News  |  Events

Religious Believers Respond to Survey on
Extraterrestrial Aliens


For Immediate Release

Ted Peters, Ph.D., Board of Directors, CTNS and
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary:
510-559-2734 or 510-524-5264
Julie Froehlig, Research Assistant  

Results of Survey Reveal Many Religious Believers Welcome
Interaction with Extraterrestrials

BERKELEY, CA—AUGUST 15, 2008—Will ETI destroy our religion? Will confirmation of the existence of an extraterrestrial intelligent civilization so rock the adherents to earth's religious traditions that their belief systems will confront a crisis if not collapse altogether? Are religious people so narrow minded--so earth-centric and anthropocentric--that they would be shocked to realize we share our universe with other beings who are our equals if not superiors? No, say researchers in Berkeley, California. Religious believers show surprising openness at inviting extraterrestrial aliens into their terrestrial neighborhood.

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA announces the results of the "Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey of 2008." Respondents from seven religious traditions as well as respondents who self-identify as "non-religious" were asked to agree or disagree to the following: "Official confirmation of the discovery of a civilization of intelligent beings living on another planet would so undercut my beliefs that my beliefs would face a crisis." Over 80% registered "Disagree" or "Strongly Disagree" among adherents to Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism and Buddhism. It was the non-religious respondents, not the religious respondents, who predicted a crisis.  In short, non-religious persons are much more likely to forecast a crisis for religious belief than the religious believers themselves.

This survey of 1325 persons around the world is significant because it tends to disconfirm the common wisdom that religious belief systems are fragile and subject to disruption by news of ETI. One mainline Protestant responded to the survey saying, "Hey! I'll share my pew with an extraterrestrial any day."

The Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survery report includes:

        Report and Summary
        Appendix 1: Survey Questionaires
        Appendix 2: Data Tables Comparing Religious with Non-Religious Responses
        Appendix 3: Individual Results for Each Religious Tradition in Pie Charts
        Appendix 4: Comments by Survey Respondents


The Peters ETI Religious Crisis Survey was constructed to test the following hypothesis: upon confirmation of contact between earth and an extraterrestrial civilization of intelligent beings, the long established religious traditions of earth would confront a crisis of belief and perhaps even collapse. Responses from individuals self-identifying with seven religious traditions — Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism, and Buddhism — indicate widespread acceptance of the existence of ETI and incorporation of ETI into their existing belief systems. Religious persons, for the most part, do not fear contact. Forecasts regarding imminent collapse of earth’s religious belief systems were found to be more prevalent among non-religious respondents than among religious respondents. This survey provides evidence that tends to disconfirm the hypothesis.

The full report complete with raw data and pie charts for individual religions can be found at the Counterbalance Foundation web site:

Ted Peters is Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS of the Graduate Theological Union), Director of The Institute for Theology and Ethics at PLTS (ITE), and a member of the CTNS Board of Directors, Berkeley California.
Research Assistant: Julie Froehlig.  

The mission of The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences is to promote the creative mutual interaction between theology and the natural sciences, carried out through three program areas: research, teaching and public service. Founded in 1981, by Dr. Robert John Russell, physicist and theologian, CTNS is a non-profit membership organization and an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California.

Currently CTNS is managing the four-year program, STARS: Science and Transcendence Advanced Research Series and a joint program with the Vatican Observatory on the Problem of Natural Evil. CTNS previously managed the successful multi-year programs, Science and the Spiritual Quest, The Science and Religion Course Program and the joint program Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action with the Vatican Observatory. Included in the stellar Board of Directors are a Nobel laureate, a former AAAS president, an astrophysicist and a Cardinal. CTNS faculty offer courses at the doctoral and seminary levels in order to bring future clergy and faculty to a greater awareness of this important interdisciplinary work.
For more information on CTNS, visit, call 510-848-8152 or email




back to top

2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709-1212 •   Tel: 510-649-2564 Fax: 510-649-1417 • •   Site Map  •   Search