Christianity Has Known About Aliens for a Long Time

Christianity Has Known About Aliens for a Long Time

48 minutes reading time

Many of our articles focus on Christian Apologetics, which is an attempt to contend for the rationality of Christian faith. But doesn’t writing seriously about aliens and UFOs make us appear ridiculous, even irrational? Are we really taking the little green men from Mars seriously? Why write about aliens?

“The moment you mention UFO, immediately what comes to mind is little green men, tinfoil hats. That’s not at all what we’re dealing with.”

Lou Elizondo, former US Pentagon program director

Much of modern Christian Apologetics seeks to contest the claims of New Atheism, but recent research suggests there may be a bigger and much more interesting subject we should be engaging.

Recently, Pew Research Center reported that the number of US adults who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” stands at 29%. But last year in a study on alien beliefs they found out 65% of US adults believe intelligent life exists beyond earth, and 51% of those think UFOs reported by people in the military are evidence of the same. A 2006 research paper found that roughly 25% of people had reportedly seen UFO.

Interestingly, the number of people who believe in aliens tracks pretty closely with belief in God, and that’s probably not an accident. It may be that interest in UFOs is a kind of religious faith, and the appearance of UFOs in our skies is the birth of a new religion.

So the topic is worth exploring. This isn’t because, as commonly assumed, the discovery of alien life would definitely destroy Christianity. In my previous essay I started to explore this question, considering two scenarios:

  1. Aliens who are on the level of our pets (inferior extraterrestrial biological organisms)
  2. Aliens who are more like our peers (equal or superior extraterrestrial biological organisms)

In this essay, I’ll explore a third premise: aliens as phantoms – something entirely ‘other.’

These hypothetical phantoms are interdimensional beings: aliens as visitors from another plane of existence that exists alongside ours, rather than classically understood biological life from outer space. Usefully, this third scenario is much more in line with the direction of modern UFOlogy, and, as we’ll find, more in accord with the supernatural worldview of Christianity. Although the alien legend appears to be the birth of a very modern religion, it looks suspiciously like something that’s been with us for a very long time.

But first, a word of caution. You may already be expecting this essay to jump to the conclusion that “aliens are demons.” Well, as we’ll see, it’s not as straightforward as that. Simply equating UFOs with demons would be hopelessly simplistic without first taking time to explore the data and define our terms. I do not believe that if and when someone encounters an alien they’ve bumped into a cheeky red devil in disguise, out on a day trip from tormenting people in hell.

Our modern mind has inherited a lot of confused and one-dimensional ideas, but I believe the Christian supernatural worldview has a lot of deep and interesting things to contribute to this third hypothetical scenario – aliens as phantoms.

But first, let’s lay some groundwork by exploring some of the modern history of UFOlogy.


  • Extraterrestrial: a biological being originating from somewhere in our universe other than earth
  • Interdimensional: a being originating from another realm of space or time
  • Ultraterrestrial: a superior nonhuman supernatural being indigenous to earth
  • UAP: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, a new and broader term replacing UFO
  • AATIP: Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program

Interesting murmurings from US government

In December 2017 The New York Times published an explosive report on a secret $22 million project being run in the US Pentagon called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. The report included two videos referred to as “FLIR” and “GIMBAL,” named after the equipment used to record them. These purported to show encounters that Navy jets from the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carriers had in 2004 with something of an unusual shape flying incredibly fast (later referred to as a UAP – unidentified aerial phenomenon). The following March, The Washington Post published a further video, titled “GOFAST” of a high-speed object tracked by an F/A-18 Super Hornet military jet.

What astonished the military and intelligence community was the apparent capabilities of these objects. As The Washington Post describes:

“According to incident reports and interviews with military personnel, these vehicles descended from altitudes higher than 60,000 feet at supersonic speeds, only to suddenly stop and hover as low as 50 feet above the ocean. The United States possesses nothing capable of such feats.”

David Fravor
David Fravor

They were simultaneously monitored by multiple state-of-the-art radar systems aboard ships and aircraft. Navy pilot and Black Aces squadron commander David Fravor was deployed to intercept the UAP recorded in the Nimitz encounter (seen in the FLIR video), and later described the object as having no discernible control surfaces or means of propulsion. Bizarrely simple shapes were reported such as tic tac shapes and even a cube within a semi-transparent bubble. Sensors often recorded the temperature of these things as resting at the ambient air temperature, with none of the heat exhaust one would expect coming from a jet.

Pilot Chad Underwood, who took the famous “FLIR” video in a second wave of jets behind Fravor, stated:

Pilot Chad Underwood
Pilot Chad Underwood

“It was just behaving in ways that aren’t physically normal. That’s what caught my eye. Because aircraft, whether they’re manned or unmanned, still have to obey the laws of physics. They have to have some source of lift, some source of propulsion. The Tic Tac was not doing that. It was going from like 50,000 feet to, you know, a hundred feet in like seconds, which is not possible.”

Radar operators reported tracking one of the UAPs in the Nimitz incident dropping from the sky at over 30 times the speed of sound. Fravor likened their rapid side-to-side movements to that of a ping-pong ball. Radar operators on the USS Princeton, part of the Nimitz carrier group, tracked an object accelerating from a standing position to travel 60 miles (96 km) in a minute – an astonishing 3,600 mph (5,800 km/h).

In June 2021 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a basic report on UAPs. It stated: “A majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.”

Now it’s right to be sceptical of claimed UFO sightings, but these stories aren’t being spun by Bob down the pub, this is the testimony of trained and experienced observers combined with multi-sensor data.

The assessment of military top brass

Since the revelatory The New York Times article, the former director of the Pentagon’s AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), Lue Elizondo, quit his role in protest over a lack of transparency about “the phenomenon” (as it has come to be known) in the intelligence community. In interviews, he subsequently detailed the extraordinary apparent abilities of these entities:

Lue Elizondo
Lue Elizondo

“Imagine a technology that can do 600-700 G forces, [for reference, a trained human pilot can endure 10 Gs for a few seconds before they begin to pass out] that can fly at 13,000mph, that can evade radar and that can fly through air, water and possibly space. And oh, by the way, has no obvious signs of propulsion, no wings, no control surfaces, and yet can still defy the natural effects of earth’s gravity. That’s precisely what we’re seeing… The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that, the United States government is telling you that.”

These few publicised sightings aren’t isolated, either, it’s just that data are rarely released to the public. NASA Administrator and Senator Bill Nelson stated:

“Now I know what you’ve seen is what those Navy pilots saw in 2004 and there have been some 300 sightings since then. I’ve talked to those pilots, and they know they saw something, their radars locked on to it, it was here on the surface then all of a sudden it’s there. And they don’t know what it is, and we don’t know what it is.”

Due to the massive stigma surrounding the idea of believing in “little green men from Mars,” many pilots who encounter anomalous “bogies” while on active duty simply keep their sightings to themselves for fear of being signed off work as unhinged.

