Which Major Religions Would Embrace Extraterrestrials?

Are you there, God? It's me, Alf.

Flickr.com/Daniel Hernández Columna

Pope Francis is making his historic first trip through the Northeastern United States, encountering the bizarre life forms that call New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania home. But the Pope is chill with visitors from even weirder realms: He’d be happy to baptize extraterrestrials, should they find their way to the Vatican. As the Independent reported last fall, Francis wanted to make it crystal clear he believes the Son of God’s teaching extend to our treatment of aliens. But what if the blood of Christ wasn’t the little green man’s cup of sanguine tea? Which major world religions would hug a xenomorph back?


The Buddhist view of a complex, cyclical universe is pretty compatible with aliens. Speaking at the University of Portland in 2013, the Dalai Lama concluded that intelligent life from another galaxy is, essentially, interchangeable with human life — ableit with “maybe little different sort of shapes.”


Roman Catholics, or at least those of the Pope’s more tolerant strain, would be OK with baptizing aliens who wanted to accept Jesus: but only the human Jesus, no be-tentacled Lamb of God here. Protestant Christian denominations are more vague on the issue according to Vanderbilt University Astronomer David Weintraub. Weintraub, who published the book Religions and Extraterrestrial Life in 2014, believes that thanks to the Mormon cosmology of other worlds, a close encounter would not be faith-shattering. But fundamentalist Christians might have the hardest time bringing the Blob into their flock. (Cue the “God Hates Aliens” protest sign that makes a brief cameo in the trailer for Batman v. Superman.)

Among evangelicals, Weintraub cites Billy Graham as a notable outlier on human-alien relations. On Graham’s website, there’s a bit of “Why not?” consensus that is swiftly followed by an admonition to stop daydreaming about space critters.


Hindus might not actively try to convert aliens, as they tend to shun proselytizing. But if an alien wanted to join up, even if it had its own beliefs about God, that probably wouldn’t be a problem. Hinduism historically has been flexible at incorporating other deities; some Hindus venerate Mary, for instance, as a saintly mother figure.


In his book, Weintraub writes that aliens would not likely be able to become Muslim: “Islam, like other faiths, has fundamentalist and conservative traditions. All Muslims, however, likely would agree that the prophetically revealed religion of Islam is a set of practices designed only for humans on Earth.” However, thanks to Allah’s universal omnipotence and the Prophet’s acceptance of mystical Jinn, Ben Gurion University behavioral scientist Michael Ashkenazi disagrees. “[T]hough the word ‘man’ used in the Quran it can easily be interpreted to mean any intelligent being willing and able to worship God,” he wrote in the journal Space Policy.


Ashkenazi is unconcerned that extraterrestrials would upend Judaism. “There is no clear indication in Judaism that man is the only rational being, nor that man, as man, has a unique and primary relationship to God,” he wrote. Could an alien become Jewish? That’s less clear, though it would be a bit perplexing as to why aliens would want to join, blogged the West London Synagogue Rabbi Neil Janes in response to Weintraub’s book, as Judaism is a religion that essentially deals with human behavior and meaning.


More than half of atheists believe aliens are out there, so they may not be friendly, but they won’t be surprised when the Pope’s new friends show up.