Tuesday, August 18

The Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Heraclitus, Parmenides, Pythagoras, as well as other Pre-Socratic philosophers attempted to reason and philosophize about the nature of existence and how things came into existence. Pythagoras believed that things could be explained by mathematics, stating that everything is connected by points. Heraclitus believed in the ever-present change in the universe, stating that all things had contrary properties. Parmenides, another Greek philosopher, was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, taught that change is impossible, existence is timeless, and that perception is deceitful and fallacious. Prior to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other major thinkers, these views were popular and held by various schools of thought. It is important to note that philosophy did not merely begin with Homer in the eight century BC. Philosophy itself has been around since the beginning of mankind, with men attempting to answer questions such as, “why am I here?”, “does God exist?”, “what is the meaning of life?”, and similar ponderings. Indeed, we find recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible (ca.935 BC) the philosophy of one who tried pleasure, building, gardening, wealth, women, all amounting to nothing (Ecclesiastes 2:1-9). The philosopher then considered life to be “meaningless,” developing his philosophy throughout the twelve-chapter record, ending with an overall belief that “life is meaningless” without God. He also wrote that “under the sun,” toil is meaningless. The writer explains that God “has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and as such, life cannot be fulfilled apart from God.

Early pre-Socratic philosophers, such as Pythagoras of Samos (ca.6th century BC) disagreed with this view. Pythagoras thought that philosophy, which he called the highest music or “the celestial music of the spheres” (Durant 5), ought to be understood in terms of “the physis or nature of external things, the laws and constituents of the material world” (12). Pythagoras, who laid the foundations of mathematics and geometry (therefore making him partially responsible for physics), was also a mystic, which some believe gave him an interesting perception of nature. “According to Aristotle, Pythagoras recognized that in a particular mathematical or geometrical construct, when it is clearly understood, one knows truth” (Christian 419). When Pythagoras realized that absolute truth is not simply mental, he then took the position that what we perceive as the universe is non-material – merely abstract mathematical principles. Pythagoras stated that “the whole heaven or visible universe is a musical scale or number” (420).

His followers, the Pythagoreans, taught that numbers are the first principle of all things, believing that the universe around us could be described in mathematical terms. Galileo later noted that Pythagoras discovered that “the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics” (420). The Greek word for ordered whole, cosmos, was utilized by the Pythagoreans to convey that the universe is “an ordered whole consisting of harmonies of contrasting elements. The Pythagoreans, as aforementioned, used the phrase “the celestial music of the spheres” to describe the sound of the heavens while they “rotate according to cosmic number and harmony.” Some adherents held the concept that from birth we have heard this celestial music and therefore have grown accustomed to it so much so that we no longer recognize it, while yet others held that it was beyond our capability as humans to hear this celestial music (Soccio 65).

On the other hand, Heraclitus (540-475 or 530-470 BC) believed that all things flow forever and change, even in the smallest matter, there is unseen flux. He declared that although things may appear to remain the same, “Change alone is unchanging” (64). It has been traditionally taught that Heraclitus believed simply that everything is changing, always in a constant state of flux, although whether we was stating that everything is literally always changing or whether he meant that certain things which are held together by energy is indeterminable. He also taught that “Cosmic history runs in repetitious cycles, each beginning and ending in fire” (Durant 73). Heraclitus asserted that “Through strife, all things arise and pass away… War is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves, and some free.” Conversely, it is indicated that where strife is not present, there is decay. In this constant change, he believed that the only constant was the law.

“Nature loves to hide,” according to Heraclitus (Christian 426). As such, it is thought that he may have been referring to the invisible elements which make up our world, as he believed that even the smallest matter was in a constant state of flux. This is not unheard of, as some early Greeks were Atomists. Heraclitus postulated that change alone is unchanging, however, in the Heraclitean world, it would be a world lacking the possibility of attaining knowledge, or learning, as well as certainty. As noted by Plato, a Heraclitean world “would be a world of appearances only, a realm of opinion, not knowledge” (Soccio 127). Indeed, if change is unchanging, how do we know when change has occurred? Is change an abstract concept by which we are bound? Change is certainly present in life, from childhood to manhood, from high school to college, from toy cars to driving cars, change is something we may not be fond of, but it is present. If reality was always changing, how could truth exist?

In the fifth century BC, Parmenides of Elea, another pre-Socratic philosopher, altered other philosopher’s curiosity regarding cosmological studies. He essentially transformed cosmology, which is the study of the universe as an ordered system, into what is known as ontology, which is the study of being. Parmenides, who had come to Athens and met a young Socrates at one point, believed that none of the preceding philosophers adequately explained the process which the universe utilizes to change into the everyday experiences. He taught that change was actually an illusion, that change is merely appearance, and not part of reality. This means then, that whatever we believe about reality is nothing more than mere opinion, which, in a way is relativistic. However, if truth is relative, is not the statement “truth is relative” a relative statement and therefore self-refuting?

Parmenides concluded that change is contradictory, and he reasoned that change is a transformation from one thing into another. When something becomes something else, it becomes something that it is not. He reasoned that “since it is impossible for ‘nothing’ (what is not) to exist, there is no ‘nothing’ into which the old thing can disappear… Therefore, change cannot occur” (67). However, though his argument may seem logical, simply because an argument appears logical does not make it true. For this to be true, it would have to explain away how it is that we experience change and motion. These can be demonstrated a number of ways. Motion, for example, is a premise utilized in an argument for the existence of God devised by Thomas Aquinas. Motion is also taught in science classes, as well as assumed in many things. If motion did not exist, how would it be possible for seasons to come and go, or the day and night to come upon us, or for us to go from here to there? For this reason among others, there are issues with Parmenides philosophy.

Could these philosophies be applied to today’s society? Certainly, as much as any other. However, each philosophy comes with a set of issues. Pythagoras developed what is known today as the Pythagorean theorem, or a²+b²=c² in relation to Euclidean geometry, which is still used in mathematics. In the field of biology, it is taught that every few years, our body is fundamentally a new body, though it deteriorates with age. This could be likened unto what Heraclitus once said, “We cannot step twice into the same river, for the water into which we first stepped has flowed on” (295). As for Parmenides, there are still those in society who believe that, although not strictly Parmenidean thinking, truth is relative, as are many other things. This can be likened unto what Parmenides taught regarding change – relativists believe that absolute truth is an illusion, and that truth is relative.

Though later philosophers adopted particular teachings of Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, those who were influenced by these ideas came from a variety of backgrounds. Socrates and Plato had similar philosophies, Aristotle was a naturalist, St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican friar, and a myriad of other philosophers and different philosophies. Philosophy, or φιλοσοφία (philosophia), Greek for “love of wisdom,” is not always welcome, but it is necessary. In this life, we may never have the answers. We may have a good handle on answers, which would be dependent upon the individual’s presuppositions through which they interpret the world around them, but absolute answers to the big questions, we may not find in this life. But the pondering of these questions, the quest to find truth, to gain knowledge and understanding, is what philosophers strive for, and by examining early philosophers, we see a variety of views, but one thing is constant: each philosopher was attempting to learn the truth about existence.

Sources Consulted
Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926. 5, 12, 73. Print.

Christian, James L. Philosophy: An Introduction To The Art of Wondering. 3rd ed. California: CBS College Publishing and Rinehart Press, 1981. 419-420, 426. Print.

Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. 64-67, 126-127, 295. Print.

The Pornography Industry and the Stripping of Human Dignity


Catholic teaching on social justice is largely concerned with victims of oppression and marginalization. The pornography industry would fall into this category. Pornography is a system of supply and demand, and is largely an industry run by human trafficking. From a more societal level, what has become socially acceptable sexual promiscuity and sexual exploitation has desensitized the public to harmful depictions of sexuality. One need only look at the media - tabloids explore the sexual lives of celebrities, TV and films show sexually active (unmarried) characters who “hook up” or, if married, have affairs. Consider popular music, which glorifies sexual promiscuity yet mocks virginity. Some of the popular songs over the last few years have been “I’m a Slave 4 U” by Brittney Spears, “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, and others. The verb “to pimp” has come to mean “to improve” - i.e., “Pimp my Ride” TV show. Children play video games such as “Grand Theft Auto,”in which you can pay to have sex with a prostitute, then shoot her - criminal activity has become the norm.[1] This comes from a deep rooted problem in society, the increasing sexualization and criminalization of culture at all levels. If you were to do a comparison between a clothed porn star and a teen model in a teen magazine - they are virtually the same. Even the clothing of younger children has become eroticised.[2] We have become so desensitized that society has become pornified, creating structures of sin within the society. 

But what is pornography? Pornography can be defined as “books, photographs, magazines, art, or music designed to excite sexual impulses and considered by public authorities or public opinion as in violation of accepted standards of sexual morality. American courts have not yet settled on a satisfactory definition of what constitutes pornographic material.”[3] Bearing this definition in mind, consider the staggering statistics: pornography is filmed every 30 minutes; every second there are over 30,000 people watching porn; the U.S. produces 89% of pornography, and pornography is a roughly $13,000,000,000 industry.[4] There are 68 million searches a day for pornographic content, and the average age of initial porn exposure is age 11.[5] Half of all hotel guests order pornographic movies.[6] There are 100 thousand websites offering illegal child pornography.[7] 75-77% of males have downloaded porn in their lives.[8] Only 20% of males consciously abstain from viewing pornography - and 58% of women believe that pornography is demeaning to women while only 37% of men agree.[9] Also, the making of pornographic films is considered prostitution in 48 states, and is only allowed in California and New Hampshire - which is why most of the pornography industry is produced in central California.[10]

Now, by looking at the history of pornography, we can come to understand that pornography is not a new issue, and understand how it has come to be what it is today. By looking at the abuses of the industry, we can pull back the wool from our eyes and begin to see what goes on behind the scenes. By looking at the HIV crisis, rape culture and human trafficking, we can begin to see the industry’s heavy involvement in each - and by looking at Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and relevant Catholic Social Justice principles, we can begin to think of these challenges in more constructive ways and begin to come up with ways to help those effected by the industry.  

