World religions Buddhism

Religions and Extraterrestrial Life book cover

Are the world’s religions ready for E.T.?

In 1930, Albert Einstein was asked for his opinion about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. “Other beings, perhaps, but not men, ” he answered. Then he was asked whether science and religion conflict. “Not really, though it depends, of course, on your religious views.”

Over the past 10 years, astronomers’ new ability to detect planets orbiting other stars has taken this question out of the realm of philosophy, as it was for Einstein, and transformed it into something that scientists might soon be able to answer.

Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change led Vanderbilt Professor of Astronomy David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about the question of how people will react to the discovery of life on other planets. He realized, as Einstein had observed, that people’s reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs. So he decided to find out what the world’s major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled “Religions and Extraterrestrial Life” (Springer International Publishing) published this month.

“When I did a library search, I found only half a dozen books and they were all written about the question of extraterrestrial life and Christianity, and mostly about Roman Catholicism, so I decided to take a broader look, ” the astronomer said. As a result, his book describes what religious leaders and theologians have to say about extraterrestrial life in more than two dozen major religions, including Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, several mainline Protestant sects, the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical and fundamentalist Christian denominations, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Seventh Day Adventism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Islam and several major Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and the Bahá’í Faith.

Discovery of planets

The remarkable progress that astronomers have made at detecting exoplanets gives the issue of extraterrestrial life a new sense of immediacy. In 2000, astronomers had detected 50 planets orbiting other stars. Today, the number has grown to more than 1, 000. If the rate of discovery keeps up its current pace, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045.

“If even one exoplanet shows signs of biological activity – and those signs should not be hard to detect, if living things are present – then we will know Earth is not the only place in the universe where life exists, ” Weintraub points out. “Although it is impossible to prove a negative, if we have not found any signs of life after a million exoplanets have been studied, then we will know that life in the universe is, at best, exceedingly rare.”

Public opinion polling indicates that about one fifth to one third of the American public believes that extraterrestrials exist, Weintraub reports. However, this varies considerably with religious affiliation.

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Buddhism is a religion born in ancient India in which meditation is a central tenet.

Popular Q&A

Is buddhism a world wide religion?

yes, however it has more followers in Asia than anywhere else

Howcome unlike other world religions, Buddhism does not condemn homosexuality?

I have to say that neither is it true to say that people who espouse Buddhism are themselves any more free from prejudiced views than those of other persuasions. However it is clear that there is nothing in the Buddha's teachings to justify condemnation of homosexuality or homosexual acts.
It seems to me that many gays and lesbians, particularly in Western countries, are drawn to Buddhism because of its tolerance and its reluctance to draw rigid moral lines, although Buddhism has absorbed aspects of the dominant culture, and this has sometimes been to its detriment.

Buddhism isn't really a religion.
It's more of a "self-help program", designed 2500 years ago when everything was put into a religious context.
Buddhism is a series of exercizes you DO, not a belief system. Your "salvation" is learning how to stop your own suffering and no one else, and no higher power, can do that for you.
I guess homosexuality is not viewed as a threat to becoming free from suffering ... it falls under the aegis of all forms of attachment, but you don't get rid of attachment by pretending you're not attached. You only get rid of attachment by clearly seeing, for yo…

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