RaŽlism is the belief system promoted by the RaŽlian Movement, a religious organization which believes that scientifically advanced extraterrestrials known as the Elohim (derived from a Hebrew word appearing in the Torah) created life on Earth through genetic engineering, and that a combination of human cloning and "mind transfer" can ultimately provide immortality. RaŽlism is a new religious movement and as such has been described by detractors as a cult.
Claude Vorilhon (born 1946), also known as RaŽl, was an aspiring entertainer and performer who had produced a short-lived automobile racing magazine entitled Auto Pop, before he allegedly received a vision from the celestial Elohim on December 13, 1973 in the crater of a volcano near Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Following what he claimed were the instructions given to him, he founded the RaŽlian Movement, which claims to have about 60,000 members from almost 100 different countries. Membership may be particularly high in France, Japan, Canada (especially Quebec), and the United States (especially Florida). The Movement spreads its message via RaŽl's books, RaŽlian gatherings, and its web site.
The RaŽlians promote the social ideas of sexual self-determination and a spirit of sharing and responsibility, which, they claim, will bring a new age of wealth and peace. The philosophy is based on humanitarian values including human rights and freedoms.
According to Vorilhon a message of the human origin was dictated to him in December 1973 in personal meetings with a 25,000-year-old extraterrestrial who came in a UFO. The story goes that after terraforming of Earth, human beings from another planet (the "Elohim" - which in ancient hebrew means 'those who came from the sky') created humans and all life on earth using DNA manipulation and genetic engineering.
The message dictated to Rael during his encounter with the Elohim states that the Elohim sent all the prophets who were at the origin of the main religions (Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad,...).
The RaŽlians believe, furthermore, that when enough people on Earth become peaceful and come to know the message of the Elohim, the Elohim will return to Earth as predicted in all religious text. They say they will meet in the embassy they want to build for them and share their advanced scientific knowledge with us, their creation. Thus one of their major goals is to inform as many people as possible about this extraterrestrial race.
The symbol initially chosen by RaŽl for his movement was the source of considerable controversy: it resembled a Star of David with the image of a swastika embedded in its center. According to official RaŽlian statements, the swastika " represents infinity of time, and trace its origins to Sanskrit and Buddhist symbols, to the Chinese character for temple, and to ancient catacombs, mosques, and synagogues." In 1991, the symbol was changed to remove swastika, out of respect for the Jews. The original symbol is still in use in parts of Asia. Another possible motive was to help in negotiations with Israel for the building of a RaŽlian "embassy" or 'third temple of Israel' to greet the anticipated Elohim space vessels, although Israel still flatly denies their request. The official reason given was a request from the Elohim to change the symbol.
Immortality through science?
The Raelians believe that immortality through science will one day be possible. The prophet Rael explains that this will be achieved through the following steps:
- creating a genetically identical copy of someone by human cloning
- causing the clone to mature much, much faster than normal (maturing from infant to adult in a number of hours or days, rather than years)
- transferring the memory and personality the original person to the mature clone by some kind of scientific process.
The first half of the first step, human cloning, while certainly not trivial, is widely recognized as a goal science is capable of pursuing, despite being thought of as science-fiction only 20 years ago. Some scientists and many non-scientists, however, find both ideas ethically troublesome. RaŽlians do not, and followers of RaŽl, including trained scientists, are actively researching this first step. One RaŽlian member has founded Clonaid, a company that claims to have cloned at least one human being; Clonaid has produced no supporting evidence, and the claim is widely regarded as a hoax.
It is unclear to many non-RaŽlians how the second or third step could be accomplished, but there does appear to be growing research in Asia and other countries concerning both accelerated growth and brain-computer communication.
Confusion about human cloning
It is important not to be confused by different people's different meanings of the word "cloning". In the scientific community, cloning refers only to the creation of a genetically identical individual. Note that "genetically identical" does not mean altogether identical; this kind of cloning does not copy any of a person's memories or experience, for example.
In discussions of RaŽlism, cloning sometimes seems to refer not only to biological cloning, but to biological human cloning plus mind and/or brain transfer, or to a process where adult clones can be directly made.