A Brief History of Pornography
Pornography is not a new development - it has undergone a long process, and stretches across cultures and across different eras of history. For example, the ancient Hindu manual, the Kama Sutra, detailed sexual positions. Erotic Asian paintings also exposed sexual acts. Much earlier, around 5200 BC, we find sculptures made by German hunter-gatherers of a man and woman having sexual intercourse.[11] A few thousand years later, around AD 79, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the Roman city of Pompeii under lava and ash. When the city was excavated in the 18th-19th centuries, the Europeans - who had prided themselves on being the intellectual heirs of ancient Rome, were utterly scandalized by the hundreds of frescoes containing sexually explicit content in the ruins of Pompeii.[12] A few hundred years later, in AD 950, the Hindu temples at at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India were under construction. These temples contain very intricate and sexually explicit sculptures.[13] 

Following the Protestant Reformation, in 1557, Pope Paul IV prepared the Catholic Church’s first index of banned books. While most of the 550 books were banned for theological reasons, some were sexually explicit, such as Boccaccio's Decameron.[14] About two hundred years later, John Cleland published a novel titled Memoirs of a Woman in Pleasure, which was later called The Life and Adventures of Fanny Hill. It was seized by British officials and banned until the 1960s.[15] In 1857, Robley Dunglison published his Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science and used the term "pornography," which he defined as "a description of prostitutes or of prostitution, as a matter of public hygiene."[16] The term then spread as a blanket term for any material that was sexually explicit. Eight years later, Victorine Meurent posed as a nude prostitute in Édouard Manet's Olympia, which scandalized many, not necessarily because of the nudity itself but rather because of the “un-lady-like” manner in which she presented herself.[17] Before the end of the century, in 1899, Eugéne Pirou made the first known softcore film, Coucher de la Mariée. Louise Willy, the actress, performed a striptease and bathed on film.[18]

Moving into the 20th century, in 1908, L'Ecu d'Or ou la Bonne Auberge was distributed - the earliest surviving hardcore pornographic film. It was not, however, the first hardcore film in existence, as censors had destroyed many early examples that had generally been shown in brothels.[19] By 1969, Denmark legalized pornography and became the first country to do so. In 1973, the landmark case Miller v. California transpired. In it, the United States Supreme Court defined obscenity by utilizing a three-part test: “1) the average person must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 2) the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; 3) the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Later, with the advent of the internet in 1994, anyone could become a producer of porn.[20]

Pornography was once called smut and if it went to far, it was considered obscene. Today, we make the distinction between “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. Soft-core pornography depicts nudity whereas hard-core pornography engages in graphic sexual depictions of any kind.[21] Early on, much of these films were criminal. In much of the 20th century, in order to view pornography of any sort, you had to go to a peepshow, dirty book stores, and so forth. Early on one could tell it was dirty, especially when cops had to wear plastic bags on their shoes just to walk in.[22] At this point, one could walk into their local 7-11 and find pornography, or open a phone book and see pornography hot-lines listed.[23] In the 1970s and 1980s trials were held and most of the pornography kingpins were arrested and convicted. But this did not eliminate the problem, it merely slowed it. By the early 1990s, federal porn prosecutions essentially stopped. Under President Clinton, the Obscenity Task Force was all but disbanded. This led to a boom in the Pornography industry that - aside from HIV scandals - has not really slowed. Now, since television and films are becoming increasingly sexualized, the pornography industry has to keep amping up the obscenity to try and top it.[24] We may ask, “Has a world that has home-delivered fetishes lost its ability to be offended and its ability to care?”[25]

What's Wrong with Pornography?
Some have seen pornography as an avenue to explore their sexuality - but one would argue that this is not a healthy exploration. In actuality, pornography degrades and dehumanizes women and men alike. What is wrong with pornography? As will soon be clear, pornography degrades sexual intercourse, and all beings - not only women, but men as well. Pornography frequently promotes as well as glorifies “sadism, masochism, rape, incest, pedophilia, misogyny, and violence against women and girls. Pornography can and does harm relationships, marriages, children and families. It also creates demand for prostitution and international sex trafficking. Furthermore, it is a highly unregulated and abusive industry that frequently exploits vulnerable survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Allowing all of these harms to go unchecked by remaining silent is not an acceptable option.”[26] Critics hold that anti-pornographers only single out the worst scenes, but in a study of the top 300 videos or so, and it was found that 89% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal abuse, and 94% of the aggressive acts were targeted at women.[27] It seems clear that there are a number of harms associated with pornography. In the Catholic tradition, we would say that we are made in the image of God, but the utter degradation and humiliation of human beings is not respecting or upholding human dignity. Pornography is seen as socially acceptable, but by looking “behind the scenes,” we may begin to unsettle some of the structures of sin that have been set in place.

Exposing Pornography: Degradation at all Levels
Catholic Social Teaching upholds the dignity of the human person at its core. But pornography is wholly antithetical to this. Instead, “pornography violates the privacy of the human body and debases human dignity by turning people into objects to be used rather than person to be respected.”[28] As will later be discussed, pornography leads to an increase in rape culture, human trafficking, the desentization of the human person, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and the amount of drug abuse as well as sexual exploitation and misconduct.[29] One producer that calls itself Dead Parrot Productions, specifically caters to the those who seek sado-masochism and self-destruction.[30] Evidently, pornography is a very self-destructive engagement. The high rate of suicides among pornography actresses is an indicator of this.[31] 

The idea of "stripping," particularly in pornography, goes well beyond the act of disrobing. Rather, this stripping of human dignity also represents the stripping of “inner qualities as well: character, moral values, shame, fundamental decency, restraint. The logical end-point of such pornographic stripping is the complete dissolution of the self.”[32] We may liken this “stripping” to the stripping of the garments and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus - just as he was stripped of his dignity and humanity and crucified, so too, those who are victims of pornography are stripped of their dignity and “crucified.” By looking at the cases of four women - Vanessa, Felicity, Belladonna and Belle, we can begin to see this “crucifixion” and stripping of the human person and begin to expose the industry’s abuses. 

We may begin our exploration of the industry’s abuses with anecdotal considerations from ex-pornography star Vanessa Belmond. Vanessa started stripping at age 18 and began filming pornography at age 19.[33] She expected to start off with softcore pornography, nude modeling and so forth, but the “occupational hazards” began right away. Vanessa contracted chlamydia in her first scene, and later contracted it three-four times or more, she contracted gonorrhea, and often had bacterial infections.[34] Although the industry requires each person to get tested every fourteen days (formerly twenty-eight days, only recently changed), from one day to the next you may receive an STD.[35] Concerning gang-bang scenes she stated, “My throat actually started bleeding during one of them. Mentally it is also very hard, because you’re doing something so unnatural - you’re letting four, five, six, seven, eight men have sex with you. That’s not a natural thing.”[36] After seven years, Vanessa decided to escape the industry, but the experience stays with her. “No one really wants to date an ex-porn star... Who’s going to have kids with an ex-porn star? Even when I’m sixty I’m still going to have this porn on the internet. It’s like having a virus that never goes away.”[37] Vanessa, after leaving in 2013, became a writer, advocate and volunteer for the organization AntiPornography.org, a non-religious and non-partisan website dedicated to helping the victims of pornography.

A second case is worth considering. Filmed in 2001, the documentary “Hardcore” is the story of Felicity, an British girl who came to Los Angeles to become a porn star.[38] She came because - as aforementioned - California is the capital of the adult film industry, where as many as 4,000 porn movies are shot in LA alone, with an average of four sex scenes per movie.[39] Felicity was there for about three weeks, but the reality turned out to be very different than what she had anticipated. At the time of filming, she was a 25-year old single mother of a five-year old daughter. Felicity read about a modeling position in the States while home in Essex - “models required, all ages, shapes and sizes.” Richard, the man who invited her (and became her agent), was in England looking for “models” willing to come to the United States. After Felicity decided to come to the States, Richard told the director, “I wouldn’t have invited her if I didn’t think she was going to be a success... we’re here to make money. That’s what we’re here for, right? If she makes money, I make money. So everybody’s happy.”[40] Following this, she filmed her first scene - worth $600, a film called “Decadent Divas”. If you do pornographic films, you make about $15,000-25,000 a month.[41] 

Now, despite the fact that Felicity refused to do certain kinds of sex, Richard kept forcing her to film. When she finally canceled those scenes, Richard flipped and screamed, “I know it’s not ****ing pleasant! But it is part of the job! And you did tell people you would do it! And I don’t get ****ing paid any money, if you don’t work!” The next day, he took her to film a gang-bang scene. The organizer did not know how many guys there were supposed to be, “10, maybe? 8? I don’t know...” After seeing this done, Felicity stated, “I’m not prepared to be abused like that. Yes, I’m in the business but I won’t be abused like that.” Richard was not happy, but adhered to her wishes - then essentially dragged her to meet a man notorious for his work in the pornography industry known as Max Hardcore. 

