From Ruth Stylus
Inside the wacky world of the Raëlians
Angel ancestors, embassies for extraterrestrials and advanced supercomputers recording all human memory and DNA: Welcome to the often strange world of the Raëlians. Now the sect, which was founded in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon, a French retired racing journalist, has thrown open its doors to the cameras for the first time, after presenter Darren McMullen travelled to Croatia to meet the Raëlians living there. But, as Glenn Carter, the man responsible for the UK’s Raëlian population reveals, there’s more to Raëlian life than alien ancestors.
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‘Being Raëlian means that I believe in the fact that all life on earth was created by the Elohim; a society who came to earth 25,000 years ago specifically to create life,’ explains Mr Carter of his beliefs.
‘We also believe that Raël [Vorilhon’s Raëlian name] is their messenger, here to tell the world of these facts and to open the people of the world’s minds to the idea that we are in fact an intentional scientific creation. ‘The main goal of Raëlians at this stage is to create an embassy in order to facilitate and welcome the return of the Elohim to Earth.’ Like Scientology, Raëlianism is considered a ‘UFO religion’ with similar theories on intelligent design and extraterrestrial life as the American sect.
Unlike the Scientologists, however, Raëlians are famous for espousing sexual freedom and scientific development, and even claimed to have produced the world’s first cloned human baby in 2002. The cult hit the news again in 2012, when they staged a ‘Go Topless’ protest in Toronto in a bid to persuade city authorities to allow women to go braless in public.
Other controversies have included their use of the swastika as a symbol of peace which, until 1991 when it was replaced by another motif, meant that the Raëlians found themselves banned from opening ‘extraterrestrial embassies’ in Israel and Lebanon.
Yet despite their frequently bizarre behaviour, Carter, who discovered the religion while browsing through some of its publications in a London bookshop, is at pains to point out that Raëlianism is a real religion – and one that deserves to be taken seriously. ‘Even in our most controversial moments, the Raëlian movement is attempting to help people and society at large, whether they believe in the Elohim or agree with us or not,’ explains Carter.
‘Our cloning campaign pushed legislators in the UK to legalise and licence stem cell therapies three to five years earlier than they were planning to do so. ‘We in the UK are now a leading light in the world in this amazing medical technology. Yet we the movement and me personally took lots of negative criticism for this.’ He’s also got strong words for those who write off Raëlianism as just another cult. ‘I personally feel that the use of terminology like “cult” in the wrong context makes the user be seen clearly as either unaware of the bigotry they echo or the bigot and a fool they are,’ he insists. ‘Both speaks volumes of them and yet says nothing of the movement or myself.’ On a day-to-day basis, Carter says his world is one that would be recognisable to most of us, with the main rite, baptism, only allowed on the four Raëlian anniversaries. One comes on the 6th August and commemorates the Hiroshima bomb, while the others include the 13th December, the day on which Vorilhon had his first alien encounter, and the first Sunday in April, which, say the Raelians, was the day Adam and Eve were created by extraterrestrials.
The final date is the 7th of October, the date on which, in 1975, Vorilhon claims he was taken for a ride in a spacecraft by the Elohim. Other key beliefs include world peace and a coming judgement day when the Elohim, who record every human memory and DNA on an advanced supercomputer, will return to Earth and resurrect those who have already died using cloning.
In preparation for that day, the Raëlians are in the process of creating an extraterrestrial embassy, which they hope to build in Jerusalem, to welcome the Elohim back to Earth. Among those looking forward to the big day is Carter. ‘I will welcome Elohim with respect, just as one would welcome your long-departed parents back home,’ he enthuses. ‘Why would I do this?,’ he adds. ‘Because they created a wonderful place for me to inhabit and are the reason I and all of us exist.’
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