UFO Religions

Christopher Partridge (editor). UFO Religions. Routledge, 2003.

This collection of seventeen papers explores various aspects of UFO religiosity, ranging from studies of such usual suspects as Heaven's Gate, the Raelians, Unarius and the Aetherius Society, to broader looks at the development of ufology in Germany and Finland, a study of ufology as a cargo cult, through to analyses of the contemporary abduction movement, as well as studies of lesser known movements.

If there is a common theme among the studies it is that ufology and the UFO religions which developed from Theosophy and Spiritualism, represent attempts to find some kind of reconciliation between science and religion, either to represent the narratives of traditional religion in terms of material or quasi -material extraterrestrial beings intervening in human affairs, or to claim that ufological and paranormal experiences point to a de-secularizing challenge to contemporary science. There is less emphasis on interpretations which argue that UFO and other new religions are a response to the ideological crisis which sees traditional religious, scientific and political narratives all discredited alike. More also could have been made of the transition from the 1950s contactees which followed the Anglo-American Protestant tradition of the admonitory sermon where the word is the container of the sacred, to the abductee narratives based on raw experience of the transcending power of 'the Other', substituting direct spiritual experience for the word.

Though all of these essays are of interest to Magonia readers, and their authors would all be welcome as Magonia contributors, there is something slightly dated about them. Despite the date of publication, it seems clear that most if not all of these essays were written before 9/11. It is also perhaps curious that there is no discussion of the use of UFO and abduction imagery for overtly theological purposes in the work of Steven Spielberg, most notably in the mini-series Taken in which filmic, ufological and traditional Christian themes such as sin, suffering, redemption and damnation are woven together.

This is a reasonably accessible academic collection, if rather overtaken by events. Definitely worth a look. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 84, March 2004.


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