As his name suggests, he is known for making hardcore pornography, specializing in all kinds of abuse. He is also an alcoholic, and has been known to beat women. At this point, Felicity did not plan on shooting, but she was mislead - she was not simply meeting Max Hardcore, she was going to be shooting with him. This is force. Upon entering the room, her first and only introduction was Max forcing her to get naked and raping her. Once they started filming, Max tried violently forcing himself on her - and she went and cried. Her director sat by and did nothing. Initially, Max tried talking with her in a “fatherly” way, but he ended with “you sound like a little school girl. I don’t appreciate your ****ing effort. I’ve got important **** to do. You didn’t even try... You’re a ****ing loser. You didn’t put no ****ing effort into this.” Here, there was no love or intimacy of marriage or any kind of relationship involved. This was pure degradation. The next day, Felicity ended up doing the gangbang scene she had refused before, and she signed up with another director. She began doing the kind of scenes she had refused to do previously, and was also willing to degrade herself by calling herself names. 

Felicity gave up her career fifteen months later. She now works in a wine bar and lives alone with her daughter. Following a viewing of this documentary, one comment (from “Anonymous”) said, “Good film. I purposefully went and found this washed up whore's scene in Rough Sex 2. It was awesome. She got destroyed like she... deserves. I love Max Hardcore... I exclusively watch degrading rough porn nowadays. I find it offers a wonderful release from a world infested with feminism... Women are sex objects with three holes ripe for the ****ing... I enjoyed... Felicity's degradation. If you are reading this Felicity I want you to know how ****ing funny I think it is that you can never take what you did on film back. They chewed you up and spat you out...There's always another whore to take your place you filthy ****ing slut. You are worthless.”[42] These extremely disturbing comments are wholly antithetical to Catholic teaching on the human person. Felicity was created with inherent dignity, value and worth, and was created for a purpose. The role of a woman is not serving as a sex object or a sex toy for men. Having been made in the image of God, Felicity bears the image of Christ in the world - and has through her experiences become “crucified” and stripped of her dignity. Comments such as these exemplify the need for a healthier attitude toward human sexuality, a healthier view of females as God’s creation, and the need for our society to have a metanoia - a “shifting of the mind” in which we uphold, not degrade, men and women alike.

Consider now the case of hard-core pornography performer “Belladonna,” who admits that she was coerced and pressured into doing painful and harmful sex acts by pornography directors. Belladonna is the stage name of Michelle, who began when she was 18 years old.[43] This daughter of a Bishop in the Mormon Church became one of the most talked about stars in one of the roughest parts of porn. She had initially declined to do sex on film, but after needing the money, gave in. Michelle’s director sent her to what he said would earn her a lot of money: a real prison, with twelve male actors in prison outfits. She initially resisted with a variety of excuses, but the director was insistent. Now, the price of pornographic scenes has gone up a bit since Felicity’s time in the early 2000s, and now ranges from $350-$1000. But for these prison scenes, Michelle was offered $4000. Afterward she said, “It was really hard. Because I really, really really felt like a piece of meat... I had to do a lot of things that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do.”[44] She could not stop crying afterward. The man in charge of the Erotic Network on TV said, “I don’t think that we can take responsibility for what we’re doing to society. I think society is taking the entertainment community where it wants to go.”[45] During her time in the industry thus far, Michelle has already contracted chlamydia, a disease which can make you sterile, she has attempted suicide, and started using drugs during sex scenes. But Michelle always smiles, because she says she likes to hide, “I hide because I want everyone to see how happy I am. But inside... I’m not really happy. I don’t like myself. At all.”[46]

A few years ago, Belle Knox, real name Miriam Weeks, swept the news. When Miriam was in 8th grade, she started cutting and carved “FAT” on her thigh, and she was raped when she was a child.[47] This created a lot of psychological baggage and self-confidence issues for Miriam. When she turned 18 and entered college, she had a bill of $4,300 to pay every month. She did not know how to pay for it, and did not want to get into drugs, but she did love sex. As a result, Miriam googled “how to be a porn star.” After shooting several scenes in California, she was confident that she would not get caught. One evening, she confided her secret in one of her friends, who got drunk that night and within a few days, all of Duke University learned her secret.[48] Following this, Miriam was bullied and stalked by students at Duke. But she was also bullied on-camera. In one scene with a Russian male, Miriam was gagged, beaten and verbally degraded. As a result of pornography such as this, men come to believe that whatever you do to a woman, she will love it, and that women have no boundaries. It seems that Miriam is experiencing what most women feel as a result of pornography - in the real world, you can be treated with a lot of resentment and hatefulness. 

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where women are paid more for that than any other job.[49] Over the course of one year, Miriam will pay Duke University $60,000, and in four years - $180,000. She makes about $1,500 per video.[50] In doing so, she has already put a value on what she is worth, and on her sexuality. But after you take out all of the taxes - and pornography agents make 10-15% - Miriam would have do over 270 sex scenes in order to pay for college.[51] She has stated, “I think my experiences have aged me. I have the emotional baggage of somebody much, much older than me... I think that people see Belle but they don’t see Miriam. They don’t see what I’m actually like.” Miriam was interviewed about a scene where she was brutalized and even had a tear coming down her face. Ever the champion of porn, she initially said it was fine - but later said that she absolutely regretted that scene. Miriam said, “No one wants to consider the lives of the women behind the camera. No one wants to her about the exploitation and abuses that take place. No one wants to hear about the violence committed every day against sex workers. No one wants to consider that we have hopes and dreams.”[52] Currently, Miriam is scheduled to graduate Duke University in 2016 with a degree in Sociology, and she continues to pay her tuition with money made from pornography.[53] 

Now, there is one company, Extreme Associates, which films only extreme porn. Commenting on one extreme scene, the producer said “[we know] she’s being degraded... People are bored with the other stuff. People want this.” The actress didn’t know what she was getting herself into, and was told to go with the flow. The response from the director was, “She’s my best friend. She likes it. She’ll understand. And afterward, I’ll give her a hug, take her out to dinner and we’ll go shopping or something.” This producer, who disturbingly calls herself “Lizzy Borden,” said that her father was an alcoholic and claims that she got into porn so she could take our her issues and aggression on other people. She knows it’s hurtful to others but says, “so what? It’s good for me! So I guess that’s all that matters.”[54] It is this kind of pornography produced by Extreme Associates and others that led pornography industry attorney Paul Cambria to craft a list known as the “Cambria List,” which is intended to restrict certain extreme forms of pornography. 

Most pornographers try their best to avoid all of what is on the Cambria List, but the aforementioned producer and star Max Hardcore showcased most of what is on this list, and more. Paul Little - better known as Max Hardcore - the same man from the Hardcore documentary, was charged on 10 counts of obscenity on the internet and his company was fined over $80,000. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison. For Anti-Pornographers, this was a victory and for the industry, it served as a warning. He commented, “Society demanded it. They’re more people buying my videos than there are people protesting my videos.” The courts used the same standards set in Miller vs. California to convict his videos as “obscene.”[55] Patrick Trueman, US Department of Justice and Chief of Child Exploitation & Obscenity section, holds that there is no question that all major porn companies violate this list. It’s simply not that enforced.[56] Further, as we will see, the industry is also involved in the HIV Crisis, human trafficking and rape culture - which should continue to unsettle the acceptableness of pornography and cause us to work toward a healthier view of the human person.

Pornography and the HIV Crisis
One of the reasons that Catholic Social Justice upholds waiting until marriage as the moral choice for sexual intercourse is sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If a partner has not had a sexual history, there is less risk of having an STD, and thus, less chance of exposing your partner. In pornography, however, we find two people who have not made a marital commitment to each other, who also may have had sex with ten other individuals that very week. As a result, in pornography, STDs have become a growing issue - epitomized in the HIV Crisis. In 2012, pornography star Cameron Adams (formerly Cameron Bays) contracted HIV. For a while, most of the industry shut down while people were tested.[57] But this was not the first incident. In 2004, ex-pornography star Darren James contracted HIV.[58] Directly or indirectly, 53 people had been exposed to Darren James and another porn star in just one month - who now were HIV Positive.[59] 

Now, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employees to be protected “from hazards associated with blood-borne pathogens.” The regulations clearly state that the employers must clearly use condom. But the industry doesn’t want to use condoms because they do not think it will sell as well. Of all the major studies in the California porn industry, only one studio requires condom use: Wicked Pictures. Adams stated, “A girl could shoot 15-20 times a month, sometimes with multiple partners in one scene. If she is escorting, that may be 10-15 added. And whatever her personal life may be.”[60] Thus, there is a large risk for contracting HIV. Adams visited the California Senate on May 21, 2014, in support of AB 1576 - a bill to mandate condom usage in the pornography industry to protect the performers. The industry told her that she had to test for HIV every 28 days, and was told to perform without condoms, otherwise she would be replaced. 

