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im wondering how human religions (specifically christianity) in the 21st century would react (referring to cultural change and religious division) to encountering and establishing communications with an alien species that is physically and anatomically completely different from humans, but has its own set of common religions that are remarkably similar to earth ones. this includes one that has a holy book that translates to be almost identical to the christian holy book, but with a religion built around it that is radically different(eg, the belief that the vast majority of the bible is literal or nonliteral).

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    $\begingroup$ "How X would react..." is a very nebulous question, these questions tend to get closed as opinion-based. Could you edit your question to be more specific? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ Some of the scriptures of my faith say that it's okay to exploit, rob, enslave, and even exterminate those sub-human infidels. Other scriptures of my faith require me to be honest, fair, compassionate, and generous to everybody, including our good neighbors who merely believe differently. So, as you can see, the answer is obvious. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ Thinking of and treating "Christianity" and/or its practitioners as a singular and unified is fundamentally flawed. There are more sub-divisions of Christian churches today than I can name. That's just major ones that name themselves - Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists, Presbyterians, Mormons just to name a few. Each of these churches will have difference stances on the teachings. Moreover, culturally two countries following the same denomination can still have differences. Even then, there are smaller splinter churches that might have different interpretation or religion. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ That's just listing some of the things we can name. Individuals might have a widely different views even if they are part of the same church denomination, same country, same cultural group, same family even. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ i am aware of such, I myself am a christian, and that's why i included the detail of division in the question. I was asking because i wanted a less biased answer from someone other than myself. $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 18:46

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First off, a frame challenge: I am skeptical of the notion that they have a holy book that is essentially the Bible with a fundamentally different religion built around it. This is going to require some significant ability to reinterpret text to mean something other than what it says it means. You can talk about "belief that the vast majority of the bible is nonliteral", but there are already Christians (or should that be "Christians", in quotes?) that believe this.

In short, the only result I expect from this (implausible scenario) is for both humans and the extraterrestrials to be utterly convinced that the others' interpretation of Scripture is bonkers.


Second, Christians specifically are going to have some potential issues regardless of the ETs' philosophy. In particular, the real quandary for Christians (be they Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or whatnot) would be how ETs fit into God's Plan for Salvation. To answer that, we would have to look at whether they are sinful and when they were created.

  • If they were created before humans, this is going to cause problems for Creationists, since Earth was created in seven days. However, there is a theory that, while Earth was created in seven days, much more time may have passed — and indeed, may still be passing — elsewhere.
  • If they were created after humans, it seems objectionable that God would create perfect people in a fallen universe. However, He might have known they would experience their own Fall, which may make this a moot point. Or perhaps they were created in their own universe, and, post-Fall, found their way into ours. Or possibly they remain perfect (in which case, expect them to be at least biologically, if not entirely, immortal) and are here in some way as part of God's plan for us.
  • On the other hand, it may be objectionable that God would create people that are already fallen. However, Christians may decide that humans are effectively in this boat already.
  • In either case, if they are Fallen, since Christianity teaches that Christ died for all people, this would presumably make them like either Jews or Gentiles; people that either don't Christ, or know only to expect the Messiah. In either case, Christians will likely see it as their duty to proselytize to them.

A good example of these issues can be found in C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. While you're at it, you might want to read Narnia as well. Both series deal with the question of how non-human people might fit into Christianity. (Don't bother with the movies, though, at least not for this purpose.)

A more complete examination of this question is probably more appropriate to Christianity.SE.

Again, these issues are going to exist simply by virtue of ETs existing. The philosophy of the ETs may be informative as to which of the above applies. That they have a "Bible" suggests that one or the other of us (humans or ETs) somehow got a copy from the other.


Okay, but... ET has a "Bible". The most logical immediate conclusion is that one of us (humans or ET) somehow got a copy from the other. However, there is a wrinkle: significant portions of the bible are historical narrative; history that can be verified. Thus, as an author I think you have to make a choice, that will necessarily have serious consequences for your world.

