounding her conception and the embarrassment that those connected to this alleged project had to know would result if they did not put their gold press latinum where their mouths were (to frame the issue in terms of Star Trek currency) should these genetic engineers not come forward with objective evidence. Dawson College Professor of Religious Studies Susan Palmer puts forward a number of viable theories as to what may have happened regarding Baby Eve in Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion (189). These are the following possibilities.

First, Baby Eve could actually exist and is living in seclusion so that she might enjoy a life as normal as possible despite extraordinary beginnings and to protect her from imbalanced individuals pushed over the edge by the implications of a cloned child whatever those might be in any particular worldview. The next possibility as to why Clonaid leadership decided not to introduce Eve to the public was because the child was not physically well or even deformed. At the current stage of technological progress, the ethical prohibitions against human cloning are in place in large part because, for every clone brought to physical maturation, a considerable number did not make it out alive beyond the early stages of development. While it may not be a major moral dilemma if cloned livestock embryos cease to exist before they ever come to be in a form the average motorist might recognize as they drive leisurely past farmland or pastures, such a casual attitude cannot be taken in regards to human beings even if they have not yet arrived at the point of self-awareness or even a primitive nervous system that responds reflexively to stimuli.

In other instances, clones that do make it to physical maturation often suffer from crippling deformities or related illnesses. For example, Dolly, the cloned sheep that in large part introduced this Pandora's Box of genetic research to the broader public, did not live the expected lifespan of a conventionally conceived sheep. The ewe's cells are alleged to have displayed signs of aging greater than the amount of time that Dolly had actually been alive.

The next possibility put forward by Professor Palmer and the one likely accepted by skeptics as to the most plausible explanation as to the whereabouts of Baby Eve is that the child never really existed. Either Boisselier was part of an elaborate publicity stunt or deceived by unscrupulous scientists she was working with from afar but whose work she never examined or verified directly.

Given of what has been seen thus far in regards to organizations and sects with beliefs in intelligences beyond humanity understood in terms of being extraterrestrials, it would be easy to assume that such groups and their way of thought have little impact upon those cautious and discerning enough to avoid them. That is not necessarily the case.

From the fiasco detailed of the cloned child that did not appear as promised, it would appear that those within the Raelian movement can barely get their own act together much less stand on the brink of world (or perhaps better stated) interplanetary conquest. However, even the ideas of groups that one knows to be based upon such blatant falsehoods patently absurd can exert influence on those areas where there is a degree of congruence with social tides gaining strength or pushing against cultural bulwarks that have grown disturbingly weak. For example, Raelians have distributed condemns outside of parochial schools in Quebec in protest of the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial birth control. Not only have the Raelians promoted the application of their materialist worldview in such a grassroots manner, but they have been lauded by the provincial authorities in Quebec for possessing a positive and healthful sexual ethic.

Even if the Raelians and groups like them never grow large enough in number to become the predominate religious authority, they can in earthly terms be quite successful in an environment where traditional religious authorities are in decline. This is precisely the situation in Quebec where the Raelian movement has its strongest presence. Bishops in the province have categorized the philosophical and moral climate there as "segmented, pluralistic, and secular among other degeneracies”, prompting Susan Palmer to conclude, “In view of this precipitous decline of the Catholic Church, the appeal of Rael’s godlike aliens with their anti-Catholic, pro-science, body conscious, and politically correct philosophy might be better understood (Palmer, 79).”

Thus far in this chapter, a number of groups have been presented that embrace extraterrestrials both as intelligences from beyond this Earth and as sources of meaning for the adherents of these respective systems. Yet very few Americans, other than seeing Tom Cruise bounce giddily up and down on Oprah’s sofa insisting that psychological imbalances are not actual mental conditions, have knowingly had encounters with adherents of formalized belief systems where intelligences other than humans are explicitly referred to as being from outerspace. However, most Americans have had contact with faiths that, even if one would not think of them as taking part in the deification of UFO’s and extraterrestrials, do possess elements that are easily borrowed from this new religious phenomena or that might prompt the observer to recategorize such beliefs as perhaps straddling the boundaries between more traditional religions and those looking more to a technological spirituality of the future as the source of inspiration.

Having seen them peddling down the street on bicycles in white shirts and dress slacks or Mitt Romney's formalized manner of speech as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, most Americans would not think of the Mormons as professing a faith that would place it in the orbit of religions where life is believed to exist on worlds or in realms physically similar to yet distinct from our own. Even at his most conspiratorial, one cannot recall Glenn Beck making claims as so outlandish as to be literally out of this world.

To the unsuspecting, Mormons are often perceived as not being all that different than the run of the mill Evangelicals in terms of what adherents of both creeds profess as social philosophy. In fact, the Mormon might even surpass the average born again believer in terms of behavioral standards in light of the things allowed to creep into the church these days (with nary an askance glance caste) such as conspicuous tattoos, serial divorces, and the acceptance of those living together outside of marriage as if they are habitating under the sanction of a solemnized union like any other wedded couple. Despite these cosmetic similarities which inspire both the Evangelical and the avowed Mormon to be model citizens in the earthly kingdom of man, at their foundational core Biblical Christianity and Mormonism are fundamentally different from one another.

Christianity believes that the one God existed from eternity past in the form of three distinct persons. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God. The Lord is one.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Christians believe this Word spoken of to be Jesus Christ because it says in John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came down from the Father, full of grace and truth." Believers insist that the Holy Spirit is also a personage within the Godhead because of the baptismal formula spelled out in Matthew 20:19 where Jesus instructs the Apostles to conduct this right in the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Before the Incarnation of Christ, God did not have a body. John 4:24 teaches that, since God is a spirit, He must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Not only is God spirit, but He is complete within Himself; not dependent or contingent on anyone or anything else. God says in Isaiah 44:6, "I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." This idea of God's completeness and self-sufficiency are summarized by the name to which He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 of simply "I AM".

What the Mormon means when one presses him on the ontology of the professed God concept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints is markedly different. It does not take long to see how Mormonism fits nicely in the pantheon of UFO religions while holding onto a vocabulary for those so backwards that they prefer their religion to be mired in what passes for theism rather than flying saucers and little green men.

It must be pointed out that applying the word "theism" to Mormonism about stretches that idea nearly to its conceptual breaking point. And the discerning analyst or casual commentator will eventually realize that, in its fullest form, Mormonism does not qualify as monotheism.

In Mormonism, the being we refer to as God was once a man not unlike us. He was named "Elohim" (Carlson, 166). That no doubt sets off the red alert buzzer of those reading this aboard a starship as the Raelians also have an affinity for this term misappropriated from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. And though one might not realize it at first glance given the sect’s members’ standard starched shirts, clean cut appearances and overall modest apparel, but the Mormon deity is every bit the sex maniac that the entities guiding the Raelians happen to be. Unlike the Christian God that brought the first humans into existence by creating Adam from the dust of the ground and breathing life into the sculpted form, the Mormon God brought each member of humanity into a preincarnate celestial existence though nearly endless sex with his numerous goddess wives.

Very interesting, it might be observed, but what does this have to do with the phenomena of extraterrestrial spirituality analyzed from a Christian perspective? According to Ron Carlson in Fast Facts On False Teaching, to the Mormon, our God is not the God of all the cosmos but merely of our own planet (166). It would, therefore, follow that there would be other planets with other gods overseeing the development of worlds dedicated to their own unique plans and intentions.

In fact, our God is from a planet known to Mormons as “Kolob”. To many, that sparks no phonetic recognition or association whatsoever. However, science fiction aficionados that delve into the backgrounds of their favorite series beyond the level of enjoying the sleek spaceships and laser battles cannot help but notice the similarity of the word "Kolob" to "Cobol", the name of the world on Battlestar Galactica from which the protagonists of the series believed the thirteen tribes of man originated before colonizing the wider universe.