The industry does not pay for the HIV medication, but the taxpayers do. While producers are making a lot of money on the man or woman, the taxpayer is left with a bill that accumulates to over half a million dollars over a lifetime. What about the performers who contracted HIV last year? Adams pointed out, “That’s over 2.4 million dollars coming out of taxpayer’s pockets. Condoms cost... only four cents. HIV meds cost over half a million dollars. It’s time for the adult film industry to consider health and safety over their profits.”[61] By 2013, HIV testing had changed from 28 day testing to 14 day testing - but someone could still catch HIV from one day to the next. The industry does not care about the safety of their performers, because the basic motivation of the industry is “chew them up and spit them out.”[62] 

The Pornography Industry and Human Trafficking
"Pornography is a marketing device for sex trafficking: It normalizes degradation and violence as acceptable and even inevitable parts of sex, and uses the bodies of real women and children as objects. The difference between pornography and erotica is clear in the roots of the words themselves -- porne means females slaves, eros means love -- so pornography, like rape, is about violence and domination, not sex. Millions of lives depend on our ability to separate pornography from erotica, and to disentangle violence from sexuality." - Gloria Steinem, 2006[63]

Of the roughly 20.9 million people who are slaves today, an estimated 4.5 million people are used in sexual exploitation.[64] In fact, one porn producer recently said “I buy and sell human flesh.”[65] Catholic social teaching speaks to this enormous problem. Human trafficking - not only sex slavery but also child laborers and others, denies the dignity of the human person, and creates unfair wages, poor working conditions, and sexual violence that violates their whole being and not only rapes their body but also their mind. Now, between 2005-2006, Shared Hope International investigated the commercial sex trade in four countries to reveal the buyer demand on victims of sex trafficking markets. According to United Nations protocol, anytime a person is recruited, harbored, moved, forced, tricked or coerced into a paid sex act, they have been trafficked.[66] For many, going to see a sex slave is like going to the supermarket in which human beings are the product. A large number of the victims of these pimps and crime bosses are children.The buyer is supporting human suffering, human pain, human slavery, and are not looking for a relationship, but for exploitation. On average, victims of human trafficking have to have sex with 15-25 men a day.[67] 

On the internet, page views essentially turn into money. By going to pornography websites and clicking on videos, more money goes to support the providers, and thus - it supports human trafficking.[68] Trafficked victims are often used for the most violent kinds of pornography, and these are made more and more because the demand continues to increase.[69] As as a result, when men, for example, seek to pay women for sex they already have an idea of what kind of sexual acts they want, as they have watched it in pornography. Consider the case of a young woman named Jessica. Much like Belle Knox, Jessica was struggling to pay for her college tuition, so she signed up to star in a pornography solo scene. When she arrived, she was nervous, so they gave her a stiff drink, which knocked her out. When she awoke a few hours later, her body was brutalized, and she was dressed, in her car, with the money. Shortly afterward, these same people began to control her life, and sold her to someone in Canada. Ten years later, after escaping the industry, someone came up to her following an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and said, “hey! You’re [so and so] from porn videos!” The man referenced what she was wearing in the very video she was raped in, thinking she would be flattered that he remembered her work. As speaker Daniel Gilman pointed out, “having someone watching and enjoying your rape is horrifying. But he had no idea it was rape, or that she was afterward trafficked. People still watch that scene - the rape of a woman. Those who watch videos online have no way of knowing whether the people in the film agreed to have sex, or whether it was rape.”[70] 

Pornography, Hentai and Rape Culture
Pornography makes rape not only acceptable but the norm - it glorifies rape. Although “rape culture” is a hotly debated topic in society, we may define rape culture as something that “develop[s] when prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate and condone rape. Examples of this behavior are victim blaming, sexual objectification and trivializing rape.”[71] Women are seen in pornography as nothing more than an object that can take massive amounts of pain.[72] In fact, some studies suggest a psychological link between pornography and sadistic violence, and that those who view this material “come to lack reverence or respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family.”[73] The aforementioned “soft-core” pornography can also greatly desentitize individuals to the rights and dignity of other human beings, which tends to lead to watching more “hard-core” forms of pornography. In the worst cases, pornography has seemingly influenced the behavior of sexual offenders, including child molesters, rapists and killers.[74] One form of pornography in particular has been prominent in the ongoing discussion about pornography and rape culture: cartoon pornography, hentai and its sub-genre of lolikon (child hentai). Although hentai, a Japanese animation-style form of pornography, does not involve real actors and actresses, the very ideology is centered on rape, which can have very real-world consequences for the human person.

Hentai essentially makes sexual violence into entertainment. More often than not, this kind of pornography is seen in online clickable games, which are focused specifically on the women. These women are are light-skinned, are large-eyed, and have toned, hairless bodies - and on most occasions, these women look like a mixture between child and adult.[75] The sub-genre, lolikon, intentionally portrays women who look like young girls or even toddlers. The point of the games is the rape of the woman, who are seen as enjoying the rape. Sadly, many children’s cartoons have been made into cartoon pornography, so that a child innocently searching online about their favorite television program will oftentimes stumble upon this kind of imagery, exposing a child to hardcore images years before they can contextually understand the images.[76] Through the consumption of these products, the objectification of the female body as well as the enjoyment of rape is propagated. Estela López, in her analysis of cartoon pornography writes that “Even though these are not real women in the flesh experiencing rape, these cartoonists make abuse of women into a joke. Cartoon porn is not a powerless fantasy... they created... pornography that ramps up the violence to degrees impossible in real life and they show women enjoying this pure degradation and abuse. Men are not held accountable in cartoon pornography for the rape they commit, because non-human monsters replace them... Cartoon pornographers are the brains behind these monsters and we must remember how they exercise control over women by designing these pictures and movies.”[77]

Consider now an example of the connection between rape and the pornography industry. In a meta-analysis of 46 studies published from 1962-1995, comprising a total sample of 12,323 people, researchers concluded that pornographic material puts one at an increased risk of committing sexual offenses.[78] Now, given the aforementioned connections between the pornography industry, an increase in rape culture, human trafficking, the desentization of the human person, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, the amount of drug abuse as well as sexual exploitation and misconduct, the Catholic tradition would call for a transformative view of the human person - a theology of the body rooted in Catholic Social Justice.[79]

Developing a Theology of the Body
You have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:20

The “Theology of the Body” began as a series of 129 lectures given by Pope John Paul II between 1979-1984 in an effort to help Catholics develop a healthier view of human sexuality and the dignity of the human person. The Pope argued that sex is a gift from God, and that human beings were created with sexual desires which are themselves healthy and good.[80] However, when someone lives out a misdirected sexuality, this becomes the “god” of their lives, and can lead to a loss of control. Thus, what was intended to something intimate and healthy between a married couple, is now seen in a distorted way that further deteriorates one’s respect for one’s own sexuality and the very personhood of others.[81] Pornography, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials."[82]

As a result, the theology of the body places an emphasis on the beauty of human sexuality, and the Church declares that “sex should always be life giving, not destructive, dominating, violent, or commercialized. This is why the metaphor Jesus frequently uses for heaven is the wedding banquet, friends and family singing, dancing, and eating in the celebration of love. Pornography cannot ultimately compete with this joy for which God made us.”[83] In the Edenic paradise, there was an original solace, an original nakedness and an original unity. The Pope’s theology of the body would teach that our body is a sacrament of the person. If the body is a sacrament of the human person, then misusing it cuts down intimacy and self-gift.[84] Prior to becoming Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla wrote a book titled, Love and Responsibility. Although some say that the opposite of love is hate, Wotyla taught that the opposite of love is use. The idea is that if you do not love someone, you will end up using that person - this is known as the Personalistic Norm. This essentially means that we should never use a person as an object for our own pleasure, but rather, to respond to a person with love. Thus, Love and Responsibility declares that “the structure of love is that of an interpersonal communion,”[85] in which we find a reflection of the Trinity as a communion of love. Further, the virtue of chastity is seen here in its association with the theological virtue of love. Chastity is not seen as a a “no” but as a “yes” - “a yes to another person as a person and not as an object to be used.”[86]

This is why CST upholds the dignity of the human person, personal freedom associated with many rights, and the common good. An important Church document entitled Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response describes pornography this way: “Pornography in the media is understood as a violation, through the use of audio-visual techniques, of the right to privacy of the human body in its male or female nature, a violation which reduces the human person and human body to an anonymous object of misuse for the purpose of gratifying lustful desires.” Those who support pornography stress the freedom provided for by human rights, particularly in the U.S. - freedom of speech, freedom of expression, as well as freedom in “writing, publishing, painting, photography, film-making, on the Internet, and so forth. They fight any limitation on pornography because they fear it will limit artistic expression and access to truth. Further, they see efforts at censorship in this area as leading to the thwarting of unpopular views that need to be heard in a free society.”[87] 

However, these words and images - as seen in the cases cited earlier - are psychologically, physically and spiritually harmful. There are a number of studies which point out that viewing sexual material makes men more willing to be aggressive to women.[88] Further, the term “Common Good” indicates the kind of social conditions in which people can reach their highest potential and society can come to a “good” shared by all.[89] All of the individuals in the pornography industry have dignity, value and worth, and under both CST and the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, we should continue to defend the rights of the human person to promote the dignity and common good of everyone. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The words of Jesus point to the dignity of every human person - also in an effort to promote the common good. The way we look at another person reflects our heart. Proverbs 27:19 echoes this, saying, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” This is why Pope John Paul II refers to the pornography industry is the modern day version of David and Bathsheba: just as David could not protect the child that Bathsheba bore for him, pornography cripples a man’s ability to spiritually protect himself , the woman he loves, and his family.[90] 

Moving Forward
“There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” - Pope John Paul II

The industry and the images it produces reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. What do we do about this growing problem? The first step in solving any problem is to point it out, to raise awareness - in other words, to name it. During the exorcism of a demon, Jesus asked, “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9). In ancient Jewish thought, knowing “the name” is to have power over a given thing, the modern equivalent of which would be the Twelve Step program in Alcoholics Anonymous. Being able to understand what transpires “behind the scenes” in the pornography industry as well as understanding its relationship to human trafficking, rape culture and the HIV Crisis can give us power over the industry. 

