Not all cults are deeply harmful. Sure, they all lie, they’re all run by narcissists and people are better off not joining them, but not every cult is a Jonestown or a Manson Family, ending in murder and destruction.
Some cults are just a bit kooky, trying to appeal to nerds, and every now and then pretending they can clone humans. Like the Raelians.
In late 2002, a group called Clonaid, founded by an ex-automotive journalist and minor French pop star called Claude Vorilhon, claimed to have successfully cloned the first human.
This strange group is at the centre of the seventh episode of Yahoo News Australia's Cults Unpacked series.
A Clonaid representative showed journalists at a press conference a photograph of a baby called Eve, but the journalists, the world’s scientific community and basically everyone else was skeptical. And they should have been. Clonaid’s claim was absolute horse apples.
Clonaid, an organisation directly linked to Vorilhon’s cult the Raelians, was no closer to cloning a human than a damp sock.
It was just one of many, many claims Vorilhon made that weren’t true, but almost all of his claims are kind of amazing.
Claim 1: Jesus and Claude are brothers
In 1973, Claude claimed that he was visited by aliens. He was just taking a casual drive around a volcano in southern France, when suddenly a spaceship landed right in front of him.
A little dude came out and explained that he was a member of the Elohim, a group of extremely smart and powerful aliens who made the Earth in a laboratory.
The alien further revealed that he was essentially God – he was the father of Jesus AND Claude himself, and that Claude’s real name was Rael.
Claim 2: Claude went to another planet to have sex with robots
Claude wasn’t just visited once by aliens, oh no. The second time they visited, the aliens picked Rael up in their spaceship, like The Plastics picking up Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls.
Except it wasn’t “Get in loser, we’re going shopping”, it was “Get in, Rael, we’re going to go have sex with robots”.
According to Claude and absolutely no other witnesses, he was taken in a spaceship to the Elohim’s home planet, introduced to his half-brothers Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed, and offered the products of a sex robot-making machine.
At Claude’s request, six lady robots of different races were created, and they all took a very rude bath together. The robots didn’t even rust! Outstanding.
Claim 3: Jesus performed his miracles with lasers
Due to Claude/Rael’s version of events – that God is an alien and the Earth was scientifically manufactured in an intergalactic laboratory – the Raelian take on Bible stories is a hoot. See, the Bible didn’t quite get things right.
For example, Noah’s Ark wasn’t a boat full of animals retreating from a flood, it was a spaceship stocked with DNA escaping a nuclear blast. And Adam and Eve were the result of genetic experiments – after mucking around with plants and animals for a while, the Elohim decided it was time to make something out of their own DNA. But the best story?
Jesus didn’t perform healing miracles using divine sorcery. Jesus performed healing miracles using lasers. It’s the best.
Claim 4: The Elohim are coming to Earth and need to park their spaceship
A lot of Rael’s time is spent trying to find a place for the Elohim to park and hang out when they inevitably return to Earth to check on their experiment.
His first choice for a site for his alien embassy was Jerusalem, but Jerusalem wasn’t really into reserving land for spaceship-based embassies.
It could be something to do with the fact that for a time, the Raelian logo was a swastika wrapped in a star of David.
They argue that it’s the non-Nazi Sanskrit swastika symbol, but still. The search for an embassy site continues.
Claim 5: Boobs!
The Raelians love a cause, especially if it attracts attention. There’s "Clitoraid", which campaigned for donations to build a hospital to perform clitoral restorative surgery on victims of genital mutilation.
There’s "NoPedo", which invites people to dob in Catholic priests they suspect of pedophilia.
Raelians have even suggested developing sex robots for Catholic priests, so that their struggles with celibacy vows would result less often in abuse.
"Proswastika" aims to rehabilitate the image of the swastika, and "Go Topless" supports what Raelians believe is a woman’s constitutional right to get her boobs out in public.
In the name of equality, "Go Topless" does make a point of campaigning for either the right for women to bare their chests or alternatively, for the law to be changed so that men are also required to cover their nipples, but the cause gets a lot more attention for the former than the latter.
Despite all the fanciful claims, the Raelians have no trouble attracting followers, and have tens of thousands of them worldwide.
Their popularity is partly due to the fact that it’s really easy to become a Raelian – a quick baptism and a completely affordable donation or two, and you’re in.
You might want to attend a semi-regular convention held in different parts of the world, attending sensual meditation workshops, being invited to demystify your own anus with the help of a hand mirror, and trying not to stare at topless lady Raelians, but you won’t be asked to murder anyone.
Raelians are sex-positive (if a little sexist), pro-science (albeit quite keen to lie about cloning) and let’s face it: outstanding at spinning a yarn.
Their claims and causes don’t amount to much, and they are most definitely run by an attention-seeking narcissist plagued by extremely questionable fashion choices, but as cults go you could demonstrably do worse.
Still, though. Best not to join a cult, eh.
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