They call themselves the world's largest UFO-related non-profit organization,
boasting more than 55,000 members in 84 countries. The International Raelian Religion was founded in 1973 by a Claude Vorilhon,
who was seized by a strange impulse one morning while driving to work that would profoundly change his life (and his fashion
Driving instead to a Puy-de-Lassolas volcano, Vorilhon claims that a UFO
appeared and descended and he received his first contact by the extra-terrestrials previously known by Judeo-Christians as
"the Elohim". These humanoid aliens, from which the human race is descended according to Raelian lore, selected him to serve
as their spokesman in order to announce their return to the Earth, and they bestowed on him the name "Rael", a name by which
he is now known to his followers.
By 1997, Rael had raised more than $7 million dollars to build an embassy
for the Elohim, and has been earnestly trying to get permission to build it in Jerusalem. In hopes that it would help, he
even obtained permission from the Elohim to change the original symbol of the Movement, a swastika inscribed in the Star of
David, to improve prospects of obtaining land in Israel. (Good thinking there, IMHO.) The new symbol still uses the Star of
David motif, with added swirls meeting at the center to represent the eternity of time and matter.
So far, Israel has made no indication that it will allow the Raelians to
build their embassy there, and Rael has stated that they will just have to built it in nearby Egypt or even in Palestine should
the Israelis ultimately deny the Movement's building plans.
Clonaid, the cash cow of the Raelian movement, has been in the news this
month with claims that two babies have been successfully born using cloning. After seeing her appearances at news conferences,
I was prepared to dismiss Brigitte Boisselier, spokeswoman and scientific mind for Clonaid. After some research, however,
I was more inclined to respect and to sympathize with her. She is evidently a more-than-competent scientist who lost both
her private sector job and the custody of one of her sons because of her religious beliefs. Although Clonaid has yet to give
any proof of their cloning claims, she has impressed others in the fields of microbiology and genetic research with her capability.
She left a teaching position at Hamilton College in order to devote all her efforts to Clonaid, and is evidently quite sincere
in her dedication to both achieving successes in human cloning and in the Raelian movement. Despite my first gut reaction
to her appearance, I don't think she's only in it for the money or notoriety.
It seems to be one of life's synchronicities that I had just finished reading
John Case's bestseller, "The Genesis Code" (Ballantine/Random House, 1997). Whether cloning is ethical is
a very complex question, to which I can only make the very same response I give to whether abortion is ethical: it is a personal
decision which a woman (or scientist) should make for herself, based on what is best for her life and for the life of the
child. There are simply too many possible benefits from cloning research to reject it without exception; but, like atomic
energy research, the potential for heinous misapplication of discoveries is awesome.
The book deals with these questions within a fictional context, but with
very real dynamics. The author is an investigative reporter with a strong background in international intelligence, and the
book examines many real-life institutions, which literally hold power over life and death for cloning and reproductive rights.
The two issues -- conception and abortion -- are really flip sides of the same coin, and applying the will of humankind to
either are equally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. The ethical hot potato of cloning is explored through the investigation
of bizarre murders of mothers and the children they conceived through in vitro fertilization in this book, which is entertaining
but also informative and thought provoking. -- The Editor