ET Religions

James R. Lewis (editor). The Gods Have Landed; New Religions From Other Worlds. State University of New York Press, 1995.

As readers of my piece in Magonia 53 [and Peter Brookesmith's piece in this issue) will have seen there is a very strong religious component in contemporary ufology, and one which goes back far into the contactee movement. This should provide excellent ground for the study of new religious movements and responses. Yet, like so many academic anthologies, this one is curiously disappointing. 

There is one good, relevant paper: 'Religious dimensions of the UFO abductee experience', by John Whitmore which explores abductions as encounters with the 'Other', and suggests that the largely US locus of abduction stories reflects the American interest in the 'Captivity Narrative', in which a usually female, pure American is captured by the 'terrible other', such as 'Red Indians', Barbary pirates, priests, white-slavers or Communists. Then to be subjected to torture and degradation, eventually to be rescued by all-American super-heroes.

In modem narratives this is the hypnotist­researcher - Budd Hopkins as a psychological Rambo, there's a though for you! One could perhaps say the same about Satanic abuse narratives in which innocent children are rescued from the 'terrible other' by heroic social workers.

Other papers are less useful. There are studies of Raelianism and the Be-Peep cult, but the latter is now a 20-year old story which the investigators are still trading on, Raelianism has, unlike Adamski or even the Arherious Society, made little impact on ufo logy or the wider folk culture. A couple of pieces by John Saliba are straightforward literature reviews, in one of which he fails to separate ufology and mainstream exobiology, despite the fact that most exobiologists despise ufology.

Given his long background in the subject even 1. Gordon Melton'S contribution, 'The contactees; a survey' is rather disappointing, despite a promising beginning, including a reference to possibly the first abductee Willard Magoch who claimed to have been taken to Mars by an unknown force in the early years of this century. The article however peters out as though Melton had  run out of time and had to hastily finish for a deadline.

A redeeming feature is an impressive bibliography of contactee literature by Melton and George Eberhardt. -- Peter Rogerson

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