Worshipping an Extraterrestrial Humanoid Deity

By Karl Hale Several years ago I was having an online discussion about the nature of God. A participant in the discussion compassionately but doggedly challenged me to think through my position all the way to its conclusions. This conversation climaxed with him finally asking me, I think with some exasperation, if I worshipped “an extraterrestrial humanoid deity.” By using this particular terminology, I believe his intent was to shock me into rejecting my less than fully formed beliefs that, if taken to their conclusion, sound like something from a science fiction novel. However, perhaps to his surprise and definitely to my own, I found that I did then and do now worship an extraterrestrial humanoid deity. I consider myself to be a mainstream member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was taught from as early as I can remember to believe in a God of body, parts, and passions; a God who is, as Parley P. Pratt put it, of the same species as man;(1) a God who is inside of nature and who is subject to natural law.(2) I was also taught to believe in an omnipotent and an omniscient God but it was not until later in my life that I was shown the incongruities between the natural aspects of God and the omni aspects of God. Nevertheless, I remember very early testing the two competing perspectives and coming to a satisfactory melding. It happened when, as a young teenager, I heard for the first time the classic question, “Can God create a rock heavier than he can lift?” which is really asking the question, “Is God literally all powerful with all of the apparent illogic that entails, or is he in fact subject to law and reason?” At that age, I did not understand the distinction between logical and physical limitations on omnipotence and so this theoretical query served to bring into question the overarching concept of God’s omnipotence, both logical and physical. I remember in my young mind and heart deciding that, of course, God is subject to nature and, therefore, could not do anything contrary to natural law. This did not diminish for me in any way his practical omnipotence, I simply recognized that such omni terms were, of course, to be considered inside the spheres of logic and reason. As I was later introduced to potential physical or domain constraints on God’s omnipotence, these new ideas fit nicely into the structure I had earlier created to deal with the logical problems of omnipotence. I have come to describe my understanding of God as being omnipotent and omniscient for all practical purposes. I mean by this, that God knows everything and can do everything necessary for the exaltation of his children, inside the pertinent logical and physical domains. I did not understand until fairly recently how strange this view of God is to most theists. I assumed almost everyone thought of God in natural terms. Now I recognize that many in my audience, theist and atheist alike, will have a difficult time conceptualizing such a God, but for me it has always been the only option. A few years ago, I was walking with a group of friends who all consider themselves to be Mormon in some fashion or another, among whom is a staunch atheist. Our Mormon atheist friend was describing the nature and attributes of God that made it impossible for him to believe; and, as he described a magical being with supernatural powers, I exclaimed, “I don't believe in the same god you don't believe in!” I had suddenly realized that if the definition of an atheist is one who disbelieves in a supernatural god, then I am, and always have been, an atheist. However, if I am an atheist, I am one who still has a god to worship.

Of the descriptors I learned from that online discussion, “extraterrestrial” effectively describes this aspect of my God as being inside of nature. In fact, Mormon doctrine is pretty clear that God does in fact live on a planet circling a sun somewhere out in space.(3) Extraterrestrial indeed. “Humanoid,” or human-like, is how I generally perceive my God to be but this is the part of traditional Mormon doctrine on God that I am least concerned with. I do believe we are the same species as God, but “species” could be defined more metaphorically than evolutionarily. In the context of Transhumanism, my Mormon God shouldn't seem far fetched at all when we consider post-humans whom mere mortals would be tempted to worship and even perhaps simulations created by those post-humans which begin to look very much like the various creation myths. In fact, Transhumanism has strengthened my belief in my extraterrestrial humanoid deity. “Extraterrestrial” may now refer to a being who lives entirely outside this simulation or, perhaps, the post-human who is my God may spend most of his time on a planet circling a distant sun. Although still not necessary, “humanoid” seems more likely than ever when I consider what kind of “artificial intelligences” I would choose to populate my own simulation with. And “deity” is the only conclusion I can draw when I consider the vast distances between my own current mortality and the power, intelligence, and grandeur of our post-human future. Imagine for a moment what our post-humans may be like a thousand years from now. And what they may be like a thousand, thousand, thousand years from now. If beings on a similar trajectory to our own path took their first steps an astronomically insignificant one billion years ago, even the most proud among us would likely fall down and worship them. And so, I am an atheist who believes in God and a theist who does not believe in god. But this is not new ground for me nor, in fact, for most members of the LDS church. The vast majority of our Christian brothers and sisters tell me that I am not Christian despite my belief in Christ. But perhaps this is because I do not accept Christ's doctrine to be mystical nor supernatural just as I do not accept the mystical and supernatural god. Christ gave only two commandments on which all others hang: to love God with everything we have and to love others as we love ourselves. I fear many theists and atheists alike interpret the second as a recommendation that we learn to play nice; and, the first as an injunction to obsequious, groveling subservience to an unknowable being who exists only to be praised. Well, I disagree. In fact, Christ simply stated a single, natural law: love. In the one direction, we must learn to value our neighbor just as we value ourselves; no more, no less. If we don't learn this before the great and dreadful day of our post-human ascension, we will annihilate each other. In the other direction, we should emulate, as well as our mortality allows, the great and glorious Being who has walked in our shoes, who understands our mortality, and who knows how to overcome it because he has done so himself.(4) Notes 1) Key to the Science of Theology, 1978 ed., pg. 21 2) Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Law: Divine and Eternal Law, pg. 809 3) The Pearl of Great Price, The Book of Abraham 3:1-9 4) The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 1984 ed. Clyde J. Williams, pg. 1

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