If you doubt that the UFO phenomenon is a religion, check out one of the major UFO festivals sometime. People travel great distances to Roswell, New Mexico; McMinnville, Oregon; Kecksburg, Pennsylvania; the Burning Man festival and other places hosting conferences to celebrate the possibility of ETI contact. You’ll generally find a heavy New Age presence at these gatherings. Besides the tarot card readings and healing crystals, a strong desire to meet our “space brothers” is evident among many of the pilgrims who’ve made the journey.
In short, you encounter people searching for answers to the big questions that have haunted humanity since very early in our history: Where do we come from, why are we here, and where do we go when we die?
What you won’t find at these festivals—at least, not to our knowledge—are seminars on astrophysics, aerospace engineering, or advanced mathematics. If the point of these conferences is to explore whether we’ve been contacted, what the ETIs want, and ways to visit Zeta Reticuli, shouldn’t the how of all this be part of the discussion? Wouldn’t NASA or some of the big defense contractors have booths to recruit promising young talent?
Instead, it seems that ETs’ presence on Earth is a given, the potential threat of a hostile ETI is downplayed (in spite of the abduction accounts of Betty and Barney Hill, Travis Walton, and others), and the main question on everyone’s mind is when the United States government will stop playing coy and show the world what’s stashed at Area 51 and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Because then we’ll finally know.
Know what, exactly?
To listen to the evangelists of the ancient alien gospel, who have been preaching regularly on American cable television networks for more than a decade, we’ll finally know where we came from, why we’re here, and where we go when we die.
In other words, the answers we Christians hold in our hands every time we pick up a Bible. Why aren’t UFO seekers looking there?
We shouldn’t be surprised that belief in ET has been growing in America over the last seventy years. For at least twice that long, most of our leading thinkers in the secular realm have embraced modernist and postmodernist thought. We’ll deal with the implications of these philosophies in an upcoming entry, but in a nutshell: Modernists believe that science is the only reliable tool for finding truth, while postmodernists, on the other hand, believe truth is unknowable.
You can see why neither of those philosophies is friendly to a Christian worldview. We believe in an invisible God who spoke the universe into being. As a supernatural being, He defies observation and measurement through natural means. And a God who defines objective truth—as in, “I am the truth”—is anathema to postmodernists.
We Americans have been soaking in postmodern philosophy since about the 1930s. Thanks to the influence of this self-refuting philosophy on our education system, most of us are unprepared to demand actual evidence for extraordinary claims like, “We’re being visited by ETIs.”[i] Instead, we’re content to ignore a belief system that’s lured in a third of our friends and family members, which is something we’d never do if the face of ET featured horns and a goatee.
Thanks to postmodernism, which has taught too many of us that our beliefs are wrong if they hurt someone else’s feelings, we let the claims of UFO believers slide by without critical examination. After all, we’ve been conditioned to believe truth is relative, filtered through personal experience and shaped by our culture. So your humble authors, as Anglo-Saxon American males, have a different set of “truths” than, say, a woman from Tibet.
Eh…hold it. Not so fast. A physicist friend recently encountered a more extreme example of postmodernist thought. While teaching a college physics class, an African-American student responded to Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation by saying it didn’t apply to him because it was a white man’s law. Once our friend, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, realized the young man wasn’t kidding, he invited the budding scientist to join him on the roof of the four-story building to put his theory to the test. By jumping.
For his remark, our friend was compelled to endure several sessions of sensitivity training. But you get the point—we can’t be content to dismiss the UFO phenomenon by saying, “Jesus works for me, but all others have to find their own path to God.”
Propositional truth—claims that can be tested on the strength of logic and evidence—exists. Christianity is based on propositional truth. Example: Jesus is God.[ii] Since Jesus said no one comes to the Father except through Him, then there are no other paths to God. This being true, following the ET highway to its final destination can have eternal consequences.
And if a third of America believes ET is out there, and three-quarters of us believe there’s evidence of ETI contact, then the odds are at least one person in your church buys into the ETI gospel.
Since the mid-1980s, conferences have become an integral part of the UFO phenomenon. Every year, major cons bring thousands of truth-seekers from across the United States and the world to hear experts on the phenomenon discuss the reasons we’re being visited, accounts of contactees and abductees, and the evidence thereof.
