The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and the Apocalypse in America by Daniel Wojcik – Chapter Eight Discussion
Apocalyptic beliefs are persistently popular because they offer a coherent narrative structure with which to understand our world, promising an ultimate end to suffering (through rebirth or annihilation at differing points in history), and that harmony on earth with eventually be reached – fulfillment of a cosmic plan. This cosmic plan extends, particularly in the post-cold war era, past the strictly religious and to the extra terrestrial, as Wojcik describes in chapter 8 “Emergent Apocalyptic Beliefs about UFOs and Extraterrestrial Beings.” Despite overt differences, Wojcik establishes fundamental similarities in the arising belief of extraterrestrial apocalypse as a natural extension from belief in the religious apocalypse.
Similar our pre-fall break discussion on whether alien invasion would count as a religious apocalypse, Wojcik establishes extraterrestrial apocalypse as a natural successor to belief in the religious apocalypse sharing “preoccupation with the threat of nuclear annihilation…cultural pessimism…and yearning for worldly transformation by other worldly beings” (Wojcik, 175). For many, this “otherworldly being” is god (or a god, depending on the religion), but for an increasing few, these other worldly beings are of the extraterrestrial kind, which fit into the narrative structures of the religious apocalypse. For some, extraterrestrial is equated with “heavenly” (176). The “UFO phenomenon has become a folk religious movement of global proportions” (177). Similar to how religious apocalypses are popularized by even the non-religious understanding of religious apocalyptic belief through pop culture, extraterrestrial apocalyptic belief is becoming more known, which popularized its fundamental belief.
Our class discussion on aliens counting towards the religious apocalypse focused on whether they could stand as a “replacement” of sorts of god in the apocalyptic narrative. A higher, non-human power which rescues humanity from itself and at the very least a select few humans from the destruction of our planet. Wojcik takes the integration of the extraterrestrial to a higher degree, breaking down each similarity in narrative structure. Most notably, the part of the religious apocalypse which claims humans are powerless to save themselves without otherworldly intervention is echoed in “abductions narratives” which “imply the world is doomed…unless…radical transformation that cannot be accomplished through human effort but only through the guidance of otherworldly…entities” (197).
Extraterrestrial apocalyptic belief shares many similarities to religious counterparts. From narrative structures of abductions (as compared to rapture) to save/take chosen humans, to fully believed sightings (or visions) of those other worldly beings (god, Mary, or aliens), Wojcik characterizes extraterrestrial apocalyptic beliefs as a type of religious apocalyptic belief. While the definition of humans salvation can take different meaning in extraterrestrial apocalyptic beliefs as “not…through worldly cataclysm but…through…genetic and spiritual perfection” (194). Nonetheless, extraterrestrial is equated to a less deterministic religious apocalypse through the “fate of humanity [as] guided by external forces” (208), as a way to explain the world as it is, understand threats to current ways of life, and absolve humans – at least in part – of being wholly responsible to correct it, giving hope of a higher power that will essentially save humanity from itself in same way, shape or form.