In 2002, a RaŽl-affiliated company named Clonaid announced its intention to clone a human being for the first time in history, though this goal was seen by medical professionals and scientists as unlikely given current technology. On December 26, 2002, French scientist and RaŽlian Brigitte Boisselier claimed the company had assisted in the birth of a girl through Caesarean section, the first of a supposed five total cloned babies. By New Year 2003, the story had spread like wildfire throughout the mainstream press. Claiming the possible destruction of the babies' right to live normally, they did not provide the press or authorities with proof of this birth, such as a chance to obtain DNA samples.
Boisselier claims that such evidence would have her convicted to jail in her country of birth France, due to a new law that was introduced. This law would put her in Jail, despite the fact that she lives in the USA today and did not claim to perform any cloning on French land.
As of 2004, there has been no further evidence of these claims. As a result, the claims of cloning are generally viewed as dubious or discredited in the mainstream press. In regards to cloning, Clonaid and the RaŽlian Movement are seen by the public as having orchestrated an enormous hoax.
Confusion about reincarnation
The RaŽlians seem to have an interest not only in immortality but also in reincarnation. They are willing to bring back famous individuals such as Jesus or Hitler, either for inspiration or to allow for retroactive punishment. In fact, they do not believe in reincarnation as dictated by mystical writings because they do not believe that an etheral soul (free of physical confinements) exists. In their books they explain the soul as a primitive mans term for DNA. They consider human cloning as the only step toward eternal life. It is clear that in the final stages, DNA alone would be enough to bring someone back. Prior to the final stage, reincarnation would require a "recording" of the individual's mind, for use in mind transfer into a fully grown adult clone which has not been exposed to any sensory input. According to RaŽl's book Yes to Human Cloning, it seems that mind transfer really is a required first step.
The RaŽlians promote a new form of government that they refer to as geniocracy, or rule by geniuses. It advocates a requirement of having at least 50% more than the average intelligence potential (though not IQ) as based on a test in order to run for office, and at least 10% above average in order to vote. Thus, even though electorally structured as a democracy, such a regime would be a representative oligarchy.
Allegations of RaŽlism as a cult
Despite the allegations made by various medias the Raelian Movement has never been proven to be a cult. Some have claimed that Claude Vorilhon uses donations for his own benefit - but this has never been substantiated and all financial records of the Raelian Movement are open for inspection by any member.
The RaŽlian movement has received harsh criticism in the French press, no doubt due to the fact that Claude Vorilhon (aka Rael) was French born. Despite numerous amounts of bad press and allegations Rael himself has never been found guilty of any crime in his 30 years as a "prophet".
- [In 1991,] "...a French journalist signed up for the week-long nudist Sensual Meditation Camp, and covertly taped couples making love in the tents. This was played over the radio, and subsequent news stories presented the RaŽlian Movement as an unbridled sex orgy where brainwashing was perpetrated and perversions were encouraged - none of this was ever substantiated.
- “The biggest media brouhaha arose in 1992 when RaŽl appeared on the French TV talk show Ciel mon mardi, hosted by the popular journalist Christophe Dechavanne. Towards the end of the show (where RaŽl’s liberal views on sex were critiqued by a priest, a social worker, and a psychologist), an ex-RaŽlian suddenly appeared and unleashed a diatribe claiming that RaŽl was holding his wife and children prisoner, had engineered the breakup of his family, and personally presided over child sacrifice and pederastic orgies at the Sensual Meditation camp. Again these claims where found to be false, despite the medias choice to keep the truth of the matter low key.
- ”The RaŽlians inundated Dechevannes’s TV station with letters of protest from all over the world. Dechavannes retaliated by suing RaŽl for "incitement to violence" and the judge appointed to the case decided to call RaŽl in for questioning. RaŽl then agreed to ask his members to stop sending letters, but demanded a public apology, and the two parties agreed to drop the feud.” -- The RaŽl Deal by Susan J. Palmer
In 1991 RaŽl sued French journalist Jean-Yves Cashga in 1991 for defamation; however, he lost and was ordered to pay court costs. The judgment remains uncollected. Amidst growing legal problems RaŽl decided to leave France. He emigrated to Canada, where he is a resident and has achieved tax-exempt religious status for his RaŽlian movement.
- RaŽl, Claude. Yes to Human Cloning: Immortality Thanks to Science. Tagman Press, 2001. ISBN 1903571057; ISBN 1903571049.
- RaŽl and Marcus Wenner. Yes to Human Cloning: Eternal Life Thanks to Science. Raelian Movement, 2001. ISBN 2883950105. (Possibly the same book?)