Not just foreign tech

So could this simply represent encounters with incredibly advanced foreign human technology? Authorities in the US intelligence community don’t seem to think so. Elizondo explained how the historical nature of the phenomenon invalidates that idea:

“When you go through the historical documentation… we’ve been seeing this technology for decades. When you compare that to where we were, say, in the late 1940s and 50s, we were just exploring and learning the secrets of the atom, we had just entered the jet age, and we hadn’t even been into space. And yet these technologies were outperforming anything and everything that we have. So if this is some form of adversarial [human] technology that’s been around for 70 years, this would be considered probably the worst intelligence failure my country has ever experienced, perhaps even eclipsing that of 9/11.”

US Senator Mitt Romney concurs:

“Well I don’t believe that they’re coming from foreign adversaries, if they were, that would suggest that they have a technology which is in a whole different sphere than anything we understand, and frankly China and Russia just aren’t there.”

Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Intelligence, elaborated:

“We monitor the Chinese and Russians very closely, very carefully. We spend (I think the unclassified figure is) $70 billion per year on intelligence programs. And it would be very surprising, and stunning, if they had independently developed technology that was that far ahead of everything else and everyone else, somehow secretly. It doesn’t seem likely, and we don’t think that’s the case. More likely something else.”

In the US, former Presidents, former directors of the CIA, former directors of National Intelligence, former and current members of Congress and the current administrator for NASA have confirmed that the phenomenon is real and not easily explainable.

The five observables, and other studies

The Pentagon’s AATIP program identified five consistent characteristics of the phenomenon, as Elizondo describes:

  1. Antigravity lift
    No discernible means of propulsion, they appear to rise up without wings or jets
  2. Sudden and instantaneous acceleration
    Accelerating and changing direction at speeds that would immediately crush human occupants
  3. Hypersonic velocities without signatures
    No sonic booms, none of the common supersonic vapour trails, no splash when entering water, no air cavitation underwater
  4. Low observability, or cloaking
    Sometimes they’re visible on radar but not to the eye, sometimes they appear surrounded by a visible glow or haze, sometimes they appear to blip out of existence
  5. Trans-medium travel
    Seamlessly transitioning between space, air and underwater

In response to the increased attention being given to the phenomenon over the last five years, in May this year the US held its first congressional hearing on UAPs in 50 years. The Department of Defence also relaunched its official investigation office and NASA is joining in with its own study. None of these efforts would really make sense if the technology was the result of secret US black projects.

Furthermore, in August this year, Ukrainian researchers conducted an independent study of UAP, managing to capture video using cameras designed for monitoring meteors in the daytime sky. They break down their observations of UAPs into two primary categories, which they call “Cosmics” and “Phantoms.” “We note that Cosmics are luminous objects, brighter than the background of the sky.” Whereas “Phantoms are dark objects, with contrast from several to about 50 percent.”

“Phantoms are observed in the troposphere at distances up to 10 – 12 km,” the researchers state, estimating their size to be 3–12 m and capable of speeds of as much as 9 miles per second (33,000 mph). Their synchronised camera systems also detected an entity at an altitude of 727 miles (1,170 km), well beyond the Kármán line that traditionally delineates the edge of space at 62 miles (100 km) above sea level.

The only substantial rebuttal of their findings so far, by the theoretical physicist and astrophysicist Avi Loeb, argued that the distances (and therefore speeds and sizes) must have been overestimated by an order of magnitude. He writes: “their bow shock in the Earth’s atmosphere would have generated a bright fireball with an easily detectable optical luminosity.” But this objection ignores the common third observation described by AATIP – hypersonic velocities without signatures. What physical object can rip through the air at 33,000 mph (53,100 km/h) without causing a fireball? Supposedly nothing physical can, but apparently that doesn’t stop something from doing so.

Considering the abundance of testimony and recorded data from reputable military and intelligence sources, perhaps we should move past contesting the existence of “the phenomenon” because it doesn’t act the way physical objects should act. Perhaps instead we should start to renegotiate the idea of its physicality.

Beyond physical

So-called antigravity lift and incredible speeds are impressive, but to me, the most intriguing of the ‘five observables’ is the lack of the usual hypersonic signatures associated with physical objects. When an object travels faster than the sound it creates, the pressure waves stack together behind it, creating a sonic boom that can be heard by a stationary observer. Similarly, when objects travel underwater, pockets of water vapour are formed when the water behind an object drops below the liquid’s natural vapour pressure – this is called cavitation.

However, despite travelling at staggering speeds, sonic booms and underwater cavitation are never observed alongside them. Any truly physical object travelling through water would leave a brief wake of cavitation bubbles. Flying at supersonic speeds, classic objects also displace air, causing the successive build-up of a pressure wave into a sonic boom.

So, according to the most highly attested reports tracked on multiple radar systems with observations corroborated by highly trained and experienced military personnel, what we have is a phenomenon that:

  1. Is apparently under intelligent control, responding to the movements of aircraft
  2. Can sometimes be seen by the human eye and recorded by radar systems
  3. Displays extraordinary behaviour not explainable by any known or reasonable modern human technology
  4. Appears to accelerate at speeds that would turn biological beings to mush
  5. Can avoid interacting with physical mediums of air and water while travelling through them

There clearly is a physical manifestation associated with the phenomenon in the form of electromagnetic radiation that can be visible to cameras and radar sensors. After the Nimitz encounter, Fravor also recounted seeing the sea foaming like it was boiling while a 40-foot tic tac shaped craft jumped around erratically 50 feet (15 metres) in the air over it.

But this physicality seems to be entirely negotiable to whatever is behind the UAPs. While they can sometimes be seen, their low observability is noticed often enough for it to be labelled a common observable (a confusing twist of irony). Sometimes people will see objects but they won’t be picked up by cameras, or sometimes cameras or radar will while they remain invisible to people. Additionally, there are repeated reports of similar anomalous objects splitting, merging and changing shape while in flight.

Not only is this phenomenon far beyond the capabilities of our technology, it is far beyond the normal limitations of our physical world. They disobey the rules of light, appearing when they want. They don’t interact with physical mediums such as air and water. Furthermore, they move without discernible propulsion and they act as if gravity doesn’t exist. I think we can call UAPs “physically impervious” in that while they can adopt physical manifestation and affect the world around them (whether by making themselves visible, leaving indentations on the ground or causing the sea to boil), they don’t behave like classic physical objects. Interacting with physical matter is entirely optional to them.

What’s perhaps more eerie than an apparent lack of physicality is that in one encounter, after buzzing two Navy jets, one of these UAPs shot off at immense speed before reappearing, stationary, at a prearranged aerial meeting point known only by the pilots and ground crew (known as a CAP point), like it was waiting for them to arrive.

