This article is a re-edited and re-purposed version of an old blog post I wrote on Aliens and Angels. I’m using what I previously wrote in a different way here–here it will be the first in a series about “Aliens in Science Fiction,” a topic which has as many interesting aspects as “Magic in Fantasy,” aspects of interest to Christian authors looking for means to use common tropes in unique and thought-provoking and yes distinctly Christian ways.
As a self-identified Christian science fiction writer who only dabbles in fantasy and other genres, perhaps it’s no surprise that I’m interested in both angels and aliens as topics for stories. What I find surprising is that some people don’t believe there is any difference between the two.
Such angel = alien correlation has a variety of forms:
American Astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out in 1995 that stories of alien encounters here on Earth resemble stories of demonic capture of earlier times—or of the appearance of angels, or fairy creatures, or gods or demi-gods of even earlier times. Sagan believed that intelligent extraterrestrial life likely exists because he was persuaded evolution certainly could not have produced life only on Earth—yet he denied that made any sense to say aliens actually had already came to Earth, clandestinely visiting and/or abducting people. He was convinced if aliens had come all this way, they surely would have announced themselves. For him, the fact that these kinds of appearances have always existed demonstrated that this is a phenomenon that springs forth from the human psyche rather than what aliens do or do not do. For him, at least one kind of alien, the kind who are supposedly visiting Earth right now—and angels—consist of the exact same thing, that is, pure neurotic human imagination.
Also surprising, the atheist Sagan is quoted by an Evangelical Christian website called “Are Angels Demons?” in order to show evidence for a belief that Sagan would never have agreed to. The creators of the site would concur with the Biblical concept that God has created creatures that serve Him in the spiritual realm—angels—some of whom rebelled against Him and are now called demons. For the creators of the website, Alien visitors to Earth are real but are actually demons. For them, the fact the phenomenon of human beings having reported bizarre encounters with strange beings throughout history demonstrates that the demons are real and have been active for a long time—but now disguise themselves as “aliens” or are mistakenly reported as such. In looking up background information for this post when originally written back in 2012, I stumbled onto an entire sub-culture of Christians concerned about demons posing as aliens. If you’re curious about what they have to say for themselves, I found www.alienresistance.org an interesting, albeit strange, place to look around (also underground science).
Note not only Christians view aliens and angels as both being spiritual. I ran into a rather strange YouTube presentation in which a medium explains how aliens and aliens are both spiritual beings–according to the “guides” who explained all this to him. To be honest, this gentleman sounds like a nut to me. But there really are people who connect to the spiritual world through meditation and other means that would qualify as magic forbidden by the Bible–and then claim to interact with both aliens and angels in the spiritual realm. Something I would definitely not recommend anyone dabble in.
By the way, I don’t claim to know for certain what the reality is behind stories of alien encounters and abductions. I’m inclined to agree with Sagan that if an alien species were to travel all this way–which is not at all an easy to do according to the best human understanding of the science of interstellar travel, it would not likely content itself with random captures of lost truck drivers in remote areas and people like that…but I don’t know for sure what real aliens would do. One of the prime characteristics they are supposed to have is to be different from human beings—perhaps that means they would do strange things we would not do ourselves. Like maybe travel all this way and then fail to announce themselves.
I also believe there are fallen angels operating in the spiritual realm—and I further believe there’s such a thing as human imagination and hysterical hallucination, not to mention hoaxes. Which of these is responsible for the alien abduction phenomenon? Real aliens? Unlikely I think, but I can’t be certain. Demons? More likely maybe. Hysteria? Maybe. Hoaxes? At times, sure. I don’t know how to balance these possibilities with certainty, but it at least seems possible that there could be multiple causes of people feeling that they’ve really met aliens or been abducted by them.
As far as the correlation between angels and aliens are concerned, there’s another point of view worth mentioning: the “ancient alien” perspective, the notion that aliens came to Earth in ancient times and were mistaken for spiritual beings. So when the Bible talks about heavenly creatures, these creatures “really” were aliens. Barry Downing in 1968 wrote The Bible and Flying Saucers in which he laid out this idea. He also claimed, by the way, that Jesus was an extraterrestrial, eventually called up to “heaven” by a UFO…It’s interesting to me that Biblical narratives are supposed to accurately capture what aliens look like, as the description given in Ezekiel 1 , but then when these supposed aliens land, everything they talk about concerning, say, the morality and religious practice of ancient Israel either 1) Would not make a lot of sense coming from aliens, 2) Is taken as being an inaccurate representation of what really happened…so Ezekiel would be getting his description of Bible “aliens” completely right, but what they said to him was completely wrong. Which makes no sense–yeah, I’m definitely not in agreement with this particular concept.
But note the variations among the idea that hold aliens and angels to be the same: 1) Both are imaginary 2) Both are spiritual 3) Both are extraterrestrial. I think all three ideas, while interesting, are wrong.
I believe in the reality of the spiritual realm and accept the Biblical descriptions of angels, as far as they go. Though there are actually quite a lot of details about angels the Bible never addresses. Aliens, life existing on other planets in our physical universe, would not be the same thing as angels. One being is spiritual, the other, physical. Aliens may or may not exist but I believe it’s possible they do, though I’ve known Christians who would disagree that aliens can exist—a topic I will bring up again later in this series. My own idea is if alien life exists (if), such life would have to have been created by God, just as God created life on Earth.
Having brought out the interesting confusion concerning the nature of aliens and angels, how can we use this to come up with story ideas?
I think playing up similarities between the two is inherently interesting as a story device. The anthology I contributed to years ago, Avenir Eclectia, did this. In that story universe, a certain set of intelligent undersea aliens with telepathic abilities are called “angels” by the people of the world Eclectia and their sinister cousins are called “demons.” Grace Bridges wasn’t equating aliens and angels in the world of AE she created, but rather playing with perceived similarities. There were story arcs that mention human beings worshiping the-aliens-partially-confused-with-angels in the anthology set in this world that I helped edit. Which I think would realistically happen—and it would be interesting to see the effects on human beings who met aliens who they thought were angels, even though they aren’t.
Another story idea would be to create alien races that like us have accounts of a creator God and a fall into sin and a redemption…and also of heavenly beings that serve God but resemble the aliens, literally “alien angels.” What would these look like? What would happen if a human character were to actually meet an alien angel?
And if you put “alien angels” into a story from a point of view that takes faith in God seriously, would these angels be the same set of angels that on occasion interact with human beings, just “in different clothing”? Or could it be that the one creator God would retain a whole entirely different set of heavenly beings for this other purpose—who are not mentioned in the Bible because we humans don’t “need to know” about them? If so, what would the relationships be like between angels we know of and the alien angels?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if some sort of alien angel—or alien rather like an angel—resembled something we think of as evil but was not evil? So imagine one that resembled any particular monster…or–entirely innocently–a type that had red bodies, with cloven hoofs and horns…
What are your thoughts on stories that combine ideas about angels and aliens? Have you read such stories? If so, mention them. If you haven’t read such stories, would you be interested in reading them or maybe writing them? What other thoughts do you have on this topic?