A wealth of new questions and speculations have occurred to me. Non-intelligent alien life would be theologically no more remarkable than life on earth. The really important question applies to another race or species of intelligent aliens.
Angels: Known aliensSome theological background is called for here. In Catholicism, there is a difference between creatures with immortal spirits and creatures without. The two known "races" of creatures with spirits are angels, which are pure spirit with no body, and humans, which are both bodily and spiritual creatures. Each human's spirit is called a soul. All other known creatures are animals, and are entirely mortal.
Angels are intelligent, rational beings. In a sense, as a wholly separate race of thinking beings, they are aliens. When most people think of another intelligent race, they usually think of creatures with bodies, not pure spirits like angels. Nevertheless, angels can give us some insight into what God's relationship with a race of thinking, breathing aliens might be like.
Angels' and humans' relationships with God have a central theme in common: both have free will, so each individual can choose whether to serve God or to reject him. In fact, in all of known creation, free will, the ability to reason, and immortality are a package deal. Assuming God stayed with that pattern another intelligent race would have the same attributes, and thus aliens may have immortal souls.
The fall of man, the fall of angels, the fall of aliens?Both humans and angels were subjected to a fall, an opportunity to decide whether to follow or to reject God. In angels, the fall was individual, while in humans it is collective. In both cases, however, it results the from the free will of the creatures in question, not from divine imposition. So it is possible that a theoretical race of aliens might not have fallen. They might, essentially, exist in their version of Eden.
But perhaps there is a race, or even many races, of fallen aliens. If their fall was collective like ours, it is a sure bet that God would redeem them, as he did for humans. This thought leads to some wild speculation and fanciful theology about whether God's Son could have been sent (and incarnated) separately for each race, or whether Jesus, the human incarnation, was meant to redeem aliens as well as humans. The potential for accidental heresy is high here, so I will desist from speculating at this point.
Rational but soulless beings?Earlier I mentioned that free will, rationality, and immortality are always tied together in that part of creation known to humans. It may be, though, that God has created rational beings without immortal souls. They may be able to perform feats of logic, to speak and understand language, and to solve problems even better than humans can, yet may be entirely mortal. In that case, aliens would be nothing more than clever animals. Their ability to out-think humans would be analogous to a horses' ability to outrun us, or fishes' ability to outswim us.
A final noteAll this speculation is nothing more than a mental exercise. While Catholics are certainly permitted to believe in intelligent aliens, they are not required to do so. In the case that aliens exist only in human imagination, it is an entirely moot point.
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Would aliens have immortal souls?
aliens and origins|creation|faith|science|