UFO studies Q&A from Rivista UFO magazine (text)

Barry Downing

May 2019

The following article is a question and answer document prepared for the Brazilian UFO magazine “Revista UFO,” edited by A.J. Gevaerd. It is being translated into Portuguese. If quoting from this article, please give appropriate credit. These questions came from the magazine.

  1. What led you to UFOlogical research?

When I was in high school, my father brought me some Donald Keyhoe Flying Saucer books from the library to read. Keyhoe seemed sincere, had a lot of interesting reports, and said that the government was trying to cover up the UFO evidence. At that time I was planning to go to college, and major in physics. This was also the beginning of America’s push to take a space ship to the moon, so space travel was on everyone’s mind.

But even though I majored in physics, and earned my degree from Hartwick College in 1960, my Christian faith drew me to become a Presbyterian pastor, so after college graduation, I attended Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, earning my divinity degree in 1963.

During my divinity studies, I became aware of the conflict between science and my Christian beliefs. One of my professors in class explained it this way. He said, “No one today believes in the Ascension of Jesus, do they? And if Jesus did not ascend to heaven, we can only suppose his bones lie buried somewhere in the middle east.”

Why don’t we believe in the Ascension (one of the major articles of the Apostles’ Creed)? Because biblical people held a primitive cosmology, with earth in the middle, and flat, heaven above, hell below. Since Copernicus we now know the earth is not flat, and heaven is not “up.” With the earth rotating on its axis, there is no up, or everywhere is up. The year I graduated from seminary, Bishop John A.T. Robinson published a book, Honest to God, which made the claim that Christians could no longer “in honesty” believe that Jesus went up to heaven, that angels fly back and forth between earth and heaven. Miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, or the Resurrection of Jesus, never happened. They were mythological stories made up by non-scientific people.

This led to “the death of God” theology of the 1960’s, the argument being that the God of the Bible was “created” by Jewish and Christian people, out of their own imaginations. We can in our scientific age no longer believe in this God.

I decided at that point that I needed to do more research on the issues of “eschatology, time and space,” eschatology being the whole Christian idea of what happens to people when we die, is there a heaven, is there life after death? If there is a heaven, where is it? How do we get there? If the angels are there, how do they get here? I did not see how I could be a Christian pastor, conduct a funeral, and say something like, “we used to believe that when we died, we went to heaven to be with Jesus, but I learned in seminary that this is not scientifically believable any more, so our dear departed person is just dead. Too bad. No need to sing a final hymn, there is nothing to sing about.”

There was little formal interest in American seminaries in the area of science and religion at the time I was in seminary. “Science is about facts, religion is make believe,” or at best religion is about values, not about the real world, seemed to be the view. So I applied to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to earn a Ph.D. in the area of science and religion. I studied under the direction of Prof. John McIntyre, and Prof. T.F. Torrance, both excellent scholars well aware of the issues related to science and religion. (In fact, Edinburgh University now has a science and religion department, as part of the faculty of Divinity. They are a world leader in this area.)

My Ph.D. dissertation, Eschatological Implications of the Understanding of Time and Space in the Thought of Isaac Newton (1966), was approved. (The University has made my dissertation available to be down loaded on line.)

Sometime during October of 1965, I began to think about the “extraterrestrial dimensions” of the Bible, the issue of angels, and where is heaven? There were things in the Bible that seemed a little like a spaceship, like the wheels of Ezekiel (See chapter 1), or the “chariot of fire” that took Elijah up into the sky. (1 Kings 2:11)

I began to wonder if we could look at the Bible from a space age point of view, what if we think of the angels as space beings from another planet? And what if the angels do not fly to earth on wings, but rather they use advanced technology?

These thoughts had a powerful impact on me. I even considered giving up my Ph.D. work, and writing a book, but I “made a deal with God,” I would try to finish my Ph.D. work first, then do a book. That is how it worked out.

I finished my Ph.D. in May of 1966, I came back to the United States and began looking for a church where I could be a pastor. In the meantime, I was living in Rochester, New York, with my in-laws. I set up a study in their basement, on a ping pong table, and began writing The Bible and Flying Saucers, which I completed in February of 1967. After being rejected by several publishers, it was published in 1968 by J.B. Lippincott.

