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American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  303 ratings  ·  59 reviews
More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions.

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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 20th 2019 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
The author is a religious expert who studies the religious and has branched into studying UFOlogists since there is a real crossover between both sets of people. Both sets of people want to believe in unseen (or at least unverified) things hoped for and want to believe that the truth is out there in some form thus placing meaning not within the person but outside of them.

The author frames our meaning by how we interpret our world through our experience, physical evidence and the social milieu
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: truth-search
Could have been so much better though...

It was like there were avenues the author began to go down that seemed both interesting and promising but then decided not to go all the way down leaving me frustrated....
Allison Thurman
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At long last! A book about what UFOs *mean* rather than what they *are*. Because who would care about their physical reality (or lack thereof) if people weren't so interested in them?

Pasulka is a professor of religion - studying what beliefs mean to people. If that wasn't enough to intrigue me, the fact that the preface is an account of driving around Silicon Valley with Jacques Vallee (one of the least silly UFOlogists around) hooked me.

The two main discussions in Pasulka's book involve 1) an
May 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
While there's an occasional good idea in American Cosmic, D.W. Pasulka can't seem to string together a single paragraph without resorting to hagiography, pointless academic authoritarian posturing or contextless dogma. In short, this book is a mess and is so trite as to require a belief in the reader that every anecdote is self-serving fiction. Not a good look. There are far better books about UFOlogy and far better books about modern belief systems and the emergence of mysticism in response to ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This alternated between a really dense read integrating discussion of quantum theory and consciousness studies with case studies of credible, yet many times "invisible," scientists, biotechnologists, and computer engineers who are absolutely convinced that extraterrestrial life (what Pasulka terms "the phenomenon") exists. Pasulka, a religious studies scholar, claims that she seeks to explore more the effects of belief in UFOs as a new form of religion on individuals and society than stake a ...more
Karen Kobie
Apr 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica Mae Stover
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
In progress, but I thought it would be irresponsible for me to shelve this book (and hence raise its profile) without a few notes as a reminder to key up your skepticism and talk back to texts. I'll update this review (sponsored by my Patreons) when I finish reading.

- The nonfiction premise of this book is intriguing and compelling, and I think a broad spectrum of readers interested in the humanities and/or science fiction will be interested in the research topic.
- Around page thirty I began to
This was a fascinating read! Pasulka applies her methodology as a religion researcher to the UFO community and examines how modern technology and media play into what, in her mind, are the equivalent to religious experiences for some. This was very interesting to me on multiple levels. First, I love the X-Files and am interested in UFOlogy/ "alien stuff" lol so I found her comparisons of experiences and sighting to documented "miracles" within the church fascinating. TO be clear, she's not ...more
Sam Sills
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can tell a lot of thought went into this book. I liked the analysis of UFO events coming from a Religious Study point of view. It does seem to make sense that the belief in anything paranormal is basically a religious experience.

For some reason I had a bit of a hard time reading this and I think it is because this book is much more philosophical in nature than most books about the paranormal. I’m more interested in the “facts” (yes, I believe in paranormal experiences, but I’m also
More a memoir mixed with research and fieldwork than a solid piece of scholarship. If you are interested in the intersection of religion and ufology then this is the book for you...otherwise you can give it a pass.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting. Weird at times, but interesting.
Joshua Byrd
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The truth is out there.
Ivan Buchanan-Januskevic
An interesting view at the topic from an outside perspective. Less informationally dense than I would have liked, and a bit too focused on the Catholic faith for my personal tastes, but it does draw a lot of interesting parallels between spiritual experiences and those of UFOs and extraterrestrials, for in reality, is there really a difference?
Robert Gibb
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The intersection between UFOs, aliens, and God is a concept throughout the book that fascinated me the most. Maybe the things we can’t understand are all connected.

Below are some other interesting concepts and snippets from the book. Reading these will help you determine if reading the whole book is a good use of your time.

You can find my full review here:

18th Century Psychic Cosmonauts

At the beginning of American Cosmic, the author mentions a person who
Gregory Gallavin
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is what author D.W. Pasulka has set out to do in American Cosmic:

“This book is about how technology informs a widespread and growing religiosity focused on UFOs, but it is also a story.” Pg 3

Regarding the first half of that – technology informing religiosity - on page 21 the author describes a visit to an undisclosed desert location in New Mexico where she views a familiar looking landscape. Her host informs her that it was featured in an episode of The X-Files. She then goes on to state “
Eric Gilliland
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it

Professor of Religious Studies Diane Walsh Pasulka spent six years researching the UFO phenomenon and the culture surrounding it. While the UFO craze no longer holds the place in pop culture it had in the late 20th century, many still devote their lives to the mystery.

There's a lot to unpack in American Cosmic. The most significant revelation in the book is that the tin foil hat crowd are not alone chasing UFOs. There's a large number of scientists, engineers, writers, and "cultural elites"
Aaron Kleinheksel
This is definitely a genre-bending book when attempting to sort it by shelves...

