The Raëlian Movement

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Raelian symbol.svg
The Raëlian symbol with the swastika
(for the alternative version, see below)
TypeNew religious movement
ClassificationUFO religion
ScriptureMain: Intelligent Design: Message from the Designers
Minor: Sensual Meditation (Religious novel), Let’s Welcome the Extra-terrestrials, Geniocracy, Yes to Human Cloning and The Maitreya (Raëlian novel)
Planétaire guiderRaël
Order of Angels
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland[1]
Origin19 September 1974
Auvergne, France
Members100,000 (2018)
Other name(s)Raëlianism and Raëlian movement

Raëlism,[a] also known as Raëlianism, is a UFO religion that was founded in 1970s France by Claude Vorilhon, now known as Raël.[b] Scholars of religion classify Raëlism as a new religious movement. The group is formalised as the International Raëlian Movement (IRM) or Raëlian Church, a hierarchical organisation under Raël's leadership.

Raëlism teaches that an extraterrestrial species known as the Elohim created humanity using their advanced technology. An atheistic religion, it believes that the Elohim have historically been mistaken for gods. It holds that throughout history the Elohim have created forty Elohim/human hybrids who have served as prophets preparing humanity for news about their ultimate origins. Among those listed as prophets are The Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, and Muhammad, with Raël himself being the fortieth and final prophet. Raëlists believe that since the Hiroshima bomb of 1945, humanity has entered an Age of Apocalypse in which it is threatening itself with nuclear annihilation. It argues that humanity must find a way of harnessing new scientific and technological development for peaceful ends, and that once this has been achieved the Elohim shall return to Earth to share their technology with humanity and usher in a utopia. To this end, the Raëlians have been committed to building an embassy for the Elohim, incorporating a landing pad for the latter's spaceship. Raëlians promote a liberal ethical system with a strong emphasis on sexual experimentation, engage in daily meditation, and hope for physical immortality through human cloning.

Raël first published his claims to have been contacted by the Elohim in his 1974 book Le Livre Qui Dit La Verité. He subsequently established an organisation devoted to promoting his ideas, MADECH, which in 1976 disbanded and was replaced by the Raëlian Church. Raël headed the new organisation, which was structured around a hierarchy of seven levels. Attracting more followers, the group obtained a country estate in France before relocating its operations to Quebec. In 1998 Raël established the Order of Angels, an internal all-female group whose members are largely sequestered from wider society and tasked with training themselves to become the consorts of the Elohim. In 1997 Raël launched Clonaid, an organisation focused on research in human cloning that was led by senior Raëlian Brigitte Boisselier. In 2002 the company alleged that it had successfully produced a human clone, a baby named Eve, bringing much critical scrutiny and media attention to the group. The Movement has attracted further attention through its public protests in support of causes such as women's and gay rights and against nuclear testing.

The International Raëlian Movement claims tens of thousands of members, the majority centred in Francophone areas of Western Europe and North America as well as in parts of East Asia. Criticism of the movement has come from journalists, ex-Raëlians, and the anti-cult movement, while it has also undergone study by scholars of religion.


Scholars of religion classify Raëlism as a new religious movement.[2] Raëlism has also been described as a UFO religion,[3] a UFO movement,[4] and an ETI religion.[5] It is possibly the largest UFO religion in existence,[6] and in the mid-2000s, the scholar of religion Andreas Grünschloß described it as "one of the most consolidated UFO groups internationally active today."[7] In its beliefs, Raëlism differs from many other UFO based movements,[8] with the scholar of religion James R. Lewis calling it "the most thoroughly secular of all the UFO religions."[9] Most other UFO religions, such as the Aetherius Society, Ashtar Command, and Heaven's Gate, draw heavily on the beliefs of the late 19th century religion, Theosophy, although Raëlism does not.[10] The Raëlists have also been characterised as having a "belief in ufology",[11] although Raëlians themselves often stress that they do not regard themselves as Ufologists.[12]

A public gathering of Raëlists in the Insa-dong neighbourhood of Seoul, South Korea

Raëlism is materialistic and rejects the existence of the supernatural,[13] endorsing atheism and rejecting the idea that gods exist.[14] The religion's founder, Raël, characterises traditional religion as irrational and unscientific,[9] presenting his alternative as a movement that is free from "obscurantism and mysticism".[15] Raëlians describe their belief system as a "scientific religion,"[16] with the International Raëlian Movement using the motto "Science is our religion; religion is our science."[17] The movement places emphasis on the use of science to solve the world's problems,[18] and practitioners regard Raël as a pioneer of science who will one day be regarded alongside Galileo and Copernicus.[19] Many of its members refer to it as an "atheistic religion",[20] in this way drawing comparisons between it and Buddhism, which similarly does not promote the belief in gods.[21]

Along with science, the other main source underlying Raël's ideas is the Bible.[22] Noting the "central role" of the Bible in Raëlism, the scholar of religion Eugene V. Gallagher suggested that it was a "thoroughly biblical and thoroughly Christian" movement.[23] Similarly, the sociologist of religion Susan J. Palmer characterised Raëlism as being both fundamentalist and Abrahamic in its reliance on the Bible.[24] Raël nevertheless criticised Christianity for what he believed was its role in perverting the message of the Bible,[25] and Raëlism is not inclusive of other religions, with new members being expected to formally renounce any previous religious affiliations.[26]

In 1995, a parliamentary commission issued a report through the National Assembly of France that categorized the Raelian Movement (Mouvement Raëlien) as a secte, a French term with the connotations of the English word "cult".[27][28] In 1997, a parliamentary inquiry commission issued a report through the Belgian Chamber of Representatives that also categorized the Belgian Raelian Movement (Mouvement Raëlien Belge) as a secte.[27][29] Glenn McGee, professor at the University of New Haven, stated that part of the sect is a cult while the other part is a commercial website that collects large sums of money from those interested in human cloning.[30]


In the early 2000s, the scholar of religion George D. Chryssides noted that Raëlism exhibits "a coherent worldview",[11] although added that the movement remained in the "very early developmental stage".[31] The religion is based on the teachings of Raël. Raël's claims are taken literally by practitioners of Raëlism,[32] who regard his writings as scripture.[33] Palmer thought that, from her extensive study of the movement and Raël himself, that he genuinely believed in the truth of his claims.[34] The sociologist of religion Christopher Partridge noted that Raëlianism exhibits "a strong physicalist belief system".[35]

Raëlism presents a form of the ancient astronauts theory which was well-known at the time that the religion was formed.[36] Several French authors, such as Jean Sendy, Serge Hutin, and Jacques Bergier, had already published books in the late 1960s and early 1970s stating that Earth was the outpost of an ancient extra-terrestrial society.[37] The Swiss writer Erich von Däniken had also famously presented the same idea during the 1960s;[38][39]:p. 231[40]:p. 320 his book Chariots of the Gods had been published in German in 1968,[41] after which it was published in French and English in 1970.[36] Similar ideas had also been put forward in science-fiction, such as the U.S. television series Star Trek.[42] Raëlians themselves often deny the impact of von Däniken on the movement, instead believing that it comes entirely from Raël's revelations.[43]

The Elohim

A medallion displaying the Raëlian symbol; practitioners typically wear these medallions to identify their beliefs[44]

