The Com-Moon-ion? December 22, 2009

The Com-Moon-ion?

Buzz Aldrin was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts, the second person to ever set foot on the moon.

In his book, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, he talks about performing a certain ritual immediately after the Lunar Module landed on the moon:

… I wanted to do something positive for the world, so the spiritual aspect appealed greatly to me, but NASA was still smarting from a lawsuit filed by atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair after the Apollo 8 astronauts read from the biblical creation account in Genesis. O’Hair contended this was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Although O’Hair’s views did not represent mainstream America at that time, her lawsuit was a nuisance and a distraction that NASA preferred to live without.

… I silently read the Bible passage as I partook of the wafer and the wine, and offered a private prayer for the task at hand and the opportunities I had been given.

Neil [Armstrong] watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time.

Perhaps, if I had to do it over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists…

A few thoughts:

  • It doesn’t bother me that he performed a communion for himself, but to think it represented something “positive”? Something for everyone? That seems incredibly arrogant. It’s nice to know he’s changed his mind in retrospect.
  • Communion as Aldrin performed it was limited to Christians, but what could he have done that represented everyone? Maybe he could have done something related to math, a la Contact. As they say in the movie, math is the universal language.
  • The reference to O’Hair just highlights for me what courage she had. Being one of the only public voices for atheists as well as someone who fought so hard for church/state separation — at a time when being in either camp was practically a death wish — I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for her. As much crap as we have to deal with nowadays, it’s nothing compared to what she was up against.
  • Aldrin mentions that Armstrong looked at him respectfully but made no comment at the time. Why is that? I don’t have any definitive sources, but many websites cite Armstrong as being non-religious.

(Thanks to Norm for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • So a astronaut, who has his own personal faith, kept it personal on a mission of science had a private ceremony with a fellow astronaut in a scary as hell situation miles from Earth.

    What’s the problem?

  • sc0tt

    Transubstantiated TANG!

  • Siamang

    I don’t have any problem with what he did. I’m sure he wouldn’t have had any problem if I decided not to pray.

    There are things he did there for all mankind, and then there are things he did there as a human being making history and living an extraordinary life.

    I think Buzz Aldrin knows it was the work of thousands of atheists, agnostics and believers and nonbelievers of all different walks of life that got him there to the moon (and safely back). I don’t think he meant to diminish the work, the lives or the spirit of anyone else in that moment when he commemorated the moment in accordance with his faith.

    My only truck is with this passage:

    Although O’Hair’s views did not represent mainstream America at that time,

    Which may lead schoolchildren reading the book to the misunderstanding of our first-amendment freedoms as protecting only mainstream viewpoints.

  • ThatOtherGuy

    Eeew, now the Moon is tainted by Jeebus-meat :<

  • haha, hearing O’Hair still makes me a little tense, she was so demonized.

    I find it amazing that I never heard of the communion thing, seeing how we used A Beka curriculum. That’s really interesting. Guess it’s a good thing the first person on the mood wasn’t as religious, otherwise we would hear how our founding fathers AND the guys on the moon were all Christian, ergo everyone else should be, too. 😉

  • oops, I meant “moon.” It’s pretty bad when you type your cold, haha!

  • james812

    freedom of religion includes freedom to be christian. its not like he planted the catholic flag on the moon, and its not like he made the whole world pray. telling someone they can’t practice their religion is just as bad as telling someone they should practice yours.

    btw, i’m an atheist and think all religion is stupid. but i let stupid be stupid so long as they leave me alone.

  • Sean

    Yeah, sorry Hemant, like the rest above I don’t see the issue here. In fact, he did exactly what atheists have been asking Christians to do for years – kept it to himself.

  • My impression was that although this wasn’t some major televised event or anything, Aldrin did this as a representative for all mankind, not just as a personal thing he was doing for himself. That’s why he even says at the end of the excerpt he would’ve chosen to do things differently in hindsight.

  • magetoo

    DeamonCohln: “What’s the problem?”