That would not be the only similarity between the theology of this sect and this classic television series. In the episode titled "War Of The Gods", the crew of the Galactica tangled with a being remarkably similar to Satan in that this entity of formidable power and charisma fell from his original place of status and glory among his luminous brethren and came to crave the worship and adoration of the human race. As the protagonists strive to uncover the mystery of this character named Count Iblis, they are taken initially against their will aboard a spacecraft of crystalline appearance that evokes “heavenish” connotations with its pure white decor and soft choir-like tones playing in the background. Starbuck and Sheeba then encounter ethereal beings in shimmering garments. When asked if they might be angels, the entities respond, “As you are, we once were. As we are, you will become.” Such dialog has been altered only slightly from the Mormon phraseology of “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become (Carlson, 165).”

Thus, as man moves upward according to the Mormon teaching of Eternal Progression, likely in a manner similar to the way young newlyweds often pack up and depart their parents’ homes to establish their lives elsewhere, good Latter Day Saints will likely one eon fan out across the cosmos to planets of their own to raise the next batch of darling little godlings. And if each planet in turn has its own god, what is to prevent the Mormon from being duped into believing any potential visitors from beyond the Earth showing up on our planetary doorstep are simply God's in-laws stopping by for a visit or celestial house hunters mistakenly thinking there was a "For Rent" sign sticking in the Earth's front yard?

Mormonism is not the only sect outside of the religious groups initially perceived as having a connection to UFO's but in which this phenomena also plays a pivotal role. Another is none other than the Nation of Islam. It would be an understatement to say that the Nation of Islam often finds itself surrounded by controversy. Interestingly from the standpoint of analogy, one might make the case that the Nation of Islam is to the broader faith of Islam what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to traditional Christianity. For while both of these groups claim a descent and share considerable vocabulary with the respective faith from which each claims derivation, each is distinctively different enough from their original sources to be considered unique creeds entirely.

As a world religion, Islam views itself as the successor of Judaism and Christianity as the conceptual vehicle through which the revelation of a monotheistic God is made to the world. Unlike Christianity which believes God became incarnate through the person of His Son Jesus Christ when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, traditional Muslims do not believe that God (whom they refer to by the Arabic term “Allah”) has taken on human flesh. Unlike Judaism, Islam believes that the beneficence and favor of God is universal in the sense of being available to all that submit to His will as described most fully in the Koran and not bestowed to a greater degree on a single tribal or ethnic group. The Nation of Islam, despite sharing in part the name of the wider religion, actually turns each of these foundational Islamic tenets on their respective heads by recasting each with an unique interpretive spin.

The Nation of Islam was founded by an enigmatic figure known as Wallace Muhammad Fard whose most renowned follower was Elijah Poole, who changed his name to Muhammad as well following his conversion. These two met when Fard knocked on the door of Poole's Detroit home as an itinerant garment salesman (Lieb, 132). Through this encounter, Fard revealed to Poole that he (Fard) was from Mecca and had come to liberate Black people from the oppression inflicted upon them by the White race, who were themselves the product of genetic experimentation on the part of a dissident Meccan scientist named Yakub in his ongoing struggle against Allah (Lieb, 140). This brand of Islam, formulated initially by Fard and later expanded upon by Poole, drew inspiration from the Koran, the Bible, and selected works of Freemasonry (Lieb, 133).

Fard met Poole in 1930. By 1934, the movement had established a temple, a private school, and a paramilitary wing known as the Fruit of the Nation. It was also around this time that Fard mysteriously vanished. A number of theories have been put forward as to what happened to this cryptic figure. One contends that he was "taken out" as part of a FBI counterintelligence operation designed to keep organizations considered subversive by this federal law enforcement agency in line. Others have hinted that Elijah Poole, who at that point had his name elevated to that of Muhammad to signify he had found favor as Fard's likely successor, may have had his mentor murdered in order to seize and solidify his control over the sect. A few others insist that Fard simply decided to retire to a life of seclusion and anonymity.

As fascinating as such an historical whodunit might happen to be, it pales in terms of the spin officially provided by the Nation of Islam regarding the disappearance of the movement's founder. According to Elijah Muhammad, Fard was not only the Madhi (a great world leader predicted to make his appearance before the End of Days and the Final Judgment also found in more orthodox expressions of Islam) but also Allah in human form having appeared on Earth to commence the liberation of his people, specifically Blacks of African descent once known as the nation of Shabazz (Lieb, 139). It was claimed that once Fard felt the Nation of Islam was in the hands of capable leadership (meaning Elijah Muhammad of course), Fard he could fade from the earthly scene to assume a more celestial role.

As in Christianity, this would not be the last time those deemed to be the faithful of this particular creed under examination could expect the one they believed to be the savior would intervene in history. The eschatology expounded by the Nation of Islam as set forth in the works of Elijah Muhammad entitled Message To The Blackman and The Fall Of America focuses significantly on a concept referred to as the Mother Plane or the Mother Wheel. Drawing on Ezekiel’s vision of the wheel within a wheel as do a number of other theorists attempting to syncretize ancient texts such as the Old Testament with speculation in modern times regarding craft from beyond the Earth, the Mother Plane could quite literally be viewed as the Deus ex Machina of this particular theology. For example, the Mother Wheel is the vehicle through which the world was brought into existence (Lieb, 162). It is also the device through which the present world will be brought to destruction in order to make way for the renewal of all things. This will take place when Black people are transported on board and the vessel will rain down what sounds like nuclear annihilation upon the White peoples of the Earth who are, to use an expression making Tim LaHaye untold millions, left behind.

To those having never before heard of this particular sectarian Islamic eschatology, the concept sounds very similar to that of a UFO. And the Nation of Islam has no qualms about incorporating interest in this phenomena as part of its official public discourse. As far back as the 1940’s, the Nation of Islam would reference occasional UFO reports in expositions regarding the Mother Wheel. However, for failing to recognize the vehicle for what it was as the very conveyance of Allah in the form of Wallace Fard, Elijah Muhammad heaped condemnation upon the "devil scientists" (meaning Whites) for bringing the critical and analytical tendencies inherent to the most degenerate of the races to the study of this phenomena that only Elijah Muhammad was legitimately selected to reveal to mankind (Lieb, 162).

The Mother Wheel was not a teaching that the Nation of Islam quietly set aside with the passing of Elijah Muhammad in the attempt to attract a broader audience. In fact, belief in it continues and awareness of this peculiar doctrine has spread beyond the sect's membership. In a sense, the topic has been used as a bridge to those that might otherwise be turned off by the Nation of Islam's ideology of racial supremacy.

As part of the group’s Savior’s Day event in 2010 where it was reported 10,000 were in attendance, a three hour expert panel discussion was convened for the purposes of establishing a dialog between the sect and the wider ufological community. The Nation of Islam’s national assistant minister Ishmael Muhammad told AOL News that not only does the group believe that UFO’s exist as divine or miraculous vehicles but that there is an advanced civilization on Mars as well as life on other planets (Speigel). It was detailed at the discussion how the sect believes that craft sited measuring smaller than the reported half-mile by half-mile dimensions of the Mother Wheel are likely part of the 1500 member squadron that deploy from the larger vessel and use it as a base of operations.

It cannot be denied that Louis Farrakhan loves to be at the heart of media controversy given the nature of the statements he has made over the years. And though one cannot be sure that he is also not manipulating the issues to his own advantage, Farrakhan not only presents himself as an individual sincerely interested in UFO's as an objective reality even if like everyone else he construes them through the prism of his own worldview. He also testifies to be a person whose life has been profoundly impacted by these vehicles and whatever beings might be operating them.

To the panel of experts assembled at the sect's Savior's Day Convention, Farrakhan deliberately expressed his gratitude to the researchers. He assured that, in the Nation of Islam, these analysts had not only allies and protectors but also benefactors willing to extend financial support.

