Susan J. Palmer. Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
Susan Palmer teaches religious studies at a college in Montreal, and here present the first book length study of the major UFO based new religious movement, the Raeleans. Rael, aka Claude Vorilhon, a French racing driver, sports journalist and one time pop singer claims that he met ETs in an extinct volcano in the Clemont-Ferrant region of France. These ET told him that they were the Elohim. who had created human beings as part of a scientific experiment.
From this Vorilhon, who took the name Rael, constructed a new religious movement based on ‘God was astronaut’ style theology, coupled with an emphasis on free love, anti-Catholicism and worship of technology. Palmer’s study identifies it as perhaps the most significant modernist religion of our time, in that it rejects the supernatural and argues passionately in favour of technological progress, seeing growing science and technology as leading humans up to the level of their super scientist creators. When they have reached a certain level the Elohim will return and usher in the millennial times.
It is this promotion of the idea of the saving power of technology which leads Raelians to endorse the idea of cloning, by which they hope they can make themselves immortal. Of course their knowledge of cloning seems to be based on what they have read in science fiction rather than from any real scientific research. The cult of immortality is tied up with the worship of free sex, hedonism, and physical beauty in which neither childbirth nor ageing have much role. This seems to be then a classic 'Me Generation' movement which appeals to people who don’t want to grow up. Needless to say the most beautiful women are reserved for Rael himself.
You might think that Rael [left] is some sort of dirty old man and general charlatan, but Susan Palmer would never say so, and one suspects that she rather enjoyed working with Raeleans, perhaps because they offered a refreshing change from her own Mormon background; though some of her students seem to have been taken aback by her frankness.
For most of the book Susan Palmer approaches the movement with classical sociological seriousness, seeing it as a genuine religious movement, but at the end of the book she finally admits that she suspects that some of the movements actions may constitute a form of satirical theatre. Like the Aetherius Society, the Raelians constitute a ‘safe’ group for sociologists to study, being clearly separated from the ideological and cultural mainstream, and sufficiently exotic to make an amusing study, one in which readers are never likely to be in danger of feeling that the subjects of the study are too close for comfort. To study movements like MUFON or CSICOP which interface much more closely with the general population would be a much more problematic exercise. -- Peter Rogerson