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The Raelians: Religion or ruse?

By Hal McKenzie       January 21, 2003

A simple blood test could prove whether or not the followers of Rael (the former Paul Vorhilon) actually cloned a child as they claim, but since they have conveniently backed down from allowing such a test, the question remains in doubt. The Raelians have made it abundantly clear, however, that they are an unscrupulous pack of hedonists who would think nothing of sacrificing innocent children for their selfish desires.

“Whoa!” I hear the liberals cry. “You can’t pass judgment on people’s religious beliefs like that!” I can and I must, if such “beliefs” oppose those held by the world’s long-established religions and philosophies. I would say that it is pretty much settled, as a global consensus, that putting innocent babies at risk of serious deformities is wrong, especially if it is at the service of a selfish and totally doubtful search for personal physical immortality. Even where cloning of mammals has occurred successfully, the rate of failures and deformities in the clones is so high that it is unconscionable to submit an innocent child to such a risky procedure

One could say, in Vorhilon’s defense, that he is not the first to claim an exclusive message from other-worldly beings with no evidence to prove that it really happened. There is no proof that Mohammed received the Koran from the angel Gabriel, or that Joseph Smith received golden tablets from the angel Moroni along with magical Urim and Thummim stones to translate them. Yet Islam and Mormonism today are powerful and respected religions with millions of adherents.

The difference is, however, that Muslims and Mormons preserve some continuity with parent religions and holy scriptures that preserve and carry over the ethical lessons of their predecessors. Mormons study and believe in the Bible, maintaining a basically Christian moral base, while Muslims revere the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus, so that they are still “people of the Book” like Jews and Christians, whatever differences in interpretation and traditions divide them.

Vorhilon, however, claimed to have received a revelation that flies in the face of all past revelations. He says that the four-foot tall aliens that picked him up in 1973 told him that there is no God, no eternal life other than cloning, and no responsibility other than pursuing physical desires, hence Vorhilon’s reliance on “sensual meditation,” a euphemism for simple prurience. The world’s established religions all assert a life beyond death and a morality based on altruism as opposed to hedonism. The world’s great religions did not emerge out of one person’s whim, but speak to the human condition.

Vorhilon’s “science” likewise flies in the face of established, proven facts. The human genome has been thoroughly mapped and compared with that of animals from worms to primates, thoroughly establishing the human emergence from animal forms. If humans were cloned from aliens, human DNA would have no connection with earthly genomes.

To give the Raelians their due, the idea that aliens tampered with human genes is nothing new. The Babylonian scholar Zechariah Sitchin, based on his interpretation of ancient Babylonian cuneiform texts, claims that aliens known as the Annunaki from the planet Nibiru genetically engineered the human race by inserting their own DNA into hominids. In an article in Fate magazine (Jan. 7, 2001), Sitchin cites an article in Science that supports his contention.

“While confirming the evolutionary process genetically, by tracing a vertical progression from the simplest to the more complex, the new findings came up with what Science (February 16, 2000) termed a ‘head-scratching discovery’–the human genome contains 223 genes that do not have the required predecessors on the genomic evolutionary tree. … In other words, at a relatively recent time as evolution goes, modern humans acquired an extra 223 genes–not through gradual evolution, not vertically on the tree of life–but horizontally, as an insertion of genetic material ….” Sitchin says it was extraterrestrials, not bacteria as scientists theorize, that inserted the odd genes.

The question, in short, is not over whether aliens exist, or whether cloning is possible or even that aliens tampered with humans. These are questions of fact, not of belief. If there is not enough proof to establish the fact, than the question must remain open until such proof is forthcoming.

As for Vorhilon’s alleged visit with aliens, there are thousands of “contactees” who sincerely believe that they were taken aboard a UFO or contacted by aliens and given some message or other. Take, for example, the Aetherius Society, founded by the late George King, a London cabby and yoga master, who said that in 1955 he received “cosmic transmissions” from space aliens who guided him to 19 “holy” mountains around the world. His followers still make regular pilgrimages to these sites where they believe aliens transmit good vibes to the people of the world.

Then there are followers of the Ashtar Command, who believe that an army of discarnate extraterrestrial spirits are visiting mankind and channeling messages to elevate the human race to a new evolutionary level. In 1968 I heard Sir Anthony Brooke, the former Rajah Muda of Sarawak, then head of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship, speak about the Ashtar Command at a high school in Philadelphia. They are still active and have their own website (www.ashtarcommand.com.)

So how can we judge among all these different claims, all apparently sincere? I think we need to keep an open, but critical, mind. We have to be open because, as Arthur C. Clarke said, “The universe is not only weirder than we imagine, but weirder than we can imagine.” Just because something exists outside our everyday frame of reference does not mean ipso facto that it does not exist.

We must, however, use our critical faculties to spot obvious falsehoods and wrongdoing. Putting children at risk is wrong in anybody’s book, and a lie that is as obvious as Pinocchio’s nose is still a lie, no matter if presented as “religion.”

Hal McKenzie, the first editor of CosmicTribune.com, died in October 2010.

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