Raëlism teaches that there exists an extraterrestrial species known as the Elohim.[45] Raël stated that the word "Elohim", which is used for God in the Old Testament, is actually a plural term which he translates as meaning "those who came from the sky."[46] Individual members of the Elohim are referred to as "Eloha" by Raël.[47] He alleged that these aliens gave him the honorific name of "Raël",[48] a term deriving from "Israel",[49] and which he translates as meaning "the messenger of those who come from the sky."[50]

In his first book, Le Livre Qui Dit La Verité ("The Book That Tells the Truth"), which was first published in 1974, Raël claimed that he initially encountered these alien beings on 13 December 1973, when he was 27 years old.[51] He stated that he was walking along the Puy de Lassolas volcanic crater in the Clermont-Ferrand mountains when one of their spaceships appeared and an Eloha emerged.[52] He stated that the Eloha asked him to return the following day and to bring a Bible with him. Raël did so and the over the course of six days Eloha explained to him the true meaning of its contents, thus revealing more about the Elohim's involvement in human history.[53] In his 1976 book Les Extra-Terrestes M'ont Emmené Sur Leur Planete ("The Extraterrestrials Took Me to Their Planet"), Raël added that he was contacted by the Elohim again on 7 October 1975, when they took him aboard their spaceship and transported him to their home planet.[54] Here he was offered six biological robot women with which to have sex, saw the Elohim create his clone, and taught the techniques of sensual meditation.[55] The scholar of religion James R. Lewis noted that Raël's account of encountering the Elohim was similar to those of the "classic UFO contactees" of the 1950s and 1960s.[56]

The Elohim are described as being physically smaller than humans, with pale green skin and almond-shaped eyes,[57] and divide into seven different races,[58] although Raëlians are forbidden from painting or sketching them.[18] Their planet, Raël stated, is outside our solar system but within our own Milky Way galaxy.[59] Raël alleged that there are 90,000 of these Elohim on their planet and that they are all quasi-immortal.[60] He commented that on their world, they do not wear clothes.[61] He added that they are all permitted to engage in free love with one another, and that sexual jealousy between them has been eliminated.[60] All are regarded as fairly feminine in their manner;[62] Raël states that "the most feminine woman on Earth is only 10% as feminine as the Elohim."[15] They are not allowed to procreate to have children and many undergo a sterilisation operation to ensure this.[60] He also reported that the Elohim are able to communicate with humans because they have an understanding of all human languages.[63]

The Elohim on Earth

Raëlism teaches that around 25,000 years ago the Elohim arrived at the Earth and terraformed it so that biological life could emerge. It states that the Elohim used their advanced technology to establish all life on the planet.[64] Raël characterises humans as "biological robots" that have been created and programmed by the Elohim.[65] Raëlism teaches that humanity is physically modelled on the Elohim;[66] for practitioners, this is indicated by the passage at Genesis 1:26.[7] Also reflecting his own interpretation of Genesis, Raël teaches that the Elohim scientist responsible for creating humanity was named Yahweh and that the first two humans to be created were named Adam and Eve.[67] Raëlians believe that there were original seven human races, modelling the seven Elohim races, but that the purple, blue, and green races have died out.[58] In believing humanity was created by the Elohim, Raëlians reject Darwinian evolution and espouse creationism and intelligent design;[68] Raëlians call their approach "scientific creationism."[69] Raëlians believe that the Elohim were also created by an earlier species, and they before them, ad infinitum.[17] They believe that the cosmos expands indefinitely, both in time and space;[17] infinity is an important concept for them.[70]

Raëlians promoting their religion on a street in Japan; one is dressed as an alien character mascot

Raëlians believe that accounts of gods in various mythologies around the world are misinterpretations of memories about the Elohim.[71] The movement holds that the sacred scriptures of many other religions describe the ongoing activities of the Elohim on Earth.[72] The tale of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, recounted in Genesis, is for instance interpreted as reflecting humanity's difficult transition from the Elohim's laboratories to life on Earth, where they had to become self-sufficient.[72] The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, as presented in the Gospels, is described as reflecting how the Elohim cloned Jesus to restore him to life after physical death.[72] References to Satan are interpreted as referring to the head of a group on the Elohim's planet who were opposed to genetic experiments on Earth and who argued that humanity should be destroyed as a potential threat.[73] According to the Raëlians, the Great Flood narrative recounts an attempt by the anti-human aliens to wipe out humanity, but that humanity was rescued by an alien spacecraft which provided the basis for the story of Noah's Ark.[74]

Various figures who established or inspired religious movements throughout human history, including Jesus, the Buddha, Muhammad, and Joseph Smith, are portrayed by the Raëlians as having been guided by the Elohim.[72] These are characterised as being 39 prophets sent to humanity at various points.[75] Each is believed to have revealed information to humanity that they could comprehend at the given time, and Raëlism therefore emphasises the idea of progressive truth.[75] Raël claims that he is the fortieth and final prophet of the Elohim,[76] sent because humanity is now sufficiently developed to understand the truth about the Elohim.[77] He initially claimed that he was chosen for this role because he had a Roman Catholic mother and a Jewish father and was thus "an ideal link between two very important peoples in the history of the world."[45] He added that he was also selected because he lived in France, which the Elohim considered a more open-minded country than most others.[45]

Raël subsequently stated that these prophets are themselves the result of a human mother breeding with an Eloha father,[78] with the human mothers having been chosen for the purity of their genetic code, beamed onto an Elohim spacecraft, impregnated, and then returned to Earth with their memory of the event erased.[79] In his 1979 book, Let's Welcome Our Fathers from Space, Raël added that he was the biological son of the Eloha whom he first encountered, Yahweh.[80] He noted that Yahweh was also the father of Jesus, making the latter Raël's half-brother.[81] In 2003, Raël publicly identified himself as Maitreya, the prophesied future bodhisattva of Mahayana Buddhism.[59] He maintains that he continues to be in telepathic contact with the Elohim, hearing Yahweh's voice guiding him in making decisions impacting the Raëlian movement.[82]

The religion also teaches that the Elohim continue to monitor every human individual on Earth, remotely, from their planet.[12] This is done so that the Elohim can decide which individuals merit being offered the opportunity of eternal life.[83] It argues that the Elohim continue to visit the Earth, as evidenced by crop circles, which adherents regard as the landing spaces of the Elohim's spacecraft.[75] Raëlians generally understand sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) as confirmation of their belief in the Elohim, although their view of Ufology is ambiguous.[84] Raëlians also see the appearance of "angel hair" as evidence of the Elohim's presence, stating that it has appeared at various Raëlian summer gatherings.[85] They typically express scepticism regarding claims by alleged alien contactees other than Raël.[84] Raëlians believe that they are all capable of linking in telepathically with the Elohim but that only Raël is permitted to physically meet with them or receive their revelations.[85]

The Age of Apocalypse and the Elohim's Return

A small-scale tent copy of the proposed Elohim embassy erected at a Raëlian seminar in Colombia

Raëlism is a millenarian movement.[86] Raël claims that since the U.S. military's use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, humanity have been living in the "Age of Apocalypse" or "Revelation."[87] It states that the human species must now choose whether to use science and technology to enhance life or to use it to bring about nuclear annihilation.[88] It claims that if humans successfully get through this present age, they will live in an era of advanced technology in which society will be tolerant and sexually liberated.[42] Raël claimed that he was destined to help lead humanity away from its path of destruction.[89]

