We've been wrong all along. God is not a supernatural, omniscient deity-type being. He is really an alien, and He's coming back soon. That's the Word from the Raelian Religion, a new Las Vegas group. Here's the philosophy: In 1973, a representative of a race of technologically-advanced alien beings contacted a French journalist and explained the meaning of life. Which just goes to show how inexplicably humorous those aliens are.
The French guy renamed himself Rael, and started a movement called the Raelian Religion (presumably because "Raelianism" has too many vowels).
Local Raelians Georges and Nadine Gary held an informative lecture recently, explaining the precepts of their religion. There were about 90 people in attendance, a motley assortment of conspiracy geeks and homeless men seeking refuge from the cold. Actually, it turns out that they weren't homeless men, they were Art Bell listeners--sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
"How many people heard about the lecture on The Art Bell Show?" the speaker asked. The week prior, the Raelians bought commercial spots during Bell's program, even though Bell didn't actually discuss the religion.
Almost everyone in the room raised a hand. "How many saw a listing for the lecture in the lasvegasweekly calendar?" she asked. Nobody raised anything. I didn't know if I should feel proud or ashamed. I think the situation says just as much about our readers as Bell's listeners, but I don't know what, exactly, that is.
The basic Raelian belief boils down to this: The aliens (called elohim), were scientists banned from genetic experiments on their home world who came to a barren Earth 25,000 years ago, did some terraforming and created life using DNA strands. Using the genetic code in their own bodies, these scientists made humans. Since we were too primitive to understand their technology (childlike in our naïveté), we weren't told the full truth. With the advent of atomic weapons, we proved our maturity; in the near future (20-25 years), our outer space "parents" will come back to bring us into the fold.
Instead of answering questions at the end of the presentation, the Raelians suggested everyone with unresolved concerns read Rael's book, The True Face of God. This seemed at first to be an obvious marketing scam, but then I learned that the book is available at the library. I had plenty of questions, some of which the Raelians answered, many that they did not. So I read the book.
A good portion of the first half of the book consists of a partial rehashing of common Biblical verses, some of which contain blatant contradictions of other Bible verses, seemingly with the hopes of convincing readers the Bible is hogwash. These are not all that new to scholars. While there are some out-and-out attacks on the Catholic Church ("...which devises infamous plans to ruin the poor..."), most of it is lame, boring, pseudo-science set against a Biblical-era backdrop.
There are many glaring errors and inaccuracies. For instance, according to Rael, the home planet of the elohim is less than a light-year from Earth; the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is at least four times that distance. Either we haven't been able to detect the planet with our technology, or Rael didn't understand what the elohim were saying, or the "creators" are lying to us. Again.
But perhaps the most frightening aspect of the elohim's vision for our world is "geniocracy." Under this system, only smart people would get to vote, as determined by an intelligence test. Theoretically, the geniuses would run things, and we'd all be happier.
Which is spooky. Geniuses, by and large, don't know anything besides their own area of expertise. They are, for the most part, nuts--they see things differently than the rest of us, which is part of what makes them so darn smart. Having a world leader who, for example, was romantically involved with a walnut tree, would be discouraging, even if he was a genius. Moreover, the notion of democracy was designed to avoid just such a distinction between people; when somebody doesn't get to vote, the folks in charge tend to take advantage of them.
It's funny--Rael writes that the elohim picked a Frenchman because France "'has a reputation the world over for being the country of freedom.'" Strangely enough, the Raelians (like the Scientologists, or the Jews, or American tourists in Hawaiian shirts) get treated like dirt in France. Go figure.
As far as origin theories go, Raelian religion holds little more attraction than others. As far as religions go, it is only slightly sillier than most. It should probably go over well in Vegas. Especially if they find an Elvis to be high priest.