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Aliens - are they Catholics or Rastafarians?

I tweeted a fair bit yesterday (again), and added text to some of the items when they auto-forwarded to FaceBook. Some piqued my interest enough for a post in here, such as ...

The Globe and Mail (and many others) reprinted an Associated Press article about a conference the Vatican hosted recently, to study the possibility of alien life in the universe and the implications for the Catholic Church. The Vatican Observatory's chief astronomer, Father Funes, ventured that there may be other alien races out there, also created by God, but perhaps following a different religious path. In a statement last May, quoted by the Catholic News Service, he said "God became man in Jesus in order to save us. So if there are also other intelligent beings, it's not a given that they need redemption. They might have remained in full friendship with their creator." In other words, just because we blew it, that doesn't mean other alien races did too. Encouraging. He does seem to assume we would all share the same creator, there's no mention if the various galaxies in the universe were divided up between various deities or maybe contracted out, or whether the concept of multiple universes includes multiple God's.

It is interesting that the Vatican is willing to explore this topic, as there could be many twisted paths of logic/faith to go down. Were these other intelligent races, and their religions, all created at the same instant in time? What about the whole "man in his own image" thing, was that just for us? Some aliens may look like they really need to be instead part of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, made in the image of a differnt god. Would we want to eventually send missionaries to these distant planets to convert their heathens to the one true faith - as in whichever faith gets there first? Maybe a distant planet will beat us to it, appearing in our midst with one hand raised in benediction, the other holding a collection plate. Maybe they already have been here, touring various galaxies, stopping off on a small back-water planet and inadvertently inspiring our religions before wandering off again. If so, we're lucky they were benevolent, humankind has justified many activities in the name of religion - some nice, some very nasty. These celestial visitors may not just ring our doorbell with copies of the Watchtower in hand and smiling kids in tow - what if we meet a race on their own crusade, hell heaven bent on saving the universe and in search of perfection through Borg assimilation of our uniqueness?   

Some non-believers believe it's the other way around, that we created God in our own image. That ages ago, huddled around a prehistoric campfire, we asked ourselves why we were here, how we got here, how to manage and control our lives and others, and what happens to us "after here". Being problem solvers, we invented magic and mysticism and religions and gods and goddesses - and of course lots of rules. It is true that as our knowledge of the universe has expanded, many no longer see the need in their lives for religion. However, many still find that logic and faith can co-exist within themselves just fine. Even Spock seemed to believe in his "katra" - a soul-like part of his identity that could be transferred to others. While these various sets of beliefs still seem to be a part of our culture, I'm not sure that we should assume any alien race would have followed the same cultural evolutionary path. Is religion is a requirement for the evolution of life anywhere?

I don't know what other religions say on this issue, Anglican, Buddhist, Methodist, Rastafarian. The Church of Scientology, do have some of this addressed, they believe in links from the soul to extraterrestrial beings. 

Comments welcome on this topic, I'd like to add more.

BTW - the same Catholic News Service also has a good article, different than the above Associated Pres release, covering the recent conference.


Edit - Nov 18 - CBC Radio 1 The Current had a segment on Vatican and Alien life yesterday-  they talked to Brother Guy Consolmagno about his life as a Jesuit priest at the Vatican Observatory. He pretty well has free rign there, basically was told just to do good science. Not having to rely on frequency of publication or specific topics means he can do whatever, including hosting a conference to talk about things like alien life and religion. He described astro-biology, a field maybe 10 years old. It combines various sciences with philosophy and ethics, and interesting blend. He feels that while science can define what is, religion is needed to explain what it all means.


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