It is for this reason that we may continue to a develop a more refined theology of the body in an age when pornography is no longer a mere sculpture or fresco - but a violent industry run by objectification and the stripping of human dignity. The Church calls on its people to not only raise awareness about the abuses of the industry, but also help to foster healthier attitudes and actions concerning sexuality. It was once bluntly stated on a pornography website that “Porn destroys women. That’s why we love it.”[91] Pornography does indeed destroy women - both those in the industry and those outside of it. It also destroys girls, boys, and all men globally, and thus all humanity. It is an industry which commonly calls women “sluts”, and “whores”, and sells products which promote cruelty and abuse. Thus, we can choose to let pornographers desentitize human compassion and empathy, harm innocent children, destroy relationships, marriages and families, and fuel international sex trafficking & sexual slavery, or we can choose to do something about it.[92] 

There are many helpful ministries and programs that are helpful for those effected by the industry - Dirty Girl Ministries, XXXChurch, Anti-Pornography.org, NoPornPledge.com the Sex Workers Outreach Project, CP80.org, CleanHotels.com, MoralityinMedia.org, and many others. But although various resources exist for victims within and outside of the industry, the Body of Christ must continue to do more. The social teaching calls on the Body of Christ to uphold and defend the dignity of the human person. We must therefore continue to re-read the language of the body in truth and in love, all the while upholding the dignity of the human person, following the injunction of St. Paul: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). The pornography industry constitutes what Vatican II and the encyclical tradition would call “structures of sin,” and is part of a seemingly omnipresent “entertainment.” In order to fight against these structures of sin, uphold the dignity and rights of the human person and work for the common good of all people, Christians and non-Christians must work together to build up the “crucified” victims who have been stripped of their dignity and endeavor to instill a sense of dignity, respect and love in our continually pornified world.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
- Margaret Mead -

[1] Demand. Shared Hope International, 2011. Film.
[2] Sexy Inc.: Our Children Under the Influence. Women Make Movies, 2007. Film.
[3] "pornography." The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Houghton Mifflin Company, 3rd ed. 2005.
[4] "Pornography and Sex Industry Statistics." Anti-Pornography. Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Web.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Madigan, Nick. “Sex-Film Industry Threatened With Condom Requirement”. New York Times, 24 August, 2004. Web.
[7] Finn, Bishop Robert W. "Blessed Are The Pure In Heart: A Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Dangers of Pornography." Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications, 21 Feb. 2007. Web. (Quoting a U.S. Customs Service estimate).
[8] King, Jason. "Porn." Catholic Moral Theology RSS. WordPress. Web.
[9] Ibid.
[10] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry." ABC News. ABC News Network, 23 Aug. 2013. Web.
[11] Head, Tom. "History of Pornography - A Short Timeline." About News. About.com. Web.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Gilman. Daniel. "How Porn Fuels Human Trafficking - Anti-Porn Event." YouTube, 17 Apr. 2014. Web.
[21] Pennock, Michael. "Catholic Social Justice: An Overview." Catholic Social Teaching: Learning & Living Justice. 1st Ed. ed. Notre Dame: Ave Maria, 2007. 22. Print.
[22] "American Porn." Frontline. PBS, 2002.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Picker, Miguel. The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships. 2008. Documentary.
[28] Kaplan, Sarah. "Brooke Axtell, Survivor of Human Trafficking and Domestic Abuse, Storms the Grammys." The Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2015. Web.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
[31] DeMarco, Donald. "Pornography: Formula for Despair." Marriage and the Family. Catholic Education Resource Center, 2010. Web. (quoting Jeffrey, Lisa. "Hard-core Capitalists," Canadian Business, 1984. 44. Print.)
[32] Ibid.
[33] Date My Porn Star. 2013. Film.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Ibid.
[37] Ibid.
[38] Walker, Stephen. Hardcore. 2000. Film.
[39] There are about 10,000 pornography films made in California each year ("Young Women, Porn, and Profits: America's Secret Affair." Primetime. ABC News Network, 2008. Web.)
[40] Walker.
[41] "Young Women, Porn and Profits: America’s Secret Affair".
[42] "Hardcore - Stephen Walker Documentary (comments)." Blogger, 15 July 2011. Web. .
[43] Sawyer, Diane. "Porn Star Belladonna Interview." Primetime. ABC News Network, 2007. Web.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Ibid.
[46] Ibid.
[47] "Becoming Belle Knox." The Scene, 1 Sept. 2014. Documentary.
[48] Ibid.
[49] "Duke Freshman Teen ‘Porn Star’ Belle Knox Defends Porn as ‘Empowering.’ AntiPornography.org Responds." Anti-Pornography, 1 Mar. 2014. Video.
[50] "Whoopie Goldberg Defends Duke University "PORN STAR" Belle Knox." The View. ABC News Network, 19 Mar. 2014. Web.
[51] Ibid.
[52] Gilman.
[53] “Becoming Belle Knox”.
[54] “American Porn.”
[55] Lee.
[56] Ibid.
[57] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry."
[58] Ibid.
[59] "Young Women, Porn and Profits: America’s Secret Affair"
[60] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry."
[61] Adams, Cameron. "HIV Ex Porn Star Cameron Adams (Bay) Exposes Porn Exploitation to Senate & Supports Condom Bill." Anti-Pornography, 1 Sept. 2014. Web.
[62] "Three Newly HIV Infected Adult Film Actors Blast Industry, LA County." AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 18 Sept. 2013. Web.
[63] "Pornography and Sex Trafficking Connection." Anti-Pornography, 2015. Web.
[64] “Slavery.” Love146, 2015. Web.
[65] Gilman.
[66] Demand.
[67] Ibid.
[68] Gilman.
[69] “Pornography and the Sex Trafficking Connection”.
[70] Gilman.
[71] Van Maren.
[72] Ibid.
[73] “Pornography and Violence in Communications Media: A Pastoral Response”. Vatican: Pontifical Council for Social Communications, 7 May 1989. 13-14. Print.
[74] Jeffrey Dahmer has been one example of this (“Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media” 17.)
[75] López, Estela. "A Feminist Analysis of Cartoon Porn and Hentai." The Harms of Hentai, Sexualized Anime, Lolicon, Shotacon, Manga, Ecchi, Virtual Porn, Rapelay, Etc. Anti-Pornography, 10 Aug. 2008. Web.
[76] Ibid.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Van Maren, Jonathon. "How Porn Fuels Rape Culture." Anti-Pornography, 1 Apr. 2014. Web.
[79] Kaplan.
[80] "Bishop's Interview: Pornography Distorts Gift of Human Sexuality." Catholic Spirit. Diocese of Austin, 1 June 2007. Web.
[81] Ibid.
[82] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354.
[83] King.
[84] Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P., S.T.D. Lectures 19-23 from “The Rich Gift of Love: Theology of the Body”. Nashville: Aquinas College. 2013. DVD.
[85] Finn.
[86] Ibid.
[87] Pennock 22.
[88] Ibid.
[89] Second Vatican Council. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes. 1965. 26. Web.
[90] Houck, Mark. "Pope John Paul II on Pornography." Covenant Eyes. 28 Dec. 2009. Web.
[91] "Responses to Frequently Asked Questions and Pro-Pornography Arguments." Anti-Pornography. 2014. Web.
[92] Ibid.

Saturday, August 1

Racial Profiling and Social Justice

“Over the years, I learned to smother the rage I felt at so often being taken for a criminal. Not to do so would surely have led to madness. I now take precautions to make myself less threatening,” writes Brent Staples, an author and editorial writer for the New York Times, in his essay “Black Men and Public Space.” After obtaining a degree, Staples was living in Chicago, where he proceeded to face racial profiling. One may define racial profiling as discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or religious beliefs. The articles, “Law Enforcement Should Cease Racial Profiling” by Jesselyn McCurdy, “Profiling Japanese Americans During World War II Was Unjustified” by Eric Muller, and “Racial Profiling Should Be Eliminated” by Cathy Young all support the fact that ethnic and racial profiling is not always justified, and is indeed unnecessary. Catholic Social Teaching would hold that racism is not justifiable, and that we are each created with inherent dignity, value and worth, and should not be subjected to racism. Now, contrary to popular belief, racial profiling is not new. Historically, while racial profiling could theoretically be said to have been around as long as discrimination, we trace modern racial profiling to recent history.

Prior to World War II, Japanese-American relations could be considered nominal. However, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States retaliated. Shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese ended their attempts to war with the United States. However, during World War II, the Japanese who were living in the United States faced discrimination and racial profiling. These individuals were sent to “internment camps,” which were allegedly not severe and not the kind of concentration camps as the Jewish nation faced. In both Muller’s and Young’s articles, they respond to a writer, Michelle Mulkin, who wrote a book titled In Defense of Internment: The Case for “Racial Profiling” in World War II and the War on Terror. According to Young, the anti-Japanese prejudice “was pervasive in America and especially on the West Coast even before Pearl Harbor, and was whipped up into virulent hate by a propaganda campaign after the start of the war.” 

Then, Young goes on to refer to “such unpleasantness as shootings of internees by camp guards” demonstrating that there may have been a bit more similarity between internment camps and concentration camps than imagined, but not as far as crematoriums. One of the reasons which the Japanese were interred is the risk of espionage, but Muller contends that the risk of espionage is not enough to justify internment. Lieutenant General DeWitt, in 1942, boldly declared that “the Japanese race is an enemy race, and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted” (qtd. in Muller). This is merely one example of the typical racist comments found among many individuals of the era. As Muller points out, though, while the Japanese Americans were imprisoned, the German Americans were largely ignored: “Germany was a more dangerous presence along the East Coast of the U.S. mainland for a far longer time than was Japan along the West Coast, and it twice landed saboteurs on Eastern shores” (Muller). The racism involved in such acts is evident. It is true that there likely were at least a few Japanese spies on American soil, but this did not give the government the right to imprison so many in the internment camps, the “miserable detention of tens of thousands of innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry” (Muller). 