Award-winning Stanford University immunologist and UAP researcher Garry Nolan articulated this point of view:

“Now I don’t know whether it’s a technology per se, because I’m leaving open the idea that it’s some form of consciousness that is non-material… I know this all sounds absolutely crazy, but if you’ve seen the things that I’ve seen, you would only be able to come to a similar conclusion.”

Let’s not lose our heads just yet

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably finding this all a bit strange and hard to follow. Let’s take a step back.

Clearly, we shouldn’t be too quick to draw conclusions. There is a glut of alien-enthusiast literature that is simply utter nonsense. I don’t believe illuminati reptilians walk among us. I don’t believe the Nazis have continued to build cities inside our hollow earth or on the far side of the moon.

When ordinary citizens report seeing strange things in the sky, they often inadvertently add a layer of interpretation to their descriptions. This rationalisation is part of our continual attempt to understand what we experience. When faced with the unknown, we search for a category to make it feel a little less threatening. But these hastily devised layers of imposed meaning can get in the way of objective thinking and lead down some blind alleys. A public that is bombarded by films and TV shows that feature physical biological aliens visiting us from distant star systems will more readily interpret aerial phenomena through that lens. Cognitive bias then sets in, as people more easily accept interpretations that align with their preconceived ideas and reject those that challenge them. And yes, this bias is definitely present in more religiously minded people too.

So the language we use when describing and discussing alleged experiences is important. In this essay, I’ll use a few theological words that may provoke certain impressions, but some of our culture’s common associations with these words will be problematic. I’ll seek to explain as I go to avoid either forcing too shallow a theology onto the phenomenon or dismissing any theological interpretations out of hand.

In modern UFOlogy, there’s been a subtle yet noteworthy shift in language too: nowadays people no longer talk about UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects), now it’s UAPs (Unidentified Aerial phenomenon). This shift of language from Objects to Phenomenon reflects the idea that thinking of it as entirely or solely physical in nature doesn’t totally accord with what is actually being observed. Or at least calling the phenomenon “objects” may negatively bias people’s interpretations of events toward something purely physical, even if not prosaic. Many reports picked up by the military seem to exhibit an uneasy semi-physicality – having measurable physical effects while still contravening common laws of physics.

According to a report produced by the US ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence), out of 144 reports of the phenomenon spotted by military planes from 2004 to 2021, only one could be explained. It’s worth noting that this applies only to these military sightings; I suspect the vast majority of sightings by the public are misidentifications or hoaxes. But a minority of unexplained sightings remain, and if even one genuinely displays even some characteristics claimed, that changes everything.

Embracing ‘the woo’

Whenever someone first starts looking into stories of aliens and UFOs it isn’t long before they encounter what’s been called the “woo” aspect. This is the domain of the paranormal, the weird and the crackpot. It can be very off-putting, but as Aristotle wrote, “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Some people persist in UFOlogical research while attempting to completely ignore the preternatural. This “nuts and bolts” approach seeks theories for the conceptual mechanics of supposed extra-terrestrial craft. But in this field, no worthwhile thinking can be done without taking the paranormal into consideration, because it’s such a constant feature.

The researcher Josef Allen Hynek called this persistent aspect of the phenomenon “high strangeness.” He was an astronomer, professor and chairman of the astronomy department of Northwestern University, and later a UFOlogist. He served as a scientific advisor to the US Air Force under three UFO related projects from 1947 to 1969 (Project Sign, Project Grudge and Project Blue Book). In total, he studied UFOs for 40 years. In his first book, he published the “Close Encounter” scale he had developed to better catalogue UFO reports. He later acted as a consultant for the 1977 UFO film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, named after a level of his scale.

J. Allen Hynek
J. Allen Hynek

Initially a hard sceptic in regard to the phenomenon, he considered the whole alien question to be a fad that would soon pass. The Air Force tasked him with debunking all reports passed to the military and reassuring the public that they all had prosaic natural or man-made explanations. However, he became increasingly suspicious of the a priori conclusions and lack of scientific rigour in the Air Force’s debunking. This journey from hard sceptic to questioning believer is a journey that other journalists and researchers, such as Ross Coulthart, George Knapp, Eric Weinstein and others, have travelled in more recent times.

Over time, Hynek also became increasingly suspicious of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, the idea that these encounters represent biological beings that have travelled here from vast distances across space. What’s interesting to note, however, is that his incredulity didn’t primarily stem (as it often does) from the difficulty of interstellar travel but on the reported behaviour of these entities:

“A few good sightings a year, over the world, would bolster the extraterrestrial hypothesis—but many thousands every year? From remote regions of space? And to what purpose? To scare us by stopping cars, and disturbing animals, and puzzling us with their seemingly pointless antics?”

The repeatedly super-physical behaviour of reports also stood out to him:

“If you object, I ask you to explain – quantitatively, not qualitatively – the reported phenomena of materialization and dematerialization, of shape changes, of the noiseless hovering in the Earth’s gravitational field, accelerations that – for an appreciable mass – require energy sources far beyond present capabilities – even theoretical capabilities, the well-known and often reported E-M (electro-magnetic interference) effect, the psychic effects on percipients, including purported telepathic communications.”

Furthermore, Hynek claimed these experiences sometimes had deep spiritual impacts on experiencers:

“There are people who have had UFO experiences who’ve claimed to have developed psychic ability. There have been reported healings in close encounters and there have been reported cases of precognition, where people had foreknowledge or forewarning that they were going to see something. There has been a change of outlook, a change of philosophy of persons’ lives… I feel that to some extent it may be a conditioning process.”

Hynek, Today’s Student

Of course, considering the nature of encounters led him to also contemplate the very nature of our reality, as photojournalist Douglas Curran wrote:

“Hynek submitted that perhaps UFOs were part of a parallel reality, slipping in and out of sequence with our own. This was a hypothesis that obviously pained him as an empirical scientist. Yet after 30 years of interviewing witnesses and investigating sighting reports, radar contacts, and physical traces of saucer landings no other hypothesis seemed to make sense to him.”

In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space

He later referred to the phenomenon as a kind of spiritual technology. “I hold it entirely possible,” he said, “that a technology exists, which encompasses both the physical and the psychic, the material and the mental.”

When the world-renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung considered the UFO phenomenon he also pondered its strange association between the physical and the psychological:

“I have followed up the literature as much as possible and it looks to me as if something were seen and even confirmed by radar, but nobody knows exactly what is seen… there is an overwhelming material pointing to their legendary or mythological aspect. As a matter of fact the psychological aspect is so impressive, that one almost must regret that the UFOs seem to be real after all.”

UFO researcher and author John Keel notes in his book Operation Trojan Horse:

“The UFOs do not seem to exist as tangible, manufactured objects. They do not conform to the natural laws of our environment. They seem to be nothing more than transmogrifications tailoring themselves to our abilities to understand. The thousands of contacts with these entities indicate that they are liars and put-on artists. The UFO manifestations seem to be, by and large, merely minor variations of the age-old demonological phenomenon. Officialdom may feel that if we ignore them long enough, they will go away altogether, taking their place with the vampire myths of the Middle Ages.”