Major events on the annual calendar include the Roswell UFO Festival, of course. The 1947 crash of something in the desert northwest of the town caused a stir at the time, but the incident was more or less forgotten until about thirty years later. At least some of the residents of the city shared their belief with the authors at the 2017 festival that the current interest in the Roswell UFO crash was the result of city leaders in the ’70s looking for a way to save a town that was dying a slow death. The 1967 closure of Walker Air Force Base, located just three miles south of the central business district, had an enormous impact on the local economy. Seven thousand of the city’s thirty-nine thousand people moved away and about four thousand homes flooded the local real estate market.[iii] One can understand the desperation of local business owners to find something to draw people to a dusty desert town located about two hundred miles south of Albuquerque.
Other major conferences are held in Scottsdale, Arizona; McMinnville, Oregon; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Joshua Tree, California; and other places with gatherings whose organizers may take offense at being left off this list. The point is not to catalog the events, but to illustrate that conferences bringing together hundreds or thousands of people to discuss the hows and whys of ET visitation are happening all over the country. They’re promoted by nationally syndicated radio and television programs and facilitated by the ease of Internet communication.
The question is why? What motivates people to travel across the country to sit through lectures when they could just as easily find the information in books or on YouTube? We suspect it’s for the same reasons people travel to Bible prophecy conferences, something we can speak to from personal experience: The journey is worthwhile because it’s about something transcendent. The expense and inconvenience of getting to an event is a small price for the joy that comes from being around others who understand, who get it. The sense of belonging to a community is something UFO believers don’t experience at church (and likewise for far too many believers in Bible prophecy), work, or home. And deep down, they feel a nagging sense of something missing—something they might just find at the next UFO conference.
A former trauma doctor who’s become the father of the official disclosure movement, Steven Greer, isn’t shy about connecting ETIs to the world’s spiritual health:
It is hard to imagine why someone with a wife and four kids leaves a half-million-dollar-a-year job until you understand that, in Greer’s view, extraterrestrials are nothing less than an answer to a spiritual crisis. Why save one life in an emergency room when you can save an entire planet?…
On his 18th birthday, he climbed up onto a fire tower to meditate. Again, he saw a disc materialize. Feeling a tap on the shoulder, he turned to behold a small creature with “beautiful eyes.” Greer felt himself flying as the creature beamed him onto a spaceship. Time stood still. He felt connected to everyone and everything.
After that experience, he continued to “connect with a pure, universal love.” Every night he meditated. And every night the aliens came.[iv]
Pure, universal love. For many believers, this is the promise of the UFO phenomenon—transcendence. Something bigger and more beautiful than the grubby, noisy world they inhabit. And Dr. Steven Greer is the voice crying out in the wilderness to make straight the way of ET.
This is the reason presentation topics at UFO conferences are rarely, if ever, about logistics—how exactly the ETIs solved the huge problems of energy consumption, radiation exposure, food storage, and simple mechanical reliability needed to cross the vast emptiness of space. With few exceptions, regular speakers at these events focus on the spiritual implications of ET visits than on the science of how they got here.
This is not by accident.
Even though a handful of well-known cases suggest a darker purpose to their visits, the attitude towards our alleged space brothers is generally positive. With a few notable exceptions, experts in the field generally avoid lingering too long on the idea that something dark and deceptive might be at the heart of the UFO phenomenon. We suggest that this, too, is not an accident.
The Media and Hollywood
The media has played a key role in promoting this new faith. Without the reach of the Internet, cable television, and Hollywood, it’s doubtful that the gospel of ET would have spread as far and as fast as it has.
They probably wouldn’t characterize themselves this way, but the regulars on cable TV alien hunter shows are essentially, as Dr. Michael Heiser calls them, televangelists for the ET religion. Ancient Aliens is, incredibly, now in its twelfth season on the History Channel.
The History Channel! Do you remember when the History Channel still broadcast programs about history? Sadly, actual history is as popular on cable as it was in high school. So programmers turned to so-called reality shows, rehashing old cases about UFOs and alien contact, and they found gold in them thar thrills.
We humans love a mystery, and other cable networks have followed the History Channel’s lead over the last decade with varying degrees of success. Programs about the paranormal and unexplained are featured on National Geographic, SyFy, Animal Planet, and the Travel Channel. Mystery sells. And nothing is more mysterious than the unexplained lights in the sky and persistent stories of those who claim to have been aboard the ships.
