The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Filling Spiritual Vacuums

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Halloween (it’s hallo, as in “hallowed be Thy name,” not hollow) brings out talk about departed spirits and the afterlife. With all the preoccupation about materialism and evolution, there is still the need for spiritual things because we are made that way. People looking for a way to fill the spiritual vacuum left by atheistic materialism want to do it on their own terms, even if what they advocate is more science fiction than true science. “The chariots of the gods from outer space replace the chariots of fire in the Bible. Men believe that they can preserve their metaphysical autonomy of the ancient spacemen”[1] and escape final judgment on God’s terms. There are a number of theories to explain what many people believe are extraterrestrials. Are they visitors from other solar systems who travel amo ng the galaxies via highly sophisticated spacecraft, beings from a parallel universe, spiritual creatures from a different dimension who live among us unseen by our three-dimensional eyes, or are they demons posing as benevolent space aliens?

The materialists are still trying to prove that God does not exist. If they could only find another highly evolved civilization among the multitude of unexplored galaxies, then such a discovery would prove that no god is needed to explain how life came to Earth. Actually, Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule, for which he received a Nobel Prize, proposes a theory called “directed panspermia.”[2] Crick thinks “that life on earth may have begun when aliens from another planet sent a rocket ship containing spores to seed the earth.”[3] The most natural question is, Where did the aliens come from? Was there an alien race that seeded the planet of aliens that seeded Earth? Crick’s hypothesis only pushes the argument back several steps with no final resolution. “This scenario still leaves open the question of who designed the designer [aliens]--how did life originally originate?”[4] Crick and other advocates of “directed panspermia” have no way to account for the original seed bearers. Crick’s extraterrestrial quest, even though it has the trappings of science, is religious nonetheless. He is searching for ultimate meaning in terms of what the stars might reveal about how life originated on Earth.

On July 4, 1947, Roswell, New Mexico, was visited by extra-terrestrials. So says a group of enthusiastic ufologists. For years the Air Force insisted that the entire affair was a case of mistaken identity. Hoping to put the controversy to rest, Air Force representatives issued an official 25-page report of its investigation involving official CIA photo analysis, interviews, and archival searches claiming that the crash-landing was nothing more than a weather balloon that bit the dust. Or was it? Die-hard believers smell a cover up. UFO buffs believe that the United States government has been hiding the truth about what happened in Roswell and other sightings, hoping to avert panic among the citizenry. The latest explanation offered by governmental officials is that the people saw crash dummies. Some remain skeptical. Walter Haut, president of the Roswell UFO Museum, is not convinced by the Air Force explanation: “It’s a bunch of pap. . . . Basically I don’t think anything has changed. Excuse my cynicism, but let’s quit playing games.”[5]

Americans are experiencing a crisis in faith where many no longer believe that science can explain everything. A sizeable number consider traditional religions to be narrow minded, quick to dismiss anything that does not fit into their rigidly constructed worldview. They want more, and they are willing to reach toward the heavens to get it. “Many flying saucer buffs are believers precisely because aliens may offer hope, much like a deity. . . . Americans are desperately searching for hope in an increasingly cynical age.”[6] Carl Sagan makes a similar point:

The interest in UFOs and ancient astronauts seems at least partly the result of unfulfilled religious needs. The extraterrestrials are often described as wise, powerful, benign, human in appearance, and sometimes they are attired in long white robes. They are very much like gods and angels, coming from other planets rather than from heaven, using spaceships rather than wings. There is a little pseudoscientific overlay, but the theological antecedents are clear.[7]

When surveys were taken in the 1940s, most people did not believe that UFOs were extraterrestrial in nature. “A 1947 Gallup poll found that ‘virtually no one considered the objects to be from outer space.’ Most people considered the sightings to be hoaxes, secret weapons, illusions of some kind, or some phenomenon that could be scientifically explained.”[8] Even through the 1950s, UFOs were mostly explained as Soviet test planes. The Cold war was running full throttle. With the arrival of Sputnik in 1957, the suspicions of many people were confirmed. By 1973, more than ten percent of Americans claimed to have seen a UFO. The increase in sightings followed the increase in religious skepticism and paranoia regarding Russian space superiority.

As a candidate for president, Jimmy Carter promised the American people that he would open up the files on UFOs. Carter filed a “sighting report ” to the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City on September 18, 1973. The incident occurred, according to Carter, in October 1969 in Albany, Georgia. “It seemed to move toward us from a distance, stop, move partially away, return, then depart,” Carter wrote. He described it as “bluish at first, then reddish, luminous, not solid.”[9] Carter was the first presidential candidate to make the topic of UFO study a plank in his presidential platform:

If I become President, I’ll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public, and the scientists.

I am convinced that UFOs exist because I have seen one.[10]

Carter’s belief in UFOs did not seem to hurt his run for the presidency. No extraordinary information came out of the Carter presidency (1977 – 1980) to throw any additional light on the topic. Did he know too much? Was there a conspiracy of silence among government officials to keep the truth of UFOs from getting out to the general public? Many conspiracy theorists know a whole lot more than they are telling us. The conspiracy theme has become part of UFO lore and made part of the storylines in alien movies like Men in Black (1997), released fifty years after Roswell, and Independence Day (1996).

Of course, lots of people see UFOs. What they see is at first unidentified. An unidentified object — whether flying or earthbound — is not necessarily an extraterrestrial, that is, a visitor from another planet. Most UFO sightings are easily explained. “There are hundreds of varieties” and an equal number of plausible explanations.[11] What was part of the fringe in the 1940s had become mainstream in the 1970s. Certainly the modern space age made belief in planetary travel a more realistic possibility. Inhabitants of an insignificant planet in an obscure solar system had landed on the moon in 1969, and probes had gone to Venus and Mars in the 1970s. If earthlings were reaching for their moon and neighboring planets, then why couldn’t a more advanced planetary civilization reach for a distant solar system like ours? What we’ve learned since putting men on the moon in 1969, is that space travel is complicated, expensive and time-intensive .


[1] Gary North, Unholy Spirits (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), 328.
[2] Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981).
[3] Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 248.
[4] Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1966), 249.
[5] Bruce Handy, “Roswell or Bust,” Time (June 23, 1997), 60–71.
[6] Quoted in Bill Hendrick, "UFOs and the Otherworldly: Do You Believe?," Atlanta Journal/Constitution (June 25, 1997), B1.
[7] Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain [67]
[8] Ron Rhodes, The Culting of America: The Shocking Implications for Every Concerned Christian (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994), 184.
[9] This description of Carter's sighting is found in Colin Bessonette, "Q&A on the News," Atlanta Constitution (November 5, 1997), A2.
[10] Quoted in Gary North, Unholy Spirits: Occultism and New Age Humanism (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1986), 288.
[11] Donald H. Menzel, “UFOs—The Modern Myth,” UFOs: A Scientific Debate, eds. Carl Sagan and Thornton Page (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, [1972] 1996), 141–143.

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