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 four of his proposed elements of the ET Gospel:
- New Myths replace Old Creeds
- Sci-fi and Speculative Science as the ET Canon
- Alien Gods
- Alien Salvation & Transhumanism
Last time, we covered the first half of his fifth element, Preaching the ET Gospel, which dealt with Alien Christology. Now Heiser tries to demonstrate the full-blown syncretic alien theism he’s been describing.
Heiser takes us into this section with a movie directly inspired by the contactee movement (i.e., UFO cults). The 2009 film Knowing is full of Biblical allusions to Ezekiel’s wheel, Noah’s Ark, prophecy, the apocalypse, a technological rapture and even Adam and Eve. That’s because ufo religions and contactee messages are syncretic cults. They take Biblical imagery and stories and give it an alien spin to make it seem like the Bible supports them, even if, depending on the cult, they also claim that parts of the Bible are wrong because aliens did what “God” and His angels were credited with and/or the aliens teach things that the Bible got wrong because, you know, men perverted it or something. Co-opting Biblical imagery goes back to the very first contactee, George Adamski, but it should be said if Biblical history is true, men have been twisting the truth revealed in the Scriptures in their stories ever since the Fall. For example, Flood legends are found all over the world.
He then cites 2001: A Space Oddysey as an example of a film depicting man evolving to a non-material state, similar to Arthur C. Clark’s Childhood’s End. We discussed this issue in an earlier post.
Speaking of evolution, Heiser notes that with a few exceptions like Iron Man and Batman, most superheroes have powers because they are either aliens or they are advanced humans. I think he forgot Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider’s supernatural origins in that equation, just as he forgot to include superheroes whose kinetic powers are natural God-given gifts (kind of like singing or bring able to draw really well). The latter was the approach I took in my first superhero novel, Johnny Came Home.
Heiser ends his presentation with some comments on Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), the sci-fi horror prequel to the Alien franchise. The film begins with an alien, refered to as an “Engineer,” sacrificing itself, its body disintegrating to give life to a planet, possibly our own. Later, a crew of humans and an android traces the origins of human life to the distant moon LV-223. There, they discover that humanity’s creators, the Engineers, have been planning to exterminate us for at least 2000 years. Why? Because we had crucified one of their representatives, whom they sent to try to stop their creations from being naughty in their sight. Who was that? Jesus Christ. Jesus was an alien.
The star map on Earth that leads to LV-223 draws from the map drawn by experiencer Betty Hill (allegedly showing the way to Zeta Reticula) while under hypnosis. The idea that Jesus was an alien or an alien hybrid is a standard tripe in UFO cult religions and alleged contactee messages. Likewise, the idea that life on Earth was seeded by aliens, panspermia, has been promoted not only UFO cults and contactees but speculative scientists as well. Ridley Scott added a twist from Mayan mythology, having an Engineer sacrifice itself to bring life after a year of living like a prince. The Engineers prove anything but benevolent. Ridley Scott wanted to present us with a “God-like creature that you will see actually is not so nice, and certainly no God.” He likened the Engineers to the “dark angels” from Milton’s Paradise Lost. So, yes, man would be the creation of technological fallen angels in this sci-fi franchise.
Heiser mistakenly supposes that the title refers to the Engineers. He notes that Prometheus was a Titan, ‘a trickster figure credited with making man from clay.” He notes that by way of comparison, “Engineers look like smooth white clay” and “our DNA comes from theirs.” Unfortunately, Ridley Scott revealed that the title (which wasn’t his idea) is appropriate because “This is about someone who dares and is horribly punished.” He’s referring to the protagonist’s quest to find man’s creators in the hope of bringing back answers to the big questions. Elizabeth Shaw is Prometheus. Shaw’s side is even pierced (by a laser scalpel to remove an alien squid) as a punishment for seeking forbidden knowledge. The Engineers aren’t punished for creating us; they instead intend to punish us. As a value-added bonus, Heiser cites the very interview that undermines his own points.
Heiser makes a common analogy between the mythic Prometheus having his liver eaten by an eagle every day for bringing humanity the gift of fire, Jesus our Creator having his side pierced, and the Last Engineer’s chestburster scene. While Joseph Campbell drew parallels between Jesus and Prometheus in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, he also noted that there are limits to duch parallels. Point in fact, comparisons have equally been drawn between Prometheus and Satan from Milton’s Paradise Lost, yet Christ and Satan could not be more different.
Heiser concludes that it is hard to find an alien or superhero film that does not include theology. Maybe that’s because science fiction stories (including superhero and alien stories) are meant explore questions involving politics, religion, morality, et cetera, in regards to speculative future scientific discoveries or how such scientifically speculated possibilities could have changed history.
Here Heiser concludes his presentation.
The question is: has Heiser proved his point? Is science fiction deeply theological? Is it, as his presentation title suggests, televangelism for the ET Gospel? Or is he concentrating on one meme to the exclusion of all others because of his focus on the UFO phenomenon?
Stay tuned to the final post in this series for my conclusions.