Undoubtedly, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, racial profiling and discrimination was less concerned with Japanese, Germans, Italians and African Americans (although African American profiling is still prominent), and more focused on Muslims, Arabs, and anyone who looked Middle-eastern. The historical paradigm of the Asian discrimination was now of less concern, and Arab profiling, particularly with Muslims, became prominent - and has sparked a hot debate. This debate revolves around “ethnic, racial, and religious profiling as a ‘homeland security’ measure” (Young). As a result of 9/11, “some civil libertarians have denounced every antiterrorism policy that singles out Arab men as repetition of the terrible mistake the government made after Pearl Harbor” (Muller). However, when the Japanese internment camps are compared to the measures taken against Arab terrorists, there is a rather large variance between “asking Arab male airline passengers some extra security questions and forcing American citizens behind barbed wire in the high desert for three years” (Muller). 

Racial profiling, which is essentially based on stereotypes, is described by McCurdy as a violation of “our nation’s core values and our basic constitutional commitment to equal justice under the law.” This persecution and discrimination is racist and is not justifiable. Racial profiling is hurtful, and is against the freedom entitled to all men under the Declaration of Independence, who are “created equal,” as well as a denial of the inherent dignity upheld in Catholic social justice. Further - it denies various human rights found in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). In fact, this profiling is the “heavily disproportionate incarceration of people of color, especially young men, for drug related crimes, and of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians for suspicion of terrorism” (McCurdy). The aforementioned author Brent Staples described a situation, where “One day, rushing into the office of a magazine I was writing for with a deadline story in hand, I was mistaken for a burglar.” Such situations, Staples says, are common. Staples is an African American. He continues, “The office manager called security and, with an ad hoc posse, pursued me through the labyrinthine halls, nearly to my editor's door. I had no way of proving who I was. I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me” (398) African American profiling clearly is still occurring to this day, demonstrating that it is not merely Arab profiling which occurs – although Arab profiling seems to occur more frequently, particularly at airports. When I was recently coming back from Italy, I made my way through U.S. security, customs, and so forth. The stronger security and the bias seemed fairly evident toward individuals from the Middle-East. 

When he was in office, President George W. Bush called racial profiling “wrong in America,” yet little has been done to “stop officials from relying on race or ethnicity when deciding to initiate traffic stops or other investigate activities” (McCurdy). From the Japanese internment camps to the current discrimination against African Americans and more prominently, those of Arab descent, racial profiling is evident, not only historically, but socially. Unmistakably, racial profiling has not simply begun in the last ten years, but has been noticeable throughout history. While it is true that we have been able to catch some criminals and terrorists through racial profiling, surely there is a better way to go about stopping criminals and terrorists before they act. Imprisoning Japanese Americans, who were law-abiding citizens, as well as recent cases of Arab Americans having been detained for months even though they had done nothing wrong simply based on their race, demonstrates the continual practice of racial profiling, and while in certain cases it has proved beneficial, nevertheless, it infringes on liberties as an American citizen. There must be an easier and more specific way to stop criminals and terrorists without subjecting innocent citizens to unjustified racial profiling. 

Sources Consulted
McCurdy, Jesselyn. "Law Enforcement Should Cease Racial Profiling". Criminal Justice. David M. Haugen, Ed. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2009. "Racial Profiling: 'Wrong in America'," Afro-Netizen, December 7, 2007.

Muller, Eric. "Profiling Japanese Americans During World War II Was Unjustified" Racial Profiling., Ed. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2009. "Indefensible Internment: There Was No Good Reason for the Mass Internment of Japanese Americans During WWII," Reason, vol. 36, no. 7, December 2004. 

Staples, Brent. “Black Men and Public Space.” Eds. Linda H. Peterson and John C. Brereton. Ed. The Norton Reader. 12th ed. New York: Norton, 2008. 396-398. Print.

Young, Cathy. "Racial Profiling Is Never Justified" Race and Ethnicity. Uma Kukathas, Ed. Contemporary Issues Companion Series. Greenhaven Press, 2007. "Defending Repression," Reason, November 2004, pp. 19-21.

Aliens, Exotheology and the Christian Tradition

For generations, mankind has gazed upon the heavens and wondered, “are we alone in the universe?” Many popular films, television shows, books and every form of media today, including Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the X-Files, Ancient Aliens, and so forth, either revolve around or are influenced by the notion of extraterrestrial life. Science Fiction writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, HP Lovecraft, H.G. Wells and others brought these ideas to the general public in the last century. On the other end of the spectrum, an increasing number of individuals claim to have seen, photographed, filmed, or encountered an unidentified flying object - a UFO, and some have claimed to be involved with “alien abductions” or meetings with other beings. Pop culture is ablaze with concepts surrounding alien life. NASA famously continues its search for life, whether that may be “intelligent” life (ETIs) or microbial life. SETI listens for any signals from other beings. Many devote their entire resources, time, energy and lives to this search. 

These ideas both fascinate and terrify the human mind. Since the 1970s, Christian fundamentalism has been written off extraterrestrials as “demonic” activity, but for others within the Christian tradition, the very notion of extraterrestrial life provides much food for thought and exciting possibilities. As a result, a speculative branch of theology has arisen: exotheology. Exotheology began as a thought experiment - how would Christianity or other religious traditions account for extraterrestrial life? If we discovered microbial life with absolute certainty, in what ways would that effect our anthropocentric view of the cosmos? By examining a brief history of how extraterrestrial life has been viewed throughout the Christian tradition, what insights we may gain from astrobiology, exploring the concept of panspermia and discussing the theological implications of ETIs, we may hope to broaden our view of “the Other” and explore new possibilities.

A Brief History of Exotheology
Although “exotheology” did not arise until the 1960s and 1970s, fascination with alien life is as old as the Greeks and Romans. Early Greek Atomists such as Democritus or Lucretius argued for a “plurality of worlds.” This had an influence on the Hellenistic Christians, and we find that many early Christians held that the planets in our solar system were inhabited (by angels) - later echoed in in the 1200s in Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso. In the 2nd century, the Roman satirist Lucian parodied The Odyssey in his work True History - in which a crew encounter alien life on the moon and on the sun, and in order to get there, the crew must fly in their ship. However, in the AD 750s, Pope Zachary condemned a man who was writing about a different race of human beings who lived on the moon. Yet such ideas were not always frowned upon. The French priest John Buridan (1295–1358) argued for the existence of many inhabited worlds, contending, “We hold from faith that just as God made this world, so he could make another or several worlds.”1

Many theologians and scholars prior to the Copernican Revolution - including Albertus Magnus, John Major, Leonardo da Vinci and others - accepted this idea of the plurality of worlds.2 In the 1440s, Bishop Nicholas of Cusa wrote, “we surmise that none of the other regions of stars are devoid of inhabitants.”3 He went on to write that it would not be improbable for “Life, as it exists here on earth in the form of men, animals and plants... to be found, let us suppose, in a higher form in solar and stellar regions.” Interestingly, he became a Bishop even after saying this, and the Church did not condemn him for heresy as had happened with Pope Zachary seven hundred years prior. The Bishop thus continued the idea that there was not only a plurality of worlds, but that these worlds were inhabited. Two Dominican friars, Tomasso Campanella (1568-1634) and Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), rejected the original Dominican 13th-century view that there was a single ordered world, and used passages from the Bible and early theologians to argue for a plurality of worlds. 

The debate continued on during the Protestant Reformation in which it took a decidedly more naturalistic approach, such that we find natural theologians and philosophers including Immanuel Kant and Richard Bentley discussing exotheological concepts. In the 20th century, Anglican lay theologian and writer C.S. Lewis wrote his Space Trilogy (1938-1945) partly out of an interest in exotheology. In Lewis’ space trilogy, he portrays Earth as the “silent planet” (hence the first book’s title, Out of the Silent Planet). Earth is “silent” and not in communication with Mars, for example, because of mankind’s fallen nature. Thus, in the first two books, the theme surrounds the Augustinian notion of Original Sin, and the protagonist’s quest to keep these beings from corruption. A few decades later we find The Sparrow (1996) by Maria Doria Russel and its sequel, Children of God (1998), two well-known stories concerning the relationship between the Christian tradition and extraterrestrial life.  

On a more theological level, the Jewish understanding of extraterrestrial life is of interest for this discussion. Rabbi Chasdai Crescas (1340-1411), after lengthy discussion, concluded that Jewish theology does not preclude the existence of life on other worlds. As slight evidence for extraterrestrial life, he cited the Talmudic idea that "God flies through 18,000 worlds" (Avoda Zara 3b). In this view, if God is overseeing these worlds, one could then infer that these worlds are inhabited. In fact, we read in Psalms 145:13, "Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds." Further, in the song of Deborah we read, "Cursed is Meroz... cursed are its inhabitants" (Judges 5:23). In the Jewish Talmud, it is held that Meroz is the name of a star. According to this view, when sacred Scripture states, "Cursed is Meroz... cursed are its inhabitants," it is evidence that God has other children. Also, Song of Songs 6:8 speaks of "Worlds without number," and the Jewish Tikunei Zohar (AD 1500s) states, "The stars certainly are without number. But each star is called a separate world. These are the worlds without number." The Tikunei Zohar goes on to state that every tzaddik (righteous person) will reign over a star, and thus, will have a world for themselves.4 The aforementioned 18,000 worlds would therefore have a number of stars presided over by the 18,000 tzaddikim (righteous individuals) who may be alluded to in the verse (Ezekiel 48:35), "Around Him are 18,000." There is a similar concept found in various parts of the Mormon tradition. This is speculative theology, to be sure, but interesting nonetheless and important in the development of exotheology.

