Buzz Aldrin held a “secret” religious ceremony on the moon

Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 7.55.02 AMEven as an atheist, with a strong belief in the separation of church and state (and a wish that people all over the world would shake off the yoke of superstition), I think this is a pretty cool story.

Buzz Aldrin decided to hold his own private communion ceremony in the LEM before walking on the moon.

Aldrin silently read a passage from the book of John that he had written out on a 3×5 card: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” Then he took out the miniature chalice and bread and wine from his personal allowance pouch. “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me,” he told Guideposts magazine in 1970. “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.” Neil Armstrong, the other astronaut onboard, did not participate. (source)

He later expressed some degree of regret.

Aldrin later questioned his own decision to celebrate the Christian practice. “Perhaps if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion,” he wrote in his memoir. “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. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.” (source)

Even as an atheist, I probably would have told him to go ahead and do it. Frankly, I probably would have participated, had I been lucky enough to be in the LEM that day.

H/T: Mickey

5 Responses to Buzz Aldrin held a “secret” religious ceremony on the moon

  1. As the atheist son of a deeply devout Catholic mother (long deceased), I have a complicated relationship with church/spiritual rituals; I do things that I think would have pleased my mom, even though I most certainly don’t believe she’s watching me. It’s irrational, I know, but…

    I visit her grave (not as often as I feel I ought to); when I do, I light candles for her in church, and I say a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers (I draw the line at the Apostles’ Creed; I will not recite anything that starts out “We believe…” unless I believe it.) But I won’t take Communion, and I don’t think (in the alternate universe where I’m up there in Armstrong’s place) that I would have taken Communion with Buzz. The reason may seem illogical: I was taught that it would be deeply impious for an atheist to take Communion. I don’t think I’d be struck down by God, but that I’d be insulting the believers around me; I would no more do that than I would strip naked and run down the aisle yodeling “God is dead!”

    I’m a strong believer in the separation of Church and State*, but – like you – I think it’s very cool that Buzz did this. I just wouldn’t have joined him.

    * A topic for another time, but: why do modern-day theocrats not realize that C/S separation protects theists as much as – if not more than – atheists? It’s like they look around the world, see places like Saudi Arabia, and the only problem they see is the name of the state religion. Bizarre.

  2. How does one eat and drink on the moon? Just pop the helmet open for just a quick sec?

  3. The LEM was pressurized.

  4. Dago says:

    But Marc, you CAN be on a studio set somewhere in Hollywood, just like Buzz and Neil were for the filming if not the actual event :-)

  5. spodula says:

    Nah, He just nipped to the church around the back of the Lot where the landings were recorded :D

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