According to Raël, moving into a peaceful age will trigger the return of the Elohim to Earth.[89] He added that they will bring them the 39 immortal prophets whom they had previously sent to guide humanity.[90] Raël stated that humanity has to build an embassy for the Elohim prior to their arrival on Earth and that it must include a landing pad for their spaceship.[91] He stated that it needed to be located on internationally recognised neutral territory so as not to indicate favour towards any one particular nation-state.[77] Initially, Raël sought permission to build it in Israel,[92] explaining this by reference to how the ancient Israelites were once in contact with the Elohim.[77] He also stated that this embassy would constitute the "Third Temple" referred to in Jewish prophecy.[93]

Receiving little support for this venture from the Israeli government, Raël instead suggested that a neighbouring country might be suitable, proposing Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt as possible locations. None of the governments of these countries were supportive.[77] Senior figures in the Raëlian Movement suggested Hawaii as a possible alternative, and in 1998 Raël stated that he had received a new revelation from the Elohim stating that this location would be acceptable.[15] Chryssides noted that should the Elohim not arrive in 2035, the Raëlians will have to adapt to the new circumstance in which their eschatology remains unfulfilled.[94] On 16 April 1987, the Chicago Sun-Times estimated the funding for the "cosmic kibbutz" at $1 million. In 1997–1998, the funding had risen to $7 million.[95][96][97] By 2001, $9 million had been saved for the embassy,[98]:p. 64 and in October 2001, the funding had reached $20 million.[99]

Once on Earth, Raël claims, the Elohim will share their advanced technology and scientific understanding with humanity and will help to usher in a utopia.[89] Raël teaches that the Elohim's arrival with herald a new and improved political system on the Earth.[83] This will be a single world government that Raël terms a "geniocracy,"[100] or "rule of geniuses,"[101] and which he discusses in his fifth book, Geniocracy.[70] According to this system, only those who are fifty percent more intelligent that the average person will be permitted to rule.[102] Raël's proposed geniocratic system bears similarities with the style of governance that Plato promoted in his work Republic.[103] Raëlians thus reject democracy, believing that it fails to ensure that society has the best leaders.[102] Raël claims that this future society will have no war, and crime will have been ended through genetic engineering.[102] In this future, Raël states, humanity will be able to travel beyond the Earth to colonise other planets.[104] He claims that robots will assume menial tasks, allowing humans to devote their time to pleasurable pursuits.[105] He also argued that there would be biological robots which would serve as sex slaves, akin to those which Raël states he encountered on his visit to the Elohim planet.[106] A single world currency will be introduced, as a prelude to the total abolition of money, while a unified world calendar will also be adopted.[102]

Cloning and survival after death

Raëlians reject the existence of the ethereal soul that survives physical death,[107] and instead argue that the only hope for immortality is through scientific means.[104] The Raëlians claim that the Elohim will clone and thus recreate dead individuals, but only those whom they feel merit this recreation.[108] In this, they believe in a "conditional immortality", with immortality for a minority and oblivion for the majority.[108] The resurrection of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, is for instance explained as an example of Elohim cloning.[108]

Raëlists advocate for the development of human cloning technology on Earth.[106] Raëlians also believe that deceased individuals can be cloned so that they could be put on trial and punished for their crimes.[108] Raël expressed an interest in cloning Adolf Hitler for war trials and retroactive punishment.[109] After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, in which the attackers committed suicide, the Raëlists proposed that they could be resurrected through cloning to stand trial for their actions.[110][111]

As opposed to the scientific definition of reproductive cloning which is simply the creation of a genetically identical living thing, Raëlians seek to both genetically clone individuals, rapidly accelerate growth of the clone to adulthood through a process like guided self-assembly of rapidly expanded cells or even nanotechnology.[112] Raël told lawmakers that banning the development of human cloning was comparable to outlawing medical advances such "antibiotics, blood transfusions, and vaccines."[113]

Morality, ethics, and gender roles

A woman on a bed adorned with the Raëlian symbol

Raëlism insists on a strict ethical code for its followers.[114] Members are expected to take responsibility for their own actions, respect cultural and racial difference, promote non-violence, strive for world peace, and share wealth and resources.[114] They are also encouraged to uphold democracy, in the belief that humanity will ultimately make a democratic choice to introduce geniocracy.[114] The Raëlian view is that everything should be permitted so long as it harms no one and does not impede scientific and technological advance.[102] Members are nevertheless advised against using recreational drugs or stimulants so as not to harm their health,[115] although some practitioners have acknowledged that they use alcohol and cigarettes.[116]

John M. Bozeman characterised the religion's approach to morality as "progressive,"[117] while Palmer referred to the group's "liberal social values",[118] and Chryssides described Raëlist values as being "worldly and hedonistic".[119] The scholar of religion Paul Oliver noted that the movement's ethics were "relativistic" in that practitioners were encouraged to act in a manner that they felt to be appropriate to the context.[26] Several scholars have also argued that it is a "world-affirming" religion, using the typology established by Roy Wallis.[120]

Raël viewed gender as an artificial construct and emphasised its fluidity.[121] Raël avoided a macho persona and is instead often described by his followers as being "gentle" and "feminine".[122] Palmer suggested that Raël regarded women as being superior to men because they were described as being more like the Elohim.[62] In Raël's account, the inhabitants of the Elohim planet "have 10 percent of masculinity and 90 percent of femininity."[62] Raël also proposed that if women were in positions of political power across the world, there would be no war.[62] The Raëlians have taken part in public protests for women's rights, for instance to raise awareness about discrimination towards women.[123] At its June 2003 "Joy of Being Woman" demonstration, Raëlian women danced naked through the streets of Paris.[123] Palmer described the Raëlians as feminists,[124] although Raël criticised mainstream feminism, arguing that it "copied the shortcomings of men".[125] Generally adopting the view that the human body is highly malleable,[126] Raëlism has taken a positive view of plastic surgery to improve physical appearance.[127]

A Raëlist contingent on the street at the "Korea Queer Culture Festival" held in Seoul in 2014

Raëlism teaches that the Elohim created humanity to feel sexual desire as a panacea for their violent impulses.[128] It holds that through the pursuit of sexual pleasure, new pathways between the neurons in the brain are forged, thus enhancing an individual's intelligence.[129] Raëlism encourages its members to explore their sexuality;[60] while Raël is often photographed with beautiful women and appears to be heterosexual, he encourages homosexual experimentation.[130] Adopting an accepting attitude towards different forms of sexual orientation and expression,[70] Raëlism teaches that differences in sexual orientation are rooted in the Elohim's primordial genetic programming and are something to be celebrated.[131] Researching about the Raëlians of Quebec, Palmer found that many avoided categorising themselves using terms like "heterosexual", "homosexual", or "bisexual", finding these labels too limiting.[132]

The Raëlians have stressed the need for respect and mutual consent in sexual behaviour.[133] The group places a strong taboo on incest, rape, and sexual activities involving children.[133] Anyone involved in the Movement found to have been involved in these latter activities is excommunicated,[134] while Raël has recommended that paedophiles be castrated or placed in mental institutions.[134] Those believed to have forced unwelcome sexual attention on another is excommunicated from the Movement for seven years—the amount of time Raëlians believe it takes for all of a person's biological cells to be regenerated.[133]