I listed only three UFO books in my bibliography, Frank Edwards, Flying Saucers—Serious business (1966), Donald Keyhoe, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955), and Jacques Vallee, Anatomy of a Phenomenon: Unidentified Objects in Space—A Scientific Appraisal (1965). I also referred to news paper UFO reports that were available at the time. By today’s standards, UFO evidence was spotty.

As my book was reviewed by religious leaders, Christians in particular, it was strongly rejected. One pastor called it “the kook book of the year.” Although I was angry about the rejection at the time, after 50 years, I have come to understand how radical an idea my book was for religious leaders, and the last thing religious leaders want to deal with is a radical idea.

We can divide religious leaders into two groups, the conservative, and the liberal. Conservatives tend to take every word in the Bible literally, and strongly believe in the supernatural, to explain miracles. One might suppose that conservatives would be glad that I explained the parting of the Red Sea. But they were not happy, I did not turn to the supernatural to explain the parting, I said that aliens used advanced technology to part the Red Sea. So this was heresy for conservatives.

Liberals had by and large given up believing in the supernatural at all. So for them, the Red Sea never parted, Jesus never rose from the dead, or ascended to heaven. These were all religious myths. They were make believe stories made up by ancient superstitious people.

Then in my book, I argued that the Red Sea did part, Jesus did rise from the dead, aliens in spaceships were involved in all these events. We need to see the angels in the Bible as extraterrestrials with advanced technical power. Liberals thought I must be joking. And in general liberals, many of whom are college professors, have spent their careers teaching religion as mythology. They had spent their lives thinking how wise they were not to believe in things like the parting of the Red Sea, feeling very superior to conservatives. If they started believing in UFOs, who knows what would come next?

This is how religious leaders reacted to my work 50 years ago, and the conservative and liberal division is still pretty much the same. Official government denials about the existence of UFOs have given religious leaders of all convictions the ability to deny that there are serious issues relating UFOs and religion.

MUFON was formed in 1969, fifty years ago this year, and was headed by Walter Andrus, Jr. He read my book, and asked me to become a consultant in religion to MUFON in 1972. He also wanted me to write columns for what was then the monthly newsletter, Skylook, which later became the MUFON Journal.

I have published more than 20 articles over the years in the MUFON newsletter, as well as speaking at several Symposia.

Once I became a frequent publisher with MUFON, I kept up with UFO research, and tried to understand the religious dimensions to the best of my ability in spite of the fact that no religious journals were willing to publish my writings. (I tried, and was rejected frequently.) But even publishing for MUFON was not without resistance. Many who look at UFOs from only a scientific point of view did not want someone like me mixing religion in with UFO sightings, and possible alien purpose.

At the same time, Christian conservatives were loudly against me, complained to MUFON about my work. Conservative Christians who believe UFOs are real tend to believe they are either demonic, or “Fallen Angels”, (See Genesis 6). It is valid to make these arguments, and I deal with them in my most recent book, Biblical UFO Revelations (2017). But I find that most conservative Christian books about UFOs deal with the Bible badly, ignoring important UFO passages, and twisting UFO evidence in a way that is not justified, especially since the aliens, whoever they are, make it hard to know what their purpose is. The “hiddenness” of the aliens leads conservatives to argue this shows they are evil. But, God is pretty hidden, and conservatives do not think God is evil.

The above explains how I became involved in ufological research. It began with a mild interest in flying saucers when I was in high school, and then during my Ph.D. work, I began to wonder if flying saucers, or UFOs, have only shown up in modern times, or if they might have been around for hundreds of years. Of course, at about the same time, 1968, Eric Von Daniken began wondering the same thing.

  1. Would Jesus Christ be an alien?

I hope that everyone understands that I am an ordained minister, and that this is exactly the kind of question that if I give the “wrong” answer, could get me tried for heresy. And when my book was first published, there were a few of my fellow Presbyterian pastors who told me they thought I should be tried for heresy. It never happened, but it could have.

Ronald D. Story edited a major work, The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters in 2001. He invited me to write several articles for this book, which I did, such as “Demonic Theory of UFOs” and “Biblical Miracles as Super-Technology.” He also asked me to write an article on “Jesus Christ as an Extraterrestrial,” and I said no, I thought that too dangerous for me. He ended up writing it himself. Since he was not an ordained pastor, he did not have to worry about heresy trials.

But the question, was Jesus Christ an alien, needs to be considered. I hope I can give an answer that makes sense both in terms of modern UFO science, and biblical theology.

