The discovery will spark scientific speculation, debate and exploration. If actual life is confirmed, it will create even bigger questions for religious faith.
The book of Genesis in the Christian Bible for a long time had many believing the Earth was the center of the universe. Others believe the miracle-like circumstances that led to the creation of Earth proved the existence of a higher power. The odds of it finding its way to the perfect spot in the universe for life were astronomical.
The discovery doesn't change my faith or view of God. It may or may not be the same for others.
"The significance of discovering life on other planets ... really depends on your religion," said Nils Rauhut, a Coastal Carolina University religion and philosophy professor. "There have been many scientific discoveries in the past that had an impact on religion. For example, when Galileo found more and more evidence that the planets do not actually move around the Earth and that Earth is not the center of the universe, that was shocking to many. But most religions adjusted and incorporated this discovery into their understanding of the universe. I think the same is true for the potential discovery of life on other planets."
For Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., resident Fred David, a long-time management professor at Francis Marion University, no reassessment is needed - because he believes the Bible references the sightings of other-worldly beings. His new book, "UFO Christianity Connection: Fact or Fiction," says "the gods" in the Bible were beings traveling here via UFOs.
He believes in the Big Bang Theory and not a literal reading of Genesis, which has convinced some among the faithful that the Earth and universe are no older than 10,000 years old and is at the heart of disagreement in parts of the scientific and religious communities. He grew up as a Methodist "and always had blind faith that biblical events were true," David said. "Now I realize they almost certainly were true because God was onsite in a UFO as described in close to 1,000 Bible verses, which match with ancient civilization writings."
"There has always been a 'missing link' between science and religion that has caused dissention and distrust," David wrote. "However, research conducted for this book reveals that the missing link between science and religion may be UFOs, or more specifically the beings inside those craft. Evidence for a clear UFO Christianity connection could bring science and religion closer, and perhaps one day into perfect union."
Rauhut isn't convinced.
"The idea that the god in the Bible is a reference to beings from other planets seems very outlandish to me," he said. "It's hard to see that there is any [potential] evidence for that. No serious person would claim that UFOs are periodically seen today. Sure, there are reports from people about seeing UFOs, but to my knowledge nobody has been able to confirm these reports. I think this person wants to believe in UFOs."
Investigative reporter Leslie Kean spent 10 years studying sightings, doing high-level research and interviewing high-level officials and found that while most sightings can be explained away as natural events, UFOs are real - though no one knows what they are.
The cloud described in Exodus that guided the Israelites out of slavery? According to David, it was a UFO.
The star that guided the wise men to the place where Jesus was born? UFO.
What destroyed the city of Sodom and Gomorrah? A "beam of light from a cloud," or UFO.
David quotes Genesis 19:24 as evidence: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire."
"The overall evidence indicates that God the Father may have been onsite in a UFO directing the wise men, the Exodus, the resurrection, the parting of the Red Sea, the Flood and other events described in the Bible," David wrote. "More than two thirds of the books in the Bible contain some kind of reference to unidentified flying objects. ... Ezekiel was one of the most significant prophets in the Bible and while sitting at the river Chabur, near Nippur, in present day Iraq, Ezekiel suddenly saw a 'fiery whirlwind' moving fast towards him. Josef Blumrich, former chief of the systems layout branch of NASA, studied the Ezekiel historical accounts and concluded that the vehicle described in the Bible actually was a UFO."
David has a doctorate in business. He believes most religions reference UFOs, that sightings today are real and the pyramids are evidence of their handiwork.
"I do not teach ancient history, I teach business, but I have studied ancient history extensively, especially over the last two years having read nearly 20 books and many scientific papers," David said. "I do not have all the answers, but believe I do have some answers to key issues as discussed in the book."
The discovery of another life-sustaining planet "supports the basic conclusion of the book in that God lives in 'heaven' somewhere in the universe and travels the universe in a UFO and loves planet Earth," he continued. "That new planet may even be heaven. I do not know. No one will ever know for sure. That is why the word faith is so important."
Contact ISSAC BAILEY at 626-0357 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He's the author of "Proud. Black. Southern. (But I Still Don't Eat Watermelon in Front of White People)."