Ancient Aliens and Clones
The most popular and influential program on cable catering to the hunger for the ET gospel is undoubtedly Ancient Aliens. It was launched by the History Channel in 2010 as a successor to UFO Hunters, which aired in 2008 and 2009. A number of other programs featuring the UFO phenomenon have come and gone since the turn of the century—UFO Chasers, UFOs Declassified, UFO Files, Hangar 1, and Unsealed: Alien Files to name a few—but Ancient Aliens is plugging along in 2017, a top-ten cable show with about 1.2 million adult viewers in its Friday-night time slot.[v] By the time you read this, 130 episodes of Ancient Aliens will have delivered the subtle message that the Bible’s account of where humanity came from was incomplete.
In retrospect, the shift from UFOs to “ancient aliens” was a brilliant programming decision. There are only so many ways to make jittery mobile phone videos of blurry lights in the night sky look interesting. Famous cases like Roswell, Kecksburg, and the Phoenix Lights have been analyzed as often as the Kennedy assassination. Without new information on old events, which isn’t likely, or spectacular new cases to investigate, the UFO phenomenon runs out of material pretty quickly—at least as far as what can be turned into entertaining television.
By tying the UFO phenomenon to unsolved mysteries of the past, the producers of Ancient Aliens opened a gold mine of material. Everything from the pyramids to cults and mystery religions were suddenly fair game. Borrowing heavily from the work of Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin, Ancient Aliens has linked ETIs to ancient Sumer, the cyclopean architecture of the Americas, and Freemasonry.
And, of course, the Bible. This, too, is no accident. Researcher and author Jason Colavito observed that “Ancient Aliens stopped being about space aliens years ago and is now a sort of propaganda arm for New Age religion, which explains why it is so much more interested in the mystery of consciousness than actual evidence for the existence of space aliens.… Over the years Ancient Aliens has become Theosophy: The Series.”[vi]
The beauty of this approach is that the producers of Ancient Aliens don’t have to prove a thing. A medieval painting, an inscription from the ancient Near East, or an odd-looking prehistoric petroglyph is all they need to build another episode. Host Giorgio Tsoukalos begins so many statements with, “Could it be…” or, “Is it possible…” that the show has become a parody of itself.
A classic example is the fascination ancient astronaut believers have with Ezekiel’s wheel:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.…
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. (Ezekiel 1:4, 15–21, ESV)
The analysis by Tsoukalos? “It reads much more like an encounter with some type of extraterrestrial craft that was misinterpreted as some type of a divine event.”[vii]
Well, yeah, if you’re not a Mesopotamian living 2,600 years ago. That type of imagery was common back then. Believe it or not, the subjects of Nebuchadnezzar would have known exactly what they were seeing—a royal throne and its divine guardians.
The UFO interpretation is modern, but it isn’t new. The Spaceships of Ezekiel, a 1974 book by Josef P. Blumrich, capitalized on the growing popularity of von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, with the added marketing appeal that Blumrich wrote the book while he was “chief of NASA’s systems layout branch of the program development office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.”
Except that he wasn’t:
One of the reasons so many people have (and still do) think Blumrich’s book is worth referencing is that he claimed (and so his followers are fond of repeating) that he was a NASA engineer. He wasn’t. As Jason Colavito demonstrated a long time ago, documentation exists from the U.S. State Department that shows the State Department could find no evidence that Blumrich was affiliated with NASA. Frankly, it wouldn’t matter if Blumrich was an engineer. His ideas are based on desperate and uninformed misreadings of the biblical text anyway. We know what Ezekiel saw because his descriptions mirror ancient Babylonian iconography that we can look at today because of archaeologists. The imagery is no mystery, nor is its meaning.
So, once again, the uncritical thinkers in the ancient astronaut orbit (and I do mean orbit) were duped by a “researcher” that lied to them. You have to wonder how many times this has to happen before some of these folks wake up. The ancient astronaut theory is primarily supported by industrious but duplicitous researchers offering fraudulent research to an emotionally and psychologically primed audience. It’s actually pretty sad.[viii]
So Blumrich was a fake and Tsoukalos got things backwards. We think Ezekiel saw a UFO because our twenty-first century worldview misinterprets divine imagery from the sixth century B.C. Sadly, people who say they take the Bible seriously aren’t any better prepared to understand what the prophet saw than Giorgio Tsoukalos. Those who’ve studied Ezekiel usually haven’t read up on Mesopotamian religious imagery. Evangelists of the ET religion disregard what the ancient Mesopotamians believed because—well, because aliens.
