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The New Religion Of Space Exploration

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2012 08:19:22 -0400
Archived: Wed, 04 Apr 2012 08:19:22 -0400
Subject: The New Religion Of Space Exploration

Source: TheAtlantic.Com


Mar 29 2012

The Holy Cosmos: The New Religion Of Space Exploration
Ross Andersen

Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson are high priests, astronauts
are like saints that ascend into heaven, and extraterrestrials
are as gods - benevolent, wise, and capable of manipulating
space and time.

Think about how you feel when you see the Earth from space or
the Apollo astronauts walking on the moon. These images are
achievements of science, sure, but they also have a religious
feel to them; they tug at something deeper than engineering,
something sublime. When viewed as a whole, space exploration has
a lot in common with religion. It offers us a salvation
narrative, for instance, whereby we put our faith in technology
in order to be delivered to new worlds. Its priests, figures
like Neil deGrasse Tyson, extoll its virtues in what sound like
sermons. In its iconography, astronauts are like saints that
ascend into heaven and extraterrestrials are like gods -
benevolent, kind, wise, capable of manipulating space and time.

This idea of seeing space exploration as a religion has a long
history, dating back to the Russians of the early twentieth
century, many of whom self-identified as "Cosmists". From there
it migrated to German rocket scientists like Werner von Braun,
who took his ideas about space travel to America after the
Second World War. Americans were slow to warm to space
exploration. They saw it as a fantasy, but that changed as
Americans began to regard technology with a new reverence in the
postwar period. Today Americans are the most fervent Cosmists on
the planet, even if manned space exploration seems to have
stalled for the time being.

Albert Harrison, a professor of psychology at U.C. Davis, has
been working on the psychology of space exploration since the
1970's, when he did research for NASA about the psychological
effects of long-term space travel. Harrison was kind enough to
send me a chapter of his forthcoming book about Cosmism, and the
complex psychological motivations that underlie space
exploration. What follows is our conversation about the past,
present and future of space exploration as a religious quest.

In What Ways Does Cosmism Resemble A Religion?

[More at site... thanks to Diana Cammack for the lead]

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