Farrakhan can also himself serve as an anecdotal source regarding these craft if one views such testimony as establishing the validity of such experiences going beyond the boundaries of agreed upon normality. Farrakhan claims that, in 1985, he was actually taken aboard the Mother Wheel. There, he heard the voice of Elijah Muhammad speaking to him through a cubical communications device. But whereas most taken aboard such vessels such as in the case of Barney and Betty Hill undergo highly traumatic experiences that could not be categorized as anything short of sexual molestation if the perpetrators inflicting it had been human beings, one might say Farrakhan's experience is remembered a bit more fondly.

On September 17, 1985 while visiting the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Meso-American Indian deity Quetzalcoatl, Farrakhan claims to have had an encounter where he was transported by a beam of light (in a manner similar to a tractor beam in popular science fiction) onto one of the smaller wheels that descended from the larger Mother Wheel (Lieb, 208). At no point during the encounter did Farrakhan get a direct glimpse of his abductors, and when the voice of Elijah Muhammad spoke to him, it was a disembodied one transmitted through a speaker device. As in the case of countless other abductees, this would not be the only time that Louis Farrakhan would get to interact with the entities that apparently took such a direct interest in him.

Following his initial mystical conference call aboard the Mother Wheel, Farrakhan would come to be in what could be considered regular contact with this ethereal vehicular conveyance. In fact, one might say it even followed him like some kind of saucer shaped pet. For example, during his October 1985 Madison Square Garden appearance, sixty of the smaller wheels that use the Mother Wheel as a base of operations were seen in the area. Since unidentified aerial phenomena manifest themselves so regularly wherever Farrakhan appears such as in the American Southwest, the Middle East, and the Orient, this cleric with a flair for the dramatic proclaimed, "I am telling America that wherever I am the Wheel is (Lieb, 211)." Such a declarative utterance cannot help but evoke in the mind of the student of the New Testament Christ's declaration in John 14:9 that those that have seen Him have seen the Father. Farrakhan's own claims are no less grandiose.

As stated previously, many come away from their encounter with phenomena categorized as beyond the boundaries of conventional terrestrial experience psychologically and even physically shattered for the remainder of their earthly lives. Farrakhan's have, in a sense, left him as full of himself as a human being can possibly get. The doctrine of the Mother Wheel is drawn in part from a passage in the Book of Ezekiel. As such, Michael Lieb writes, "As the wheel accompanied the Son of Man everywhere in prophecy, so it accompanies the new seer in the modern world. Like Ezekiel, Farrakhan is connected to the Throne of God (211)." In other words, Farrakhan is like a Christic or Messianic figure to his followers on the current stage of history.

In this chapter, a number of belief systems have been examined that hold as a central tenet that the phenomena known popularly as UFO's are not simply visitors from another planet. Rather, these beings are on a mission to Earth to present to those among mankind receptive to these outsiders a new or expanded revelation regarding ultimate truth. Thus far, the creeds examined have been embraced by those most enthusiastic about the expanded horizons possible through an awareness brought about through interaction with intelligences claiming to be from beyond this world.

Left to themselves, despite the enthusiasm these groups exhibit in pursuit of this question, their numbers would be of an insufficient number to exert an appreciable influence upon a population grounded on a solid Christian foundation. In such a situation, these perspectives under examination would at best be a religious curiosity for highly specialized academic researchers or a mission field for evangelists feeling a calling to minister to a particular group or subculture. However, since the contemporary world is anything but settled in terms of its underlying theological and philosophical identity, the question of life beyond this world and its spiritual implications will become one of the great apologetic challenges of the twenty-first century and for whatever amount of time remains until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

By Frederick Meekins

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Scanners Set To Discernment: Highlight History Of The Contemporary UFO Phenomena

 

When Christians approach the contemporary UFO and extraterrestrial phenomena, they would be best advised to keep two things in mind that are distinct yet interrelated. Firstly, irrespective of whether UFO's exist or not as an objective or verifiable phenomena, they do in terms of the minds of those that believe in them and draw from them an inspiration as a mechanism for understanding man's place in the broader universe. Secondly, if what those claiming to have contact with does indeed have an existence apart from the internalized structures of perception and belief of those advocating the actuality of such beings, the Christian needs to provide some kind of explanation for them as well in terms of this faith's own comprehensive worldview if Christianity wishes to retain a place of socio-cultural credibility rather than to be regarded as a philosophical relic of the left behind past. The church cannot afford to ignore this issue as today we are already living with the consequences and repercussions of other issues that were allowed to fester by being ignored rather than grappled with head on.

Within their respective contexts, all religions and systems of belief posses at their core a mythology or historical events that the adherents hold to be true and around which subsequent doctrines are derived from or inspired by. For example, Christians view the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus as the seminal event of their faith. Muslims trace the founding of their religion back to the revelation of the Koran to their prophet Muhammad. Likewise, though they may differ ultimately as to other details and implications (as could be said of any belief system with competing schools of thought and denominations), even casual observers of ufology and UFO movements know of certain key events sparking interest in the question of life from beyond the Earth and its repercussions for man’s place in the larger universe.

One of what is now one of the most prominent events looked to by even the most casual of ufological enthusiasts is the incident claimed to have occurred in Roswell, New Mexcio in July 1947. At that time, the military observed on radar over the course of several days an unidentified flying object. Following a thunderstorm, area rancher Mack Brazel went to check his holdings. During the survey, Brazel discovered a unique variety of metallic debris scattered across a sizable area and a trench several hundred feet in length gouged into the earth as if by some manner of impact.

Brazel talked over what he had seen with his neighbors, the Proctors, who suggested that he might have discovered a crashed UFO or a downed government project. As a result of this discussion, Brazel went into town to notify the sheriff. The sheriff in turn reported the incident to military intelligence officer Jesse Marcel.

It is unlikely public interest in this account and speculation about it would have continued to increase to this very day if not for a variety of circumstances surrounding the incident. On July 8, 1947, a press release was issued by the Public Information Office under the orders of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell that the wreckage of a cashed disk had been retrieved. A second press release was issued the next day that the mysterious debris was actually nothing more than that of a weather balloon.

However, as the years went by, those whose curiosity was roused by the incident could not let it rest as a case of the imagination initially getting ahead of the calmer, more rational explanation of what might have happened. There were simply too many circumstances surrounding the event that later bubbled into public view because those involved did not feel comfortable or even safe in revealing until the passage of time and a number of those involved were themselves nearing the point when they, shall we say, were about ready to leave this planet.

Even if nothing happened any more exotic or of cosmic ramification than the official explanation of a downed weather balloon, the way in which the government is accused of handling the situation must bear some of the responsibility for the legendary status this case has acquired. For example, mortician Glenn Dennis was contacted by base officials inquiring about obtaining small coffins. Upon taking these to the military hospital and visiting with a nurse on staff that he knew, Dennis claims he was threatened by military police and escorted from the premises. Even more disturbing, according to Dennis’ affidavit as posted online by the Burlington UFO & Paranormal Research Center, the nurse that is alleged to have drawn pictures of crash victims of a nonstandard human appearance was abruptly transferred to England a few days later.

These two, however, were not the only ones to endure mistreatment less than forthright at the hands of those higher up the chain of command dealing with the aftermath of whatever it was that might have crashed. Brazel was escorted by military police to the offices of the Roswell Daily Record where he changed his story to that of having found the debris of a weather observation device earlier in June rather than during the period of July under question. It has been insinuated that, while in military custody for several days, Brazel was threatened with violence if he did not agree to alter his story.

In another intriguing incident, Major Marcel took along some of the debris to show General Ramey when he made his report to the Commanding Officer of the Eighth Air Force. Marcel placed the debris, which consisted of items such as shards of metal the thickness of tin foil and unbreakable I-beam structures that were three-eighths of an inch by one-fourth of an inch with indecipherable markings, on the General’s desk. To get a better idea of where the material had been gathered, Marcel and Ramey went to the map room down the hall. When the two returned, the contents Marcel had brought to show the general had already been taken and replaced by a weather balloon draped over the floor.

