The internet blinked in disbelief today after a BBC programme held a serious discussion on whether Jesus and Buddha were aliens from other planets.
The 23-minute segment on the BBC's The Big Questions TV show tackled the question: "Have beings from other planets guided our religions?"
The discussion on Sunday included the head of the Aetherius Society, which believes that Buddha, Jesus and Krishna came from outer space.
It followed segments covering "Does counter-terrorism have a place in schools?" and "Would democracy work better if voting was compulsory?"
Host Nicky Campbell introduced the debate by saying: "Last month NASA's Kepler space telescope identified another planet that might have the right conditions for life.
"It will be no surprise to the followers of those religions who've long believed that life - possibly not as we know it - exists elsewhere in the galaxy. Life which has possibly exerted its influence here on planet Earth. Have beings from other planets guided our religions?"
Campbell asked Mark Bennett from the Aetherius Society: "Who are they? Where are they? Can we see them?"
Bennet replied: "We believe that various religious leaders from history have an inter-planetary origin. We believe that Jesus and Buddha came from Venus, that Sri Krishna came from Saturn, that Saint Peter came from Mars, and so on."
He said he believes there are civilisations on other planets - such as the 'Venusion' settlment on Venus - but we can't detect them because they are so technologically and spiritually advanced that they exist at a "higher frequency of vibration."
Religious figures like Krishna and Jesus are "masters of love" who care about humans and do as much as they can for us "within the karmic law", Bennett added.
A representative from the British Union Of Spiritist Societies also argued that aliens from other planets reincarnate on earth and give us messages through dreams and intuition.
The programme's hashtag #BBCTBQ trended on Twitter, as many people questioned whether the debate was one that merited being on the show:
BBC, u ok hun?— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) February 8, 2015
"Have beings from other planets guided our religions?"
Ladies and gentleman, I give you BBC programming on a Sunday morning. #BBCTBQ— James Bloodworth (@J_Bloodworth) February 8, 2015
The last section of #BBCTBQ is almost un-watchable it's so cringe-inducing!— Andrew Wilson (@Stooshie) February 8, 2015
haven't laughed so much in a long time #BBCTBQ— Becky Graham (@stuffbybee) February 8, 2015
Twitter was then outraged further when the show's host brought in Liz Weston, a member of Christ Church Southampton, who described herself as a Christian and also a scientist and dismissed Bennett's ideas about aliens.
"It's very clear if you look at the gospels that there are only three answers as to who Jesus is.
"Either he's mad... or he's bad, he's trying to deceive us [and] his power comes from the Devil, or he is actually who he claimed to be and he is the son of God... none of those say that he was from Venus."
"Where is the evidence?" she later demanded.
The bishop of Southampton, Jonathan Frost, also spoke up for mainstream Christianity, saying Christianity was different from the Aetherius Society ideas because it is a "down to earth, lived practice which makes a real difference to people's lives".
He added that he respected beliefs about aliens, but called for "a little more reticence about the mystery of life".
Critics on Twitter called Weston and Frost out for their comments, saying that they were hypocritical to imply that mainstream Christian theology is any more substantiated than a belief in alien civilisation:
The Bishop pretending that Christianity is any less ridiculous than UFO 'religions' is hilarious..
Clue: they're all made up!— GodlessG (@g1rad) February 8, 2015
Where's the evidence says.......christian about another religion. Breathtaking hypocrisy! #BBCTBQ— MistakeNot_____ (@MistakeNot_____) February 8, 2015
Christian 'scientist' says "any decision you make should be based on evidence". Just picking up the pieces of my exploding head. #BBCTBQ— Godless Spellchecker (@GSpellchecker) February 8, 2015
Just caught up on #BBCTBQ. Head might explode. Worst of all the Christian scientist suggesting the sci-fi religion is nuts, but hers is true— Luke Hurst (@HurstWords) February 8, 2015
Religious nuts arguing with Nutty nuts about which unsubstantiated myth is real.
Let's all just back away slowly.— Patrick (@Patrick_PoV) February 8, 2015
Hubby: "it's like watching inmates in an asylum debating with each other who's actually Napoleon"February 8, 2015
In a rather unexpected twist, the tide of opinion started to turn in favour of Mark Bennett's extra-planetary ideas - he had earlier drawn a round of applause in the studio when he claimed his beliefs made "a lot more sense" than traditional Christianity.
"If you compare it to certain ideas which are very widely accepted around the world, actually given logical scrutiny, it makes a lot more sense," Bennett argued.
"I would say that it makes much more sense to say that Jesus was an interplanetary being who came to earth to help mankind, than to say that God created a one and only son, who was also himself at a random point in history, who came to come to earth and forgive people their sins for some reason we don't really know."
Some atheist Twitter commenters came out in show of support for Bennett, approving of his attempt to point out that beliefs aren't neccessarily valid just because they are widely accepted:
The one sensible thing the Aetherius Society said on #bbctbq is that their beliefs are no more ridiculous than those of standard religions.— Tetenterre (@Tetenterre) February 8, 2015
A Christian fundamentalist and a man who thinks Jesus was a Venusian on the BBC and the Christian sounds crazier. #BBCTBQ— JK Spratt (@jkspratt) February 8, 2015