I have been interested in astronomy and the universe since I was 4 years old -- about the time of Sputnik. Much of my childhood was spent looking at the stars. In those lazy days of star-gazing I watched one of the Mercury spacecrafts fly overhead, watched many a falling star, and even saw something that was unidentified and behaved in an unnatural way. I still do not know what it was.
Now, as a Catholic Friar (monastic brother) my interests are still in the stars in general, and more specifically dealing with the theological ramifications of "ET". I am amuzed at the media's characterization that the existence of ET will somehow challenge the Christian faith. Poppycock!!. It will do no such thing. The existence of ET will only announce the Greater Glory of God as the Creator of the Universe. ET will confirm the faith, not destroy it.
Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home
Yes, I beleive that extraterrestrial life exists. God is a wondrous God who created a vast universe. There is no reason to presume that we on earth are the only creatures that God chose to give an immortal rational soul.
One of the gifts God has given us is the gift of curiosity and adventure. Of course we should reach out to the universe. This not only satisfies our own sense of adventure, but is a reaching out to other people of God's creation. In that sense, we are reaching out to brothers.
The first "beams" into space, of course, need to be mathematical so that others in the universe can know that we exist. As for substantive information someday we should communicate ideas of peace, intelligence, philosophy, culture, and religion.
I run the SETI@home project to assist the search for any signs of intelligent life, to support the effort, and to be, in my small way, the adventurer that I wished to be in childhood. I never did go into astronomy professionally, but here I can be a small participant in this grand and noble venture to search the stars for other life and thus to expand our horizons beyond the curvature of the earth.