Who’s afraid of ETI? Religious beliefs not easy to shake

Would extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) mean the end of religion on Earth? While many non-religious people tend to think this is the case, religious believers seem to welcome such an encounter and see little threat to their beliefs according to a new report by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California.

The Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey was designed to test the view, common among SETI and other space scientists, that the confirmation of life elsewhere would be devastating to religious traditions. Typically the thinking is that ETI would disprove the special place of humans and the Earth thought to be a key ingredient in religion and thus lead to the dissolution of religion on the planet. The Survey asked 1325 participants from seven religious traditions (Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism and Buddhism) as well as self-identified “non-religious” a series of questions about the impact of contact with ETI on their belief systems. Non-religious respondents were much more likely to predict a crisis for religious belief than the religious. As one Orthodox Christian reported, “Nothing would make me lose my faith.” In contrast to the commonly held view of systems of religious belief as fragile, the Survey shows a strong resilience among believers even in the face of a truly momentous discovery.

The full report can be found here.

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