The Raëlists reject both enforced monogamy and marriage, regarding these as institutions that have been enforced to enslave women and suppress sexual expression.[135] The movement discourages its members from marrying.[60] Members are also discouraged from contributing to global overpopulation;[60] members are urged not to have more than two children, and ideally none at all.[136] Raël states that should two individuals wish to procreate, their psychic control during the act of conception can have an impact on the child.[137] The Raëlists also believe that once human cloning has been developed, biological reproduction will be obsolete.[128] As well as supporting the use of birth control and contraceptives,[138] Raëlists support the use of abortion to terminate unwanted pregnancies.[139] Raël has also argued that if a woman does not want a child who has been born then she should give it up to be raised by society.[134]

Some Swiss government authorities responded to Raëlians' views about Sensual Meditation with a fear that Raëlians are a threat to public morals for supporting liberalized sex education for children. They express the view that such liberalized sex education teaches youngsters how to obtain sexual gratification which would encourage sexual abuse of underage children.[140]

Religious symbol

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A six pointed star with a swastika inside it
A six pointed star with a swirl inside it
The two variants of the Raëlian logo; the former uses the swastika in the centre and the latter a swirl representing the shape of a galaxy. The latter was adopted to avoid the connotations of Nazism that the swastika has in Western countries.

The symbol initially used to signify Raëlism was a six-pointed star with a swastika in the centre.[141] Raël stated that this was the symbol he originally saw on the hull of the Elohim's spaceship.[142] Raëlians regard this as a symbol of infinity.[143] Practitioners also believe that this symbol helps facilitate their own telepathic contact with the Elohim.[144] Raëlists typically wear a medallion of the symbol around their neck.[44]

The Raëlian use of the swastika—a symbol that had been prominently used by Germany's Nazi Party during the 1930s and 1940s—led to accusations from the Montreal anti-cult organization Info-Cult that the Raëlians promoted fascism and racism.[113] Outside Info-Cult's office, Raëlians spoke against the act of discriminating against a religious minority.[113] On 2 January 1992, a dozen people protested against the use of the swastika in the Raëlian logo in Miami's Eden Roc Hotel. The use of the swastika and other Raelian practices has led to criticism from the group Hineni of Florida, an Orthodox Jewish organization.[145]

In 1992, the Raëlian Movement altered their symbol, replacing the central swastika with a swirling shape. They explained that this was due to a request from the Elohim to change the symbol in order to help in negotiations with Israel for the building of the Extraterrestrial Embassy, although the country continued to deny their request.[146][147] Raël also stated that the change was made to show respect to the victims of the Holocaust.[101] The newly added swirling shape was explained as a depiction of a swirling galaxy.[101] In 2005, the Israeli Raëlian Guide Kobi Drori stated that the Lebanese government was discussing proposals by the Raëlian movement to build their interplanetary embassy in Lebanon. However, one condition was that the Raëlians not display their logo on top of the building because it mixes a swastika and a Star of David. According to Drori, the Raëlians involved declined this offer, as they wished to keep the symbol as it was.[148] From 1991 to 2007, the official Raëlian symbol in Europe and America did not have the original swastika, but Raël decided to make the original symbol, the Star of David intertwined with a swastika, the only official symbol of the Raelian Movement worldwide.[149]


Raëlism involves a series of monthly meetings, initiations, and meditation rituals.[58] Where possible, Raëlians congregate with fellow practitioners on the third Sunday of the month.[150] It is the group's policy that these events take place in rented rooms rather than property that the Raëlian Movement itself has purchased.[61] At the monthly meetings in Montreal, Raël himself often appeared.[151]

Raëlians drawing with sand

The main ritual in Raëlism is the "transmission of the cellular plan", in which a Raëlian Guide placed their hands on another individual's head, through which the Guide is believed to receive the individual's cellular code and then telepathically transmit it to the Elohim.[152] Doing so denotes the initiate's formal recognition of the Elohim as the creators of humanity.[153] This is used as part of the "baptism", or initiation ceremony for new members joining the Movement.[154] Those in the Movement who hold the rank of bishop and priest are permitted to conduct these initiation ceremonies.[155] In some instances, when the necessary indivduals are present, Raël touches the head of a Raëlian bishop, who in turn touches that of a Raëlian priest, who touches the head of the initiate to ensure the "transmission".[153] These "transmissions" are permitted to take place on one of four days in the year that play prominent role in the Raëlian calendar.[156] The first examples took place in April 1976, when Raël carried out the "transmission" ceremonies of forty initiates on the Roc Plat.[155]

The Raëlian calendar begins with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.[157] Each year after this date is referred to as "AH" or "après Hiroshima" ("after Hiroshima").[158] The Raëlians celebrate four religious festivals each year, each marking one of Raël's encounters or revelations from the Elohim.[154] These are the first Sunday in April, which is the date on which Raëlians believe the Elohim created the first humans; 6 August, which marks the day after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945; 7 October, which is the day in which Raël claims he encountered the Elohim for the second time, in 1974; and 13 December, marking the day that Raël allegedly first encountered the Elohim in 1973.[114]

Sensual meditation

A key practice in Raëlism is "sensual meditation", something that Raël outlined in his 1980 book La méditation sensuelle.[101] Raëlians are encouraged to take part in this guided meditation or visualisation on a daily basis, with the intent of transmitting love and telepathic links to the Elohim and achieving harmony with infinity.[159] In this, practitioners are often assisted in this meditation through listening to an instruction tape.[160] Sensual meditation sessions also take place communally at the group's monthly meetings, during which the assembled adherents sit or lie on the floor in a dimly lit room. They are then guided through it by a Raëlian Guide speaking through a microphone;[161] the meditation may be accompanied by New Age music.[162]

Sensual meditation begins with a relaxation exercise known as harmonization avec l'infini ("harmonization with the infinite".[161] One stage of this process is "oxygenation", which entails deep breathing.[163] Practitioners are taught to relax and then envision themselves expanding their frame of reference until the self becomes only a tiny speck within the universe.[164] They are then tasked with visualising the bones and organs of the body, and ultimately the atoms within the body itself.[165] The guided meditation they encourages the meditators to imagine themselves being on the Elohim's planet and telepathically communicating with these aliens.[166]

Palmer found that Raëlians varyingly described a sense of physical well-being, psychic abilities, or sexual arousal during these meditations and interpreted these as evidence that they were in telepathic contact with the Elohim.[167] The goal of sensual meditation is to achieve a "cosmic orgasm",[168] which is characterised as the ultimate experience a person can have.[169] Palmer quoted one senior Raëlian as describing the "cosmic orgasm" as "the sensual experience of the unity between the self and the universe."[161]



Claude Vorilhon was born in Ambert, France on 30 September 1946.[170] He was the illegitimate son of a 15-year-old mother; his father had been a Sephardi Jew then in hiding from the Nazi authorities.[170] Vorilhon later recounted being raised as an atheist by his grandmother and aunt, although for a time attended a Roman Catholic boarding school.[170] As a teenager, Vorilhon hitch-hiked to Paris where he pursued a career as a singer, having several hit singles under the name "Claude Celleir."[171] He then married a nurse and had two children with her.[172] In 1973, he founded the racing car magazine Auto Pop and also worked as a test driver for such vehicles.[172] In November 1973, a new law was introduced in France banning speeding on the highway, ending his work as a test driver.[172] Auto Pop ceased publication in September 1974.[173]

