In Perspective: Who Are the Raëlians?

A UFO sect that runs a space amusement park and hosts sex conferences now claims it has cloned humans. But why?

For adherents of the Raëlian Movement, the religious sect that claims it cloned two baby girls, human cloning means more than a scientific achievement.

Of course, there are plenty of skeptics to the group's claim that it has succeeded in cloning. One is journalist Michael Guillen, assigned by the group to oversee proof of the cloning. He dropped out of the project yesterday, saying it may be an "elaborate hoax."

If it is, the group has still accomplished a major coup: its name is headline material now. In 1998 the group claimed it would open a cloning lab in the Bahamas. They later admitted it was a hoax. Their founder wrote, "For a minimal investment, it got us media coverage worth more than $15 million."

However, if the Raëlians have cloned a human, it is for them a step toward eternal life.

"Once we can clone exact replicas of ourselves, the next step will be to transfer our memory and personality into our newly cloned brains," reads the website of the movement's scientific arm. "Thus, man's ultimate dream of eternal life, which past religions only promised after death in mythical paradise, [is now] a scientific reality."

Cloning is not only important to Raëlians as a means of immortality. They also believe that an extraterrestrial race called the Elohim created humans by using cloning.

Raëlians do not believe in God, the soul, or salvation. Their founder, Raël, is antagonistic toward established religions. However, their teachings do have a religious overtone. Movement leaders call their philosophy a crossroads of spirituality and science.

In Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, coauthor Kenneth Samples writes that the Raëlian Movement is the largest UFO religion in the world. He estimates the group has 20,000 to 30,000 ...

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