We can start by asking the question: is the New Testament record an accurate report of who Jesus was, and what he did? The answer is, we do not really know, in a scientific sense. At the same time, it is the only source of information we have about Jesus, so that is what we have to work with.

As we read through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we realize that if these books are telling the truth, then Jesus is no normal human being. He fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, he raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead four days (John 11), made the blind see, the lame walk, turned water to wine, walked on water.

If these stories are true, how do we explain them? How did the biblical people explain them? They either said he was a prophet (Moses and Elijah had both done miraculous things), but some said “he is the Son of God.” The “sons of God” were understood to be the angels, who lived with God in heaven, and sometimes came to earth. So even in biblical times, the way people explained the miraculous powers which Jesus showed was to say he did not come from earth, he came from heaven, he was an extraterrestrial.

There is danger in saying this from a UFO point of view, of course, because how do we think of extraterrestrials now? In the 1950’s, people thought aliens were little green men from Mars. As our understanding grew, and we had people like Budd Hopkins investigating UFO abductions, we began to think of aliens as humanoids, sort of human, but not. Then when Whitley Strieber wrote his best selling book Communion (1987), we now “knew” aliens were short, thin, bald, with big slanted eyes.

We also had movies that frightened us, like the “Alien” series, and in “ET: the Extraterrestrial” the alien was a little being, more like a child, who wanted to go home, and had to escape from wicked government leaders (Jesus could have learned from ET). Then we had the invasion movies, like “War of the Worlds,” or with better technology, “Independence Day.” But in the end, most modern “aliens” are evil, an idea that sells more movie tickets, and the idea that we humans might be the evil ones, and that beings from outer space might come to save us (as the Bible says Jesus did,) is not popular in Hollywood.

So to see Jesus as an alien, or an extraterrestrial, does not fit well with our modern cultural visions of aliens. Many of these visions are from science fiction, of course, but they still have a powerful influence on our minds if we try to see Jesus as an alien.

Let us consider three passages of scripture: Matthew 17:1-9; Acts 1:6-11; Acts 9:1-9. In Matthew 17, we have the report of Jesus, Peter, James and John going up a high mountain, where the clothing and face of Jesus begin to glow. This is called the Transfiguration of Jesus. While this was happening, Moses and Elijah appeared. (How the disciples knew they were Moses and Elijah is not explained, but it is presumed that Jesus identified them, and knew them—from a previous life.)

While they were talking, “lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” We have several biblical UFO patterns at work here. The original “bright cloud” was the “pillar of cloud and fire” of the Exodus. This was the UFO associated with Moses. Elijah also had a UFO connection, he was taken up into the sky in a chariot of fire. Moses had been dead for centuries, Elijah never died on earth, but in New Testament thinking, we are to suppose that both Moses and Elijah are in resurrected bodies, and while it is not said, we can wonder if Jesus knew them from a previous life.

The fact that a voice came from the bright cloud should be no surprise, Moses was in conversation with God, or with an angel of God “in the cloud,” the Exodus UFO, from the beginning of the Exodus (see Exodus 13:21, 22). This same voice spoke to Moses at Mt. Sinai, giving him the many commandments of the Jewish religion.

What is made clear here is that the same extraterrestrial power that brought about the Exodus is the power behind Jesus, and what he stands for. And the words, “this is my beloved Son,” makes clear he is [a or the] Son of God, and therefore comes from the world of the angels.

Of course, Matthew, like Luke, reports Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. So if Jesus is the Son of God, an angel, how did he give up his angel status to become a baby in the womb of Mary? There is no clear biblical, or UFO answer to this question. And did he have his angel or “divine” inner identity as soon as he was born, or when he grew up, or when he was baptized? I do not know. In any case, there is a clear note of extraterrestrial involvement with Jesus in the middle of his ministry.

After Jesus was crucified, and raised from the dead, there was a period of maybe forty days where Jesus appeared to his disciples several times, but did not remain long with them. Then came the time of his ascension, reported in Acts. Jesus was giving final instructions to his disciples, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11).

Here is the basic Ascension story. It is no more strange than the story of Elijah being taken up into the sky in a chariot of fire. Later in the book of Acts, the disciple Philip, after he baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch, is taken up by “the Spirit of the Lord” and carried to the distant city Azotus. (Acts 8:39, 40)

The biblical people did not talk about flying saucers, UFOs, or spaceships, and we should not expect them to. What the biblical people did believe was that there was a civilization not on earth, somewhere up in the sky, where the angels lived, and they did not fly here on wings, rather they had some kind of heavenly transportation system, which often looked like bright or glowing clouds. And in 2019, we have UFO reports like this.