  • If the Bible is not anything like an accurate historical record of ETs' planet, then obviously they got a copy of our Bible, and how they interpret it may be irrelevant. (At least, we are likely to believe their interpretation is irrelevant, because "obviously" the Bible is talking about humans and not ETs.) In this case, just refer to the above.
  • If the Bible can also be read as an accurate history of the ETs' planet, then, firstly, you have an amazing coincidence, and secondly, they can't both be true. In fact, it is fundamentally incompatible with Christian theology that there should be two Christs and two separate plans for Salvation. Either Christianity is an outright crock, or maybe there was one Christ who was simultaneously present at both planets. In this case, both groups are going to have an interesting time bashing out whose interpretation of Scripture is correct, but may arrive at some sort of consensus. People will complain that trying to understand how Christ died once, simultaneously on separate planets, makes their heads hurt, but that already happens when one tries to understand the Trinity. A more detailed examination of this possibility probably warrants a new question.
  • If their "Bible" is an accurate history for them which is different from ours, then it hardly "translates to be almost identical", and I no longer know what question is being asked. However, in this case, it would seem obvious that only one of them is right and the other is a fabrication. Some will likely believe that this means the ETs' "Bible" is irrelevant, as in the first scenario. Others may believe that this means Terrestrial Christianity has been wrong all along, as in one version of the second scenario.

p.s. "Creationists" are Christians that accept a literal reading of the narrative parts of the Bible¹. This is totally orthogonal to being Catholic, Protestant, or whatnot. The above mostly looks at the question from a Creationist perspective, as they're the ones most likely to run into issues.

Non-Creationists typically interpret Genesis as figurative/poetic, with an effect on their philosophy that is directly relevant here. Genesis seems to say that humanity's need for salvation comes from the notion of "the fall" / "original sin"; that is, we were created "perfect" and we humans messed everything up. Death is called a consequence of sin... but death is necessary for evolution. That non-Creationists can reconcile these apparently conflicting views suggests that they may be able to reconcile the existence of extraterrestrials as well, no matter what ETs' science or philosophy says.

(¹ The Bible does contain poetic passages that are not intended to be taken literally. Creationists believe that Genesis is not such a part.)

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  • $\begingroup$ this seems like a pretty extreme claim to make about creationism. why would they necessarily follow creationism for their version of the religion if, as i stated, their form of christianity is radically different from the human form despite the shared holy book? $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ also why does being evolutionist or noncreationist result in them being a lesser christian? no offense, but that seems like a pretty strong claim to not have any evidence provided. $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ question: why would their science have to reject or disprove evolution? if their system of christianity is so different from ours, it seems like a pretty strong claim to say that they would not only also be creationist, but have enough impact on their world's science to assume or even disprove that evolution is wrong. even darwinian evolution, the idea of tracing back to one common ancestor for all life on a planet, would be insanely hard to disprove, and even subtracting that, people would almost certainly still believe evolution due to its simplicity. $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @zackit, that's not really in scope for this SE. Short version: Christian salvation depends on the fall depends on death not existing before the fall depends on not-evolutionism. If you believe in both Christian salvation and evolutionism, you are engaged in doublethink (simultaneous belief in two contradictory views). $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ please re-read the question, specifically the details of that their holy book is almost identical but the religion built around it is almost completely unrecognizable. additionally, if its different enough, they may believe that the first book of the bible may be entirely symbolic with no literal material whatsoever. this is what i was referring to in, "but with a religion built around it that is radically different." $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 14:28
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The Vatican (ie Catholic church) has already prepared a welcoming response

"The extraterrestrial is my brother" - Translation into English, by Vatican chief astronomer and papal science adviser Father Gabriel Funes.

Since God created the universe, theologians say, he would have created aliens, too. And far from being weakened by contact, Christianity would adapt. Its doctrines would be interpreted anew, the aliens greeted with open -- and not necessarily Bible-bearing -- arms.

I did once actually ask a friend of mine who was a deacon of the catholic church this directly. His response was that it would be a challenge, especially if the aliens had their own religion, but that ultimately any supreme being called by any name would ultimately redirect to the same being, and most of the moral teachings underpinning Catholicism should be beneficial to any collection of living beings (love thy neighbour, don't cast the first stone unless you're truely sinless, don't steal or murder, etc.), as they help with social cohesion; it's likely there'd be similes in the alien religion, and there should be room to incorporate them into one, true, common, religion.


This answer only applies to about 50% of Christians

This does not answer for several Christians who don't respect the teachings of the Pope. There are 1.2 billion Catholics who this answer applies to, there are a different 1.2 billion non-catholic Christians, divided into about 30,000 denominations. There are 30,000 separate answers to this question for those groups.

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  • $\begingroup$ As I recall the the Catholic Church's theological 'studies' on this matter are not technically teachings let alone 'Doctrine' but rather an analysis of the issue of extraterrestrial intelligence from the church's perspective. From memory they hypothesized that aliens could in theory fall into 3 broad spiritual states vis-a-ve their relationship with God. (1) Sinless (2) Sinful & (3) Dammed or some such. The first - man before the fall. The second - just like us. The third, fallen beyond redemption. No prize for guessing which of the 3 classes you wouldn't want to run into. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ Part 2) In summary none of the findings in the studies were particularity surprising nor were they particularity radical in any way. It was more a case of 'aliens exist?' Well business as usual then. I imagine any Protestant scholars tasked by their churches with studying this question would probably review the Catholic study just to see how these conclusions were reached. Same for Pentecostal Churches as well - assuming any Church from that branch was actually prepared to authorize a study of the topic in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 4:55
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An article was written about this in 2016: How Will Our Religions Handle the Discovery of Alien Life?