    Sean: “Yeah, sorry Hemant, like the rest above I don’t see the issue here.”

    Who said it was a problem? Sometimes people blog about things just because they think they’re interesting.

  • His first two thoughts on the subject indicate that he has a problem with it…

  • Sean

    @magetoo – Considering the webpage, the tone of his first two points etc, I just assumed that was the point he was making. Which I don’t think was too unreasonable. It’s all hunky dorey thought and I understand his viewpoint, I just (respectfully) disagreed, is all.

  • NewEnglandBob

    I also don’t have any problem with what he did.

    So what if he claims he did it for all humanity. Any of us can make that claim any time. That doesn’t make it true or valid.

  • Mak

    “So what if he claims he did it for all humanity. Any of us can make that claim any time. That doesn’t make it true or valid.”

    Exactly. Hey, I think I’ll head out to the backyard and sacrifice a moose to the sun god- in the name of humanity!

  • magetoo

    MTI, Sean; I suppose we just read the tone differently…

    But: “Considering the webpage” – I guess this is what I had in mind (somewhere at the back); it does say “friendly” right at the top too. 🙂

  • Staceyjw

    I’ll bet O’Hair never thought she would have so much influence on what they did on the moon- she probably thought that lawsuit was needed, but it that wouldn’t make any difference. But she DID make a difference. GOOD FOR HER.
    Staceyjw

  • Sean

    @magetoo – that is true! I was more meaning the “atheist” part of the title in this instance, but your point is perfectly valid. 😉

  • polomint38

    @Mak

    Hey, I think I’ll head out to the backyard and sacrifice a moose to the sun god- in the name of humanity!

    Funny enough I’m going to sacrifice my son to a moose god – in the name of humanity.

  • Hemant, I think you’re misinterpreting Aldrin’s words. Look again, “Perhaps, if I had to do it over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. . . .”

    He’s giving a reason for why he shouldn’t have celebrated the communion. Since the mission represented people of all faiths, he feels uneasy about his decision to perform a uniquely Christian ritual. But the reason why he did it was because “it was a deeply meaningful experience for [him].”

    Muslims have a duty to pray five times a day. Someday, when Muslims go into space, I hope they, like Aldrin, have the courage to express their beliefs in a private, personal way.

  • liz

    if he kept it to himself…he didnt do a very good job. because we all know about it now.

  • muggle

    It was fine while he kept it to himself. Interestingly enough, he suddenly chose not to. Hmmm, motive suddenly suspect. It’s like people who say they’re praying for you instead of just doing so. If they tell you, the hypocrites are prostelyzing you.

    Also, the dig at O’Hair kind of confirms the suspicion that he wasn’t being altogether altruistic.

    Although, on the up side, it seems that he kind of was ticked at O’Hair for ending broadcast, forced-upon-the-rest-of-us crap and that he did it not so much for religious reasons as to rebel against her and he’s kind of admitting he was wrong to do that. I’m glad he realizes this.

    Given that’s probably his reason for now telling how he did it, I’ll overlook and forgive him for doing so. What he now needs to also do is apologize for the remarks about O’Hair and the implication that being in the majority makes it right.

  • llewelly

    Funny enough I’m going to sacrifice my son to a moose god – in the name of humanity.

    Just before you bring the knife down Humanity and the Moose God will cry out “No! Don’t do it! We were only kidding!”

  • Chris B

    OK what troubles me a bit here is
    1: Alcohol on board a psace vehicle.
    2: ALCOHOL ON BOARD A FRICKIN SPACE VEHICLE!
    3: in a 100% Oxygen Atmosphere (I think)

    Sure it was just a sip, but if I took just a sip at work I would lose my job (I’m a commercial pilot).

    His was possibly one of the most significant tasks in the history of Homo Sapiens, and he was doing this? How utterly inappropriate. I’d like to know what the other guys in the capsule were thinking at this point.

    I know Niel fluffed his lines, but after reading this I’m a little more glad that he got to step out first!