We have been reviewing a presentation called “Science Fiction: Televangelism for ET Religion” given by fellow science fiction author Dr. Michael Heiser gave at the 2017 Roswell UFO Festival. Basically, Heiser has set out to demonstrate that sci-fi is isn’t just escapism entertainment but is “deeply theological.”
So far, we’ve covered three of his proposed elements of the ET Gospel:
Now we turn to the idea of Extraterrestrial Salvation. Heiser claims that “space is where humanity will go to meet its God’s – it’s saviors.”
- “Achieve Eden – utopia – or go to a new Eden
- Attain unlimited knowledge
- Overcome human evil and ineptitude
- Transcend humanity itself – we will be as gods
Science fiction of the early 19th century was largely dictated by Hugo Gernsback’s utopian ideals. While Amazing Stories contained stories of alien abductions, space battles and alien invasions, he encouraged authors to use such “scientifiction,” as he preferred to call it, to imagineer a better tomorrow. Both speculative science and speculative fiction were in a agreement that man through science would unravel the mysteties of the universe, overcome his own suffering and mortality, and create a new Eden. In my studies, I have rarely come across sci-fi from this period that includes aliens leading us toward such a utopia. In other words, this was the Humanist Gospel being promoted through speculative science and speculative fiction, not an ET Gospel.
There are a few exceptions. Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End began as a short story called “Guardian Angel” written in July 1946. It was initially rejected for publication until James Blish edited it at the request of Clarke’s agent (and without Clarke’s knowledge), in which form it was published in the April 1950 edition of Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine. Clarke expanded the material until it became Childhood’s End. Both the short story and the book involve the mostly peaceful colonization of Earth by aliens ostensibly for our own good. The book relates how the aliens create a utopia under indirect alien rule and a One World Government, although humans lose their culture and identity over time. The aliens, when they finally reveal themselves, look like demons with horns, leathery wings, clove hooves, pointy tails and the whole bit. Basically Clarke turns the Demonic Eschatological Hypothesis on its head; the aliens are real and only look like demons.
The novel later reveals that the Overlords can be communicated with psychically and through Ouija boards, etc. They serve an Overmind, cosmic groupmind consisting of several ancient alien races freed from the limitations of material existence. So the psychic version of the Borg really. The Overlords act as a bridge to the Overmind and are not actually a part of ut themselves. When humanity, which us no longer recognisable by a time traveller as particularly human, joins the Overmind via psychic powers cultivated by the Overlords, this groupmind ends up destroying the Earth.
Childhood’s End is basically a nightmarish version of the contactee message. Interestingly enough, the book was published the same year George Adamski had his first alleged meeting with the fair-haired Venusian named Orthon.
These elements of the Humanist Gospel were more or less adopted by the contactee movement; although we should point out that there is a certain cynicism in facilitating a humanist vision through aliens. It’s as if the contactees realized that without outside intervention, man would never help himself and achieve the utopia of his imaginations.
Outside of the contactee movement, these ideals continue in a what we call transhumanism. Heiser zeroes in on his last bullet point regarding transcendence to discuss transhumanism.
Under the title, “The Myth of Becoming God,” Heiser lays out some of the more commonly known ideas within transhumanism:
- Biological enhancement
- Genetic enhancement
- Uploading consciousness
- Synthetic biology
- Singularity – becoming “spiritual machines” (Kurzwell)
His basic argument is that transhumanism is salvation through science, the idea that we can improve ourselves and eliminate disease, suffering and even death through technology and create a paradise on Earth. It becomes part of the ET Gospel when the promises of transhumanism are attached to alien technology.
In a widely read post, entitled, “‘Christian Transhumanism’ is an Oxymoron,” Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, argues that transhumanism is incompatiblewith Christianity:
“[T]ranshumanism’s eschatology is incompatible with that of Christianity. Transhumanism embraces materialism with white-knuckled fervor, believing that its “New Jerusalem” (if I may) will be wholly here, a human creation located in this ”place,” that is, in the current ”creation” as we know it now. In contrast, Christian orthodoxy holds that the current reality will “pass away,” and in its place God will create something altogether new, a future reality that is different from the current corporeality, in which Christians will be raised physically but transformed—the same, yet different—and abide for eternity in the very presence of God, in whom most transhumanists disbelieve or find irrelevant— except perhaps, for wanting God’s job.
In my Otherworld series, I make transhumanism a reality, but it doesn’t lead to a utopia. How could it, when we’re Fallen creatures? Rather than a utopia we get a confused picture of humanity. When humanity rejects the Creator whose image we were made in, what else can we expect but a world suffering the throes of an identity crisis?
Of course, transhumanism need not be merely secular or humanistic, and this is where Smith’s argument breaks down.
Christian transhumanism is transhumanism of another type. ChristianTranshumanism.org, founded by Micah Redding offers this explanation of what transhumanism means to the Christian:
“While many expressions of transhumanism are secular or anti-religious, transhumanism itself is simply a philosophy which states that we can and should use science and technology to make the world (including humanity) better.
“We understand our Christian faith to affirm humans as scientific and technological creatures—creatures who create and discover, and who are commissioned to cultivate life, create new things, and renew the world. We further understand our Christian mission to charge us with healing, feeding, and restoring life—activities which provoke us to scientific and medical innovations, just as they have throughout Christian history.”
In this regard, transhumanism need not be a technological pie-in-the-sky means to salvation so much as an alleviation of suffering, which is intrinsic to the Christian worldview. In all fairness, Smith and Heiser’s take on transhumanism tosses the baby out with the bathwater.
It pretends as if Christian transhumanism is merely secular transhumanism with the word Christian slapped on in front of it, ignoring the distinctions made by its architects and advocates, and thus… they oppose a straw man version of Christian transhumanism of their own thatching. Smith may be correct in that secular transhumanism’s eschatology is different from mainstream Christian eschatological frameworks, but he never bothers to demonstrate where Christian transhumanist eschatology differs from the norm.
Unaware of his blunder, Smith continues:
But the incompatibility is most vividly seen in the two theologies’ contrasting beliefs about suffering:
The overarching purpose of transhumanism, its very point, is to avoid suffering—all suffering whatever the cost and effort that project requires. In contrast, Christians see suffering altogether differently, although there is much confusion in the secular world over this. In Christian theology, suffering can be redemptive. That is not to say that Christians revel in suffering or want others to suffer.
To the contrary, it is a Christian obligation to alleviate and palliate the suffering of humanity whenever possible, that is, to take others’ suffering upon their own shoulders. But suffering can also be a trial to accept with humility and for which to give thanks because it can lead the sufferer and his/her caregivers directly into the unconditionally and eternally loving arms of God.
Good grief. No Christian worth his salt ever advised that we should give thanks for suffering because of its possible spiritual benefits UNLESS the suffering could not be alleviated. Christian transhumanism uses technology and medicine as it always has, as a means to fulfill Christ’s will as revealed at the end of Matthew chapter 25:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done itunto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Secular transhumanists might see a potential technological means to salvation, but Christian transhumanists simply see new ways express our Creator’s love and care for His Creation. While secular transhumanism will inevitably fail to completely eradicate suffering and death, the Christian transhumanist can rejoice that this technology may provide him with the means to make the world a little better while the heavens and earth yet travail.
I’ve written more on the subject of transhumanism in this article at DefGen.org.