Theologians say aliens possible

Pasadena, USA - God only knows if there is life on other planets.

"War of the Worlds," which opened in movie theaters last week, is sure to stir meta-planetary curiosities among more than just UFO spotters and "X-Files" fanatics.

Many Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders say the revelation of extraterrestrial beings would not contradict their theological beliefs. Rooted in the dogma of Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists is the existence of aliens.

And one group believes the God of Genesis was a group of space-traveling scientists.

But is the truth really out there?

"We believe that mankind originated with Adam and Eve. And their habitat is the Earth. But (Allah) told us there are some other things we don't know, so there could be other creatures in the universe," said Mustafa Kuko, director of the Islamic Center of Riverside.

Scientists have found no evidence of aliens or even microbes outside of Earth. Mars and Europa, a moon of Saturn, are the two best habitats for life in our solar system, said Pamela Conrad, an astrobiologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge. The organic compounds of life have been discovered elsewhere -- but not "assembled into anything that looks like life."

The theological significance of extraterrestrial life has been debated for centuries. In the Middle Ages, as today, some argued that God could have created worlds better than ours; others maintained that Earth was the center of God's universe.

"Although it became heretical to deny that God could create other worlds, it was dangerous to claim he had," Joseph L. Spradley, a physics and astronomy professor at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., wrote in 1998 for a fellowship of Christian scientists.

The verdict from most Christians is still out. However, many theologians say, if God did create other worlds and other people, that would not contradict the biblical story of the sin of man being redeemed by the son of God.

"How God shares the story of creation and of love and of the ultimate hope for the restoration of all things in God's design, I think that can be worked out in many different ways," said Philip A. Amerson, president of the Claremont School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary.

There could be different paths to God on different planets, Amerson said.

Others accept a more traditional salvation model, however.

"Saint Paul would seem to indicate, and it is just a hint, that if there is life on other planets, and these beings needed salvation or redemption, the death of Christ on planet Earth would be a sufficient price," said the Rev. John Jefferson Davis, a Presbyterian and professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston.

Another possibility is that extraterrestrials would not need atonement, Seventh-day Adventists believe. Because these beings would not have been born of Adam and Eve, they would be perfectly moral beings incapable of sin.

"The science-fiction version of life on other planets and the Adventist interpretations would certainly be at odds," said Calvin Thomsen, associate pastor at University Church in Loma Linda.

Also at odds with widespread scientific thought would be the belief of a few thousand Americans that aliens created humans.

The group's founder, a French journalist named Rael, claims he was visited in 1973 by an alien who said: "We were the ones who designed all life on Earth. ... You mistook us for gods," according to the movement's Web site.

Aliens who visit Earth are gentle beings, said Ricky Lee, the leader of the U.S. Raelian Movement.

"It's not possible that extraterrestrials that can go from one planet to another are violent or malevolent. If they were, they would have destroyed themselves before they had the technology to leave their own planet," said Lee, a Las Vegas resident.

But who knows what else could be out there.

"It is an infinite universe so there are infinite civilizations," Lee said.