Last week, I had dinner with Raël, international connoisseur of pleasure and “prophet” of the Raëlian Movement which includes about 80,000 members in 90 different countries around the world. Apparently, after watching a few of my shows, Raël recognized a kindred spirit in the cultivation of what I call “ethical hedonism” and what he calls our “right to pleasure,” and he asked his staff to make contact with me.
Raël is all about “making contact.” Before becoming a prophet, he was Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon, a singer/songwriter, then a journalist/race car driver, speeding down the highways and backroads of life like the rest of us. In 1973, while cruising around a volcano park in the center of France called Puy de Lassolas, he felt an irresistible impulse to pull over and get out of the car.
This is where Raël gets kind of unreal. But then, what prophet worth his prophesy only sticks to dull demonstrable reality? Think of the Prophet Elisha who beheld the Prophet Elijah in a Chariot of Fire taken up by a whirlwind into Heaven. How real is that? Anyway, at this point, Raël says he saw lights flashing in the dark sky, and a large silver flying saucer slowly touched down right there in front of him, within the ditch of a volcanic crater. A staircase unfolded from the belly of the ship (guess this was pre-“Beam Me Down, Scottie” spacecraft technology), and down marched a small, humanoid “alien” with vaguely Asiatic features and a neatly trimmed black goatee. This “extraterrestrial,” who called himself Yahweh (yes, like the most sacred Hebrew word for “God” in the Bible), told Raël that he was one of the Earth’s original “designers,” called Elohim (another Hebrew word for God or “gods,” or “those who come from the sky,” also in the Bible). Then, over the course of six mysterious encounters (none of which were photographed or witnessed by anyone else), Rael claims that Lil’ Yahweh gave him a “message from the designers” regarding science, religion, love, sex, relationships and eternal life, among other things. Rael accepted his “mission” to spend his life transmitting this message, as well as news of their imminent public appearance on Earth (preferably in an “embassy” he would build), to the rest of humanity.
The “message from the designers” is one of love, peace, pleasure and nonconformity, blending spirituality, sensuality, art and certain sciences. In some ways, these Alien Sex Secrets are rather similar to my own message of Ethical Hedonism and the Bonobo Way, though I did not have the benefit of learning it from any aliens, unless these aliens have disguised themselves as bonobo chimpanzees.
Over the years, Raël has engineered many commendable sex-positive public actions, from calling for the free distribution of condoms in schools to promoting masturbation for everyone; from worldwide campaigns to support sexual minorities to the creation of an association to help restore the clitorises of victims of female circumcision called Clitoraid. These are “good works” in the controversial field of sexuality, for which no other international religious organization has stepped up to the plate. For me, this more than makes up for the fact that journalist Raël happened not to have his camera on him when the Elohim came a’ knocking.
Nevertheless, UFOs and good sex works aside, I do have some major problems with Raël’s belief system, particularly his denial of the essential principles of evolution, which are the prime building blocks of biology, zoology, ornithology, anthropology, genetics and many other sciences. I can sooner tolerate Raël’s story about “Yahweh” and the little green (or whatever color) Elohim. After all, the original Yahweh/Elohim story is also pretty outrageous, not to mention nebulous and contradictory.
Every religion features some mythological, other-worldly story about the whole world being created in 6 days by a distinguished old guy named “God” (Hebrew), by an egg-shaped cloud breaking to release the matter of the universe (Chinese), by a bored deity named Atum masturbating into the void (Egyptian), or by the great god Eros blowing the Breath of Life into all things (Greek), which I like to call The Original Blow-Job. Then there are all the amazing tales of virgin births, resurrections, rivers being turned into blood and water being turned into wine. Raël’s “My Favorite Martian Visits France” story is no better or worse than any of these. The Raëlian Movement is controversial in many other ways, especially for their support of human cloning. They’ve sued and been sued, and as a fellow pleasure preacher in a society that tends to exploit people’s pain, I can sympathize.
But rejecting evolution? Might as well join the science-phobic ranks of creationism. Even the Pope says evolution can co-exist with any faith, whether in a Son of God or Extraterrestrial Creator(s). I “believe” in evolution primarily because of the mountains of scientific evidence. I consider it a “theory” only in the sense that the National Academy of Sciences defines theory as “a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time,” not in the popular usage of the word “theory” as a hunch, conjecture, opinion or speculation.
But I also have my spiritual reasons for my faith in the principles of change that Charles Darwin most famously (and imperfectly, but still brilliantly) identified: Because when I look into the eyes of my friend Lana, who happens to be a bonobo, I see my close cousin. And it’s not just that I have a bonobo fetish (though I do). When I look into the eyes of monkeys, I also see cousins, though more distant, and when I look into the eyes of my snake Eve, I see an even more distant cousin, but a cousin nonetheless.
So I am not going to become a Raëlian (surprise, surprise). But I have no plans to become a Buddhist either, and I’d still dig hanging out with the Dalai Lama. Thus, I enjoyed my dinner with Raël. Even if I evolved from monkeys, and he comes from outer space, we are friends and neighbors, sharing a common interest in the cultivation of pleasure, tolerance and peace.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cable TV personality, author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure and hostess of Dr. Suzy’s Speakeasy. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://www.drsusanblock.com/blog/ Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© April 16, 2008.