The third passage is also in Acts, chapter 9. It is the story of the conversion of Saul [Paul] who was a trained Jewish religious teacher and who was a leader in arresting Christians who preached the resurrection of Jesus. Saul was given authority to go to Damascus to arrest Christians there. He was traveling with a group when suddenly a bright light hovered over him, and a voice came from the light saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul answered, “Who are you Lord?” and the voice answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6; this same story is told in Acts chapters 22 and 26).

Here we have a bright light, no cloud mentioned, but it is some kind of transportation system that has brought Jesus from heaven, wherever that is, to this point on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. (Why is it UFOs like to appear out in the country?)

Here is what the Bible seems to say. Was Jesus an alien, an extraterrestrial? If he wasn’t before, he is now. This is basic Christian teaching. He is now in heaven, and he will take faithful Christians to join him in the place “he has gone to prepare for us.” (John 14:1-3) He is now an extraterrestrial, and someday all his followers will be extraterrestrials, wherever heaven is. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Wherever heaven is, it is not on earth.

The conversion of Paul was the most important conversion in the history of Christianity. At the beginning, all Christians were Jews, but there was strong opposition to Christianity among the Jews, and eventually Jewish Christianity died out. Only Gentile Christianity survived, and the Apostle Paul was the one who made Gentile Christianity into a religion that could survive separately from Judaism.

I believe it is the same extraterrestrial reality that brought about both Judaism and Christianity, and that this alien/angelic reality knew from the beginning that Judaism and Christianity would become separate religions, in spite of them both being “extraterrestrial religions” started by the same reality.

The Gospel of John more than the Synoptic Gospels displays Jesus as having an identity before his life on earth. Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40) These words explain basic Christianity. Jesus has the power to save us from death. He saves the ones who believe in him. He has been sent by God to earth from heaven for this purpose. So is Jesus Christ an alien? The Bible says he is, and he was so alien, he was crucified. Neither Jewish religious leaders, nor Roman government officials, could stand him. He was too strange.

The Nicene Creed has the words, “We believe in one God the Father……and in one Lord Jesus Christ……who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and became incarnate by the Holy Spirit.”

Traditional Christianity sees Jesus as an extraterrestrial. We can say he was an alien both in the sense that he came from another world, and that he embodied values (such as love your enemy) which really annoyed people. In that sense he was alien. And he told parables, “The kingdom of heaven is like…..a grain of mustard seed, a woman who loses a coin, a father who has 2 sons, one prodigal.” He spoke of life in a heavenly kingdom as if he had lived there, he spoke as one “having authority.” In many ways he was an alien, probably the kind of alien we would reject if he started walking the streets of our world. Or flying in our skies.

  1. Is there a relationship between religious passages in other cultures that you also identify as being a ufological event?

First I need to say that I am no authority about UFOs in other religious cultures. I have limited knowledge about how do deal with UFOs in the Bible, both in terms of how to deal with the Bible as an ancient document, and how to relate it to modern UFOs. For instance: Does Raymond Fowler’s careful study of the Betty Andreasson abduction case, with all its religious imagery, support my biblical studies, or is this more like demonic confusion? (See Raymond Fowler, The Andreasson Affair, 1980).

Let us start here: I Googled “UFOs and Judaism Wikipedia, “ “UFOs and Christianity Wikipedia,” “UFOs and Islam Wikipedia,” “UFOs and Hinduism Wikipedia,” and “UFOs and Buddhism Wikipedia.”

For those of us who take UFO research seriously, these seemed to me to be very good topics, well worth having a heading in Wikipedia. But no such luck, hardly even a reference to an alternative.

But there were references to related topics. For instance, Wikipedia has a heading for “Exotheology.” That is, what are the implications for theology, and the idea of God, if we meet extraterrestrials? Lutheran theologian Ted Peters is a leader in this field, who works at an American West Coast seminary. He is also a consultant to MUFON. He kind of tip toes around UFOs, not admitting they are real, but asking questions that would be asked if some day extraterrestrials showed up.

In the article, a few Christian thinkers, some Roman Catholic, were sited. The general idea is, God is creator of all, even of ET’s, if they are there.