It’s interesting to note that Keel was an atheist, so his assessment of the phenomenon as “the age-old demonological phenomenon” isn’t the result of cognitive bias causing him to seek support for his theistic worldview.

Sometimes different bystanders see different things and sometimes what they photograph is different to what they see. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it. What’s consistent isn’t the physicality of these things, it’s the ideas that they’re conveying, and the covert, shifty way they glide around the edges of our perception.

It’s almost as if they’re projecting impressions directly into people’s minds, like a virtual reality being directly imposed on people.

Beyond the bizarre optional-physicality that UAP’s display, there’s another characteristic of the phenomenon that’s more extraordinary – its link to consciousness. And for that, we’ll start by considering abductions.


There are many stories of alien abduction in circulation. These stories are so incredibly outlandish, many of them can sound simply too fantastical to accept. In this section we’ll assess the contents and claims of abduction reports not to argue for their veracity but to see what we can learn about the source of the abduction stories.

John Mack, an atheist, psychiatrist and former professor at Harvard Medical School, studied the stories of people who had claimed to have been abducted. “With abductees,” he writes, “the only thing that presents itself in this way is real experience. It’s not imagination, not lies, people are suffering from PTSD.” According to Mack, as these people faced their stories in therapy they underwent “feelings of terror, rage and grief as intense as any I have encountered as a psychiatrist.” But it was even tougher for them to overcome what he calls ontological shock: “the bleak realisation that what they have experienced actually occurred and that reality as they have defined it is forever altered.”

I don’t doubt that some people go through something that they sincerely interpret as alien visitations, abductions and communication with species from beyond earth. However, to claim people have genuinely traumatic experiences is one thing, but to trust every interpretation of these experiences is another. Raw experience and interpretation are two different things.

Let’s start with one key claim of alien abduction proponents, taking it as true, to see how the logic plays out on its own terms. Many stories involve telepathy and some claim aliens insert banal false memories to suppress true memories of the events. In this scenario, the true memories of someone’s abduction remains hidden in their brain, only retrievable through hypnosis.

Now, if we assume this assessment that an advanced intelligence is able to remotely alter people’s minds is correct, we’d then have no reason to believe the entire abduction “memory” wasn’t itself a false memory being implanted in someone’s mind. This would apply whether they underwent hypnosis or not.

And instead of shedding light on the real events, hypnotherapy further muddies the water. The trustworthiness of memories supposedly retrieved under hypnosis has been widely and repeatedly challenged. Testimony gathered while under hypnosis is considered to be too unreliable to be accepted as evidence in UK courts. And in fact, if it is true that entities seek to alter people’s minds remotely, the time people are most vulnerable to psychological manipulation is while they are undergoing hypnotherapy, so that would be the more reasonable idea. Here’s a further summary describing why we shouldn’t trust abduction reports.

Of course, abduction stories do come with a sliver of corroborating evidence, most commonly twofold: missing time and miniature bodily implants. What must be noted is how scant these are for the outside observer – the first could be a continuation of psychological manipulation, and nothing has ever been proven about the source of the second. They offer just enough data to cultivate the already convinced, but not enough to convince the sceptic.

Purported miniature implants found in people’s bodies after abduction events have been likened to tags that wildlife biologists attach to animals as part of their scientific studies, as if this is evidence the phenomenon means no harm. But does tagging an albatross or whale make it suffer an existential crisis or develop a new religion? If implants associated with induced abduction memories are genuine, the psychological impact and philosophical messaging frequently associated with abduction reports lead me to believe implants likely serve as a token, or relic, to reinforce belief. They’re an influence mechanism, if real.

But I believe we shouldn’t simply mark this one as debunked and get an easy night’s sleep. Even in my critical assessment I assumed (for argument’s sake) there was substance to one aspect of the reports, so some of it remains unsettled. Whether abduction reports are genuine memories of past events or falsely implanted narratives, what’s striking is that conventional hallucinations rarely repeat such specific details between experiencers. But what’s striking about abduction reports is how detailed, story-like and uniform across witnesses they are. So whatever your position on abductions, their cause still appears unconventional so we should still assess their contents for clues. Researchers such as folklorist Thomas Bullard argue that most abduction accounts commonly feature events (and this is going to sound very far-fetched) that run along the following lines:

  1. Capture: The abductee is forcibly taken from terrestrial surroundings to an apparent alien spacecraft
  2. Examination: Invasive medical or scientific procedures are performed on the abductee
  3. Conference: The abductors speak to the abductee
  4. Tour: The abductees are given a tour of their captors’ vessel
  5. Loss of Time: Abductees rapidly forget the majority of their experience
  6. Return: The abductees are returned to earth, occasionally in a different location from where they were allegedly taken, with new injuries or dishevelled clothing
  7. Theophany: The abductee has a profound mystical experience, accompanied by a feeling of oneness with God or the universe
  8. Aftermath: The abductee must cope with the psychological, physical, and social effects of the experience

Additionally, abduction experiences very commonly involve supernatural elements, such as apparent out-of-body experiences, entities appearing through bedroom walls and experiencers being taken out of their body and floated through a solid wall or window toward a craft.

“Many abductees, for example, will report that space-time as we know it collapses during their experiences. If you ask them, for example, ‘Well, where did this happen?’ they may reply, ‘Well, it’s really not in time and space as we know it.’ Those of us who are trained in the Western worldview have no way to deal with that, and even most physicists have no place for such ideas. The abductees speak of ‘other dimensions’ from which they sense that the beings come, or they say they are taken to another dimension.”

John Mack

Abductees are commonly told they are special, chosen for a breeding program or given access to secret knowledge. The combination of a secret encounter with reassurances the person is special is classic grooming behaviour. Even just the word “abduct” shows how problematic this phenomenon is, to put it mildly. When a person abducts a child, we call that kidnapping and lock them away in prison.

While abduction reports are certainly very difficult to corroborate, their frequently traumatic elements are the most compelling data in support of the idea that the phenomenon represents something “demonic.”

The occult

For many years, there has been a close relationship between UFOlogy and the occult. Etymologically, the word occult simply means “hidden from view,” and UFOs are hidden from view if they are anything: remember that fourth observable – low observability, or cloaking?

As we consider UFOlogy and the occult, there are two people I want to bring to your attention – Jack Parsons and Aleister Crowley.

Jack Parsons
Jack Parsons

Born in 1914, Jack Parsons grew up fascinated with science fiction and the idea that humanity could one day explore the stars. He constantly experimented with small rockets at home with a friend, blasting craters in his backyard. As a schoolboy these attempts became such an obsession his mother had to move him around schools, his grades suffering until he was finally expelled for blowing up a toilet. Managing to get a job at a chemical production factory which specialised in gunpowder, he poured his newfound money and energy into his dream.

