In the upcoming issue of Discover magazine, scientists explore the possibility of Earth being contacted by technologically superior extraterrestrials who don't necessarily arrive with good intentions. We would be in a lot of trouble.
Frankly, we would be in a lot of trouble even if they showed up with relatively benign motives. How would their appearance affect the various religious faiths on Earth?
Give it a think. Suppose Earth in its entirety were regarded the same way Europeans once regarded the New World — a place to be settled with no real thought given to how that affects the existing inhabitants.
That's how various religions have spread their faith and customs all over the world. Why couldn't the same thing happen to human beings in general? We could all be forced to convert to a faith that requires we not only intermarry with the astro-bugs but also eat our firstborn on the Day of Consumption.
For most people, the idea of space creatures coming to Earth and commingling with humanity is impossible. God would never allow this to happen. If God has other intelligent creations out there, they aren't going to look like roaches, lizards or squids.
Says who? In the 2,000 years Christians have been waiting for the Second Coming, a lot has happened that no one previously thought possible.
Nobody in the sixth century thought human beings would ever get off this rock, much less send a message beyond our solar system. We're God's only form of intelligent life.
Most religions base this xenophobic view of extraterrestrial life on the promised reappearance of God long before the world ever gets mixed up in something so bizarre.
But if we have to wait another 2,000 years before the Second Coming, just imagine what surprises lie in store for us. Assuming that you actually have one, it simply boggles the mind.
If the new arrivals don't immediately kill and eat us in the name of their God, another big question for me is, what sort of accommodations would we have to make to incorporate them into our religious beliefs?
My own church would have some serious re-correlation to do. How would Mormons explain eternal families to a race of super-spiders?
"So, Sister Big and Scary, if you want to live forever with loved ones from your same egg case, you'll need to have their temple work done."
And just imagine how difficult it would be to figure out who gets the priesthood in a hermaphroditic race. Baptism itself would be problematic if the new earthlings were amorphous but supremely intelligent blobs of saline.
It isn't just Mormons. Could a mollusk convert to Judaism? What about Muslims and our new overlords from the distant galaxy Hogmorphia-18?
Catholics would certainly be alarmed to discover that Earth's dominant religion now skips transubstantiation altogether and goes straight to eating people for Mass.
Let's not forget atheists, who might be feeling a little smug right now. Imagine their surprise when they hear, "Listen up, dumbasses. Not only ARE there gods, they're us. Now get on your knees."
I'm not saying any of this will happen. I'm saying it might. Most of us already believe in things even more incredible. There's a lot of weirdness out there.
We can have all the faith we want, but we won't know for sure until after something does or doesn't happen. My advice is to watch the sky. And be flexible.