Though the Roswell incident may now be one of the public windows into the world of UFO’s and speculation into whether or not intelligent life other than and beyond our own might exist, it is by no means the only. In fact, if it was so, it might rather be an example of bureaucratic bungling rather than a conspiracy that has achieved interstellar proportions. However, it is because of the considerable number of occurrences transpiring around that time and ever since that has caused belief in the possibility of extraterrestrial life to grow from being a philosophical possibility embraced only by those of questionable mental stability or those educated beyond reasonable practicality into one of the common cultural assumptions at least assented to (not unlike belief in at least a nominal God) by overwhelming percentages of the population.

Synonymous with the term “UFO” or “unidentified flying object” is that of “flying saucer“. An interesting historical coincidence is that this particular way of categorizing this phenomena was coined nearly around the same time as the events at Roswell were transpiring.

The term was coined in reference to a sighting on June 24, 1947 when pilot Ken Arnold flying at 9200 feet spotted near Mt. Rainier, Washington a series of blue flashes, emanating from what he initially thought must have been a squadron of military fighter jets. However, thanks to his background in aviation, Arnold would conclude that the squadron was anything but conventional. He estimated that the craft were traveling well over 1500 miles per hour (Yenne, 27).

After discussing the incident with friends in Yakima, by the time Arnold completed the next leg of his journey to Pendelton, Oregon, news of his encounter had spread so quickly that a throng of reporters had assembled to record Arnold’s account. When pressed for a description of what he had seen, Arnold replied that the objects looked "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water (Larson, 26)." From there, the press shortened the phrase to "flying saucer", the description that has been with us ever since.

These incidents no doubt rank among those that establish an awareness of UFO's in the mind of the general public. However, these merely represent the bubbling to the surface of a conceptual undercurrent that stretched back prior to those iconic incidents where man had to grapple with an understanding of the universe expanding as a result of advances in technology and where exactly he would look to provide context and meaning to this newly acquired awareness.

Skeptics might counter that, in a sense, people create their own reality. In this case, that would mean people encountered aliens because they wanted to or were at least suggestible to that possibility. One could not refute that in its entirety. For since at least the early 20th century, Americans have had a fascination with the possibility of extraterrestrial life that went beyond an afternoon's entertainment in the form of a movie, printed story, or broadcast drama. Even if most approached the topic with a rational maturity insisting that aliens were just creatures in comics and pulp magazines geared primarily towards children, there was one incident in particular where it was discovered that the clever in the media could prod the otherwise unsuspecting into becoming quite exercised as to the existence of life from beyond the Earth.

In 1938, Orson Welles staged a radio dramatization of the novel by H.G. Wells titled The War Of The Worlds. The story was adapted in the form of a news broadcast covering an alien invasion from Mars. Despite the proviso that the broadcast was a fictionalized dramatic presentation, a number either tuning in after the disclaimer or as a result of getting caught up in the compelling nature of the narrative were convinced that the Earth was actually under attack. A small-scale panic ensued. Some even barricaded themselves in their homes with guns drawn as a last line of defense to prevent any bug eyed monsters from inflicting harm.

Granted, the UFO phenomena has attracted considerable attention over the decades from those of questionable sanity or lacking in compliance to adherence to social norms and conformity. However, these incidents have also been witnessed and experienced by a number whose credentials and sobriety were beyond impeccability. Among these have ranked the frontline personnel of the United States armed forces. Before gaining the name that would make them a household word (“flying saucers”), UFO’s went by another moniker bestowed upon them by Allied pilots during World War II. Referred to as “foo fighters” by bomber crews, these mysterious lights would come startlingly close to the aircraft but were not necessarily thought to be any kind of ultrasecret German weapon since they never inflicted any harm (North, 294).

Though sightings would ebb and flow over time, they were more than a passing fad and would become a fixture of the public consciousness even if for a while on the periphery of respectability. Government authorities might have had a vested interest in publicly downplaying encounters with UFO’s. However, the institution charged with overseeing the nation’s safety would not have the opportunity to stick its head in the sand in the hopes that these objects would simply float away.

When something unexplained happens in an out of the way place such as Roswell, New Mexico, the highly credentialed and esteemed in government office can cast aspersion and doubt on the credibility of those claiming to have witnessed such things. It is insinuated that, even if such individuals mean well, in terms of mental acuity and especially education such people do not necessarily make the most reliable of witnesses. However, it is much more difficult to level such allegations when these kinds of events literally take place on the doorstep and in the backyard (or at least over top of it) of some of the most powerful people in the country.

In July 1952 on two occasions that month, UFO’s entered Washington, DC airspace not far from and over the White House, Pentagon, and Capitol building. These objects were spotted on radar screens at both Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base. These enigmas were estimated to be traveling at speeds of 100 to over 7,000 miles per hour, which, according to About.com UFO Guide Billy Booth, was beyond the technological capabilities of the time.

Such an objective threat to Washington DC and thus national security could not go unchallenged. A defensive response was required. Fighters were scrambled to investigate the objects. However, in a manner that almost seemed deliberately taunting if one were inclined to believe some kind of deliberative intelligence was behind the fast moving lights, the objects vanished from radar when approached by the jets only to reappear when the interceptors needed to return to base as a result of low fuel. The five disks departed by 5:30 AM.

Had that been the only incident, an official explanation of either meteorites or an atmospheric phenomena known as a temperature inversion where a denser layer of cold air becomes trapped under warmer air that bends radar waves capable of producing false images might have seemed plausible. However, the objects returned approximately a week later and were once again detected both visually and on radars at National Airport as well as Andrews Air Force Base. Once again, fighters were dispatched to investigate.

During this encounter, however, the objects did not always uniformly flee from the jets giving chase. In one instance, a group of four turned and surrounded their pursuers in a gesture almost playfully flirtatious to convey how it felt to be the hunted rather than the hunter. The pilots’ pleas for instructions on how to handle this turn of events were met with silence on the part of the control tower. Fortunately, other than the likely need to change their underpants, no physical harm came to anyone involved as the lights then sped away.

The response of high government officials to this incident was classically textbook. To either calm public apprehension or lull the masses into a sense of complacency, the Air Force announced at a Pentagon press conference held July 29, 1952 that the sightings could be explained in terms of misidentified aerial phenomena such as shooting stars or temperature inversions causing false radar images. However, such a state of objective detachment hardly characterized the government’s response during the heat of the crisis. It has been claimed that the Truman White House was so worked up over the matter that pilots were ordered to shoot down any flying saucers that refused orders to land. Of this particular incident, Bill Yenne concludes in UFO: Evaluating The Evidence, “...the evidence shows that the Washington incidents are among the largest and strongest series of UFO sightings ever reported (80).”

Despite the credibility of a number of those coming forward with eyewitness reports, since these kinds of encounters run counter to what has been deemed normal particularly from a modernistic technocratic perspective, it can still be difficult to perceive of them as anything other than the flights of fancy or delusions of those deciding to step forward. If they were nothing more, then why has the federal government expended taxpayer resources on what could be called the “Extraterrestrial Question”?

One could argue that the extent of government involvement in extraterrestrial affairs is open to debate. Some that contend that the involvement is extensive probably could not legitimately verify their claims and it is not like the government would offer the kind of confirmation that would settle the issue once and for all. However, the researcher can utilize history as a guide as to what the government might be doing today.

Project Blue Book commenced in 1952 and ceased in 1970. The purpose of the program was to evaluate data collected regarding UFO's primarily for the purposes of determining whether these objects were a threat to national security. Of the over 12,000 reports collected by Project Blue Book, analysts concluded that the majority were misidentified aircraft or natural phenomena. However, nearly six percent of the total sightings defied explanation.

Because the overwhelming majority of the cases investigated by Project Blue Book were resolved with perfectly terrestrial explanations, officials decreed that the program would officially conclude in January 1970. However, its findings issued in the Condon Report did not provide any explanation regarding the outstanding controversies. In fact, this division within the United States Air Force charged with shedding light on some of the most baffling mysteries of the twentieth century ended up raising a number of additional conundrums.