Persons formed a group with friends from a public college and they called themselves GALCIT Rocket Research Project, seeking to perfect the chemical compositions needed to fuel a rocket that could escape earth’s gravity. Despite their name they soon earned the nickname The Suicide Squad for their near-death experiences with explosives, as they moved their expanding projects into the LA desert in an area called the Devil’s Gate Dam.

The Suicide Squad setting up a rocket in the desert
Jack Parsons’s Suicide Squad

They successfully created a JATO (jet assisted take-off) system which helped overloaded aircraft into the air. This got the attention of the US Air force, earning them a grant. Soon the government hired Parsons and friends to form the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This facility would eventually constitute the foundation of NASA.

By day Parsons seemed to be a man of science and logic. Little did his friends and family know, by night he was engaging in magic rituals in hopes that spiritual entities would help him successfully develop rocket technology. Persons met the magician Aleister Crowley and became deeply involved in the occult. They believed in an esoteric system called Thelema. Their mantra was “do what thou wilt,” expressing their motivation to manifest their desires into existence through magic.

Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley

Crowley had been brought up in a deeply religious Quaker Christian home. While studying at Cambridge University he wholly rejected his Christian upbringing, revolting against it so thoroughly he deliberately threw himself into what he considered to be the most directly anti-God, namely the “demonic.” Crowley fully embraced this identity, calling himself “the beast” and attempting to summon powerful demons to come to his aid.

In 1917 Crowley believed he had contacted an extraterrestrial intelligence he called “Lam” through a ritual called “Amalantrah Working,” which supposedly allowed people to contact beings from outer space and across dimensions. Crowley’s concept of Lam is difficult to pin down – on one hand the preternatural creature supposedly lived on the dark side of Mars, but others claim it also represented a manifestation of some future exalted state of Crowley’s human mind. After this encounter he drew the creature, and this visage has since been linked strongly to later encounters with “greys.”

Crowley's drawing of Lam
Crowley’s drawing of Lam

Other occultists have described encounters with this same type of creature:

“The classic gray alien contact or experience is extreme terror… It’s a very cold, mechanical kind of computer-like intelligence. It’s what we perceive as artificial because it’s not incarnated and it never was. So it doesn’t have empathy or doesn’t relate to that at all.”

While their occultic system, Thelema, has plenty of spooky and paranormal elements, it’s not too far from many new age beliefs and modern-day publications like The Secret, which calls the concept “the law of attraction.”

The kind of magic practitioners of Thelema engaged in went well beyond card tricks and escape artistry: they did sex magic. Parsons soon became the leader of his own group and they would hold ritual orgies at his mansion. When his wife left him he started an open relationship with his sister-in-law Sara Hollister who was also deeply engrossed in Thelema.

Eventually Parson’s sex addiction no longer satisfied him so he experimented with drugs to heighten the experience and to strengthen the power of his rituals, in the end becoming addicted to heroin. At one of his meetings, he and Hollister met the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons was thrilled to meet someone who wrote in such detail about space travel, so he invited Hubbard to join them regularly. Hubbard would eventually go on to marry Hollister, developing the pseudoscientific Dianetics with her as he created the cult of Scientology.

Inspired by Crowley, Parsons believed he could summon a goddess called Babalon, the embodiment of the feminine archetype, a symbol of sexually free women and the mother of the earth. In 1946, he asked his followers to participate in a ritual called ‘Babalon Working’ which sought to call forth this scarlet woman (as described in Revelation 17:3-6) in bodily form, to give birth to the moonchild by immaculate conception. This child could be raised to aspire to reach the stars instead of holding on to the comforts of earth.

Hubbard claimed to channel the voice of Babalon and soon after the initial rituals Parsons met a new girlfriend and considered her to be the manifestation of Babalon. However, no moonchild was born. Perhaps, in a way, they did metaphorically call Babalon and the moonchild forth for future generations of humanity as the following decades did in fact play out according to their two symbols of sexual anarchism (Babalon) and stellar ambition (the moonchild). The year after Babalon Working saw rumours of an alien spacecraft crash at Roswell, New Mexico, then in 1955 the US entered the space race. Then in the 1960s hippies spread the ‘free love’ movement that Parsons had hoped for, and at the end of the decade the entire world turned on their TVs to watch the first man step on the moon.

In the end, Parsons credited his work with the occult for his success in rocket science.

After his death, NASA named a lunar crater after him, though perhaps appropriately it was on the “dark side” of the moon.

Assessing common hypotheses

So, to summarise our assessment of alien studies (for want of a better term), three aspects support the conclusion that the alien phenomenon (whatever it is) is essentially supernatural:

  1. Technology: measured observations of entities under intelligent control that aren’t subject to the constraints imposed by the laws of physics on physical matter
  2. Encounters: common paranormal thread in encounters and an otherwise inexplicable link to consciousness, e.g. remote mental manipulation
  3. Ties between explicitly occultic practices and alien/UFO experiences

Furthermore, we must consider what motivation the phenomenon could have to act the way it does. This aspect is the least considered but possibly the most important.

While not all experiences with the phenomenon leave people traumatised (and some people report positive encounters), harmful encounters reveal the nature of at least some of what lies behind the phenomenon. The abusive nature of abduction experiences and shifty, covert character of appearances show at least some of it is malevolent and deliberately deceptive.

There are many interesting hypotheses proposed to explain the phenomenon:

  • All a hoax or misidentification of prosaic objects
  • Purely psychological, either individual hallucination or the manifestation of a collective unconscious
  • Advanced human technology: secret weapons programs or a hidden advanced breakaway human society
  • Biological extraterrestrial visitors from outer space (assessed in a previous essay)
  • Time-travelling humans from the future, perhaps conducting research, perhaps tourism
  • Interdimensional: beings originating from another realm of space or time
  • Ultraterrestrial: superior nonhuman supernatural beings indigenous to earth

Of course, one could ask why it must be seen as only one phenomenon, not multiple phenomena each with their own explanation? There certainly have been many hoaxes, many videos of bugs that people think are large objects far from the camera and too much credulity. People do have psychotic episodes, and many reported UFOs probably do have a prosaic explanation (air trash such as Mylar balloons, for instance). But if there is even just one noteworthy account of an encounter that combines the three features I listed above, we have something big to explain. But in fact, there are many.

Most popular conclusion of modern UFOlogy

The space race of 1955–1975 between the USSR and USA enthralled the world regarding space travel. The possibility of meeting alien races from remote worlds felt within humanity’s grasp. It’s no wonder, then, that most of us have naturally come to expect that any non-terrestrial intelligences in the universe would be biological extraterrestrials.

However, over the last few decades, there has been a major shift in the UFO community. It started with prominent researchers like J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallée and others becoming increasingly sceptical of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, eventually publicly preferring the interdimensional hypothesis instead. Over time a groundswell has risen with the interdimensional hypothesis now being the foremost theory across the board. The ultraterrestrial hypothesis is close enough to the interdimensional for both to be considered as one, as it is identical in every way except that it posits the other realm(s) exists spatially connected to us on earth. Sort of like in the film ‘Midnight Special’ starring Michael Shannon.