The Puy Lassolas, the mountain where Raël claimed he first encountered the Elohim in 1973

There had been a range of reported UFO sightings in 1970s France,[174] and the ancient astronaut theory was "very much in vogue" in the country by the middle of that decade.[175] In early 1974, Vorilhon announced that in December 1973 he had been contacted by the Elohim while walking along the Puy Lassolas mountain. He began promoting these ideas in interviews on French television and radio.[176] He began lecturing on his alleged experiences in Paris, where he attracted a group of followers,[177] many of whom were science-fiction fans or amateur ufologists.[175] In December 1974 an organisation based on his ideas, the Mouvement pour l'accueil des Elohims créateurs de l'humanite (MADECH; "Movement for the Welcoming of the Elohim, Creators of Humanity"), was launched.[177] Vorilhon began referring to himself as "Raël."[177] A newsletter, Apocalypse, began publication in October 1974.[177] MADECH began raising money for the self-publication of Vorilhon's first book,[177] which appeared as Le Livre Qui Dit La Verité that year.[45] Raëlians treat his first book with reverence, often referring to it simple as Le livré ("the book").[178]

Some members of MADECH wanted the organisation to take a broader interest in Ufology beyond Raël's own claims and also desired to restrict his authority within the group.[177] Amid an internal power struggle, Raël called an emergency meeting in April 1975; the feud continued and in July he dismissed MADECH's executives and replaced them with seven of his own supporters.[179] Raël also announced that he had been contacted by the Elohim for a second time and that on this occasion they had taken him to visit their planet. He outlined these claims in his 1975 book Les Extra-Terrestes M'ont Emmené Sur Leur Planete.[180] Opposition to Raël remained evident in MADECH and in 1976 he disbanded the group, launching the Raëlian Movement as a replacement in February 1976.[181] It operated along a strict hierarchy, with Raël as its leader, referred to as the "Guide of Guides."[182] Unlike MADECH, it promoted a broader religious structure, including ritual practices.[183] It continued publication of Apocalypse to spread its message.[182]

In 1976, the Raëlians launched a mission to the Canadian province of Quebec to attract converts in the Francophone region.[184] The following year a Quebecois branch of the Movement was established.[185] Raël's first two books were then published in a single English edition, titled Space Aliens Took Me to Their Planet in 1978 and republished as The Message Given To Me By Extra-Terrestrials: They Took Me to their Planet in 1986 and, in a new translation, as The Final Message in 1998.[45] He expanded on his ideas with several additional books: Accueiller Les Extra-Terrestes in 1979 (translated as Let's Welcome Our Fathers from Space in 1986),[45] La Méditation Sensuelle in 1980 (translated as Sensual Meditation in 1986), and Geniocracy.[45]

Later development

Two Raëlians visiting UFOLand, the Quebec museum which the Raëlians established in 1997

In 1980, the Raëlians launched their mission to Japan, followed by one to Africa in 1982, and one to Australia in 1990.[186] In the early 1980s the Movement also bought a campground near Albi in southern France, which they named Eden.[187] In 1984, Raël underwent a year's retreat in which he avoided public appearance.[188] The following year, his first wife left both him and the movement;[134] he subsequently embarked on a relationship with a Japanese Raëlian, Lisa Sunagawa, for several years.[189] In the mid-1990s, Raël returned to his hobby of motor racing, competing in the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix and the 1998 Motorola Cup in Miami before retiring from the sport in 2001.[190]

In 1992, the Raëlian Movement bought 115 hectares of land near Valcourt in Quebec, naming this property Le Jardin du Prophète ("the Garden of the Prophet").[187] It was on this property in 1997 that the organisation opened UFOLand, a museum about ufology. Its purpose was to raise money for the Elohim Embassy, but in 2001 it closed to the public, having proved financially unviable to maintain.[191] It was also in 1997, after Ian Wilmut announced the birth of Dolly the Sheep, a successful clone, that Raël established Valiant Venture as a company to explore the commercial applications of cloning technology.[192] Through it came Clonaid, of which the Raëlian Bishop Brigitte Boisselier was co-founder, director, and spokesperson.[27] The launch of this group and its promotion of human cloning incited much debate among other religious figures, scientists, and ethicists.[27] Raël and Boisselier both attention US President Bill Clinton's Congress hearing on the topic of human cloning in March 2001.[27]

Raël founded Valiant Venture Ltd Corporation in 1997, to research human cloning. The company name was later changed to Clonaid and handed over to Raëlian bishop Brigitte Boisselier in 2000.[193] In 2002, Boisselier, as chief executive of Clonaid, said that a human baby was conceived through cloning technology.[194] Around this time, Clonaid's subsidiary BioFusion Tech said it possessed a cell fusion device that assisted the cloning of human embryos.[195] The Vatican said that experimenters expressed "brutal mentality" for attempting to clone human beings.[196] Pope John Paul II criticized the experiment which he believes threatens the dignity of human life.[197] In response, the leader of the Raëlian Church dismissed the Pope's ethical concerns, calling them an "accumulation of religious prejudices."[196]

At the July 1998 training camp in the Jardins des Prophètes, Raël announced that in December 1997 he had received another revelation from the Elohim, commanding him to form a new grouping within the Raëlian Movement, the Order of Raël's Angels.[198] This was to be a secret society,[131] open only to women who would become the consorts of the Elohim after their arrival on Earth.[198] A newsletter, Plumes d'Anges (Angel Feathers), was then issued containing information about the Order.[157] Palmer noted that by emphasising the unique qualities of women, the formation of this group challenged the established Raëlian view that men and women are wholly equal and interchangeable.[131]

Brigitte Boisselier (left) took on a senior role in the Raëlian Movement

In 2001, Raël toured Asia, giving seminars.[199] That year he married for a second time, to a 16-year old ballet student. Raëlism discourages marriage, and this instance was done for expediency, because he had been questioned by customs officials when traveling with her across borders. They subsequently divorced but continued to live together as a couple.[200] In November 2002, a local man vandalised the group's Jardins des Prophètes property, causing significant damage.[201] Raël stated that this had been a preliminary test of the "Abraham Project," a joint operation between the Central Intelligence Agency and the French intelligence agencies to assassinate him using schizophrenics under a form of mind control.[202]

In December 2002 Boisselier announced the birth of a baby called Eve which she claimed was the world's first human clone.[203] The announcement ignited much media attention, ethical debate, doubt, criticism, and claims of a hoax. Spokespeople for the movement, including Claude Vorilhon, have suggested that this is one of the first steps in achieving a more important agenda. They say that through cloning they can combine an accelerated growth process with some form of mind transfer, and in such, may achieve eternal life.[204][205] The child was not presented for scrutiny by scientists;[206] thus, the IRM's allegations regarding Baby Eve were never substantiated by the scientific community.[94] In January 2003 the Raëlians declared that the parents of Eve had gone underground to evade attention.[206] The appearance of Baby Eve gained the Raëlians much international press coverage,[94] with the group claiming this publicity brought it around 5000 new members.[207] Boisellier periodically announced that further clones infants had been born, in the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, although the press increasingly believed the situation was a hoax and started boycotting Raëlian press conferences.[206] In January 2003, Raël announced Boisellier as his appointed successor.[206] That year, he also published The Maitreya, in which he identified himself with the eponymous figure from Buddhist prophecy.[59]

