Serious journalists are not happy that the Raelian cult, which believes humanity was created by spacepersons, has gotten so much coverage for its claim of having cloned a couple of humans. The fact that the cult has not produced any evidence is seen as a strike against its credibility. One also suspects the antic particulars of the Raelian creed lends a certain skepticism.
It should be recognized, however, that the Raelians are traditionalists, of a sort. Cults centered on sensuality–the central sacrament of the Raelian Way–are nothing new. The great historian of stupidity, Paul Tabori, tells us that in 18th-century France the “Multiplicants” had a ritual in which partners were married, for 24-hour stints, during which they consummated their relationship in the presence of watchful coreligionists. The Lothardi, who operated in the 14th century, believed traditional morality was good above ground, but they suspended the rules at a distance of around two yards underground, where, in secret subterranean spaces they “conducted horrible orgies: wild flagellation, every sexual perversion, murder and suicide….”
Tabori also writes of the ancient Euchites, who “made the sexual act part of their ritual” and later “murdered the children born of these orgies, drained their blood, and burned the bodies on a bonfire: Then the ashes were mixed with the drained blood and a loathsome concoction was made.” Members of these former cults often suffered for their beliefs. The Multipliacants, for example, were busted in 1723, at which time the “leaders were hanged, the men sentenced to the galleys for life, and after the women’s heads were shaved they were locked up in nunneries.”
The Raelians, by comparison, are very tame, except perhaps in their theft from the religions they hope to replace. The immaculate birth of their “Eve” (firstborn of the Age of Cloning) was announced at Christmastime, at a Holiday Inn, no less. One was somewhat surprised that Brigitte Boisselier, the cult’s spokeswoman, didn’t arrive on the back of an ass. Raelians also have messianic aspirations, telling us that space aliens will return someday, and perhaps someday soon.
None of this should be taken as criticism. After all, we all have to make a living somehow, and it appears that Claude Vorilhon, the former French journalist and racecar driver who created this cult, has hit on a winning formula. As one news story reported, more “than 55,000 people in 84 countries have accepted that message and been baptized into the Raelian religion” which teaches a message of “sexual freedom, sensual pleasure and love of science.” Raelian women, the story adds, “have pledged to give themselves to the extraterrestrial creators,” yet in the meantime are reported to make do with available fellow-cultists, especially on high feast days. This is precisely the sort of religion one would expect a racecar driver to cook up, and as a religious entrepreneur Claude deserves high accolades.
Yet it should also be noted that there is a central problem with this creed, one that will probably prevent it from achieving worldwide prominence. The problem is that the Raelians insist super-intelligent aliens created human life. But if these aliens were so smart, why did they invent creatures whose history has been one unrelieved pageant of war, envy, spite, arson, backstabbing, theft, gluttony, lying, infidelity, spousal abuse, dog whipping, kitten choking, arson, cheating at cards, falling asleep at the wheel, impaling people on sticks, burning them at stakes, drowning them in culverts, blowing them up in airplanes, and other horrors far too numerous to mention.
Talk about a botched job.
Indeed, the job was botched from top to bottom, start to finish, inside to outside. On a lesser note, one must wonder why super-intelligent beings would create a life form that has produced reality television, bad calls at NFL playoff games, and burns one in three pot roasts. And what about such unforgettable (and often fatal) medical practices as bleeding, drilling holes in heads to relieve headache pressures, and the old cure for “twisted stomach”: the ingestion of lead musket balls? Indeed, the Incredible Botch is nearly supernatural in scope.
Other religions blame such horrors on original sin and free will. Or, if you believe life began as bacterial spores, we’ve done fairly well, all things considered. Yet the Raelians can’t take that dodge. They insist we were created by intelligent beings. Not only that, they insist those beings will be back.
If the spaceships appear, the Raelians will understandably hit their knees–or, perhaps more likely, turn down their comforters and chill the champagne. Meantime, all this free publicity will surely bring many into the fold. Others of us, however, will greet a Second Coming with an ancient chant: Man the antiaircraft batteries.
NOTE TO READERS: All things must pass, including this weekly column. I’ve enjoyed the gig these past few years, and hope you have found some enjoyment here. Walking the plank is a time-honored tradition in the column-writing business, though I expect to contribute to the site when inspiration and/or national emergencies dictate. Best, Dave Shiflett
— Dave Shiflett is a freelance writer, member of the White House Writers Group, and co-author of Christianity on Trial.