Was God an Alien? 
In World War 2 an American fighter pilot crash-landed in the Brazilian rainforest where he was discovered by an isolated tribe of natives. Impressed by his technical gadgetry and his descent from the sky, these primitive people elevated him to the status of a god and created a religion around him. Today, the “proof” of their religion consists of a series of artifacts hanging from tree branches, including items such as a broken plane engine, an empty cigarette lighter and a rusting pocketknife. But to the educated reader, these artifacts are instead testimony to the fact that the artifacts of a religion are not proof of the religion itself but rather proof of the actual event which occurred (and was quite possibly misinterpreted). As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is perceived as miracle”. Could Christianity be the product of a similar misinterpretation?

In the 1960’s, while mankind was rapidly breaking the shackles of his home planet and venturing out into the nearby Cosmos, the idea naturally evolved that maybe our planet had been visited by extra-terrestrials in the distant past. When Erich von Daniken released his famous book, Chariots of the Gods, in 1968, the hypothesis arose that maybe God was the primitive misinterpretation of extra-terrestrials visiting Earth, whose high technology was perceived as miracle, and may have formed the basis for many of the ancient religions around the world. 

Was God an Alien?
To its credit, this hypothesis can explain all of the events in the Bible and in other ancient religious documents all throughout the world. If it is assumed that it is possible for space aliens to travel a number of light years to Earth in the first place, then a number of the stories in the Bible can be explained in terms of extra-terrestrial intervention. We are told in the Bible that the three wise men followed a moving star, which led them to the location of Jesus. It has been postulated that maybe this star was really Haley’s Comet, as calculations suggest that the comet was in the sky at the time; however, a comet would be pointless and difficult to follow. Alternatively, believers of the “ancient astronaut” theory have suggested that the star could have been a UFO, which the wise men were compelled to follow via telepathic communication with the aliens (which is commonly reported in alien abduction reports). 

The birth of Jesus might be elucidated by the speculation that aliens visited Mary in her sleep (which she perceived as a dream in which she was visited by angels). The aliens could have artificially inseminated her with genetically engineered, or possibly even alien sperm; and this could explain the superhuman abilities which Jesus was reported to have had, and also the fact that Mary gave birth while she was still a virgin. So, perhaps Jesus was one of the first alien-human hybrids.

This idea has spawned a number of alien cults, the most popular being the Raelian Movement (which has over 35,000 members in 85 countries). According to this cult, scientists from another planet used Earth as a giant biological laboratory, on which they created all life using DNA, and created man in their own image. In December 1973, a French journalist (Rael) was supposedly contacted by a visitor from this other planet, and was dictated a message (basically consisting of a re-translation of the Bible in terms of extra-terrestrial intervention). He has now published this message as a series of books, which you can order over the Internet from the Raelian Revolution Virtual Shop. Rael was also asked to prepare an embassy for the aliens where they could officially land among us, bringing with them all the prophets as predicted by every religion.

There is certainly a degree of romance and mystery to this theory, and it is attractive in its consistency with our current worldview and worldwide religions, but unfortunately it is far from proven. In a sense the aliens of this age have superceded the God of previous generations, in that any unexplained phenomena can now be attributed to some bizarre form of advanced alien technology, rather than to divine intervention. Admittedly, the evidence in support of the ancient astronaut theory is highly speculative and based on questionable data (consisting mainly of ancient myths and archaeological sites). In addition to this, the plausibility of interstellar travel is still debatable. So what are the alternatives?

In Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock interpreted many of the mysteries of the past with a more terrestrial hypothesis by suggesting the existence of an advanced race of people many years ago who originated on Antarctica. According to his hypothesis, these people developed a high level of technology, and comprehensively traveled and surveyed the Earth. He explained many of the ancient religions as the primitive misinterpretation of these individuals, who had a slightly different appearance, and whose technology would have been perceived as magic. He suggested that this hypothetical civilization was destroyed during a polar shift when Antarctica was again covered in ice.

But maybe neither of these hypotheses are necessary. Yes, it is possible that visitors from outer space did land on earth a few thousand years ago and communicate with our ancestors. But it is also possible that the prehistoric people were responsible for their own art, technology and culture. Maybe the writings within the Bible are mere stories and poems attempting to explain our place and purpose in the Universe; perhaps also in an attempt to satisfy the basic human desire for an afterlife. And maybe these fundamental aspects of human nature similarly inspired the other worldwide religions.

Or maybe the fundamentalist Christians were right all along (after all, the Sun does revolve around the Earth, the Earth is at the centre of the Universe, and all the other religions are wrong anyway, aren’t they?)

John the Disciple
You can e-mail John Marshall at: johnmm@ucla.edu