Judaism

Since Jews believe there are no limits on the power of God, they are open to the idea that God is free to create more than one form of sentient species in the cosmos.

Judaism “can very well accept a scientific finding that man is not the only intelligent and bio-spiritual resident in God’s world,” because “Man’s non-singularity does not imply his insignificance.”

Jews would also not bother to proselytize ET. Twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides held that the righteous of all nations and faiths will earn a place in heaven. On this basis, Jews would assume that ET will decide for itself how and whether to worship God.

Seventh-day Adventism

The prophetess, Ellen White, described visions of extraterrestrial beings in different worlds that were “tall, majestic people” and entirely without sin. These visions inform the religion’s bedrock belief that since aliens are not affected by original sin, they do not need Christian redemption.

Of course, a serious problem could emerge if ET turns out to be evil.

Creationists

Most fundamentalist Christians are committed to a literal interpretation of scripture. Since there is no mention of extraterrestrials in the Bible, they conclude that this proves the absence of any such beings in the universe. For this reason, first contact with an alien would obviously generate a major headache for Creationists.

Roman Catholicism

Many Roman Catholic leaders take the possible existence of aliens seriously, and they tend to agree that ET is sinful. Yet they disagree on why ET is sinful and whether he should attend Roman Catholic Mass if he lands on Earth.

Pope Francis Says He Would Definitely Baptize Aliens If They Asked Him To

Islam

Those of the Muslim faith might not be surprised by news of ET’s existence, particularly if ET is sentient. In fact, Islamic scripture seems to make the case that intelligent life forms exist on many other worlds. The Qur’an states that all of the beings in the universe serve Allah, who “does take an account of them all, and hath numbered them all exactly. And every one of them will come to Him singly on the Day of Judgment.” A number of scholars agree that these beings are not angels, because the word da’bbah translates to mean a living, breathing creature that walks on the ground; it does not fly and it is not a spirit.

Buddhism

Buddhists view the universe as unimaginably large, ancient, and filled with living beings everywhere. Within this universe, reincarnation allows a soul to endlessly transmigrate upward or downward through the multiple levels of living beings. At the moment of death, reincarnation also permits a soul to slip away from a body in one part of the universe and be reborn into a different body in another part of the universe. The very existence of ET is built into the Buddhist worldview, and so an alien presence wouldn’t pose a challenge to its core principles.

And from the BBC: If we made contact with aliens, how would religions react?

The Psalms, sacred to both Jews and Christians, claim that God has given names to all the stars. According to the Talmud, God spends his night flying throughout 18,000 worlds. And Islam insists that “all things in the heavens and on the Earth” are Allah’s, as the Koran says, implying that his rule extends well beyond one tiny planet. The same texts are unequivocally clear that human beings are special to God, who seems fairly able to multitask.

Evangelicals might have a difficult time with Seti, because they approach their Scriptures with a high degree of literalism. Their hermeneutical heritage extends back to Luther’s Sola Scriptura, a Reformation rallying cry that affirms “Scripture alone” is necessary for understanding God’s plan for salvation. (One notable exception here is evangelist Billy Graham who in 1976 told the National Enquirer he “firmly” believed God created alien life “far away in space”.)

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  • $\begingroup$ "Creationists [...] conclude that this proves the absence of any such beings in the universe". This is not (universally) true. The Bible doesn't mention a lot of things, but it does not follow that those things don't exist. Also, "Creationist" and "Roman Catholic" are not mutually exclusive. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 12:53
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I'm wondering how human religions (specifically christianity) in the 21st century would react (referring to cultural change and religious division) to encountering and establishing communications with an alien species that is physically and anatomically completely different from humans

It's very simple.

  1. Most religious people won't believe they are real any more than they believe fossils are real or that the Earth isn't flat. They will make sure they never meet an alien and simply claim that atheists have conspired with the devil to create some CGI trickery.

  2. The rest of religious people will say, "Look! Here is even more proof of God's miraculous creation! It's all part of his plan!"

  3. If the aliens' religion is similar to Christianity, the Christians will take it as proof that they were right along, and will live the rest of their lives in complacent smugness, thumbing their noses at everyone else. The dissension this causes will result in a religious war, the like of which has never been seen.

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