The other day the New York Times ran yet another article on UFOs. This topic, which has been maligned since the 1940s, is now being discussed without mockery in the mainstream media. Perhaps following the Trump presidency nothing’s impossible to believe. There are, interestingly enough, many writers who connect UFOs with religion. And these aren’t all writing about UFO religions, of which there are many. Exploring the Outer Edges of Society and Mind ran a piece on biblical UFOs earlier this month. The topic was taboo, of course, when I was teaching (I remember a colleague laughing when I told him I covered it in a course called Myth and Mystery) but it too is now becoming mainstream. I don’t need to summarize the Outer Edges piece here since it’s easy enough to follow the link and read, but I would point out that a longstanding connection exists between UFOs and religion.
A spate of books on UFOs came out in the seventies and eighties. Some of those more or less overlooked by the media focused on religion—often the Bible—and how UFOs play into it. Quite often the biblicist writers identified these unknown objects in the skies as either angels or demons. This continues to this day with some congressional leaders (many of whom are too religious for the good of the nation) averring that UFOs are “demonic.” Frankly, if demons are incorporeal, I wonder why they need to fly around in saucers. Perhaps they too grew up eating too much Quisp for breakfast. In any case, the connection was made early and it remains. When we see something in the sky we used to give it a religious explanation. Now we chant “drones.”
In his article David Metcalfe begins by noting the forthcoming publication of Alan Steinfeld’s Making Contact: Preparing for the New Realities of Extraterrestrial Contact with the mainstream publisher St. Martin’s Press. The difference between yesteryear with its Quisp and its flying saucer houses, and today is that people are starting to be serious about the topic. This, I expect, is one of the benefits of increasing technology. People are seldom without a camera in their pocket these days and although there are plenty of drones and other strange things flying around, the classic UFO hasn’t gone away. A generation of people endured ridicule and scorn for being gullible. Now the gray lady herself is asking questions with nary a smile. Perhaps we’re becoming more tolerant and perhaps we’re more willing to believe we’re not alone in the universe. Some would claim that even the Bible got in on the act millennia ago.