Spock, E.T. and the holy Vader

I’ve attended three universities in my lengthy undergraduate career. The University of Minnesota is the most recent and the largest.
As I walked through the campus this past fall, I enjoyed the change of pace, the differences between this campus and the others I’ve attended. Different buildings, different students, different professors, different classes, different scholastic calendar, different hang-outs:
“Iz Jezus in yer heart, sir?”
Same old college.
No matter what part of the country you’re in, you’ll find street preachers whooping it up at a college campus. Somehow, they all have Southern accents, even when they’re in Minnesota. Their presence is the only constant in my college career, and the brief encounter I had with the man asking me if I had Jesus in my heart filled me with warmth.
It was like being overseas in a strange new land, then encountering a building marked by two golden arches, inviting you to come inside for a Big Mac.
A franchise is a franchise. Organized religion and franchised corporations have become all too similar. Every town in America has not only a McDonalds and a Burger King, but a Catholic and a Lutheran church.
Many have seen this as a key reason why people aren’t finding spirituality in conventional religion these days.
I moved to the Twin Cities this summer, hired for my first real-world job. I hadn’t even graduated yet. I was displaced from everything: my old job, old friends, old school and my old town. Recently, the subject of religion has been on my mind. Major life changes shake up your beliefs like an etch-a-sketch, leaving you open to new ideas and perceptions.
I’ve heard of some of these new religions that worship things like mountain bikes or the Internet. They are different, but nothing caught my imagination until late October when I read a column in the New York Times by Ashley Dunn called, “Slaying Old Gods for Our New Reality.”
The advent of the atom bomb changed our perception of reality more dramatically than we have begun to realize, said Dunn. If we have the ability to destroy the Earth, have we made the old gods obsolete?
That got me thinking: Who fears a God who can open up the heavens or throw lightning bolts when we have the power to kill all life on the planet with the simultaneous turning of twin keys?
Old mythologies no longer inspire us. What used to be fantastic is now commonplace. In accordance with the old scriptures and stories, we have become gods ourselves. Where else can we look to find a power greater than us? Watch the skies!
Aliens have landed. Life has been discovered on Mars. An alien ship could have crashed in the 1950s near Roswell, New Mexico. Scientist L. Ron Hubbard may have been right.
Ask most people, “Is there a God?” and you’ll get many shrugs and “I’m not sure” answers.
Ask those same people “Are we alone in the universe?” and most will quickly agree we are not, that aliens do exist. Our faith in God has dwindled as a result of the modern era, and since the 1950s our belief in aliens has been growing strong.
It’s not a surprise to me that UFO sightings have become more frequent since Roswell and the Bomb. The atom bomb killed our old gods, and Roswell created new ones.
Humans inherently feel the need to believe in something greater, wiser and more powerful than themselves, and right now, alien life is the best substitute for God that we have. In popular culture we have portrayed aliens to be technologically, mentally and sometimes morally superior. When we encounter alien life-forms they either crush us in one Orwellian blow or help us to advance beyond our infancy.
Rarely does science fiction, the medium for our new mythology, portray aliens as inferior to us. What use would that be? God is superior to us, therefore aliens should be superior to us.
Already, one can see the classic signs of an upstart religion.
This religion has its own dogma: You cannot simply say you believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life, but you have to believe the aliens are here and the government is covering the whole thing up. You also must believe they play an active role in our fate, working with top officials to decide our future.
This religion has its own martyrs: The aliens at Roswell died for our sins. They were crucified by U.S. government forensic scientists, dead and buried and descended into the hellish depths of Area 51. It’s uncertain what, if anything, happened on the third day or whether or not these aliens sit at anyone’s right hand.
This religion has a date from which to start a calendar: The Roswell incident is the beginning of time as far as this religion is concerned.
It may be a while before scriptures are adopted, buildings of worship are constructed and hierarchies within the clergy are determined. I could care less about all those specifics, though. I’m just waiting for the day I hear “Are the Rozwell aliens in yer heart, sir?”
Chris Druckenmiller’s column’s will appear every Tuesday in the Daily.