THE LIFE, WORK AND CHRONICLES OF JEFF KOYEN: REFORMED ITINERANT, OCCASIONAL WRITER AND FRIEND TO ALMOST ALL DOGS

The Raelians Are Coming!
Here's how it really happened:
Twenty five thousand years ago, a ship full of extraterrestrials, headed by their Group Leader, Lucifer (who wasn't really a Bad Guy), came to Earth on a mission to create life. Using DNA, they created every life form on Earth and introduced each new species to the environment, one level of complexity at a time. So, for instance, once bugs were of sufficient population, the bug-eaters were introduced. Then, a batch of bug-eater-eaters were whipped up. And so on, until humans were ready to roll off the assembly line. At this point, the extraterrestrials destroyed their laboratories--which caused the destruction of the One Continent, Pangaea, accounting for Atlantean mythos and cross-cultural accounts of a Great Flood--and scuttled those species not suited for coexistence with humanity, namely the dinosaurs and all those other creatures evidenced by their fossil record.
The extraterrestrials went back to their home planet to keep an eye on our development. Since that time, forty lucky humans have been told the story of humanity's creation. Among them are the usual names: Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, et al. Unfortunately, these humans were not savvy enough, technologically, so the extraterrestrials were mistaken for gods. In fact, the Hebrew word for God, "Elohim," used throughout the Old Testament, really means "those from the sky."
That's the story according to Rael, a French journalist chosen by the Elohim in 1973 to spread their message to humanity: we created you in our image, there is no god, there is no evolution. And once the people of Earth accept this and are ready to welcome the Elohim, they'll come back.
The Raelian Movement claims 35,000 members in 85 countries. They've got half a dozen books, a few audio and video cassettes, and summer workshops on each continent each year. They're trying to get a foothold in New York City; conferences are held irregularly at the Learning Annex on Lafayette Street.
The Raelian Movement has all the trappings of any good religion: their own calendar system: year 0 is 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, marking the beginning of the Age of Apocalypse; a baptism ritual, called Transmission of the Cellular Code, which notifies the Elohim on their home planet that the individual has acknowledged their existence; and a moral code which commands respect for the self, for others and for nature.
Most importantly, though, they've got a catchy icon: the Star of David with a galaxy-like, spiral formation in the center. According to Mary Helen, who ran the conference last week, this symbol was emblazoned on the extraterrestrials' lapels and their spaceships.
Rael is a genius. He's created an open-ended, non-secular religion that doesn't debunk existing faiths, but instead encompasses them. For instance, Moses wasn't a crackpot who saw things; he experienced the Elohim under a less technologically advanced paradigm--he saw them as gods, not aliens. And Jesus wasn't born of God: he's the offspring of the Elohim and Mary. And so on with all the religious figureheads.
The Raelian story is wonderful to read, like Asimov at his best. And hearing them speak is equally entertaining; they can talk their way out of any corner, offering explanations or diversions for any scientific or religious challenge. Their moral platform is hard to knock: love, peace, respect.
But there are some skeletons in the Raelian closet, things they didn't mention at the conference. For one, the summer workshops seem to be naturalist in nature, according to the material online at the Rael website (www.rael.org). They also encourage all workshop participants to "have a medical check up before [coming] to the camp to check for transmittable diseases, particularly of a sexual nature." Furthermore, students under the age of twenty-five attend for free, making it all sound suspiciously like an effort to stock the free love pond with young sexpots.
Then again, the Movement was founded in 1973, during very promiscuous times. And Rael is a Frenchman--you know how frisky they can be.
But consider the Raelian perspective on disease. Because human DNA must remain unchanged, according to the will of the Elohim, evolution is a false concept. And, out with the Darwinian bath water goes mutation, the agent for evolution. Disease, according to Rael, is DNA's way of preventing and eliminating mutation. Cancer, according to Mary Helen, is one of the Elohim's devices for maintaining the integrity of their original DNA. "If [mutated DNA] is not repaired, then cells make sure the human will disappear." Ouch.
Extrapolate that concept in this day AIDS, which has, thus far, hit gays and minorities harder than whites, and one must wonder what exactly is being eliminated from the human gene pool.
The most damning skeleton in the Raelian closet, however, carries even worse implications. According to the Raelian website, the modified Star of David was adopted by Rael in 1991. (At the conference, the audience was told that the star symbol was seen by Rael in 1973.) Until then, the universal symbol for the Raelian movement was, of all things, the swastika.
The former use of the swastika is justified thus: "The word 'swastika' comes from the sanskrit meaning 'well being.' It is a Buddhist symbol and a religious symbol of India...It represents infinity in time--no beginning, nor end."
That's all fine and dandy, pre-WW2. But by 1973, all those pleasant notions of well-being and infinity were deep in the crapper. So one must question why, in 1973, a seemingly intelligent Frenchman, hell-bent on manufacturing a meal-ticket religion, would choose a swastika, a modern symbol of pure evil. And why he would wait until 1991 to change that symbol.
Perhaps the Elohim weren't paying attention to the middle portion of the Twentieth Century. Or, maybe they were too busy covering their tracks on Mars. Or, maybe they were just too busy convincing twenty-four year old college students to take off their clothes.