For example, it is argued that Project Blue Book did not so much simply gather intelligence dispassionately regarding UFO phenomena and issue a report with motivations primarily scientific in nature. Rather it has been accused that Blue Book was itself concealing evidence pertinent to any conclusion that would ultimately be reached. Granted, there has not yet been a decisive moment such as in the television series "V" where a number of alien craft appear overhead or land on the Mall in Washington DC with a little green man emerging and making the iconic request of "Take me to your leader." However, another kind of intervention might be of greater existential significance for the time being in the lives of those believing they have encountered non-human intelligences than the more traditional flying saucer described in classic UFO encounters. This is none other than the so-called "alien abductions".

More will be said about this phenomena in a later chapter since these traumatic encounters often play a significant role in shaping the worldviews of those whom perceived extraterrestrials hold a central place in their respective belief systems. However, in highlighting a number of iconic moments in this introductory chapter, attention for now will be focused on the case of Barney and Betty Hill. In 1961, married New Hampshire couple Betty and Barney Hill were on their way home from vacation in Canada. Both remember seeing a traveling light like a bright star that became progressively brighter as it hovered over the trees (Kettlekamp, 50).

Out of curiosity, the Hills parked to get a better look at the luminous anomaly, with Barney getting out of the vehicle for a closer examination with a pair of binoculars. Through the spyglasses, Mr. Hill ascertained what he perceived to be approximately five individuals walking around inside the object. As would be the reaction of most to such an encounter, Mr. Hill promptly returned to his vehicle in order to continue his journey home.

However, that would not be the end of the Hills' encounter with the unexplained. As the couple proceeded down the highway, they heard noises similar to a tuning fork which caused them both to feel tingly and sleepy (Kettlekamp, 51). When the Hills emerged from their state of somnolent discombobulation, they were startled to discover that they were 35 miles farther south than when they had last noticed and could not account for the preceding two hours.

One might chalk up the entire episode to extreme fatigue and as a reason why to be extremely cautious about driving late at night when one is at less than one’s mental and physical optimum. However, it seemed the Hills were unable to shake off the effects of the experience or shrug it off as one of those life lessons learned. Both Barney and Betty were profoundly impacted. Barney developed a rash on his stomach and was plagued by chronic health problems following the incident. Betty was haunted thereafter by recurrent nightmares so intense that she eventually sought psychiatric counseling.

Evidence pointing towards an encounter went beyond symptoms that could possibly be explained as psychosomatic no matter how sincerely credible the Hills might have happened to be. Barney’s shoes were visibly scuffed. Even more bizarre, when a compass needle was placed over mysterious metallic spots in the trunk of their vehicle, the needle within the device would spin (Kettlekamp, 51). Unidentified objects were detected by the radar at Peasc Air Force Base around the time of the encounter as reported by the Hills.

However, the Hills are remembered even more so for something that would add yet another level to the UFO phenomena, and in the minds of some shed light as to perhaps why these entities have allegedly traveled all the way to the planet earth as well as deepen that mystery all at the same time. Some insist that Barney and Betty Hill were abducted by non-human entities. Skeptics are often quick to conjecture that those claiming to have encounters --- especially to the point of claiming to be either victims of or in confederation with these beings from beyond the normal --- are desperately seeking attention. And that is certainly a concern to keep in mind. However, initially Barney and Betty Hill were not aware to the full extent of what may have taken place.

As part of their therapeutic counseling, the Hills were separately placed under hypnosis. Their respective accounts, not given in the presence of or to the knowledge of the other, displayed a degree of similarity worthy of note. Not revealed previously, the Hills now insisted that, upon hearing the beeping tones, they were taken aboard the craft and each taken into a separate chamber. According to the account provided by the Hills, their abductors possessed a countenance eerily not quite human as the creatures lacked distinctive lips and seemed to communicate telepathically. The beings were particularly interested in the differences between Barney and Betty since they were an interracial couple and that Barney wore dentures while Betty’s teeth were natural.

Psychoanalysts and counselors might point out that the fact that these hypnotic trances brought out such details instead point to the stresses the Hills may have been under. For at that time such marriages were not that common and would be replete with a number of challenges that would be below the surface even if the love between the couple was strong enough to endure them. However, there was one aspect of what Betty recalled that would be difficult to fabricate or dissemble about.

According to Betty, a needle was inserted into her naval as part of what her captors informed her was a pregnancy test. Today, such procedures are so commonplace that mention of them would not raise the eyebrows of a therapist transcribing this kind of testimony. However, Larry Kettlekamp points out in UFO’s & ET’s: Are They Real? that needle examinations like that described by Betty Hill were not conducted in 1961.

The chronicle detailed in this chapter should in no way be considered comprehensive. Rather, it has endeavored to list a number of highlights to suggest that accounts of contact with beings from beyond this earth or at least belief that one has had contact with beings from beyond this earth should not be dismissed outright as signs of questionable sanity. Those mentioned in these pages span the breadth of the ways of life found in contemporary America from the humblest of trailer park paupers all the way into the deepest corridors of power. In the chapters that follow, we will explore a number of belief systems that incorporate non-terrestrial intelligences as fundamental concepts into their perceptions of reality, how the concept of life from beyond the Earth is used to mold culture or society itself, and (most importantly) provide an Evangelical perspective to the perennial question if we human beings are alone in the cosmos.

By Frederick Meekins 

Bibliography

Booth, Billy. “1952: Washington DC Buzzed by UFO's.” About.com. 20 Oct. 2010.

Kettlekamp, Larry. UFO's and ET's: Are They Real?. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Larson, Bob. UFO's And The Alien Agenda: Uncovering The Mystery Behind UFO's And The Paranormal. Nashville: Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

North, Gary. Unholy Spirits: Occultism and New Age Humanism. Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986.

Yenne, Bill. UFO: Evaluating The Evidence. New York: Gramercy Books, 2007. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Liberals Don't Believe Eco Claims They Accuse Conservatives Of Denying

An article published in the 11/2021 issue of the New Republic is titled “Climate Of Ignorance: How much evidence of climate change will the right dismiss?”.

Does this media dinosaur intend to publish a similar diatribe condemning the even greater environmental hypocrisy of the totalitarian progressives such as the author ending the column with the call for Americans to cut back on meat consumption?

For while those of this perspective ensconced among the ranks of the technocratic intelligentsia might articulate the expected platitudes, their actions profess a creed quite different.

For example, if the likes of the Obama’s and the Biden’s really believed in the dangers of sea level rise, why do they have this propensity for expensive beachfront real estate?

If the ruling elites were really concerned about the consumption of resources and the resulting pollutants, why wasn’t the recent Climate Change Summit in Glasgow instead conducted online since most in attendance no doubt had access to high speed Internet?

By Frederick Meekins

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Principles & Ideas Of Deism

One of the perplexities of philosophical and religious research is that it can be easy to misconstrue the personalities and movements one is attempting to study through the prism of one's own respective worldview. This tendency, if one is not careful to adjust for it, can be compounded when decades and even centuries separate those seeking to understand the past and those events, personalities, or ideas one is attempting to learn more about. This is especially true if the undertaking is of a more casual nature.

Often with the passage of such considerable lengths of time, entire ways of conceptualizing and categorizing the universe can come into existence, gain in popularity, and then recede from prominence long before an individual seeking to know more about them even comes into existence. One such system the contemporary enthusiast of the past might stumble upon is Deism. And if one is not cautious in the encounter, one could easily come away thinking that little of consequence separates this seemingly antiquarian perspective from more orthodox or Biblical expressions of Christianity. To get a better grasp on this worldview that one is not very likely to encounter from the standpoint of meeting in the flesh a professed adherent of it, it would perhaps be best to first examine the background of the world giving rise to Deism, to elaborate upon a number of basic Deistic beliefs so that they might be easier to spot if encountered in today's world under another name, and the divergent paths Deism took in the respective cultural settings in which the viewpoint manifested itself.

