The report by the Office of the Director of the National Defense (ODND) released last June 25, 2021, caused a flurry of discussion regarding the existence of aliens. The report's title, made more ominous by the government agencies involved in its writing, Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), creates an exciting topic for non-religious and religious individuals.
A line in the report that strikes at the heart of UFO-enthusiasts, both religious and non-religious, reads, "overview for policymakers of the challenges associated with characterizing the potential threat posed by UAP."
The number of those who do and don't believe in the existence of alien life has not been significantly divisive; most Americans subscribe to the possibility that alien life exists. What is clear is that religious individuals are more likely not to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life forms, let alone intelligent life, versus non-religious individuals.
A study by the Pew Research Center (PRC), which is sparked in part by the ODND's report, found out that religious adults are more likely to doubt the existence of alien life versus those less religious adults. To arrive at an accurate impression, the PRC utilized multiple measures of religious engagements. Adults who identified as religious were given subcategories based on their religious denominations, i.e., Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics, plus others. Non-religious adults were also given additional subcategories such as Unaffiliated, Atheists, and Agnostics. Aside from affiliations, habitual factors were also included as one of the measures of religious engagements. Habitual factors such as attendance at religious services and prayer were also measured.
The research yielded a consistent difference in the belief in alien life. Adult Americans who doubt alien life exists are consistently high on the religious side, with only 67% of the Catholic respondents acknowledging that there may be alien life. 58% of the White Evangelicals do not believe in the existence of alien life. On the other hand, non-religious Americans have many participants acknowledging the possibility of alien life. With 77% of both the Atheists and Agnostics participants saying that their best guess, life exists on other planets.
Sasha Sagan, daughter of the famous educator-astronomer Carl Sagan, explained there is a contrast between being open to the possibility and being certain about the existence of alien life. She pointed out that if Earth is the only place with life, humanity will "feel like it matters quite a lot to be in this world."
Tom Flynn, the editor of the humanist magazine Free Inquiry, explained that religious people are less likely to believe in alien life because it undermines the core of their beliefs.
In his article in the BBC's section, Brandon Ambrosino explored our possible reactions to discovering intelligent alien life outside Earth. In his article, Ambrosino called the discovery of alien life on another planet "incompatible with faith in a deity," but is nevertheless embraced by a good amount of religious people, theologians especially.