In response to Raël's association with Clonaid, South Korean immigration authorities at the airport denied him entry into their country in 2003.[208] This decision led to the quick cancellation of the planned Raëlian seminar which seven hundred registered for. Raëlians of South Korea were instructed by Raël to protest near the Ministry of Health and Welfare that ordered him to leave.[208][209] Officials detained Raël for nine hours at Incheon International Airport before he and his wife Sophie de Niverville left for Tokyo from where they took another plane on their way back to Canada. Raël responded by saying that Korean officials treated him like a "North Korean" and that he would wait for an apology before coming back to Korea.[209] Raël appeared alongside a group of women, "Raël's Girls", in the October 2004 issue of Playboy.[5][210] In 2009, the Church announced plans for a new UFOLand in Las Vegas.[5]

Organisation and structure

The main organisation is known as the International Raëlian Movement (IRM),[211] which is also known as the Raëlian Church.[61] A strictly hierarchical organisation,[182] there are two levels of membership.[212] The majority of members are referred to simply as "Raëlians",[61] while those who are in the higher levels controlling the Movement are referred to as the "Structure."[213]

Member hierarchy

Level 6:
Guide of Guides
Planetary guide
Level 5:
Level 4:
Level 3:
Assistant Priest
Continental head
National guide
Regional guide
National guide
Regional guide
Regional guide
Level 2:
Level 1:
Assistant Organizer
Level 0:

The Structure is divided along a six-tiered system.[216] Raël is at the top of the Raëlian Church, being referred to as the "Guide of Guides."[182] Senior members of the Structure re-elect him to that position each seven years.[155] Below Raël are the "Bishop Guides", then the "Priest Guides", then the "Animators", then the "Assistant Animators", and finally the "Probationers".[61] Race, gender, and sexual orientation are no barrier to rising through the ranks of the group's leadership structure.[131] However, Palmer noted that by the mid-1990s there were few women in leadership positions within the organisation.[217]

Members of the Raëlian structure begin as level 0 "trainees" during annual seminars. The Raelian structure said in 2007 to have about 2,300 members,[218] 170 "Raëlian guides",[219] and 41 bishops.[220]

Three Raëlian Bishops sit on a "Council of the Wise" which monitors heresy and arranges punishment for transgressors.[221] When they seek to punish an individual it is usually for a seven-year "excommunication"; it lasts seven years because Raëlians believe that it takes this long for every cell in the human body to be replaced.[61] In more severe cases, the Council can oversee a "demarking", by which they cancel the transmission of the cellular code, believing that this revokes the individual's hope for immortality through cloning.[61]

Members pay an annual membership fee to the Raëlian Movement.[155] Full members of the Movement are encouraged to tithe ten percent of their income to go to the organisation,[222] although this is not enforced.[223] This tithe is then divided up, with 3% going to the national branch and 7% to the International Movement's central administration.[224] An additional 1% may go to Raël himself.[186] In her research, Palmer found many practitioners who admitted to not paying the tithe.[116] It is these tithes and membership fees, coupled with the sales of Raël's books, that represent the International Raëlian Movement's main income.[133] This money is then saved toward the construction of the Elohim Embassy or spent on the production of flyers, books, videos, and other material used to disseminate the Raëlian message.[186]

According to Michel Beluet, the former director of a Raëlian-built museum called UFOland, the only pressure exerted on members is to attend annual Raëlian seminars, which allows members convinced of Raël's enthusiasm to voluntarily tithe.[98]:p. 209 Palmer cited Raël, who said that more than 60% of the Raëlian Movement's members do not tithe.[98]:p. 64 Dawson College students conducted a survey of the membership in Canada in 1991 which found that only one-third of respondents tithed.[98]:p. 209

The group initially owned a country estate in Albi, France, before later obtaining one in Valcourt, Quebec.[61]

Order of Angels

Women make up only a third of the membership in the Raëlian Church.[98]:p. 117 In 1998, Raël established a new, all-female group within the broader movement known as the Order of Raël's Angels, the members of which are trained to become the consorts of the Elohim.[128] He stated that these women would be the only humans permitted contact with the Elohim after the latter arrive on Earth, and that they will be the only people allowed to enter the Elohim's embassy.[225] He further adds that they will serve as the Elohim's liaisons with human politicians, scientists, and journalists.[225] Raël stated that it was only women who could be Angels because men were not feminine enough for the extremely gentle, delicate, and sensitive Elohim.[225] Transwomen were permitted entry; Raël praised one transsexual member for "choosing to be a woman."[127]

Raëlian women at the "Korea Love Hug" festival in Seoul, South Korea

The Order of Raël's Angels is organised around a six-tiered structure, mirroring the six-tiered structure of the Raëlian Movement as a whole.[226] Raël divides the Angels into three groups: the White, Pink, and Golden Ribbon Angels.[226] White Angels wear white feathers on a necklace, can choose human lovers, and are tasked with operating in the world to attract more women into the Raëlian movement.[227] Pink Angels wear a pink feather on a necklace and are considered by Raël to be the "Chosen Ones" who will become the consorts of the Elohim. They are expected live a sequestered life, initially in the Jardins des Prophètes community, and are expected to reserve their sexual activity for the extraterrestrials.[228] The Gold Ribbon Angels are characterised by a gold cord worn around the neck. They are handpicked by Raël for their physical beauty, and are described as being the first humans who will approach the Elohim on the latter's arrival on Earth.[228] The Pink and Gold Ribbon Angels are expected to abstain from sexual activity with most other humans but should receive instruction in alien lovemaking from Raël himself as well as engaging in sexual acts alone or with other Angels.[229]

The Angels are tasked with pursuing self-transformation, striving to please the Elohim and resemble them more closely by cultivating discipline, serenity, harmony, purity, humility, charisma, and both internal and external beauty.[230] The Angels are instructed to regularly pray to the Elohim and engage in much meditation.[199] They are encouraged to limit their meat consumption and to avoid eating carbohydrates and sugar so as to maintain their physical beauty.[127] They have proved useful for the group's public relations and have also provided volunteers for its human cloning experiments.[231][232] The Order has also engaged in the selling of human ova on the internet, launching a website to do so in 1999.[233] Raël stated that this would help the Angels achieve financial independence.[123]

The Order was insulated from the rest of the movement, with the Angels' living quarters for instance being off-limits to non-Angels.[234] Access to the Angels is strictly limited for both journalists and scholars.[235] Gold Ribbon Angels have been demoted from this status as they have aged, on the explanation that as their physical beauty has deteriorated they are no longer suited to greeting the Elohim. These demoted individuals are then tasked with training up younger replacements.[236] Other individuals have been stripped of their status as Angels altogether, when they are perceived to have acted in contravention of the group's ethos.[237]