Contrary to popular conception, religion in some form or the other is one of the primary motivating forces of history. It is just that at times either man as an overall social organism is either moving towards or away from a particular understanding of this particular epistemological structure. As such, it might be best to think of Deism as a path away from one way of comprehending the world toward another or as a kind of inn or tavern at which a great epoch stopped to catch its breath as the popular perception looked back towards what it once professed but was not quite fully ready to openly embrace the outright or deliberately conscientious secularism set out before it.

Christians weary of the cultural rot brought about by the licentiousness and the permissiveness resulting from an expansive secularism that keeps claiming additional areas of life and endeavor as part of its purview might long for a time when there was little formally delineating religious authority and the administrative reach of the kingdom or the state. However, such romantics might think differently had they been alive during the waning years of the Middle Ages or even in lands where certain brands of Protestantism held sway or were struggling to establish themselves. For even though it was an era where courageous believers lived and died for their convictions, it was also an age where in pursuit of an idealized Christian order less than Christian means were at times utilized in the attempt to realize a theonomically proper milieu.

The episode that in many ways broke the camel's back of a political system not recognizing the distinction between the life of the mind and that of socioal obligation was the Thirty Years War. Fought between 1618 and 1648, the Thirty Years War was a conflict waged across significant portions of Europe that was sparked as a result of not only a complex series of international alliances and rival monarchs jockeying for position but also intense animosities as to which side professed the superior form of Christianity. Of the war, Glenn Sunshine writes in Why You Think The Way You Do: The Story Of Western Worldviews From Rome To Home, "To this day, the Thirty Years' War is still remembered in Germany as the most devastating war ever fought there (including World Wars I and II). Almost every territorial unit within the Holy Roman Empire lost 30% or more of its population...people were exhausted by the war (107-108)."

Such hardship and desolation would naturally cause the educated of a reflective inclination to stop and ponder. Was such a price really worth it to see that one form of the Christian faith prevailed over another where those beaten on the battlefield were not necessarily convinced of the matter in the depths of the heart? And was such a God requiring His followers to spread His truth in such a manner to such an extent in order to prove their devotion to Him really all that worthy of devotion? More importantly, was such a God the God that actually existed?

The Thirty Years' War was not the only development going on in Europe in the middle centuries of that particular millennium to shake the continent’s foundations of establishmentarian Christian orthodoxy. After all, it was not like the vast swaths of humanity had not had an acquaintance with suffering. With an average life expectancy of about 35 years and conditions such as malnutrition and disease quite common, part of the allure of the Church that allowed the institution to acquire and maintain a pervasive influence for so long was no doubt the promise of a blissful afterlife for its members in good standing.

For around the same era in which the unity and hegemony of so-called Christendom was beginning to be rest asunder, a number of other cultural forces were at play that would forever alter what has come to be categorized as the Western tradition. For better or worse, the prevailing orientation throughout much of the Middle Ages up until the cusp of the Modern Era was markedly other worldly in terms of its underlying nature. The importance of the material and physical aspects of reality were downplayed. Starting with the Renaissance where European scholars became reacquainted with the Greek and Roman literary works of classical antiquity, focus began to subtly shift away from God to a more earthly emphasis as embodied by those pagan empires that have now swayed the imagination for numerous centuries.

It could be argued that such a corrective was not without benefits when kept in check by Christian presuppositions. Francis Schaeffer writes in How Should We Then Live: The Rise And Decline Of Western Thought And Culture , "The men of the Reformation did learn from the new knowledge and attitudes brought forth by the Renaissance. A critical outlook, for example, toward what had previously been accepted without question was helpful (81)."

For example, early practitioners of science often undertook their research and studies with motivations that could broadly be categorized as Christians. These natural philosophers realized that, though marred by sin, the created world still possessed a degree of worth as the handiwork of God. As itself a form of revelation in accord with Psalm 19:1 that assures that the heavens declare the glory of God, it was hoped that learning about such natural phenomena would assist mortal man in the attempt to think God’s thoughts after Him. Often in today’s climate of censorial secularism, such religious motivations of a traditional nature longing to better understand the material universe are conveniently overlooked or deliberately downplayed. However, they were confirmed by some of the foremost scientific minds of the twentieth century such as Alfred North Whitehead and J. Robert Oppenhiemer who both admitted that Christianity was the “mother of science” even if neither of these men were themselves professed believers in Jesus as Lord and Savior (Schaffer, 132).

It has been said that history is like a drunken man reeling his head from one wall into the next. By this, it is meant that once one extremity of thought is corrected, the seeds of the next great philosophical imbalance can often be found taking root in the very same insight or innovation dragging the culture back from the abyss of desolation. Eventually, this tendency to value observation as a source of valid knowledge would eventually come to be seen more as an end in itself rather than simply as a tool for better understanding the overarching higher truth of God’s revelation.

The approach utilized by many Christian academics up until early modern times was known as scholasticism. In the method, according to Earle E. Cairns in Christianity Through The Centuries: A History Of The Christian Church , a scholar linked an authoritative general principle to a fact and from that drew a conclusion without necessarily pursuing experimental verification rather than relying upon the reputation of the source cited to support the assertion being made (377). However, in Novum Organum , Francis Bacon popularized an alternative approach known as the inductive method where, instead of accepting a premise on the basis of the authority invoked to support it, the researcher developed a hypothesis, made observations, checked them against experimental verification, and then developed a generalized conclusion. The thing of it was not so much that this inductive method would be used to learn about the natural world and the established deductive method used in theology as the so-called Queen of the Sciences ruling atop the other fields of inquiry. Rather, Bacon called for an inversion of the intellectual order with the physical sciences assuming a position of superiority over topics deemed speculative such as religion and metaphysics along the branches on the tree of knowledge (Currid, 141).

Thus, rather than continuing to derive religious and philosophical truth from the authoritative revelation of God's Holy Word and interpreting the data collected through investigation through such a prism, these thinkers began to critique the veracity of divine writ in light of their empirical research. And their conclusions were impacted significantly by developments taking place during the Age of Exploration.

Europeans had long known of the existence of the Muslim world as evidenced by the Crusades where armies in the name of Christ and Church attempted to retake the Holy Land by force of arms and the Battle of Poitiers where Charles Martel repelled invading Islamic forces. However, it was during the Age of Exploration that Europeans were confronted in a bold new manner with the idea that entire civilizations and cultures existed beyond the frontiers of their own. And despite the vast differences between cultures separated by considerable distances, those enthused by the influx of knowledge often concluded that humanity as a whole shared a great deal in common in terms of the underlying religious nature of the species.

Herbert of Cherbury is credited as the Father of English Deism. In his work On Truth, he set down the following principles: (1.) There is one Supreme God (2.) He ought to be worshipped (3.) Virtue and piety are the chief parts of worship (4.) We are to be sorry for our sins and repent of them (5.) God dispenses rewards and punishments (Geisler, 153). On the surface, there is little on that list that the traditional Biblical Christian would disagree with and most of these principles could in fact be incorporated as part of one's own personal statement of faith or as part of a church's formalized doctrinal creed. However, as Norman Geisler points out in Christian Apologetics, Herbert of Cherbury insisted that these ideas available to all mankind through what is often referred to as natural religion were not simply a prompt to set the individual soul in search of the true and perfect salvation found only in Jesus Christ, but that these principles were enough to achieve a blissful afterlife for all of humanity. Without necessarily attacking the Bible directly, Herbert of Cherbury asserted that dogmatic accoutrements such as sacred texts, sacrifices, and miracles were not essential components of valid religious experience and knowledge.

This initial attack upon orthodox Christian theism was somewhat subtle. However, as Deism gained ground and momentum, the assaults of its exponents grew increasingly bold and blatant. For example, in The Reasonableness Of Christianity, John Locke embraced the unitarian view of God that denied the deity of Christ (Geisler, 155). Other deists such as Matthew Tindal in Christianity As Old As The Creation attempted to undermine the Christian faith by broadening the attack on the Bible itself. The perspective taken was that the revelation of nature was itself sufficient for all and that any book attempting to add to such was either redundant or in fact detracted from the sublime message of the natural world with fables and myths that either contradicted what we know by reason or addressed a time mankind had since advanced beyond.

