January 31, 2013 by kittynh
I remember during TAM 8, a moon hoaxer believer from Australia, Jarrah White, was quite annoying with his questioning of Adam Savage and slight stalking of astronomer Phil Plait. Security was alerted, but thankfully things remained peaceful. However what many of us found most interesting was that when interviewed White admitted he was an atheist. A few skeptics had trouble getting their heads around the fact that he could be so be “correct” in his thinking about religion, but wrong about the moon landing.
I wasn’t too shocked. While I know little about White, I do work with a lot of skeptic work with people that believe in UFOs and alien abduction. I have started a very non scientific survey of the people I meet both online and in person via my work. The question is I always ask is what their religious and spiritual beliefs are. I used to be surprised when the number of atheists over the years has held steady at 50%.
Certainly there are many very spiritual people, many of whom believe there alien interaction is part of some larger cosmic purpose and plan. However, when pushed, they often say that the aliens aren’t gods, so much as creatures that exist on a higher plane than we do. I also get that they are “far more intelligent” than we are. But, are they “gods”? Not really. They are like humans, but more “evolved”. I even get that one day we will evolve into beings just like these aliens. I have been informed that if Darwin were alive today, he would write another chapter about the aliens to explain what we would become next.
Those that admit without hesitation they are “atheists” often point out to me that they are “scientific”. They don’t believe in the “fairy tales” of the Bible. Instead, they look to the future, which will be in space. They dream about a life much like Star Trek, with interactions between Earthlings and other life forms commonplace.
The Bible is often pointed out as mistaken reports of alien visitation. There aren’t angels and Gods, simply superior intelligent beings out there. Some claim these aliens interfere and even control our lives here on Earth. Others claim the aliens want to communicate with us, via talking to a few more spiritual or advanced human beings. In other words, the aliens just don’t land on the White House lawn, because they can only communicate with a very few advanced humans. This is why alien abductees often take great pride and feel a great sense of responsibility about being contacted.
It is a heavy burden to be the voice of the aliens that are trying to help us here on Earth. However, it also makes the person chosen to be that voice special. Much as a religion tells members they are special because they belong to the “right” religion, believing in aliens and spreading their message can also make a person feel special.
That is why having someone give up their belief in alien visitation is as hard as getting someone to become an atheist. What will fill the hole left? Self esteem and self worth are often tied to religion and alien belief. Leaving the belief means you are left without anything to make you feel unique or different than others. Finding something to fill that hole, be it astronomy ,or the joy of science, discovery and skepticism, can be as vital to converting someone as facts and logic.
Many abductees feel a sense of security also. There is no “God” but there is a guiding presence, communicating with us and guiding our steps. Many abductees communicate with the aliens they believe in several times a day, some in almost constant communication. It reminds me of deeply religious people that pray many times and also feel God is with them always. Many people have a sense of comfort with their closeness to the aliens. They are never alone, but always have someone very intelligent and advanced with them.
While there are the usual “Star children” and “angels from space”, there are also many people that feel there is no God but a more evolved version of us, out there in the Universe. I like to think they are atheists that don’t want to feel lonely.
Perhaps they are people that at one time were religious, and missed having the sense of the supernatural in their lives. They are able to reject God, but don’t want the feeling that we humans are on our own.
Most people I work with that feel the aliens have chosen them to express the alien’s concern with the state of our environment, and of course the ever popular dangers of nuclear power. These are concerns of most people, and for the average alien abductee the knowledge that the aliens are also concerned and willing to step in to help us out is comforting. Perhaps for some people, alien communication may be a way of helping them deal with their extreme stress about real dangers.
I was part of a wonderful panel at TAM10 run by Sharon Hill. The other members of the panel were leading atheists, Chris Stedman, Dave Silverman and David Niose. The panel was titled “Coalition Building for the Skeptical Activist”.
I pointed out that 50% of the people I work with, who would perhaps not be considered traditionally skeptical, were atheists. The point I was trying to make is that atheism is not the litmus test for critical thinking.
I’m not sure why so many alien and UFO believers do identify themselves as atheists. However, I try to build on that skepticism about gods into critical thinking skills on other topics, such as their own UFO and alien experiences.