The initiation rites include declaring an oath or making a contract in which one agrees to become defender of the Raëlian ideology and its founder Raël.[238][239] The Order of Angels has its own hierarchy of "rose angels" and "white angels" which, as of 2003, are six and 160 women, respectively.[240] A few days later, Time magazine wrote that French chemist Brigitte Boisselier was an Order of Angels member.[194] Around this time, cult specialist Mike Kropveld called the Order of Angels "one of the most transparent movements" he had witnessed, though he was alarmed by the women's promise to defend Raël's life with their own bodies.[239]

Raël has instructed some women members to play a pro-sex feminist role in the Raëlian Church. "Rael's Girls" is another group of women in the movement which are against the suppression of feminine acts of pleasure, including sexual intercourse with men or women. Rael's Girls solely consists of women who work in the sex industry.[241] The women of Rael's Girls say there is no reason to repent for performing striptease or being a prostitute.[241][242] This organization was set up "to support the choice of the women who are working in the sex industry".[243]


A Raëlian protest sign is raised at political rally demanding the return of U.S. troops from foreign military engagements

The Raëlian Church holds week-long summer seminars known as "Stages of Awakening."[150] These include daily lectures by Raël, sensual meditation sessions, periods of fasting and feasting, testimonials, and various alternative therapies.[61] These seminars are used by Raëlians as an opportunity to form friendships or sexual relationships.[187] Attendees at these seminars wear white togas with name tags;[61] they have also used colored bracelets to indicate whether they wanted to be alone, be in a couple, or simply meet people.[244]

On a yearly basis, Raëlian members organize seminars that are often attractive to the sexually adventurous.[245] At one camp, participants were invited to dress in the clothes of the opposite gender as part of an exercise to play with the fluidity of gender expression.[162][238] Activities such as observations of one's own genitals and masturbation with them disturbed Brigitte McCann, a Calgary Sun reporter who entered one of the Raëlian seminars.[246] Susan J. Palmer said a French journalist went to a Raëlian Seminar in 1991 and taped couples having sexual intercourse in tents. These tapes gained widespread negative publicity—with news stories that described these practices as perverted and a form of brainwashing.[113] Following these seminars, a second seminar, this time restricted to members of the Structure, takes place.[187]

Other activities, outreach and advocacy

The International Raëlian Movement have established a range of projects through which to promote their ideology.[247] In February 1997, they created Clonaid, a company devoted to human cloning.[247] Individuals can bank a sample of their DNA with the group, which offers to then produce a single clone of the individual after they die.[247] Another Raëlian company, Ovulaid, seeks to provide ovaries for individuals and couples who cannot biologically produce their offspring.[247] It expresses its intention to develop technologies that can create "designer babies" to the desired specification of their client.[247] An additional project was Insuraclone, designed to clone organs for an individual in the event of future organ failure,[248] and Clonapet, which stated that it would clone people's pets after they had died.[247] In 2000, the Raëlians launched NOPEDO, a group to combat paedophilia.[134] In 2009 it launched its "Adopt a Clitoris" project to raise money to create a hospital in Africa to reverse damage caused by female genital mutilation (FGM);[249] it has also established Clitoraid, an organization whose mission is to oppose FGM.[250][251] Another of the groups established by the Raëlian Church is the Raëlian Association of Sexual Minorities (ARAMAIS), an LGBT rights group.[134]


Raëlians protesting the South Korean government's ban on Raël entering the country

The Raëlians are known for their social and political activism, specifically for women's rights, gay rights, opposition to racism, banning nuclear testing, and promoting genetically-modified foods.[134] Throughout the history of Raëlism, members of the Raëlian Church have toured public settings advocating masturbation, condoms and birth control.[232]

Pro-GMO: On 6 August 2003, the first day of Raëlian year 58 AH,[252] a tech article on the USA Today newspaper mentions an "unlikely ally" of the Monsanto Company, the Raëlian Movement of Brazil. The movement gave vocal support in response to the company's support for genetically modified organisms particularly in their country. Brazilian farmers have been using Monsanto's genetically engineered soy plants as well as the Roundup herbicide to which it was artificially adapted. The Raëlians spoke against the Brazilian government's ban on GMOs.[253] The movement is supportive of genetically-modified foods.[108]

Anti-war: In 2006, About 30 Raëlians, some topless, took part in an anti-war demonstration in Seoul, South Korea.[254] In 2003, Raëlians in white alien costumes bore signs bearing the message "NO WAR ... ET wants Peace, too!" to protest the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[255]

Anti-Catholic: In 1992 Catholic schools in Montreal, Quebec, Canada objected to a proposed condom vending machine as contrary to their mission. In response, Raëlian guides, in an event dubbed "Operation Condom", gave the Catholic students ten thousand condoms. The Commissioner of Catholic schools for Montreal said they could do nothing to stop them.[113][256] Raël presents himself as an opponent of the Roman Catholic Church in his writings, criticising it for perverting the meaning of the Bible.[25]

In July 2001, Raëlians distributed leaflets on the streets of Italy and Switzerland protesting the existence of over a hundred child molesters among Roman Catholic clergy in France. They recommended that parents should not send their children to Catholic confession. The Episcopal vicar of Geneva sued the Raëlian Church for libel but did not win.[98]:p. 91[257] The judge did not accept the charges for the reason that the Raëlians were not attacking the whole of the Catholic Church.[98]:p. 91 In October 2002, Raëlians in a Canadian anti-clerical parade handed out Christian crosses to high school students. The students were invited to burn the crosses in a park not far from Montreal's Mount Royal and to sign letters of apostasy from the Roman Catholic Church. The Quebec Association of Bishops called this "incitement to hatred", and several school boards attempted to prevent their students from meeting Raëlians.[98]:p. 92

Topless Rights of Women

Several Raëlian groups in the United States have organized annual protests, claiming that women should have the same legal right to go topless in public that men enjoy without fear of arrest for indecent exposure.[258] Some have called this a publicity stunt designed to recruit members. Go Topless Day is their annual event, with women protesting topless except for nipple pasties to avoid arrest. It is held near 26 August, the anniversary of the day women were given the USA right to vote.[259]

Intentional controversy

Palmer stated that the Raëlian Movement was involved in "concocting, then carefully monitoring, a mild level of cultural conflict" to generate publicity for the group.[260] She compared this deliberate use of controversy to the actions of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, which behaved in a similar fashion during the 1960s and 1970s.[260] This view is shared by Mike Kropveld, executive director of Info-Cult, who says the controversy leads to criticism by both religious and non-religious people.[239] Palmer also noted that Raël engages in "blatant courtship of the media" to draw attention to his movement.[261] When media has adopted a mocking tone toward the religion, Raël has urged its followers to defend their beliefs, resulting in letter writing campaigns and sometimes lawsuits.[261]

In 1992, the IRM launched a series of protests after the Montreal Catholic School Commission decided to veto the addition of condom machines to the bathrooms of Roman Catholic high schools in Quebec. The Raëlians parked a "condom-mobile" outside Roman Catholic high schools in Quebec and Ontario from which they dispensed contraceptives to the pupils.[262] In 1993, the Raëlians organised a conference on masturbation in Quebec, at which speeches were given by Raël, Betty Dodson, and Daniel Chaloot. Advertising this cause, Raëlians handed out badges with "Out à la masturbation" written on them to attendees at the Montreal Jazz Festival.[263]

