Cults set to go to ends of the Earth

Sunday Mail (Brisbane)/January 10,1999
By Geoff Stead

Sometime soon, aliens will descend on the Earth and snatch 144,000 humans. The chosen thousands will be whisked away to another dimension where they will remain while the world they knew is destroyed.

When the dust of the cataclysm finally settles, the hostages will be scattered back on the planet to begin rebuilding the human race, mostly through cloning methods.

Of course, the theory is totally unbelievable....unless you are a follower of the bizarre UFO-based cult known as the Raelian religion. Surprisingly, more than 40,000 people world wide are devotees.

That includes a Gold Coast group based in Mudgeeraba which met yesterday to discuss their extraterrestrial theories.

Among the planned activities was viewing a video message from the cult's founder, former French sports journalist Claude Voril-hon, who visited Queensland in 1997.

Voril-hon, who changed his name to "Rael", claims to have been visited by aliens in 1973 who told him they created the human race through cloning more than 25,000 years ago.

"Human cloning is a way to eternal life," said the cult's scientific director Brigitte Boisselier. "We embrace it because the Raelian religion is a religion of science.

The "religion's" head-quarters is in Montreal where it operates a theme park called UFOland.

Attractions include a full size replica of the spaceship Voril-hon claims visited him, a giant model of DNA and displays on cloning and genetics. What isn't openly explained is why only 144,000 Earthlings will be taken when the aliens return.

For that information, it seems you have to join the organisation. And there appears to be no shortage of people who have signed up.

With the new millenium now less that a year away, the Raelian religion is among hundreds of cults which are emerging and growing as we prepare to move through the most significant date in more than a dozen generations. Among them have been the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana in 1978, the fiery death of David Koresh's Branch Davidian devotees at Waco in 1992, the suicide of Lolar Temple members in a string of different countries and the Japanese Aum Ultimate Truth sect's sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, which killed 12 and injured 5500. And in 1997, 39 men belonging to the Heaven's Gate cult gave up their lives in the belief they would be collected by a spaceship travelling in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet.

As shocking as the needless deaths were, those who regularly track the many offbeat cults across the world say the mass suicides only boosted interest in the bizarre.

"There are people out there all over the place who would like to be another Jim Jones," said San Francisco lawyer Timothy Stoen, who left the People's Temple before the radical reverend ordered the suicide of 912 of his followers.

The latest crazed cult leader could be Christian zealot Monte Kim Miller, who believes he will die on the eve of 2000.

Last week, a group of Miller's followers was deported from Israel after travelling there from Denver in the United States with the suspected intention to cause violence.

Members of the 60-strong cult are understood to have planned to join Miller in killing others and then committing suicide in Jerusalem's Old City later this year in the belief it would trigger Armageddon.

The Biblical battle of good and evil, they believe, would prompt the return of Jesus on the eve of the millennium.

While the Bible certainly contains passages predicting the second coming of Christ after a "thousand years of blessedness", it also warns of the potential for a reign of Satan.

Those words have fuelled the fears of other cults that predict worldwide anarchy and war as the calendar ticks over to 2000.

Indeed, prophets of doom already have pointed out that if the new year - 1999 - is written upside down, it produces 666 - the numbers of the destructive "Beast of the Apocalypse" in the Bible's Book of Revelation. Chapter 20 of the book warns: "There came hail and fire mingled with blood, and this was hurled upon the earth; a third of the earth was burnt, a third of the trees, and all of the grass."

Californian sociologist Ron Enroth claims there are at least four groups across the US with membership ranging from 50 to 2000 which he says "have the potential of becoming national tragedies" in their agendas for dealing with the arrival of the new millennium.

He declines to name them for the fear he already feels from an earlier death threat from one of the cults. He is not alone in fearing trouble ahead.

The Israeli government has set aside $US 10 million to deal with monitoring the scores of cults expected to attempt some kind of pilgrimage to the Holy Land over the next 11 months.

Authorities hope the Miller cult arrests will prove to be a warning to others to stay away, but experts say many of the most zealous sects are almost impossible to detect.

"Many are not mainstream enough to even have a name," said US Pepperdine University sociology professor F. LaGard Smith.

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