A final point is worth noting. Often in discussions of science and religion, Christian scholars bring up the ancient idea of the “Two Books.” These two books are sacred Scripture and Nature, or rather, the two ways in which God primarily reveals Godself to us. Many early Christian writers held such ideas, including St. Paul (see Romans 1:20) St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, Origen of Alexandria, St. Augustine of Hippo, and later - St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley.5 In other words, natural revelation tells us about a divine creator just as sacred Scripture does, and therefore we ought to try and “read” the cosmos. This theology of the “Two Books” is also mentioned by Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure, who holds that the “Book of Creation” should reveal to mankind important truths about our universe, the God who made it, and what creation holds. For this reason, we may now turn to the scientific field of astrobiology in an effort to “read” the Book of Creation for signs of God’s “other children.”

Astrobiology, Exotheology and Panspermia
In a recent article from April 2015, in which 100,000 galaxies were scanned by astronomers at Penn State, although there was no strong evidence of any “alien mega-civilizations,” it is noted that “50 galaxies did feature higher-than-usual levels of mid-infrared radiation. Further analysis will be required to determine if they're caused by some natural astronomic process, or if they're an indication of highly advanced extraterrestrial civilizations."6 Headlines and articles such as these are becoming increasingly common. The search for life across the universe - the field of astrobiology - has a long an interesting history. Most individuals may immediately think of NASA, and while NASA is a major player in the modern search for extraterrestrial life, there is a tradition extending back to ancient Greece. Metrodorus, an ancient Greek philosopher (and student of the Atomist Democritus) once said, "it would be strange if a single ear [of corn] grew in a large plain, although only one habitable world in the infinite." Now, if you go into a field, it is very unusual to see a single ear of corn growing, and you would expect many more. In his work, Metrodorus suggested that the same idea can be applied to habitable worlds. 

During the Renaissance in the 16th century, an astronomer named Giodarno Bruno speculated about the possibility of life on other worlds. He wrote, "in space there are countless constellations, suns, and planets, we see only the suns because they give light. The planets remain invisible for they are small and dark. There are also numberless Earths circling around their suns."7 Interestingly, today we would now affirm the existence of these kind of planets - called exoplanets. As a side-note, an exoplanet is one which orbits a star in another solar system other than ours, and as of June 2015, nearly 2000 exoplanets have been discovered.8 This hearkens back to the ancient Greek theory of the “plurality of worlds.” Now, after Bruno, the invention of the telescope allowed us to then gaze into the heavens, causing speculation to increase as we could see other planets, but we could not see their atmospheres. Christian Huygens (1629-1695), famous astronomer, observed spots on Venus, Mars and Jupiter. He stated, "the taste of music with the inhabitants of Venus and Jupiter is at a high level, similar to the Frenchmen or Italians."9 Later, scientist William Herschel (1738-1822), wrote while observing the moon, "by reflecting a level on the subject I'm almost convinced that those numberless small circuses we see on the moon are the works of the Lunarians and may be called their towns."10

In the 20th century, Percival Lowell observed lines across the surface of Mars, and interpreted these to be canals built by a dying civilization trying to channel water from the polar ice caps.11 Lowell stated, "Every opposition is added to the assurance that canals are artificial, both by disclosing their peculiarities better and better and by removing generic doubts as to the planet's habitability.”12 In the 1950s and 1960s, the space age began, and so too began the possibility of sending probes to other planets. We began getting images from Mars and Venus, but became downcast when these images revealed no life. However, as our equipment got better, we began getting images such as former outflow channels on Mars which suggested that water once flowing on the surface. This peaked our curiosity, and in the 1970s, the Arecibo Dish Observatory sent the first signal out to extraterrestrial intelligence with the help of Carl Sagan and Dr. Frank Drake, who is famous for the “Drake equation” concerning the possibility of ETIs. Today, there is evidence of geysers erupting from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus, throwing out water and other elements into space, including organic carbon.13 Many also believe that life lies in the ocean beneath the surface of another moon, Europa, and NASA is developing technology to drill through the ice layers to reach this ocean.

On a related note, from its beginning, NASA speculated that evidence of past intelligent life may lie somewhere in our solar system, that is, possible civilizations that no longer exist, but once did - “Though intelligent or semi-intelligent life conceivably exists elsewhere in our solar system, if intelligent extra-terrestrial life is discovered in the next twenty years, it will very probably be by radio telescope from other solar systems. Evidence of its existence might also be found in artifacts left on the moon or other planets.”14 Later, when Mariner 9 orbited Mars and revealed past Earth-like conditions there, searches for signs of past intelligent activity were conducted.15 Although further searches of evidence appear to have turned up little to nothing supporting ancient civilizations, there is a theory that life once existed on Mars, however, that life was wiped away due to a nuclear explosion. Dr. John Brandenburg famously presented this theory, in which there used to be two civilizations on Mars - the Cydonians and the Utopians. What happened to these two civilizations? He writes in his proposal, “ On Mars, the nearest Earthlike planet in the cosmos, the concentration of 129Xe in the Martian atmosphere, the evidence from 80Kr abundance of intense 1014/cm2 flux over the Northern young part of Mars, and the detected pattern of excess abundance of Uranium and Thorium on Mars surface, relative to Mars meteorites, can be explained as due to two large thermonuclear explosions on Mars in the past.” In other words, either the Martians caused their own destruction, or yet another race destroyed their civilization. This theory satisfied Dr. Brandenburg, but has been criticized as pseudo-science by others. Nevertheless, there are also other, perhaps even stranger, theories about life in our solar system, such as panspermia. 

Panspermia is the hypothesis “that life exists and is distributed throughout the universe in the form of germs or spores that develop in the right environment.”16 The first known mention of the term was in the writings of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras.17 Others continued to develop the hypothesis in the 1880s, and in 1974, scientists Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe proposed that some dust in interstellar space contained carbon (i.e., organic material), which he later proved to be true.18 In a presentation on April 7, 2009, theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking stated that “Life could spread from planet to planet or from stellar system to stellar system, carried on meteors.”19 Francis Crick, one of the men who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, held to the panspermia hypothesis.20 It was also made famous in part by the film recent film Prometheus, and the Ancient Aliens television show. Scientifically, could life have come to earth from outer space? In 1871, German geologist Otto Hahn believed that he found patterns on meteorites, and claimed that he had discovered fossilized ferns, corals and sponges. Unfortunately, these were merely mineral formations.21 In 1930, a bacteriologist named Charles Lipman claimed that he grew living cells from meteorites in his laboratory. He attempted to sterilize the samples first, as he knew they would be contaminated by Earth. After his work was reviewed, he learned that the bacteria was actually terrestrial in origin, and his sterilization had not been thorough enough.22 In 1961, Bartholomew Nagy and George Claus believed they had found “organized elements” of organic matter in meteorites. They later learned that this was actually oddly shaped mineral grains or pollen grains that come through the window in their laboratory. In 1996, NASA’s Johnson Center cautiously announced that they had discovered fossilized microbes in meteorite ALH84001, known to have come from Mars. Under an electron microscope, they found what appeared to be small, worm-like objects on parts of the rock. This discovery is still being debated, but many argue that this was simply an unintended contamination.23 Recently, a number of scientists have been investigating similar claims of objects found in Earth’s orbit.

In his course “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life,” Professor Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh asked, "Can microorganisms survive in outer space? Space is characterized by extremes of radiation, freezing temperatures, dessication, and no oxygen. A few years ago, my own laboratory launched rocks into orbit, and these rocks were bolted onto the outside of the International Space Station. And we brought them back to earth a year and a half later to see whether anything had survived in space... we found a single microroganism, a gloeocapsa, which is a type of cyanobacterium, a photosynthetic micro-organism that was capable of surviving in the extreme conditions for a full year and a half. Of course, it didn't grow in space, but it did survive."24 We also find microorganisms that can tolerate high levels of radiation, that live deep in hot, underwater areas, that live in the arid deserts, and so forth. This is one of the reasons why NASA is interested in Saturn's moon, Europa, which is essentially a thick layer of ice on the surface and ocean underneath. These organisms are called extremophiles. The existence of extremophiles gives us hope for finding life, in whatever form that may be, elsewhere in our solar system. There are also theories that have been proposed of organic matter from earth having been jettisoned into space following asteroid collisions, and thus, it is actually humans who are seeding the solar system. Again, these are speculative ideas, but are helpful in a number of ways. 

