Search for Extraterrestrial Religion

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Extraterrestrial Civilization Stability

Interstellar communication evidently requires civilizations with long lifetimes. That is, they must be stable. We might therefore expect a global religioni, because organized religion has been a stabilizing force in the past for civilizations on Earth. In fact, major terrestrial civilizations originated with a religion and continued with a strong religious component, suggesting religion provides stability. There are many examples. They include India, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Arabia. Two examples show the role of religion in creating and stabilizing civilizations.

First, during the Seventh Century, the Arab Tribes around Mecca and Medina converted from polytheism to the monotheism of Islam. Under polytheism they were dispersed desert tribes on the fringes of Egypt and the Sassanian empire. Under Islam, within a hundred years they became an empire that absorbed the other states, and stretched across North Africa to Spain.

Second, an example showing how removal of religious strife within an empire improves its stability.

To hold his empire together, the Roman Emperor Constantine decided he had to unify Christianity under one creed. He called warring bishops to Nicaea to draw one up.  When they had done this to his satisfaction, he gave tax exemptions to only those Churches following the new Nicean Creed. His eastern empire lasted for over a thousand years.

In recent years, investigation into the social mechanism underlying state religions  and organized religions that are recognized by the state but not directly supported by it has been underway [2, 3, 4]. It appears that the size of a social group is an important determinant. In small groups, where everybody knows who can be trusted and who not, formal religions do not appear. But when group size gets large and an individual has to deal often with strangers, a formal religion appears in which spirits of the dead, karma, or a vengeful god will mete out great rewards in an afterlife for those supporting the social system, or visit mischance in this life or great discomfort in the next to those who cheat the social system.

This may not be a part of the teachings of figures like Confucius, the Buddha, or Jesus of Nazareth, who were concerned with the way moral individuals should behave in order to live together in harmony and support each other in facing the hazards of existence. But it is possible that declining belief in the supernatural surveillance offered by organized religion is leading to an increase in electronic surveillance to reduce social disorder.

Religions can be a threat to planetary civilizations as a source of war.  Furthermore, civil rights campaigns in the US and the Arab world show religion is not enough for civilization stability. Universal rights and personal dignity are essential. More generally, I see a single, common belief system as needed for stability. And we would be interested to discover on other advanced planets whether stability has been gained by a single, planet-wide, belief system is necessarily religious.

My own view is that it is, on the grounds that there is a spiritual dimension served by religion that is quite separate from its stablizing function. And that many intelligent beings find that spiritual aspect as an essential experience in life and beyond. That is, however, treated in a another section. This one is concerned with the components of belief systems and their functions

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