Likewise there were a few lines putting forth a Jewish point of view. And a brief reference to Islam, and that the Qur’an may be open to the idea of multiple worlds.

In another article about the Islamic view of UFOs, the author is aware of modern quantum and string theory, the possibility of multidimensional universes, with the affirmation that whatever exists, God made it. There is also in Islam a belief in the “jinn,” a kind of invisible spiritual reality, not the same as angels.

I have seen no Islamic reference to Muhammed being taught by the angel Gabriel, and that the angel Gabriel might be an extraterrestrial, as we now understand the term. That might be Islamic heresy, but I have not seen it discussed. At the same time, Islam, which began 600 years after Christianity, has a very advanced concept of the afterlife, of heaven. How Muslim theology might, or might not, link all this to UFOs I do not know.

The heading “UFOs and Hinduism” led to UFO sightings in India. “UFOs and Buddhism Wikipedia” led to “Chen Tao,” a UFO cult started in Taiwan which is a blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and Ufology.

What Wikipedia does list however are articles on “UFO Religion and Cults.” This would include those like the “Heaven’s Gate” suicide cult, Raelism, the 1974 cult started by French race car driver Claude Vorihon, who stated he was taken into a UFO and met Jesus, Buddha and other religious leaders. There is quite a bit of biblical material in the Raelism cult, which made me wonder if Rael had read my book (1968) before he wrote his.

I received a large packet in the mail several years ago from South Korea. It was a Christian cult, focused especially on Genesis and UFOs. They obviously knew about my work.

But this is my conclusion. By and large, modern religious leaders do not try to connect their faith traditions with UFOs, and there is strong resistance to doing this, even at the secular level.

About ten years ago I wrote a scholarly paper with the title, “UFOs and Religion: Five Theories.” I focused on ways of looking at UFOs from a biblical point of view, the mythological theory, the ancient astronaut theory, new age theory, demonic theory, and angelic theory. The article was supported by good footnotes, and a friend helped me publish it on Wikipedia.

This was a substantial article, and before we even had it half on line, the “editors” began tearing it apart. The way Wikipedia works is, there are “volunteer” editors who watch anything that is put on Wikipedia. There are also paid staff on Wikipedia, who make sure obscene or other unsuitable material is not published, which might lead to libel. But the main editing is done by “the crowd,” faceless people.

As my work was attacked, there were two groups: those who thought my article was strictly “fringe” material, and therefore, not real “knowledge,” and should be totally deleted. Others said, it was a fringe topic, but was treated in a very scholarly way, and should be published.

In the end, the whole article was rejected except for two paragraphs, which were then added to an already existing article on “Ancient Astronaut Theory.”

I have no way of knowing, but I suspect that if anyone were to write an article for Wikipedia, “UFOs and Judaism,” or “UFOs and Islam,” or “UFOs and Hinduism,” the editor “watch dogs,” the conservatives in every religion, and every religion has conservatives, would make sure such an article never saw the light of day on Wikipedia. So although I am sure that there is much to be written about the possible relation between UFOs and other world religions, there are strong forces of repression at work in “the established religious world,” as well as in the secular world, of which we suppose Wikipedia is a part.

Nevertheless, I recommend the work of Dr. Richard Thompson, Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into Modern UFO Phenomena (1993). Part 2 of his book is titled, “Vedic Parallels to UFO Phenomena.” Thompson says “I can ask the reader to compare the ideas presented here with those of Barry Downing……who has written extensively about UFOs in the Bible.” (p. 14)

One of the issues where religion and UFOs overlap is in the story of the Roman Catholic miracle in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Some shepherd children began having visions of the Virgin Mary on the 13th of the Month, for several months, and the Virgin began promising a great vision on the 13th of October, 1917. Some believed the children, some did not, but on the appointed day, thousands showed up, and what they saw was a silver disc in the sky. Whereas Roman Catholics see this as a religious miracle, many modern day UFO researchers see it as clearly a UFO event, a flying saucer. (See Ann Druffel’s article, “Fatima,” in The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, p. 188 ff, and Barry Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 35)

In closing I want to refer to an article I published in the MUFON Journal, “The God Hypothesis,” (October 1988, pp. 10-13). The main argument of the article was that not only does it seem possible that UFOs have in the past caused many of our religious beliefs, but even more, we should consider the possibility that UFOs are a God-Force, that they rule the earth. I wrote, “There are many difficulties with the God hypothesis, of course. The first problem is that when we use the term God, we are thinking in Western culture of the God of Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam is also an off-shoot of this tradition.