Having summarized to an extent the background giving rise to deism, it might be best to describe somewhat broadly what a majority of deists believed. As James Sire points out in The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog , an important thing to remember is that “...deism historically is not really a school of thought...These men held a number of related views, but not all held every doctrine in common (44).”

As noted in the comments regarding Herbert of Cherbury, as in the case of Christianity, Deism held that God created the universe. In so doing, deists believed that, in the spirit of the Scientific Revolution, God created the world to operate in accord with rational principles or laws. These laws were moral as well as physical and man could learn about the nature of the Creator and His intentions as thinkers reflected upon the grandeur and intricacy of the world at large.

It is after this point that Deism and traditional Christianity part ways. Influenced by the Newtonianism of the day consisting of seemingly irrefutable aphorisms such as for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, deists postulated that God created a universe so perfect in its complexities of cause and effect that He did not need nor desire to intervene in the cosmos or on the behalf of its inhabitants. Detached and disinterested from the workings of creation and the machinations of those occupying it, God does not relate personally to what He has made. It also flows from this notion of an absolutarian conception of cause and effect that deists denied the possibility or necessity of miracles.

This was a polar opposite of what Christianity believed. Christianity did, indeed, share the assumption with Deism that God created the universe and established it in accord with a system of laws noted for considerable regularity. However, Biblical theism held that, in accordance with John 3:16, that not only did God so love the world but that He entered into that world physically in the person of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. And that was not a trip undertaken like some wildlife safari to enjoy a vacation among the natives. Jesus came not into the world to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many, according to Matthew 20:28. John 15:12 insists no man can possess a love greater than to lay his life down for his brother. That is exactly what the lowly Jesus did for each person and that is about as far as one can get from the God of pure reason as expounded by the Deistic intelligentsia.

Throughout history irrespective of era, one of the undeniable truths that man as a creature stained by sin recoils from is the fact that Jesus came primarily into the world to die in our place for our sins. Elaborate alternative explanations have been provided as to his significance such as the one provided in our own day by John Dominic Crossan that Jesus was actually a revolutionary out to topple the prevailing political order. And more in keeping with the theme of this analysis, Thomas Jefferson, heavily influenced by deist assumptions, edited his own version of the Bible redacting the miraculous events such as the Resurrection of the life of Christ emphasizing instead how the Galilean handyman (though no more spectacular than anyone else in terms of cosmic powers and deity) still set a sterling moral example for everyone else to follow.

Apostates across the millennia have attempted to deny mankind’s need for a savior. Those of the deist persuasion were no different. To those initially shocked by the deist claim that there are no miracles and that the fundamental nature of Jesus was really no different than the rest of us, deist’s would assure that humanity really did not need a savior after all because there is really nothing wrong with man. In his points summarizing Deism, James Sire writes, “The cosmos is understood to be in its normal state; it is not fallen or abnormal (46).” Since people are as much a part of nature as the planets themselves or physical forces such as gravity, anything we do cannot really be said to be going against our nature.

Try as sophisticates might to convince themselves and to manipulate those around them that there really is not anything flawed about the world, the human heart retains enough sensitivity to long for a better world even if the individual is not fully aware of what it will actually take for the transformation each soul longs for to come about. Thus, in the deist worldview, the shortcomings observable in the world and within the individual are the result of man failing to realize just how splendid and excellent he really is. Many of the deists borrowed or endorsed the Platonic notion that to know the right would be all that was necessary to prompt the individual to do the right.

As with nearly all other worldviews, Deism did not merely promulgate isolated notions about God and the underlying nature of the universe bearing no implications for other areas of thought and existence. Inevitably, one’s anthropology or ideas about man flow from one’s theology or what one believes about God.

Whereas Christianity believed that the primary flaw that needed to be overcome which Jesus died for was the sin nature of each individual, deists believed that, if the environment could be perfected or idealized, man would be living large and on easy street. At the heart of the conception of man held by those sympathetic to the Deistic viewpoint was the notion of progress. Similar to what would be popularized under the banner of evolution in the 19th and 20th centuries, the notion of progress expounded by thinkers such as Bacon, contended that because of the innate goodness of man and the superiority of the scientific method for acquiring knowledge, humanity was on an inevitably upward path that would only accelerate with the triumph of reason over baser instincts and superstitions (Smith, 166). Just as they had crafted entire ways in which it was claimed to know all that could be known about God apart from divine revelation, Deistic thinkers were no less ambitious in their plans for mankind.

Inspired as they were by Greek thought and myth, a number of these thinkers were drawn to the legend of Atlantis, Plato's account of an idealized kingdom believed to be beyond the Pillars of Hercules that was ultimately brought to ruin through a great cataclysm that to Christian ears rings with a number of elements similar to those in the Genesis narrative of Noah's Flood. With the discovery of the New World, the desire to reestablish this fabled utopia in either these newly discovered lands or even in the familiar environs of the European Old World were kindled afresh. Where these thinkers differed to an extent was what were the best means to such ends and what exactly would things look like once civilization had reached the metaphorical and sometimes even literal shores of this brave new world. For among the deists, these journeys began to diverge largely in relation to what the particular deist in question believed regarding traditional religious belief and the value of the individual.

For example, though he believed in a God as a first cause stripped of any Christian understanding which might have imbued that concept, Thomas Hobbes did not believe that this God had any relationship with man or nature other than getting the ball rolling. As such, man is nothing more than a composite of matter moving through time and space disconnected from any higher spiritual realm (Currid, 142). Stranded in such a reality, life in such a state of nature is (as Hobbes famously mused) nasty, brutish, and short.

The best that man can hope for is to extend that brief existence for as long as possible and to ameliorate as many of these deprivations as possible. In Leviathan, Hobbes proposed this would be best accomplished through an arrangement known as a social contract. Though most Americans look favorably upon that phraseology from the way it would be utilized by later authors to limit what the state could do in favor of the individual, in the sense used by deists inclined to look less favorably upon the role played by traditional religion, the term “social contract” was used just as much and perhaps even more so to curtail the liberties of the average subject or citizen.

In the Hobbesian understanding, for protection and the opportunity to lead a life above the level of a war of all against all, the individual swore a high degree of authoritarian allegiance to a sovereign. Though not uncharacteristic for Hobbes’ day, nearly no area of life was left untouched or unscrutinized. In the system advocated by Hobbes, the sovereign could decide which opinions would be deemed inimical to public wellbeing, who could speak before multitudes, and what books were fit to be published. No act perpetrated by the sovereign in pursuit of his duties could be considered unjust; thus the figure could theoretically rule with an impunity that would make a 20th century dictator envious.

As the Age of Enlightenment progressed, notions such as the social contract took on an increasingly democratic veneer. However, in the minds more blatantly eager to undermine God's intended order, the concept could still be invoked to curtail the liberties of the individual rather than as a tool to protect them. Another Deistic figure in the more authoritarian branch of that worldview was Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau elaborated his ideas on these concepts in a book titled, of course, The Social Contract . Whereas many thinkers of his day believed scientific advancement and increasingly sophisticated forms of social organization were the means through which man would achieve his fullest potential through unleashing the innate goodness within, Rousseau believed these accoutrements led to enslavement. Instead, man was at his most pure in a blissful state of nature. In a manner not unlike the Emergent Church theologians of our own day with their deliberate affectation of unkempt Bohemianism, Rousseau contended the path to utopia did not lie necessarily through a multilayered bureaucracy but rather through the organic voice of the community known as the general will. Once this alleged consensus that sounds quite similar to mob rule had been reached, the individual would not be allowed to disobey this authoritative voice even if that meant the force of the community compelled the individual to be free against his own will. As Francis Schaeffer observed in How Should We Then Live, “The utopianism of this concept was shown by the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, during which the purification of the general will not only meant not only the loss of freedom for the individual but the reign of the guillotine (155).” Schaeffer emphasized of Rousseau’s insistence that those failing to obey the collective wisdom should be forced to be free, “Once more a humanistic utopianism ends in tyranny...(155).”