That’s behind the continued popularity of the work of the late Zecharia Sitchin. In a nutshell, Sitchin, who passed away in 2010, claimed that Mesopotamian iconography showed the existence of a forgotten planet called Nibiru beyond Neptune. This planet, Sitchin claimed, follows a highly elliptical orbit into the inner solar system about every 3,600 years with catastrophic consequences. Sitchin also equated the Anunnaki, the gods of Sumer, with the biblical Nephilim, and claimed that they arrived on Earth some 450,000 years ago to mine gold in Africa.
Sitchin’s theories are behind much of the Planet X angst that clogs up the Internet. Biblical scholar Dr. Michael S. Heiser, who reads Sumerian, has thoroughly debunked Sitchin’s theories, even going so far as to post his personal tax returns to show that he wasn’t trying to profit by publicly challenging Sitchin.[ix] That hasn’t stopped Sitchinites from continuing to spread the idea that the gods of the ancient world were actually astronauts from outside the solar system looking for wealth, riches, or just some R & R on Sol III.
All manner of ancient mysteries are explained away with, “Well, we don’t know—so aliens.” For example, one of the more convincing stories we’re told about our ancestors is that they couldn’t possibly have moved the stones used to build the pyramids, the temple at Baalbek, or Machu Picchu because our modern cranes can’t lift that kind of weight today. What we’re not told is that between 1768 and 1770, the Russians transported the heaviest stone ever moved by humans, the 1,500-ton Thunder Stone, nearly four miles overland to the center of St. Petersburg without animal or machine power.
Think about that. While the American colonies slowly marched toward their war for independence, four hundred Russians with rope, timber, and a bunch of six-inch-diameter bronze spheres moved a block of granite that weighed as much as sixty-five fully loaded tractor-trailers across six kilometers of dry land in nine months. So just because we don’t know exactly how people moved big blocks of stone four thousand years ago, it doesn’t follow that it must have been aliens.
Yet as factually void as the show is, people still watch Ancient Aliens. And the lack of response from the church to the ancient alien meme isn’t helping. Ignoring the UFO phenomenon hasn’t made it go away. To repeat: A third of Americans believe we’re being visited by ET. Only 10 percent believe in God as He’s described in the Bible.
Why do we keep coming back to those numbers? Because we’re in the middle of an information war, and pop culture is on the side of the aliens.
UP NEXT: Popularity of Science Fiction Films and Television and Their Role In the Coming Great Delusion
[i] Yes, there are eyewitnesses who have seen mysterious flying craft, and there is some physical evidence, such as puzzling metal implants extracted from contacts. None of that is proof of extraterrestrial origin.
[ii] For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave defending that proposition to books like The Case for Christ and Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
[iii] Martin Waldron, “In Roswell, N. M., Closing of Air Base Wasn’t the End,” July 9, 1970, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1970/07/09/archives/in-roswell-nm-closing-of-air-base-wasnt-the-end.html, retrieved 7/15/17.
[iv] Gendy Alimurung, “One Weekend with Alien Enthusiasts Might Make You a Believer,” November 28, 2013, LA Weekly. http://www.laweekly.com/news/one-weekend-with-alien-enthusiasts-might-make-you-a-believer-4137362, retrieved 7/16/17.
[v] Alex Welch, “Friday Cable Ratings: ‘Live PD’ and Clippers vs Lakers Game Land High,” July 10, 2017, TV by the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/daily-ratings/friday-cable-ratings-july-7-2017/, retrieved 7/16/17.
[vi] Jason Colavito, “Review of Ancient Aliens S12E10 ‘The Akashic Record,’” July 14, 2017. http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/review-of-ancient-aliens-s12e10-the-akashic-record, retrieved 7/16/17.
[viii] Dr. Michael S. Heiser, “The Spaceships of Ezekiel Fraud,” April 28, 2013, Paleobabble. http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2013/04/spaceships-ezekiel-fraud/, retrieved 7/16/17.