Hinduism does not have a comparable concept of God, nor does Buddhism which grew out of Hinduism. Foster Morrison, in his article ‘UFOs—Science and Technology in the service of Magic,’ in the June issue of this Journal, says that ‘The Universe of UFOs is animistic. Exotic celestial beings travel from world to world. Life is everywhere and more diverse than in the Hindu pantheon.’”

What I am suggesting is that we need to be careful not to think of UFOs and religion in too limited terms. Modern aliens have been reported to disable the computer systems in ballistic missiles in both the USA and Russia, reports indicate that the aliens do biological tests on humans who have been abducted, stories of cattle mutilations indicate possible alien biological testing.

We need to consider this: In a broad sense, aliens in UFOs may be running Planet Earth. We humans may have some freedom, as a mother might say to her children, “Go out and play a while, but then be home for supper.” We are on a short leash.

Jacques Vallee has suggested as much in books such as Dimensions (1988) and The Invisible College (1975), he sees UFOs as a kind of control mechanism. In our secular age, we do not call such a mechanism God, but I believe we need to go further in this line of thinking. This does not contradict the Christian doctrine of angels, in my opinion, but it means theologians have to see the angels/aliens as having more authority delegated by God, and more technology to exercise that authority, than Christian theologians have ever considered up to this point.

  1. Let us suppose that today the governments of the world affirm that the ufological phenomenon is real, and has been occurring for millennia. Would that affect religions? And in what way?

In 2010 Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel co-published a book entitled, A.D.. After Disclosure: The People’s Guide to Life After Contact. This book was written to answer the question, what happens in everything—politics, science, religion, education—after the governments of the world stop lying about UFOs?

I used their book as a guide to my book, Biblical UFO Revelations (2017), which focuses directly on the above question, how would government disclosure of UFO reality impact world religions? In what way? In my book, I focus entirely on the Christian response to disclosure, but I will make some preliminary comments about world religions in general.

I think Hinduism would absorb the news of alien presence with the least difficulty of all religions. Hinduism has traditionally been a polytheistic religion, with various gods functioning in different tasks. Vishnu is the creator God, but there is also a destroyer god. Hindus believe that gods can become incarnate in human form. Thus the idea that Jesus is the incarnation of God is not strange to Hindus, what is strange is that Christians should teach there is only one divine incarnation, instead of many. The idea of the incarnation of God is mostly forbidden from both a Jewish and Muslim point of view. For them God is too high and holy to take on human form.

How all these differences would mix with full UFO disclosure is indeed a serious question. Buddhism seeks enlightenment, which is a state of holiness achievable to some extent through self-denial and meditation. There are parallels between some Christian mystics and Buddhism. But in general, there is no theology in Buddhism, no understanding of God as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The goal is to seek right living in this world. If there is an after life, we are more likely to be reunited with the “world soul” from which all human souls have come than to live with eternal self-awareness. There is no idea of individual salvation, as there is in both Christianity and Islam. Judaism is open to the idea of life after death, and individual salvation, but this idea is not part of Jewish Scripture. The idea of reincarnation, which has become popular in the West recently, is not the same as Christian and Islamic belief in resurrection of the dead. Eastern thinking supposes there is a chain of being or life, and whatever station you now have in life, it is “what you deserve,” and if you live well you will move up the chain, in each new incarnation, until you let go of your physical form, and join the world soul from which you came.

If governments were to announce that UFOs are real, we have been lying to you for over 70 years, what happens? The first religious response from all religious people would be one of anger at world governments, world authorities. They would suddenly realize that all the people they called “UFO kooks,” or “UFO nuts,” were the ones telling the truth. Religious leaders would realize the governments of the world have made them look like fools.

On the first weekend of the announcement, religious leaders of all kinds would be preparing remarks to respond to the news. And Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders would all say pretty much the same thing, “We are all shocked at the government UFO news, we realize that government leaders frequently lie, for what they call national security reasons, but this is a basic betrayal of the American people, which is supposed to be a government of the people and by the people. For us in our religious beliefs, God is still God, the holy Scriptures are still true, and we can all take comfort knowing that whatever evil, or good lies in our future, God will be our truth and our defender.”