American Cosmic is written by a professor of Comparative Religion w/ an interesting resume, to include advising on some feature films. She wrote this book at least partly because she felt we may be witnessing the birth and growth of a new world-spanning religion, which is a rare event and one which has never been chronicled contemporaneously. This was a unique direction from which to approach the "UFO phenomenon,"
Mark Scheel
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In American Cosmic, the reader meets author Dr. D. W. Pasulka, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and researcher extraordinaire into the possible interconnectedness among Catholicism, science, technology, media and UFO phenomena. And by the conclusion of her both personal and scholarly exploration, one is likely never to view religion, technology and UFO sightings in quite the same way again. She opens the door to a plethora of fresh possibilities and ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A rational and objective examination of UFOs, but not one that attempts to prove the existence of extraterrestrials, but rather, makes the case that the belief in them constitutes a new form of religion. The book describes how perceived contact with unexplained phenomena such as UFOs have a powerful effect, including the sense of experiencing something divine, and these feelings can coalesce to form a belief system - a religion. Of course, everything we see is impacted by the media, a forum that ...more
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
American Cosmic is neither a purely academic discussion of the growth in public belief in UFOs, nor a bull session from out of the fringes of late night talk radio, but, rather, a mixture of the two. Imagine a book written by Art Bell published by a major university press, and you get a sense of what American Cosmic is all about.

Overall, American Cosmic’s discussion of the “reality” of UFOs it is not nearly as interesting and compelling as Leslie Kean’s recent ‘UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and
American Cosmic is one hell of a read. Don't let the subtitle deceive you. Dr. Pasulka hasn't written another dubious entry into the corpus of UFOs and Ufology literature. American Cosmic isn't about government conspiracies and disclosure; instead, it is an engaging inquiry into what the UFO experience might mean ontologically to the individuals that encounter them. It's an exploration of how inexplicable events shape our religious consciousness.

Diana W. Pasulka brings her talents as a
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting examination of what Pasulka describes as "the phenomenon," which includes not only UFO visitation/abduction narratives, but similar religious and spiritual experiences throughout history. Her contention is that these experiences need not be explained or understood materially to be real. Experiencers who believe that they've been contacted by a non-earthy intelligences have had wide reaching effects on society. She does not attempt to explain what is happening, but she makes the ...more
Kirk Dobihal
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, religion
Approached this group as a skeptic and planned on writing a scathing review. With background in
Biological sciences and interests in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and cosmology I felt I had to correct the author on her nonscientific venture into the impossible. Now after reading her account I have been stimulated to at least take on a few of the books cited within. I guess I can now cite myself as book-encounterer as well as somewhat questionable experiencer. 50 years ago I and a childhood
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
D.W. Pasulka is a religious studies scholar who moved the focus of her research from medieval Catholicism to contemporary UFO discourse in 2012. When approaching academic humanities literature, I often view weighty jargon and thorny theoretical diatribes as a cost--only sometimes worth it--for the chance to discover ideas so tantalizing and fresh that they sometimes remake my worldview entirely. In this book, Pasulka offers that fruit without the cost of the thorns. In a lucid, personal account ...more
More of a 3.5

This book was absolutely wild, but on the other hand, it felt like it was missing something. I think I was expecting more material on regular people who believe in this. Instead, it was focused on a couple of larger-than-life personalities. I suppose the whole idea was that these were very successful people (a billionaire biotechnologist, a professor of science--biology, I think?) so it's not just your stereotypical dumb, drunk hillbillies. But the focus on these guys got to be kind
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: intelligent beings
"As latchkey kids we used to sit in our living room with the neighbour kids watching rerun episodes of the Twilight Zone, never anticipating that one day, we would wake up in an actual episode."

Revealing interface of colliding realities, reads like a novel, challenges the staus quo paradigm and illuminates the confusion.

"We live within a media-saturated world where fictionalized factual productions like those created by Impossible Factual are beamed through screens into the brains of viewers and
Michael Adams
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Fairly interesting examination of the intersections between science & technology, science fiction, the UFO phenomenon, and faith. Travels along paths already blazed by the likes of Jacques Vallee and Jeff Kripal, but does a good job as a summary and offers some unique anecdotes of it’s own which is simultaneously it’s greatest differentiator and biggest detractor. The “story” part of the book is threadbare at best. By the time I read the book I had heard the entirety of the “blindfolded and ...more
Dan Nolting
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Academic study written as a narrative of the author’s encounters with scientific scholars. The author, herself a religious scholar - studies the ‘believers’ and as an agnostic - keeps an open mind throughout. But it tends to get a little too myopic as she observes herself observing the observers etc.
Largely about digitized media being on a subconscious par with early paranormal biblical sightings ; and how they may intersect and diverge.
The believers she hangs with are not your typical
George Ramos
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book written by an academic documenting her experiences with a keen, objective approach that recalls an anthropologist exploring an alien culture. She takes us to some strange places to meet fascinating people, including the deserts of New Mexico and the Vatican. Along the way, she explores the thoughts of people who have been in contact with the strange and numinous, popularly known as "aliens" or "UFOs", while not pretending to know what they are. These people, and her own ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was ok

This is has an interesting premise, that Aliens and UFOs are becoming the new mythology--yet to me, this seems to be a passing or fading zeitgeist. I may have believe it in the 90s, when the Cold War was freshly ended and we need another "other". But now, conspiracy theories are more about the Deep State, and people are too cynical and atheistic to believe in this.

It's fun, but I just don't buy it--and the book
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