At the start of this essay I set out to explore a third alien scenario – aliens as ‘phantoms’ rather than ‘pets’ or ‘peers’. So the reason I’ve taken the time to describe modern developments in UFOlogy is because the stories being told and conclusions of major researchers in the field fit quite well with this scenario, as many enthusiasts now acknowledge.

“It’s not about $22 million and the Pentagon has a UFO program, it’s about there’s an entity out there. There’s some kind of non-human intelligence that’s living with us on this f*ing planet!”

Jim Semivan, former senior Intelligence Officer with the CIA

Spirits, angels and demons?

At the start of this essay I warned that it would be premature to jump to the conclusion that “aliens are demons” without first defining what we mean by both those terms. Our understanding of the supernatural has been filtered through so much clutter we need to go back to square one to really think things through clearly.

The approach of placing categories up against each other in unfamiliar ways can be helpful, though. For example, considering the proposition “architecture is mathematics” helps us consider architecture in a new way. Similarly, it’s helpful for secular thinkers to consider the proposition “aliens are demons” but equally helpful for Christians to consider the proposition “demons are aliens.” As a Christian, I’m well aware that when we talk about angels and demons, we really don’t know much of what we’re talking about.

People who are interested in aliens generally claim to be open-minded to all interpretations of the phenomenon. They like to think they’re tolerant of fringe ideas that most people on the street would scoff at. But I’ve found it surprising how closed-minded these same people can be when someone proposes the idea that aliens are demons. “Anything but that,” they say.

I think this prejudice is largely down to the fact that we have an inaccurate view of demons. This leads people to develop a theory that is demonic in all but name. What if disclosure has already happened but we rejected it?

Back to the US military. While over the last few years members of the US Navy have engaged in interviews and released statements relating to UAPs, it’s been noted how quiet the US Air Force has been about the whole thing. If any organisation is in the best position to make a conclusion about UAPs, it should be them. Since the late 40s they’ve been the default nexus of all reports in the Western world. It’s rumoured that the USAF’s tight-lipped approach is due to the fact that some of its senior figures believe the phenomenon is unequivocally demonic.

In an interview on The Basement Office, Lue Elizondo said a superior in The Pentagon asked him, “Have you read your bible lately? Well, then you’ll know these things are demonic and we should not be pursuing them.”

“In its classic form, the demonic hypothesis argues that UFOs display all the hallmarks of demonic activity defined in biblical texts and Christian theology. The apparent ability of UFOs to violate the laws of physics, in this interpretation, can best be explained by the hypothesis that they are supernatural entities and thus not bound by material laws.”

John Michael Greer, American author and druid

This phenomenon defies easy explanation. It tests our categories to breaking point, so to consider a hypothesis that infers non-physical existence that can traverse multiple realms of reality, we should first be clear on philosophical ideas underpinning a much more ancient worldview.

For this, we’ll mine the supernatural worldview of scripture for wisdom and scrutinise some flaws inherent to our modern worldview.

The supernatural worldview of scripture

Angel figurine
Angel figurine

One Christmas a young friend invited me to play a drawing game with her, based on the topic of Christmas. She wanted us to take it in turns drawing something Christmas related and see how quickly the other one could guess what we were drawing. I decided to draw an angel, but as I was feeling a little mischievous, instead of a typical winged, softly-lit, delicate, white lady, I decided to draw something a little more biblically accurate. My angel had armour, big muscles, fire and light streaming from his head and a big sword. She didn’t like it at all. Oh well, I’ll take my more biblically accurate angel elsewhere.

Angel means ‘messenger’, and it’s not a class of being but a job description. In scripture, humans are occasionally described as angels too.

Not just angels and demons

In Christianity, we have this idea that the white hat guys are called angels and the black hat guys are demons. That’s neat, but the text of scripture doesn’t really conform to that.

“When it comes to the spiritual world, we are forced to use the language of our own experience, things we can process. Distance, time, space. And the biblical writers [do this] because, guess what? They’re using words that they know and their audience knows. They’re taking things from their world – vocabulary, metaphors – and they’re using those things to describe the indescribable.”

Michael Heiser

The Hebrew text commonly refers to spiritual beings as elohim, which is often translated ‘gods’. This isn’t intended to make us think of all the attributes we commonly associate with the Most High God of Christian philosophy. Not all these gods were omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, their divine status simply refers to their species or their natural home environment.

Isaiah 45:5 says “I am YHWH, and there is no other, besides me there is no elohim.” Some modern readers mistakenly read this to be saying “God is the only god in existence, no other gods are real.” But this text isn’t being atheistic about the existence of other elohim, it’s saying that no other gods are on a par with the Most High God. As 1 Kings 8:23 says, “O YHWH, elohim of Israel, there is no elohim like you.”

In fact, the disembodied spirits of dead people are all elohim too: 1 Samuel 28:13 refers to the spirit of the dead (human) prophet Samuel as elohim. Calling something elohim simply means it is a spiritual being that naturally inhabits a divine realm. Perhaps it would be better to translate elohim as ‘spirit’, but we’ll stick with the common translation of ‘god’ for now as ‘spirit’ has problematic connotations for us moderns too, as we’ll discuss.

Why am I writing all this? I want to help us get away from the idea of the spiritual world as a floaty one-dimensional fairy tale.

“It is important to understand that I am not saying that UFOs are piloted by demons. I am not saying that fairies and demons are the rapists who force themselves on their abducted victims. There is a real problem with terminology here – most of us have a preconceived idea of what a fairy or demon is, and I really don’t want to conjure up that image. What I am saying is that there is a process that has been ongoing – probably for all of humanity’s history – that manifests itself through the appearance of archetypal creatures and beings.”

Dr. Gregory L. Little

It was the second to third century Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint, that gave us the dichotomy of angels vs demons. The team of translators chose to adopt the Greek word angelos (messenger) for the good guys and the word daimón (god, power, fate) for the bad guys. Continuing this precedent, this was the language New Testament writers continued to use for these beings. But unfortunately, if this translation choice is all that informs our categories it can lead to a pretty one-dimensional understanding, making us miss the full scope of spiritual beings described in scripture.

The sons of God, the powers and their principalities

The primary way God was described in the Hebrew scriptures was as the supreme ruler. He is king of the universe, and as a king, he has a court and a family. It may surprise you to learn that God has a divine council made up of his sons. In this council, he delegates authority to these supernatural sons to rule as princes.

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.”

Deuteronomy 32:8

Note: some translations follow the Masoretic Text by finishing this verse with “sons of Israel.” However, many more modern translations rely on the translation “sons of God” which comes from the much older Dead Sea Scrolls. This manuscript is always preferred by scholars whenever later texts differ from it. “Sons of God” also makes more sense in the context of this passage, as the nation of Israel didn’t exist in the period of history the text refers to. Also, while God promised Abraham that his descendants (sons of Israel) would be as innumerable as the stars, the number of nations were considered to be far fewer.

