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WHEN PROPHECY NEVER FAILS: Myth and Reality in a Flying-Saucer Group

Diana G. Tumminia, professor of sociology

(Oxford University Press, 2005, $35)

Contrary to what many may think, UFO- based religions do not consist entirely of kooks, cultists and science fiction fanatics. In fact, these creeds deserve as much respect as any other belief system on Earth, says Diana Tumminia.

Tumminia, an ethnographer and expert in social psychology, contends religious groups such as the Unarius Academy of Science, are similar to other religions because their beliefs cannot be proven or seen. And they continue to have faith despite unfulfilled prophecies.

“On the surface my book is about a UFO-based religion,
but the real deep analysis is about how people construct
realities and select evidence,” says Tumminia, who studied
Unarius for more than 10 years. “I think they have a normal
religion. You have to understand that they believe in things
that are taken on faith.”

Founded in 1954 by “Cosmic Visionaries” Ruth and Ernest
Norman, Unarians believe their “space brothers” will one
day arrive on Earth with advanced intergalactic technology
benefiting all humankind. The group even has a landing
strip ready near El Cajon. Since its inception two dates in
the religion’s prophecy have passed, once in 1975 and again
in 2001. Unarians explain the visitors were scared away by
humankinds’ warlike nature.

Tumminia stresses religions like Unarius should not be seen as cults. There have been two UFO religions that did commit mass suicide—Heaven’s Gate and Solar Temple— but other UFO religions do not have a doomsday philosophy.

“Despite these tragedies, I think social scientists should examine each group for its own set of unique characteristics,” Tumminia says.

Tumminia says there are about 20 UFO-based religions,
primarily in the United States, as well as countless alien contact groups that have not developed into full-scale religions. Only a small fraction of those who join UFO religions do so because of an interest in UFOs or extraterrestrials. Rather, she says, they are attracted to charismatic leaders and support systems.


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