Is Religion Holding Back Space Travel?

If every person on Earth woke up tomorrow an atheist would there be a surge of interest in space travel?  Does the promise of an afterlife keep us from noticing that we’re living on a very small rock in a very big universe?

Most people living today expect to leave this world for another when they die.  Without heaven, would we travel to the stars instead?

If we were all atheists and expert cosmologists, would we think, “Why are we just sitting on this on speck of dust when there’s endless worlds to explore?”

Because most people are self-centered, addicted to creature comforts, and afraid of death, would freedom from religion make them brave explorers?  And if not willing to go themselves, would a godless existential reality inspire them to pay tithes/taxes so other humans could leave Earth in rocketships?


If there was no God to define who we are, how would we define ourselves?  In other words, if we weren’t burdened by religious beliefs and truly free to shape our own destinies, would many of us seek to leave Earth in spaceships and colonize the galaxy?

If we were all absolutely sure of our mortality would we huddle close to home, hoping for life extension from science?  Or would we bravely fling ourselves beyond the sky and its protective shielding to see if we could adapt to the bizarre habitats of space?

If we knew we lived in a godless universe, and we were the crown of creation, would we work harder to preserve the Earth and colonize other worlds so all our genetic eggs wouldn’t be in one basket?  Or without God, would humanity just become depressed and wallow in self pity?

If we find ourselves in a meaningless universe can we make our own meaning?

Is it true, when the going gets tough, that the tough get going?

JWH – 3/13/13

7 thoughts on “Is Religion Holding Back Space Travel?”

  1. I could go on for hours on this subject however in the interest of time, I’d say that religion isn’t holding back space exploration any more than it does any other aspect of science/discovery today (or has throughout history)…interpret that answer as you will 🙂

  2. I think it’s unfair to blame religion in general for a lack in interest for space travel, although it may be true in case of some religions. The real issue are politicians, especially those in electoral democarcies. Politician are ussually only interested in their own career and since in an electoral democracy they will have to seek approval of their constituents. With the latter mainly concerned with their own daily affairs, there is no real incentive for most politicians to pursue any policy that does not directy benefit their careers.

    1. What you say is true Mordanicus, but if the general public was interested in space travel, politicians would have an incentive to spend tax money on space exploration. Right now, money spent on NASA is really just pork barrel politics. I’ve read from Congressmen that there is almost zero interest in space exploration by the public. There are a couple million space enthusiasts among the population, but that’s not enough to count.

      And I wasn’t attacking religion per se, I was suggesting that the promises of religion are more appealing to the average person than the promises of those people campaigning to explore the final frontier. I was asking if we all became atheists, and heaven and eternal life was no longer an issue, would exploring space be more interesting?

      1. I doubt whether atheist are more likely to support space exploration than theists. I suspect that most people, theists and atheists alike, are more concerned with things that directly effects their own lives, although atheist might be (slightly) more pro-science than theists.

        Yes, some people might be more concerned with the afterlife than with anything else.

        1. I’m thinking Mordanicus, that if we truly accepted that Earth is the only place humans can live, either in this life or any other, that maybe we’d get bored and explore. I have no proof that would be so, but I’d think if we all believed “Is this all there is?” that we’d try to find more.

          I’m not even sure it is possible to colonize other worlds. We might be solely adapted to Earth. But can you imagine our present state of development lasting for a million years and us not going anywhere?

          1. In this respect I fully agree with you. Personally I believe we should explore and colonize, at least we should try. However I am not sure whether religion is a real factor in slowing down space exploration, although you might be right. Rather I suspect that most people don’t care about space exploration due to their short term aims.

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