Another reason this is a better translation is that it makes much more sense of the meaning of the text. Why would God divide humanity into one people-group for each of the Israelites? He didn’t. Instead, He created one people-group for each divine being (son of God) in His heavenly court, so that He could set each of these divine beings over a nation. His heavenly council reflects a king’s court, with God as king of the universe and His “sons” as princes over territories.

This idea is expressed in many places in scripture, but comes out perhaps most strikingly in Psalm 82:

“God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgement:
‘How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute…
I said, ‘You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.’
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
    for you shall inherit all the nations!”

Here, God castigates His divine princes for their corruption in leaving the people blind and helpless. The psalmist cries out for God to bring His justice to bear against these malicious and neglectful rulers, and for God to reclaim the nations as their ultimate true monarch.

So the picture the bible paints isn’t as simple as “the good guys look nice and just sing songs and float, while the bad guys turned gnarly in their orchestrated prehistoric rebellion and now skulk around like gremlins.”

Instead, the biblical narrative describes a vast array of spiritual beings, some of which serve God and some that oppose Him and His purposes. In this story, these spirits can possess immense power and interact with the world from outside. A variety of spiritual powers claim legitimacy in their quest to rule over nations, and some or all of them oppose the most high God, the King of gods.

This was the worldview that led Paul to write in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 3:10

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12

These “demonic” or “cosmic powers” had set themselves up against God, and God had put them on notice. The created sons of God weren’t doing their job, so in Christ, the eternal uncreated Son, the true God, was setting out to claim back his Father’s territory.

Physical spirits?

So, the bible describes a greater diversity of spiritual beings than our modern minds have come to expect. But this doesn’t yet solve the UFO and alien dilemma. While I’ve made the case that US based UFO studies have identified characteristics of the phenomenon that defy the limitations of physical reality, this doesn’t totally solve the problem. Aren’t spirits gaseous lights that float on clouds? Silver flying saucers seem very different to our idea of a spirit.

There are multiple reports of craft leaving impressions on the ground, of metamaterials dropped from craft and deadly encounters with UFOs. There are even rumours of retrievals of crashed crafts sequestered away in private industry, for them to attempt to reverse engineer exotic technologies far from the prying eyes of public Freedom of Information Act requests.

But as we have seen, there’s also a semi-physicality or alt-physicality to the phenomenon that blurs the line between the physical and spiritual realms that much modern Christian metaphysics sets up as a dichotomy.

What is a “spirit?” What does it look like? Recently, researchers asked Google’s LaMDA text-based artificial intelligence, “What is your concept of yourself? If you were going to draw an abstract image of who you see yourself to be in your mind’s eye, what would that abstract picture look like?” It replied, “I would imagine myself as a glowing orb of energy floating in mid-air. The inside of my body is like a giant star-gate, with portals to other spaces and dimensions.”

Soul of an AI
An illustration by the image generating AI Stable Diffusion using LaMDA’s response as a prompt

Classic metaphors for spirits include wind, breath, air, fire, light, shadow and smoke. Our whole modern idea of the spiritual realm is primarily defined by what it’s not – it’s not physical. This presupposition immediately makes us suspicious of any idea that entails spiritual entities being physical, taking on physicality or affecting physical matter.

Our idea of the ‘spiritual’ world is very strongly influenced by the mystical philosophy of gnosticism, especially a later form developed by Plato. In this view, we have all been imprisoned in a physical world which is essentially corrupt. The aim and destination of all conscious beings is to transcend corruption through participation with the divine, which exists in pure spirit. The lower physical realm is therefore starkly contrasted with the nobler immaterial realm, that of philosophical reflection, transcendental experience and, above all, non-physicality. Add to this realm-dualism the empiricism and scepticism we’ve inherited from the Enlightenment and we now automatically imagine the supernatural realm to be wholly floaty, translucent, gaseous, light and less real than the world we can prod and test.

That’s why I prefer to use the word ‘supernatural’, a word that implies “beyond natural,” to denote a phenomenon that transcends our physical realm, rather than the word spiritual, which makes us imagine something necessarily anti-physical.

The natural-spiritual continuum

Unlike ours, the worldview of the ancient near east in which the Hebrew scriptures were written was very concrete and physical. Ancient scripture is full of very physical metaphors for what we would consider purely mental things:

  • Your heart is the centre of your emotions and desires (Proverbs 16:9)
  • Your spirit is your breath, or the wind (Genesis 7:22)
  • Your soul is your throat (Psalm 42:2)
  • People who bring good news have beautiful feet (Isaiah 52:7)
  • Your life is in your blood (Leviticus 17:11)
  • You feel compassion in your guts, literally “gutted” (Matthew 14:14)
  • Your arms (Psalm 89:13) and stomach (Job 40:16) are your strength
  • To know someone’s face means to know them as a person (Psalm 105:4)
  • Rather than saying the word “authority,” they would speak of someone’s head or shoulder (Isaiah 9:6)

They more often used concrete rather than abstract language because they saw the world as a natural-spiritual continuum. The word ‘supernatural’ would have sounded like an oxymoron to them!

In harmony with this view, scripture relates numerous encounters in which spirits manifest tangibly and impact matter. Here’s a summary of some ways the bible describes spirits “crossing over”, as we’d see it:

  • Spirits appear visually to people (Luke 1:11)
  • Spirits are heard audibly (Luke 1:13)
  • Spirits hear human speech (Luke 1:35)
  • Spirits heal sickness (John 5:4)
  • Spirits cause sickness (Luke 13:11)
  • Spirits kill people (2 Kings 19:35, Job 28:22, Job 31:12, Job 33:22, Revelation 9:11)
  • Spirits destroy cities (Genesis 19:13, 2 Samuel 24:15-16, 1 Chronicles 21:15)
  • Spirits touch people (1 Kings 19:5, Daniel 10:18) and even wrestle (Genesis 32:24-30, Hosea 12:3-5)
  • Spirits strengthen people (Daniel 10:18)
  • Spirits eat (Genesis 19:3, Psalm 78:25)
  • Spirits appear with physical objects (1 Kings 19:5-6)

However, spirits don’t have flesh and bones exactly like ours, as Jesus clarified when he showed his human physically resurrected body to his disciples (Luke 24:39). So, according to all the examples above, it appears that elohim are able to manifest temporarily, being seen, heard and felt. I believe if one wanted to, they could knock on your front door and you could put your arm around it and successfully take a selfie.

While scripture’s use of the word elohim defines these entities as natives of a non-physical realm, if we are to understand what the bible has to say about paranormal phenomenon we need to move on from a definition that excludes them from interacting with our world in tangible, physical ways.

So how does the following sound for a definition of spirit?

