It's also no surprise that when Ellie is chosen to go off on her little journey in this machine he doesn't want her to go. That doesn't stop her however and she goes on what appears to be a failed mission according to all but one of the recording devices for the mission. For her the mission is very successful and she, just like Palmer Joss, her love interest, has an experience. She is discredited by the government and their proof is that the passenger pod, from the machine appears to drop right through the machine. Ellie however, safe inside the pod enters a wormhole and is gone for approximately 14 hours. During the trip she wears a recording device, audio and visual, on her person which records nothing but static. What the government never points out is that contrary to the pod dropping right through the machine and appearing to never go anywhere, the device in the pod with her records approximately 14 hours of static, a great deal longer than it took for the pod to fall straight through the machine.
When Ellie returns she is made to go through a whole onslaught of interviews, basically being interrogated by her own government. Most specifically she is interrogated publically by the national security adviser whose job is to keep the status quo, imagine the panic that would ensue if the U.S. government produced proof that of life on other planets. Ironically, proof is in his favor as they omit the 14 hours of static, and he chooses Ockham’s razor to drive his point home. The movie ends with preacher and scientist having a better understanding of each other and neither denying that the other had an experience, a life altering experience. God or not God they are both going to walk through life feeling that we are all special beings; we all have a purpose and must live our lives fully and as morally as we can.
Interestingly enough and now we finally come to Gods role in the film, Ellie and other candidates for the machine have to sustain an interview process to be approved for the program. A formal selection committee is set up that has people from all over the world, scientists, theologians, scholars, religious leaders etc. Palmer Joss, the love interest, happens to be a part of this committee. Perhaps it is his desire for Ellie to keep her feet on the ground that makes him sabotage Ellie and ruin her chances when he asks her during her interview whether or not she believes in God knowing what her answer will be. Her answer is indeed a negative due to there being no empirical evidence and a “lack of data either way.”
Ellie does ask in this very public forum about the relevance of the question to which another person on the committee points out that 95% of the world’s population believes in some sort of Supreme Being. At this point of course she has nothing to say, no answer to that, I mean you don't want to offend "the other 95% of the world" on national television now do you? In bad form, the candidate following Ellie, having seen her flounder over the question of belief in God, shamelessly uses God as his platform to win, though his strong ties to God don't save him from that suicide bomber.
Herein lays the rub. Though it is mentioned that 95% of the population may indeed believe in God, it is never made a point of that they don't all believe in the same God. What is said is that 95% of the world believes in a Supreme Being in one form or another, the words "Supreme Being" still suggests a monotheistic approach, indeed, the first thought of most would be God. However, we have polytheists, non-Christian monotheists, atheists (which don't count in this scenario I suppose) and pantheists. We even have people who believe in Goddess but can you imagine the response from the committee if anyone had mentioned that possibility? What Palmer ultimately wants to know is whether Ellie really thinks that 95% of the world’s population is suffering from some sort of mass delusion. She never answers that question either.
Delusional might be a strong word. When I was a child I wondered how not having access to the “right” or “one true” god might condemn to eternal hell someone like a Tibetan monk, a person who lives a very spiritual life, just because of geography. Along with the contradictions and a certain level of hypocrisy it seemed a bit delusional to run as though on the playground yelling, "My God's better than your God...nyah, nyah..." In fact I would think that God would frown upon behavior like that but that is only speculation. It is undeniable that people will interpret the Bible or other such tomes differently but one message rings true no matter what religion you look into, be good. Love one another. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be excellent to each other and party on, dude. My opinion is that it isn't about who wins the big "My God is Shinier than your God" cook off, it's about our actions.
In the movie Contact the world is united by the idea that there may be other beings out there in the universe. What will it take to unite us now? Certainly not arguing over whose God has the whitest robes. As to the question of whether or not there are other beings in the universe, the movie once again gives us some food for thought. In the beginning of the movie, Ellie points out that there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone, if just one out of a million of those had planets and if just one out of a million of those had life and if just one out of a million of those had intelligent life, there would be millions of civilizations out there. And if there are millions of civilizations out there, there are likely to be millions of beings who believe what they believe and I still don't think the loving God I read about in the bible only has room in his heart for Christians only.
Still, Ellie is right, there really is no evidence either way. No one can prove anything and anyone who says they can, who says they have some great "secret," is likely trying to sell you that secret for a price. Back up when they ask for your credit card number or mention an installment plan. At the end of the day, every being in the 'verse knows the difference between right and wrong and makes choices based on too many variables to count or keep track of. Folks spend months, perhaps decades, trying to find stagnant answers to questions that by nature have answers that are the epitome of flux rather than enjoying the variance produced by simply living.