Those might not be the exact words, but that would be the general direction. Dolan and Zabel suggest such an announcement would come on a Friday, after the stock market closed. Religious leaders would have little time to prepare a response.

And the media would first of all seek opinions from the scientific community, and political community. Did you know the government was lying? Do you think key scientists, who knew the truth, were paid to lie? Do you think the American government used “black budget money” to bribe newspaper and media people not to publish the truth?

But eventually the media would turn to religious leaders, and ask questions concerning the types of issues I have raised in The Bible and Flying Saucers and in Biblical UFO Revelations, not to mention dozens of articles and papers I have published. These religious leaders will be mostly unprepared to answer with the kind of conviction religious leaders like to have.

Did a UFO part the Red Sea?

Did aliens give Moses the Ten Commandments?

Was Jesus an alien?

Did aliens raise Jesus from the dead?

Was the angel Gabriel an alien?

Were the visions of Mohammed the result of alien contact?

Just a review of this list kind of makes one sympathetic to the government, maybe lying about UFOs was a good idea in terms of the religious impact telling UFO truth might have.

As Dolan and Zabel point out in A.D., there are many ways in which government disclosure might take place. They consider it unlikely that the governments of the world would tell us everything. They would treat us like lobsters in a pot, start us out in cool water, and turn up the heat.

If the government said, “We want to announce that the governments of the world have carried out a unified study of UFO reports, and we have concluded that some UFOs are indeed some form of advanced technology, not of this world. We suspect that these life forms have been visiting earth for thousands of years. At this time we do not know why they visit our planet, but it seems they only want to watch us, they do not want to land openly, or become involved in human politics or human affairs. They seem quite a bit more advanced than we are, both technologically, and socially, but they are willing to let us work out our life on earth together.”

If that were the announcement, what we might call a soft, warm first announcement, the religious shock would not be too great.

As we have already seen, one Roman Catholic astronomer suggested that if we were to contact aliens, we should baptize them. Protestant liberals would probably go along with this point of view, for Protestant liberals think that religion means getting along with everybody, no matter what they believe, or who they are.

At the same time, conservative Protestants would suggest that the aliens are either demonic, or Fallen Angels (as in Genesis 6), they are probably here to prey on human women, all the governments of the world should unite to oppose this evil.

Or the governments of the world might release a statement that would boil the lobster quickly. “We want to announce that after years of studying the UFO reports, we have actually made contact with the aliens, and we have good news. They are taking over, there will be no more wars, and they have the ability to monitor every human, every thought, every word we utter. There will be no more rebellion, no more stealing, no more murder. Furthermore, we have learned that the aliens have tried to bring about world peace, first through the Jewish religion, and then Christianity. They started the Jewish religion, parted the Red Sea, gave Moses the Ten Commandments. But this did not bring peace. Then they sent Jesus, who taught that we should even love our enemies. He was crucified for that kind of teaching. The world has been given the chance to learn to love as an act of freedom of our own wills, and we have rejected that chance. Now, we are going to have peace, whether we want it or not. The aliens have said so.”

I do not know of any government that would willingly make this kind of announcement, but if the aliens said that is our only choice, well, there we would be. That would boil the lobster very quickly.

I have to say that although I am in favor of UFO information being released, I also realize there are political risks, religious risks, in making this act of disclosure.

My hope has always been that enough UFO information could be released that religious leaders would begin freely to discuss what the presence of UFOs might mean for their religious traditions.

I think release of UFO information would have more radical consequences for the West as opposed to the East, it would be less shocking in India, China, and Japan, than in Europe, Latin America, and North America. What happens in the Middle East? I cannot even begin to guess.

Recent polls in the United States suggest that the fastest growing religious group is the “nones,” meaning those who have no religion. And a recent New York Times article found that according to a recent poll, people who believe in UFOs are less likely to be religious than those who do not believe in UFOs, and in reverse, those who are religious are less likely to believe in UFOs than those who are not religious. Would release of UFO information crush religious believers into unbelief? Would release of UFO information convert skeptics into religious believers? I have no idea.

But I do think if there is a way to put the lobster in the pot, and warm it gradually, that is better. Jesus once said to his disciples, “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) I think that wisdom applies to UFO disclosure.

  1. How does the Presbyterian Church view the UFOlogical phenomenon?

I will say right at the beginning, I do not know of any definitive Presbyterian Church (USA) view of ufology. I am pretty sure, given my own beliefs and publications, if there were such a view, someone would have told me.