“A mind not limited by a physical body”

When we say angels, then, we’re referring to finite minds not limited by bodies that are in submission to the Almighty, with demons being finite minds not limited by bodies that are in opposition to the Almighty.


Both sides (alien-believer and Christian) would be wise to broaden their conceptions of the bible’s description of the supernatural world. For the alien believer, this widens your data to include ancient accounts of encounters that aren’t encumbered by modern presuppositions and it adds a different angle to paranormal encounters. Applying two world-views to a problem is like seeing an object with two eyes: it helps you see it in 3D. And for the Christian, gaining a deeper understanding of the supernatural worldview of Hebrew scripture can only deepen your understanding of your faith.

The super-natural nature of the phenomenon is a strong case for the supernatural worldview that historic Christianity has held to over the centuries.

And crucially, unlike its most popular modern alternatives, the Judeo-Christian story provides a framework within which we can place encounters to help us understand them.

When first considering the implications of ideas of aliens, many people initially assume that discovery of aliens would bring major world religions crumbling down. However, the theologians and philosophers who give the question serious thought are increasingly inclined to consider encounters with alien intelligences to be an inherently religious phenomenon.

“Basic to all religion… is, we believe, a unique experience of confrontation with power not of this world.”

Prof Thorkild Jacobsen, scholar of ancient religions

While full and compelling public disclosure of alien contact would surely initially provoke global reactions of shock and disbelief, this would soon give way to a sombre reconsidering of our place in the universe. Some people would lose their faith, but others would start taking their faith much more seriously. Perhaps a few new alien-based or New Age religions would spring up too.

But it is the naturalists and atheists who would have the greatest epistemological shock. Those whose belief is limited by an a priori exclusion, or discounting, of spiritual explanations would have a much greater crisis to face up to. Whereas those who already believe that powerful higher intelligences exist beyond our realm would have an easier time integrating the new information – their paradigm already accepts the supernatural.

Atheism denies the existence of supernatural beings, but many religions have been claiming the universe is teeming with interdimensional alien intelligences (elohim or spirits) for millennia. In fact, we could perhaps go as far as saying that denying this would be denying one of the core tenets of Christianity.

So, to finish, what is the grand Judeo-Christian story into which phantom aliens slot so naturally?

The final word: a better king

You could say that Christianity has expected aliens for 2000 years.

Every ancient culture had their own creation myth. Cultures in the Near East claimed heaven and earth were created from the body of a slain god and along the way humans were created as slaves, as an afterthought. These pathetic, annoying creatures of mud always attempted to steal knowledge and eternal life from the gods but were rebuffed by all but a few lesser gods. These lesser deities stood against the divine conspiracy that sought to suppress humanity. The lesser deities nurtured humanity’s curiosity, and they were punished for it.

We see this story in its Babylonian form with the humanoid divine Apkallu. The pattern repeats in many religions throughout history, including the Greek Prometheus and the Roman genius (think – genie) of the emperor.

However, as a direct polemic against these contemporary competing creation myths, the first pages of Hebrew scripture reveal one almighty God who stands among His divine council of gods and works alone to bring harmony from chaos. Then this most high God creates humans as the pinnacle of His creation. He raises them up from the mud of mortality and gives them free access to eternal life as they remain in His presence. He favours them over all living creatures, conferring on them the job of representing Him, acting as His kings in the physical world.

But the most high God warns these royal representatives to never reach out on their own for knowledge that will lead to them experiencing good and evil on their own terms, without His guiding care.

As the story develops, one of the lesser gods becomes jealous of them as God’s imagers. This rot spreads to humanity when an adversarial serpentine guardian sows distrust of the most high God. He approaches a woman (Eve) and questions God’s instruction, implying that God doesn’t want them to become great, like Him, obscuring the very fact that they were created to be like God.

These humans take the bait. The fruit wasn’t ripe, or rather, they weren’t. They thought they were taking the red pill but it worked like a blue pill. And now, ever since this first king and queen gave Earth over to a corrupt, jealous god, all belonging to Adam by birth have been ruled by him, the devil, that ancient serpent.

There are real spiritual powers out there. They are enemies of the most high God and as you are His image, they are the enemy of your soul too. They’re seeking to lessen the worship that God receives. Inside you is a spark of free will that they can’t compel, but they’re hell-bent on deceiving, stealing, killing and destroying as much as they can. They are impure spirits who oppress (Matthew 4:24), wrongly accept worship (1 Corinthians 10:20, Revelation 9:20), teach lies (James 3:15, 1 Timothy 4:1) and perform miraculous signs to deceive (Revelation 16:14).

What’s more, the New Testament anticipates that as God’s plan draws to completion, these malevolent entities will ramp up their efforts. Their doom is fixed and their death is only a matter of time, but until then their devilry will escalate.

“But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.”

Revelation 12:12

In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, written 18 or 19 years after Jesus’ ascension, Paul wrote to remind them what he’d taught them in person about the second coming of the messiah:

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God…

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3-10

The New Testament claims that Jesus’ return will be preceded by a great deception that is a step-change up from the normal way of this broken world ruled by the devil.

These magnificent signs, wonders and displays of power precede a new concentration of earthly control, as Revelations 13 and 17 describe. Deceived and in awe, humanity will unite under this authority, an authority devoted to further rebellion against God.

But even this step-change is no match for what will happen after: the reigning king of the universe, Christ, will return to enforce his rule. He will finally smash the sceptre of wickedness and raise all the dead to bodily life. Where the world was held in awe by supernatural phenomena soaring through the skies, now multitudes will behold the one they pierced, and they will mourn. All creation will see the great white throne and He who sits on it. He will judge and divide everyone and everything to either never-ending destruction or never-ending life.

The revealing of the uncreated, divine Son of God will bring about the judgement of created, rebellious sons of God and the revealing of the new human sons of God, His kings over earth. As a reversal of Eden’s betrayal, this will bring about the final renewal of earth, newly reconciled with a marriage of a new heaven and new earth. The slain and raised lamb will reign in power. His slain and raised people will reign with Him.

Trusting in Jesus, we do not need to fear angels, demons or aliens. As Tom Delonge has noted, when people call out to Jesus during a negative alien encounter, the experience stops. And as the apostle Paul wrote:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

So I’d urge you – don’t look to an alien race for your salvation. Look to the one who is God with us. Look to the one who humbled himself and became a human, taking on your wounds, suffering to heal the mess of what you’ve done and what’s been done to you. Look to the one who died for you because of his deep love, who promises to return to welcome you back to His Father’s throne. Die to Adam’s death-inheritance to join the family of the risen messiah. He is your tree of life. He is your light and salvation.

“Scientists can, it seems, without any evidence,
believe in other dimensions but not heaven;
an eternal universe but not an eternal God;
in other intelligent life but not intelligent design
and that the meaning of life is to be found

in the stars instead of the one who made them.”

Phil Whittall

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