by Travis Jeppesen on May 1, 2008
I wrote this review for Think Again magazine; I thought I’d include it here because I picked up the book at the Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art show at the Barbican when I was in London. It was actually the only book on ufology that they were selling at the Barbican, which leads me to believe that it likely represents the curators’ sole effort at digging into the subject, which is rather unfortunate….
UFO Religion by Gregory L. Reece
Ufology is a boundless field that, in many ways, is not a field. Its practitioners come from a wide array of backgrounds, and include amateurs, esoteric fanatics, alleged contactees, and academics, many of whom claim to possess some vital nugget of truth related to those lights and phallic discs that occasionally appear in the night skies, only to vanish into the very blackness from which they materialized.
Given the highly speculative nature of the field, ufology differs from other subjects of study in that just about anyone who wants to can declare himself or herself an expert. This has given birth to a vast body of literature, some of which is quite profound and wide-ranging in its implications, while a lot more is quite simply bunk. In recent years, Brenda Denzler’s The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs, a masterful sociological history of the ufological movement that carefully and intricately probes that undefined area situated at the intersection of science and religion, fits into the first category. I expected something similar from Gregory L. Reece’s recent book, UFO Religion, and was let down.
Subtitled “Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture,” UFO Religion crudely summarizes the major sighting incidents, contactee movements, and popular theories regarding the origins of UFOs. A cynical skeptic, Reece offers no new theories of his own – nor is he likely qualified to. He is identified in his bio only as “an independent writer and scholar based in Montevallo, Alabama,” wherever the hell that is, and is unaffiliated with any university. His writing is devoid of any persuasive arguments or compelling tidbits of information; rather than employing impassioned debate against the saucer phenomenon rooted in some subtle form of scientific, sociological, and/or psychological analysis, Reece relies on lazy cynicism and jokes that aren’t funny. While the book is chock full of citations and comes equipped with a modest bibliographical compendium, the book reads like a 200 page long Wikipedia entry. One suspects that this is where Reece conducted most of his research.
Far from taking us “inside” the culture and quasi-religious tendencies of ufology, UFO Religion repeats what anyone with a vague understanding of the feral subject already knows. Anyone who’s new to the field would be better off starting with the sources and forming their own conclusion, rather than wasting time on this misleading excuse of a study, which is as lacking in insight as it is in seriousness and integrity.