What I can talk about is how I have been able to work as a Presbyterian Pastor, and still publish the views on UFOs and religion that I am known for, or to say the kinds of things that I have written in this Brazilian question and answer response.

I knew that the views I presented were not orthodox, and would offend many people. When my book The Bible and Flying Saucers was accepted for publication, the editor told me I was dealing with a far out topic, but I had treated the subject in an intelligent way, not a sensational way.

That is how I tried to conduct myself after the book was published. The timing of my ordination, and the publication of the book, may have been important. I was ordained on March 5, 1967, by the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley. My book was not accepted for publication until June 1967, and published in April of 1968. I did not have to “confess” to the Presbytery (a Presbytery is like a Diocese, or Synod, in some denominations) that I was publishing a UFO book, because up to that time, my book had been rejected by several publishing houses.

Then when my book was published, the only way to “unordain me” would be to have a heresy trial. A heresy trial is very difficult, and rare. I do not remember a Presbyterian heresy trial in my lifetime.

On the other hand, if my book had been published before I was ordained, then members of the Presbytery could have stood up and said, “Do we want to ordain this UFO nut?” And I suspect the answer would have been “No.” One clergyman reviewing my book called it “kook book of the year.” And a minister in my Presbytery told me he thought I should be tried for heresy. He probably expressed his views with other clergy, but no trial happened, and I suspect that a few ministers read my book, saw that there was a clear biblical basis for many of my arguments, and where I was making scientific and biblical speculation, I made it clear it was speculation, or “wondering.” I happen to think being full of wonder is a perfectly good religious thing. [At the birth of Jesus, the shepherds told their story, “and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” (Luke 2:18)] In any case, a heresy trial would have been difficult, and there would have been a lot of publicity. I think wiser heads prevailed, and my fellow Presbyterians decided to let me float and see where I ended up.

I must say that my best clergy friend just hated my UFO work. He loved me otherwise, and I loved him. He had me conduct his wife’s funeral, and made me promise to conduct his funeral, which I did many years later. He made me promise not to mention UFOs at his funeral. So at his funeral I said, “Vince made me promise not to mention UFOs at his funeral, so I won’t.” Maybe Vince has forgiven me on the other side.

I became an assistant pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Endwell, New York, in February of 1967. I became senior pastor of the same church in 1971. In the mean time, there was much public discussion in the church, and in the community, about my UFO work. Some Northminster members were offended, others were interested, but by and large, they understood that I had earned a Ph.D. degree in science and religion. I almost never talked about UFOs in my sermons. I preached in a traditional way from the Bible. So most church members saw my UFO work as a research sideline, and even though it is a little embarrassing, we can put up with it. I served Northminster for 34 years, retiring in February of 2001.

After retirement, I served as an interim pastor in several churches in Ithaca, New York, and in the Binghamton, New York area. By that time, I was seen as kind of tame, in spite of my UFO beliefs. I gave talks about my views to some area churches, but I was more likely to be asked to speak at a Rotary Club than a church.

One interesting fact is that I was asked in 1972 to become a religious consultant to MUFON, and to begin writing for MUFON publications. Walter Andrus, Jr., was the director of MUFON, and it so happened he was an ordained Presbyterian elder. In the Presbyterian system, there are three ordained positions: pastor or teaching elder, ruling elder, and deacon. The ruling elders form the Session, or board of directors, of each congregation. Each congregation sends a pastor and ruling elder to form a Presbytery. When I was ordained, there were about 50 congregations, spread over seven counties, in south central New York State, forming the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley. It is the Presbytery that has the authority to ordain pastors. Elders and Deacons are ordained by the local congregation.

By and large I would say that my Presbyterian Church (USA) has handled my UFO work in the best way it could. Yes, people had the right to ask serious questions about my religious convictions. People had a right to wonder if I met proper Presbyterian standards for ordination. And anyone reading this question and answer article can see that I am exploring areas where there are few clear answers at this time. I wish that governments would release UFO information, if only for the selfish reason that I would then be able to say, “See, I am not such a kook after all.” But it might be that if I knew the whole UFO truth, I would not like that truth, for many reasons. So I have spent 50 years as a Presbyterian Pastor, and as a UFO researcher, looking for religious UFO connections. I am satisfied that my time has been well spent. Finally, of course, God has to be the judge of my life, not me.