According to a Wednesday story by the Catholic News Service, a recent study on religion and attitudes toward space exploration suggested that Jews, followers of Eastern religions, and Catholics tend to be more supportive of space exploration. However, evangelical Protestants tend to be least supportive of the idea of exploring space. The findings were recently presented by University of Dayton Joshua Ambrosius at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference in Indianapolis.
Possible reasons that evangelicals may not support space exploration include a belief in creationism, belief that the world may soon end as related in the Book of Revelations, and a general lack of knowledge of the benefits of exploring space. More evangelicals, for example, believe that Earth may be destroyed by an asteroid than humans may discover intelligent life in the universe.
Jonathan Merritt, writing in The Week, suggests that the reported disdain for space exploration among evangelicals is misplaced. While he argues, in part, that NASA spinoff technology has improved life on Earth, something all Christians should support, he also argues that space travel can bring transcendence. “But perhaps more significantly, space exploration can shift our gaze from the temporal to the transcendent. Images of Earth against a shadowy backdrop imbue one with near-spiritual awe.”
The experience of Apollo moonwalker James Irwin might be cited as an example of the connection between space travel and spiritual transcendence.. He stated that during his Apollo 15 mission to the moon, “I felt the power of God as I never felt it before.” He spent the last 20 years of his life as a Christian evangelist. The crew of Apollo 8 famously read from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Buzz Aldrin took communion on the lunar surface.
On the other hand, while several Muslims such as Anousheh Ansari and Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud have traveled in space, recently a group of Muslim clerics have issued a Fatwa against anyone seeking to colonize the planet Mars. The theory is that Mars colonization is just a complicated way to commit suicide. Suicide, at least when it does not involve the murder of other human, is forbidden to Muslims. Therefore colonizing Mars is forbidden to all Muslims.