Jason Colavito has a thoughtful post over at his blog entitled, “Ancient Astronauts and the Decline of the West.” I recommend reading this short piece, as it touches on a significant idea: that, as society and culture in the West declines or enters periods of hardship and uncertainty, the belief in ancient aliens becomes more pronounced.

This thesis makes good sense, and is actually not new or unknown. In most general terms, periods of difficulty tend to make church attendance rise, as people feel compelled to rely on their faith more, or find faith. As Jason observes, periods in American history like the tumultuous 60s and economic malaise of the 70s — and in the current economic downturn and cultural decay — seem to clearly nurture a yearning for space gods to save us and intervene, or to give people something transcendent in which to believe. The 60s and 70s were the heyday of the contactee movement; nowadays it’s the success of the Ancient Alien shows on the Fantasy (“History”) Channel.

Scholars have taken note of this correlation, so Jason is offering readers more than a idle musing.1 Like it or not, the belief in ancient astronauts is propelled by a religious, not scientific, impulse.

  1. See “Ufology” in Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements (Taylor and Francis) p. 78; Michael Lieb: Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, UFOs, the Crisis of Race, and the Advent of End Time (Duke Univ Press); Daniel Wojcik, “Emergent Apocalyptic Beliefs About UFOs and Extraterrestrial Beings,” in The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America (NYU); and Brenda Denzler, The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs (Duke Univ Press; esp. ch. 5).