Now, at this point it is important to briefly comment on the relationship that the panspermia hypothesis plays directly into the ongoing debate concerning the origin of life and the book of Genesis. For many Young Earth Creationists (YECs) within Christian Fundamentalism, God created the universe in six, literal days a little over 6,000-10,000 years ago. For Theistic Evolutionists, God utilized evolutionary processes as an exciting and adventurous vehicle by which mankind was eventually brought about - much like Michelangelo creating a sculpture, but using a chisel to do so. There are other views, such as the Gap Theory, the Ruin-Reconstruction Theory, and so forth. Of course, these theological positions depend on one’s view of Genesis, and thus, the panspermia hypothesis only works within certain views. For example, in the view that God created everything through the “epic of evolution,” one would interpret Genesis in an allegorical, literary, functional or cosmogonic light. Early on in Christian history, Origen of Alexandria (AD 250s) and St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) proposed that Genesis could be interpreted in different ways other than literally. Dr. John Walton, in his book The Lost World of Genesis One, notes that in the Near East in antiquity, when the building of the temple to a specific god was completed, there was an inauguration ceremony. This was often six days, and all would rest on the seventh. Also, on the sixth day, an image of the deity would be placed in the temple. Similarly, Genesis 1 can be seen in this “functional origins” view, so that the six day creation - including the placement of the image of God onto the earth - followed by a rest on the seventh day, constitutes a literary way of portraying the cosmos as God’s universal or cosmic temple in which God dwells. In other words, we see the divine sovereign issuing commands, organizing territories, and governing the cosmic kingdom in this first chapter of Genesis

Walton goes on to speak of Genesis 2 in this “cosmic temple” model, where Eden can be seen as “sacred space,” with Adam serving in a quasi-priestly role by taking care of and shepherding the “sacred space.” Now, Genesis 2-3 has also been viewed allegorically as representing Israel’s relationship with God - Eden is seen as the Promised Land, and yet once the individuals have been given this land, they disobey, and try to become gods themselves. They are subsequently banished (exiled - as in the Babylonian Exile of the Jews), and are thrown into different, more difficult conditions. Others take up the view of Genesis 2-3 as keeping with Wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ben Sira, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.). In this view, it is not that God seeks to deprive man (‘adamah) of knowledge, but rather, he desires man to come to him for ultimate knowledge. But when man attempts to find knowledge on his own, without seeking God, he is attempting to become “like God,” and has lost his original innocence, therefore wrongly gaining knowledge and lacking wisdom to guide this knowledge. Now, these interpretations can be explored further elsewhere, but this cursory tangent is important in the larger context of the Christian tradition, because it asks, “how did God create?” If God created everything exactly as Genesis 1 says, then on a theological level, the panspermia hypothesis would not fit within the tradition. If, on the other hand, God took the “chaos” of pre-historic materials (cf. Genesis 1:2) and organized them to function with “order” (or “very good,” as in Genesis), then it is also possible that a Christian could see God using panspermia. Whether this is through the delivery of microbial life via an asteroid or the intentional planting of life on earth as in Francis Crick’s view, that is a separate discussion. But these kind of questions are helpful, as with anything in exotheology, because it asks the Christian tradition to be open to the creative movement of God’s Spirit in ways we may not yet have encountered or experienced yet.

“Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?”
For Christians, there still remains the question of the Incarnation and sin. If an extraterrestrial sinned on another, for example, would that require that God become incarnate as he did here through Christ? Would this create an infinite cycle of death and resurrection? This is the idea of “multiple incarnations,” and often comes up in exotheological discussions. In his article “The implications of the discovery of extra-terrestrial life for religion”, Lutheran theologian Ted Peters notes, “Paul Tillich might provide us with an example of an influential Protestant theologian who welcomes extra-terrestrial neighbours while affirming multiple incarnations. [He writes,] ‘Our basic answer leaves the universe open for possible divine manifestations in other areas or periods of being.... Incarnation is unique for the special group in which it happens...it is not unique in the sense that other singular incarnations for other unique worlds are excluded’... Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner is sympathetic with the position Tillich espouses. He argues that the possibility of extra-terrestrial intelligent life ‘can today no longer be excluded’. Even though he acknowledges ‘Christ as the head of all creation’, he further speculates: ‘In view of the immutability of God in himself and the identity of the Logos with God, it cannot be proved that a multiple incarnation in different histories of salvation is absolutely unthinkable’... Wolfhart Pannenberg, in contrast to Tillich and Rahner, holds that one incarnation is enough for the entire cosmos. Because Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the divine Logos, and because the eternal Logos is the medium through which the entire creation has come into being... [therefore,] the significance of the historical Jesus on Earth extends to the history and destiny of farthest reaches of the universe.”25

Others in speculative theology raise the question - if extraterrestrials are visiting or will visit us, could it be because of the “specialness” of humanity? If there was only one Incarnation, could they visit to come on a cosmic pilgrimage to the sacred site where God touched down? As Genesis says, human beings are made in the imago dei (image of God), but does this mean a physical image, a rational (reason-based) image, or a spiritual image? In what way is humanity the imago dei? This has been argued in theology for centuries. Perhaps the most prominent comes from St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who held that the imago dei is more of a rational, reason-based image, and that God has breathed that function into homo sapiens, as we do not find such developed cognitive functions among any other species. Yet exotheology also raises other questions. Br. Guy Consolmagno SJ, a planetary scientist for the Vatican Observatory, has written a book with another Jesuit, Paul Mueller, titled Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? Although Br. Guy does not believe that we have any conclusive proof of extraterrestrial life as of yet, he responds to the question, “Yes. If she asks for it.” But what if extraterrestrials are atheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic? What would this do for Christianity? Well, one can imagine it would have little effect, any more than sailing to a new land of individuals who have a different religious tradition would. Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the individual faith of a person. The question then lies in whether or not we would welcome these extraterrestrials with open arms. 

In May of 2014, Pope Francis delivered a homily on acceptance and the Church not being so critical and judgmental. In order to make his point contemporary, he utilized extraterrestrials as an example of acceptance, saying, “If - for example - tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them... And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen? When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way...’”.26 In the Franciscan tradition, St. Francis of Assisi always referred to creation as “brother” or “sister.” The Pope was making a point about acceptance using a modern example, and was not intending to form a lengthy point regarding extraterrestrial life. Yet we may see his point and further the question. Would we accept Brother Spock if he came to us? Would we welcome Sister Neytiri if she visited? Would we extend an arm to brother alien?

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

Several years ago, the former Bishop of Stockholm and Swedish theologian Krister Stendahl, at a NASA program on extra-terrestrial life was asked what he thought about encountering intelligent extraterrestrial life. He stated, “It seems always great to me, when God’s world gets a little bigger and I get a somewhat more true view of my place and my smallness in that universe.”27 The Catholic theologian, John F. Haugh, noted that “Contact with ETs would provide an exceptional opportunity for theology to widen and deepen its understanding of divine creativity.”28 Indeed, the existence of extraterrestrial life - microbial, “intelligent” or otherwise - does not lessen the relationship of God to Earth and its inhabitants. In many ways, we are very anthropocentric (human-centered). As such, raising some of the questions asked by exotheology regardless of religious tradition as a thought experiment or as serious pondering also raises the question of our importance and role in the cosmos. It asks us what it means to be human. It helps us to remind ourselves that some of the minor issues we face on a day to day basis may be important for us, but are not always as big as they may seem. It helps us to look at each other as brother and sister, and encourages us to be willing to encounter new ideas. The universe is constantly unfolding with new and exciting potentialities. Considering the existence of others “out there” also forces us to accept ambiguity and mystery, something familiar to the Christian tradition, but something humans are uncomfortable with. But perhaps we may continue to tend to our own solar neighborhood, remain hopefully optimistic in our search for other “brothers and sisters,” and be willing to accept the cosmic mystery that comes with our existence in this universe - by seeking new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before.29

[1] Dick, S. J. 2000 (ed.) Many worlds: the new universe, extra-terrestrial life and the theological implications. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press. 29. Print.
[2] Lewis, James R. The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. 191. Print
[3] De docta Ignoratia
[4] Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh. "Extraterrestrial Life." Torah.org. Project Genesis, Inc., 2007. Web.
[5] Mann, Mark H. "The Church Fathers and Two Books Theology: Introduction." The BioLogos Forum. BioLogos Foundation, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 
[6] Dvorsky, George. " A Scan Of 100,000 Galaxies Shows No Sign Of Alien Mega-Civilizations." Muhammad Iqbal Dar. 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 4 July 2015.
[7] Cockell, Charles. “History of Astrobiology”. University of Edinburgh. 2015. Video.
[8] Schneider, J. "Interactive Extra-solar Planets Catalog". The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia.
[9] Cockell.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Brookings Report to NASA, 1961. Print.
[15] Sagan and Wallace, 1971. Print.
[16] "panspermia." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Jul. 2015. 
[17] Margaret O'Leary. Anaxagoras and the Origin of Panspermia Theory. iUniverse publishing Group, 2008. Web.
[18] Wickramasinghe, D. T.; Allen, D. A. (1980). "The 3.4-µm interstellar absorption feature". Nature 287 (5782): 518–519.; Allen, D. A.; Wickramasinghe, D. T. (1981). "Diffuse interstellar absorption bands between 2.9 and 4.0 µm". Nature 294 (5838): 239–240.; Wickramasinghe, D. T.; Allen, D. A. (1983). "Three components of 3?4 ?m absorption bands". Astrophysics and Space Science 97 (2): 369–378.
[19] Weaver, Rheyanne. "Ruminations on other worlds". Statepress.com, April 7, 2009. Web.
[20] Crick, F. H.; Orgel, L. E. "Directed Panspermia". Icarus 19 (3): 341–348, 1973. Print.
[21] David McNab and James Younger. The Planets. London: Yale University Press, 1999. 213. Print.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Cockell, Charles. “Life in Extreme Environments”. University of Edinburgh. 2015. Video.
[25] Peters, Ted. “The implications of the discovery of extra-terrestrial life for religion”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 2011. 644–655. Web.
[26] Nadeau, Barbie Latza. "Pope Francis Asked ‘Would You Baptize an Alien?’ Here’s the Answer." The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 July 2015.
[27] Berendzen, R. (ed.). Life beyond Earth and the mind of man. Washington, DC: NASA Scientific and Technical Information Office, 1973. 29. Print.
[28] Haught, John. Deeper than Darwin. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2003. 179. Print.
[29] The opening line of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” The phrase “where no man has gone before” is derived from a NASA booklet, Introduction to Outer Space, from 1958.