Deists not quite as hostile towards traditional religious belief did not veer as closely towards homicidal anarchy and dictatorship. The system’s more balanced thinkers tended to promote were more grounded in protecting many of those rights that had been hard-won over the course of history rather than upending nearly every last social institution on the spot with the hopes that doing so might usher in heaven on earth. It also helped that the milieu in which such a variety of Deism did exert some influence was one in which the population was itself sufficiently grounded in the Bible and sound theology that believers would only allow things to go so far and not much further.

One figure giving inspiration to this more subtle form of Deism was none other than John Locke. In works such as The Reasonableness Of Christianity, Locke did not exhibit as much vehemence against the Christian faith as would later deists such as Rousseau or Voltaire. Nor did Locke believe as Thomas Hobbes did that a centralized sovereign ought to exercise considerable authority and curtailment in matters of religious opinion. According to Francis Schaeffer, rather than destroy an established social order and weave an entirely new fabric, Locke attempted to preserve what had been or had the potential to be right but seldom adhered to in the political order by secularizing the principles found in Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford. These included inalienable rights, the separation of powers, and right of revolution or resistance to unlawful authority (109). The synthesis of Locke's own internal spiritual struggle would result in the development of a system that, when delicately and precariously balanced, rested upon the necessity of public virtue but not necessarily upon the need to bring the wrath of civil authorities down upon those that lived their lives within the parameters of a broadly Biblical morality. John Locke would go on to play a profound role in influencing the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the Declaration of Independence's phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a reflection of Locke's own emphasis on the ideals of life, liberty, and property.

In the rush to counter a secularist fanaticism bent on removing any acknowledgment of religion in American public life, for the purposes of drumming up support for assorted causes and public awareness campaigns there has been the temptation to paint a number of the Founding Fathers of the era of the American Revolution as so undeniably in the born again camp that these figures in terms of their theology and applied Christian living differed little from the rigorous independent Fundamentalism of today. The truth, as well as these men themselves, is much more complicated than that.

Probably the most undeniably deist among those honored for giving voice to a number of ideals considered intrinsically American was none other than Thomas Jefferson. Serving as a testament to Jefferson’s beliefs is the so-called “Jefferson Bible”. In this document, the Sage of Monticello retained the ethical and moral teachings of Jesus while expunging those passages pertaining to miracles such as the Resurrection of Christ. This tendency to view Jesus as nothing more than a good man was a constant throughout Jefferson’s religious life. In The Shaping Of America, John Warwick Montgomery quotes from a letter in which Jefferson gleefully predicted, “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian (53).”

Jefferson’s unconventional religious viewpoints were such a widespread concern among sincere Christians that Richard Hofstader suggests in The Paranoid Style Of American Politics that Jefferson’s ascent to high office sparked considerable alarm as to what extent the Illuminati had penetrated American society and whether or not violent upheaval like that in France could break out in the United States if vigilance was not maintained. However, even if Jefferson himself did not have a personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior, he did recognize the role or providence in the rise and fall of nations. Engraved on the Jefferson Memorial is the following quote from his Notes On The State Of Virginia: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever (Gingrich, 46).” Other support Jefferson extended towards religion in the United States included the use of public buildings for church services, a $100 per year donation to a Catholic priest laboring among the Kaskaskia Indians, and including the Bible and Watt’s hymnal as part of the curriculum he formulated for the schools of the District of Columbia.

The next enigmatic figure in terms of religion who is beloved or at least respected by a vast majority of Americans is Benjamin Franklin. As in the case of Jefferson, the objective historian must admit that there is little conclusive proof that Franklin threw himself on the mercy of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. There were also a number of things in the life of this monumental founder that the Christian could not endorse.

To his credit, Franklin believed the following: "That there is one God, who made all things. That he governs the world by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving. But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to men (Montgomery, 57).” Though Franklin's personal creed might have been a point or two above standard Deism as he at least believed God governed the world rather than relate to it through a sense of disinterested detachment, like the earlier formulations of Deism described in this analysis, the problem was not so much with what Franklin positively affirmed but rather with what he omitted.

In the friendly correspondence that developed between two giants of colonial America, revivalist George Whitefield pleaded with this renowned early American renaissance man to turn his formidable intellect to a serious consideration of the claims of Christ. But as in the case of Jefferson, one can catch glimpses of the internal struggle for Franklin's soul. For the very same statesman who observed at the Constitutional Convention that how he had grown convinced that Providence governed in the affairs of men himself never formally married the mother of his children. Franklin was also believed to have frequented the Hellfire Club, a secret society that was essentially a sex club that took particular delight in mocking traditional religion and virtue.

Devout patriots that love both God and country, though unsettled by these claims, are no doubt thinking that they will not be similarly disappointed by George Washington, the father of our country. Alas, as with these two previously mentioned Founding Luminaries, debate is no less settled regarding the first President of the United States.

To his credit, Washington was a member in good standing with the Episcopal Church. He was also said to be motivated by deep religious convictions. It was Washington that added the phrase "So help me God" to the presidential inaugural oath (Gingrich, 34). During his service in the Revolutionary War, Washington promoted a code of conduct that encouraged soldiers to attend worship services and to refrain from coarse behavior such as cursing. And Washington’s Farwell Address suggesting that the habits of morality and religion are indispensable to the continuation of a free republic is a cornerstone of American political theory and philosophy.

But as in the case of Franklin and Jefferson, things in Washington's own background prompt the Christian to pause despite all of the contributions Washington made to establish the nation on what appears to be a steady course and foundation irrespective of whether or not George Washington's name really will be heard up yonder. For you see, George Washington was a member of the Free Masons.

Some might respond such a thing is not really that big of a deal as many join that fraternal order for the purposes of networking and status, not fully comprehending what exactly the organization professes. Especially in the past, members on the lower rungs of these kinds of brotherhoods would simply remain on their periphery in order to, as is said, succeed in business without really trying since membership has often been seen as the route to enviable careers in commerce and government. However, Washington was more than a mere member.

Washington served as Master of the Alexandria, Virginia lodge in the late 1780's. In that town just outside the nation's capital, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial was erected to commemorate publicly his affiliation with the secret society. Holding such a position of honor and distinction among the organization’s ranks, Washington would have known that Free Masonry held to what John Warwick Montgomery described in The Shaping Of America as a kind of liturgical Deism (56). Like Deism, Free Masonry holds that God is the Great Architect of the universe that set up the world to run on its own without interference on His behalf to keep it going. Rather than salvation being found alone through faith in the person and work of Christ, the individual is responsible for his own spiritual advancement with each of the world's religions simply expressing its own unique set of truths and viewpoints on essentially the same cosmic deity.

Learning that the Founders they had so admired might not have had a walk as close to God as initially assumed, some Christians might be inclined to so radically separate from the federal constitutional system established in the late 1700's as to call for something entirely new all together in terms of sociopolitical organization. Such a call might be too hasty and might play more into the hands of those seeking to establish a New World Order than one might suspect. John Warwick Montgomery points out in The Shaping Of America, "The single most paradoxical aspect of American history is that though the country's Founding Fathers were Deists and not Christians, the nation got off to a Christian start nonetheless. Both the American Revolution and the founding documents arising from it turned out to be --- often in spite of the motives of their creators --- fully compatible with the historic Christian faith (57).”

In the coming years ahead, to prevent the land that we love from descending into either the abyss of anarchy or tyranny, the Christian will be required to exercise the utmost discernment. Since one of the best ways to proceed forward is to look back at from where we have come, that will require each of us to grapple with the founding of this nation as it actually was rather than how we might like it to be. The Founding Fathers were by no means perfect and a number fell short in a number of areas such as perhaps in ideas regarding the person and nature of Christ. However, what they did grant to the nation was a system that would allow for a public recognition of God while allowing the individual to work out the specifics of their respective walks with the Almighty on their own in fear and trembling.

by Frederick Meekins 

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