UFO Religions and Spirituality

UFO religion are out of this world. Or are they? In this talk, Ben Zeller discusses the history and context of UFO religions and UFO spirituality, from their origins in mid-twentieth-century flying saucer culture through contemporary ufology, conspiracism, and alternative religious practices. We start with the origins of UFO and flying saucer culture and mythology, including the Roswell incident and the birth of both scientific ufology and the contactee/abductee movements.

We consider the Cold War context of the emergence of the first UFO religions, groups like the Aetherius Society (UK) and the Unarius Academy of Science (USA). We then look to the transformations within UFO spirituality that came with the rise of conspiracy thinking and “conspirituality,” as well as the integration of New Age spiritual practices and beliefs within UFO religions, as seen in such groups as Heaven’s Gate (USA) and the Raelians (France). Finally, we look to contemporary UFO religiosity as found within today’s starseed and channelling movements. Throughout, we consider themes of millennialism, apocalypticism, and utopianism.


Benjamin E. Zeller is Professor and Chair of Religion at Lake Forest College (Chicago, USA). He researches religious currents that are new or alternative, including new religions, the religious engagement with science, and the quasi-religious relationship people have with food. He is author of Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion (NYU Press) and Prophets and Protons: New Religious Movements and Science in Late Twentieth-Century America (NYU Press), and has edited or co-edited four other books. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard University. He is co-general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. He lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois, and when he has time for it, he makes his own cheese.

Curated and Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.

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