The book Yes to Human Cloning (2001) attracted media attention after its release, including segments on 20/20 and 60 Minutes.[264]:p. 156 Biophysicist Gregory Stock described the Raëlian Clonaid project as "sufficiently quirky to command instant media attention."[265]:p. 157 It has been estimated that the group received free publicity worth US$500 million as a result of the Clonaid announcement.[266]:p. 15 Mark Hunt, a lawyer and politician who wished to clone his dead son with the help of the Clonaid services, was overwhelmed by the volume of media attention and in an interview said that Clonaid's chief executive had become a "press hog".[267]:p. 170[268]:p. 283[269]:356


Raëlians promoting "Go Topless Day" in Paris in 2018

Established in France, Raëlism initially spread in Francophone areas of Europe, Africa, and North America.[77] In 1999, Bozeman noted that the Movement had around 35,000 members,[42] while in 2003 Chryssides stated that it had about 55,000 members worldwide.[13] By the early 2010s, the group was claiming 60,000 members internationally, something which Palmer and Sentes thought was "probably inflated".[270] As of the mid-1990s, membership clustered predominantly in France, Quebec, and Japan.[104] Palmer noted that in Canada, Raëlism had faced difficulty spreading from Quebec and into the country's Anglophone provinces.[162]

In 1989, the sociologist Eileen Barker noted that there were "only a dozen or so" committed members of the movement in Britain.[271] In 2001, the sociologist David V. Barrett suggested that there were around 40 to 50 committed members in the country and around 500 sympathisers.[77] In 2003, Chryssides commented that there were about 40 members and 200 sympathisers in Britain.[13]

An internal survey of the group's members in 1988 found that there were almost double as many men as women in the Movement.[272] Similarly, based on her attendance at Raëlian events in Quebec, Palmer noted that men usually outnumbered women.[162] She noted that many of the men acted in an effeminate fashion,[162] and were often attracted to other men.[132] Palmer also observed several transvestites at the meetings,[273] and found that a significant number of the women present worked as strippers.[132] On these grounds, she suggested that Raëlism had a particular appeal for "people who define themselves as sexually marginal".[273]

Conversion and deconversion

Raëlians engage in missionary activities to attract new people to their religion.[186] Members buy books written by Raël and then sell them on the street, hoping to recoup their original costs in doing so.[133] Raëlians often encounter much resistance to their attempts to convert others; Raël explains that this is to be expected, for the Elohim told him that only 4% of humanity is intelligent enough to be receptive to the Raëlian message.[186] Any Raëlian found trying to force someone to convert is barred from the organisation for seven years, the period which Raëlians believe it takes for every cell in the body to be replaced.[104]

A Raëlian lecturing on his religion at Onyang High School in South Korea

Since 1979, new members of the Raëlian Movement have been expected to sign an "Act of Apostasy,"[274] and send a letter of apostasy to any religious organisation that they were previously involved with.[275] They also sign a contract permitting a mortician to cut a piece of bone from their forehead after death, which they understand as the "Third Eye." This specimen will be stored in ice at a Swiss facility until the Elohim return, at which point it could be used to facilitate the cloning of the deceased individual.[276] This process is known as the "lifting of the frontal bone."[161] In addition, those joining are expected to bequeath their assets to the local Raëlian group,[59] although this is not obligatory.[161]

Former clergy of mainstream religions have joined the Raëlian Church, especially in Quebec.[277][278][279] The structure of the movement had promoted some of them to the level of Priest or Bishop due to "extensive Bible training and teaching skills".[278] Two ex-Roman Catholic priests, Victor Legendre[279] and Charles-Yvan Giroux,[280] converted to Raëlianism.[281] A former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) joined the Raelian Movement so that he could be openly homosexual.[277] Raëlian Mark Woodgate stated that 8% of Raëlians worldwide are former Latter-day Saints. Couples who have converted from different religions from each other are common, especially with spouses who were Christians or Buddhists.[282]


The Raëlist movement has also undergone academic research from scholars of religion, especially from Susan J. Palmer, who first encountered the movement in Montreal in 1987.[283] She initially thought that she "had never encountered an NRM that was so cooperative, that actually liked being studied."[284] Between 2002 and 2003, Palmer was blacklisted by the group, banned from attending any more of its meetings.[285] The group informed Palmer that she had now lost the opportunity to meet the Elohim on their arrival.[285] Palmer then drew upon both her interviews with active members and Raël's published monographs to produce her book on Raëlism, Aliens Adored.[286] Palmer noted that in wider society, Raëlism is "universally mocked";[287] Chryssides noted that at conferences of scholars of religion, where individuals are accustomed to studying a broad and diverse range of belief systems, attendees still often treated Raëlian beliefs with "incredulity or even mirth".[13]

A group of Raëlians protesting for gay rights in Wien, Austria

Lewis noted that people who were not part of the Raëlian Movement tend to view Raël's claims, as presented in his writing, as a conscious forgery.[288] Raëlism has received a critical reception from both ex-Raëlians and members of the anti-cult movement.[89] Jean-Denis Saint-Cyr, a former high-ranking member of the Raëlian movement, for instance accused Raël of plagiarising the earlier writings of Sendy in creating his religion.[89] Critics have argued that in promoting a governance system whereby people are graded by their intelligence, coupled with its emphasis on genetic engineering, Raëlism bears similarities with Nazism.[289] These allegations of neo-Nazi sympathies have also included emphasising the Raëlian use of the swastika as a symbol.[290] Palmer related that journalists she had encountered were often "fishing" for "bad things" to say about the Raëlians.[291] Many journalists sought to portray Raël as a danger to his followers, akin to David Koresh or Jim Jones, although Palmer thought this "ludicrous", stating that Raël was "not prone to violence".[34] Journalists also sought to present him as someone who sexually exploited his female members, which again Palmer found no evidence for.[292] Following statements that the Order of Raël's Angels would do anything for Raël, there was also press speculation that the group would engage in mass suicide akin to that of the Order of the Solar Temple.[202]

In 2005, two amateur documentary makers, Abdullah Hashem and Joseph McGowen, were welcomed into a Raëlian seminar and had permission to videotape it. They stated that the footage they took makes it clear that the Raelian Movement is a cult which should disband. A Raëlian guide said in a Wired News interview that he was not ashamed of what is shown and that he has no concerns about this incident.[293][294] In "International Raelian Movement v. Hashem," which began in 2008, the IRM filed multiple motions claiming that the purported filmmakers had misrepresented themselves in the making of the film, and had filmed the "documentary" intending to gain access to copyrighted materials and commit defamation and fraud.[295] The IRM also alleged the defendants had engaged in several criminal acts, under the RICO Act, including mail and wire fraud, threats of violence, blackmail, extortion and money laundering. McGowen responded to, and was dismissed from, the lawsuit in 2009. A default judgement was made against Hashem in August 2011, because "the defaulting defendants have not appeared, have not opposed plaintiff's motions in any way, and have made no showing that their failure to respond to the complaint is due to excusable neglect." Hashem was ordered to return the film footage to IRM within 30 days of the decision, although motions for summary damages by IRM were denied, with the court stating they had "failed to offer evidence of a concrete financial loss proximately caused by defendants."[296]

See also

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Further reading

External links


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