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The God Squad: Do other planets have a God?

December 13, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I'm a physicist without religious conviction, but I'm very interested in religion and I've read a good deal about some faiths. One of my favorite things to read is your column each week. Here's my question: Modern physics and astronomy have estimated that there are some 250,000 so-called "Cinderella planets" in the Milky Way alone. These are planets with the right conditions for having liquid water, and thus might be capable of supporting life, perhaps even "intelligent" life. What do the major god-based religions say about this possibility of intelligent life on other planets? Specifically, would we still be special to God? And would these beings? — J., Gainesville, Fla.

A: I've been answering this question for years, but frankly couldn't answer it well until Betty and I had our second child, Max. After his birth, our daughter, Mara, asked us: "Do you still love me as much now that he's here?" (Mara called Max "him" or "it" for a long time.) We tried our best to assure Mara that we loved both of them equally. I think it's the same with God. I think God loves us, and if there are living creatures on other planets that can rise to consciousness and contemplate God, I think God loves them, too.

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There's no biblically coherent reason to assume that imitateo dei (being made in the image of god) is a status only humans possess. In fact, there's an intriguing biblical clue embedded in the first verse of the Bible that might point us in the direction of divinely-created life on other planets.

The King James Version and other English translations of the Bible render the first verse of Genesis as: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." This translation leaves little doubt. This is a story about our sky and our dirt, our planet and our people. The way we've been taught to read the creation account in Genesis very clearly focuses and limits God's cosmogonic act to us earthlings alone. If there are other worlds, they are unmentioned and unconsidered.

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