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Meet The Religious Cult Which Believes That We All Emerged From The Aliens

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Featured Image Credit: Iti Sharan. For representative purpose only.

Origin stories of most religions border on the fantastical. Moses ascended to a mountaintop to talk to God. Jesus was born to a virgin mother. Buddha meditated under the Bodhi tree until he received enlightenment. And a French race car driver was abducted by aliens who told him that aliens were humanity’s one true God.

If you haven’t heard that last story, chances are you haven’t been introduced to Raelism yet. Part comic book, part sci-fi, and part new age religio-mysticism, Raelism was founded by Claude Vorilhon (now known as Raël), a French sports car driver and journalist in 1973, after a purported encounter with extraterrestrials.

Since its inception, it has spread rapidly across Europe, Africa, USA, and Asia, with millions of followers. Pop superstar Michael Jackson was an honorary Raelist guide and the late Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy enterprise, was an honorary priest.

In India, a small community of 78 registered Raelists exists, among whom a select group of 20 are actively trying to spread ‘the message’.

As far as world religions goes, Raelism is perhaps the most progressive and liberal one out there. Raelists aren’t bound by strict scriptures and, worldwide, they renounce marriage, alcohol, nicotine, toxic substances, rituals and actively protest against the Catholic church. They routinely advocate for sex-positive feminism, genetically-modified food, free sex, nudity and sensual pyjama parties.

They’re staunchly anti-war and are deeply interested in scientific research. Genetic cloning, in fact, plays a huge role in their belief system and the group even ran into a major controversy when one of the companies that have ties with it claimed to have created the first human clone baby.

In India, however, their practices are limited to cellular transmissions, scientific discussions, and telepathic communication with the Elohim.

And Then The Aliens Said: Let There Be Light!

Rael Maitreya. Image Credit: Facebook

According to Raelists, all life on earth was scientifically created by an advanced race of extraterrestrials called
Elohim. The origin story of the religion begins at a volcano in France where it is believed Vorilhon first communicated with a four foot alien from the Elohim named Yahweh, who got off a flying saucer and communicated to him the secrets of creating mankind and everything on earth. Vorilhon claimed to have had six meetings with space travellers, after which he promptly formed the religion.

Unlike other religions, we don’t believe in a human God or prophet, like Jesus or Muhammad. We are more like a higher intelligence’s science project,” says Tapan Naubagh, who works in a gaming company in Mumbai, and who adopted Raelism in 2013.

As believers of life in outer space, Raelists hope that human scientists will follow the path of the Elohim by achieving space travel through the cosmos and creating life on other planets. They also want to build an ET embassy to welcome the Elohim to earth.

Raelism: The India Story

The UFO religion probably found its first proponents in India through Japanese teachers who travelled to India to
spread the message in the early 2000s.

I was always fascinated by sci-fi, UFOs, anything that had an ET element to it. At that time, I was even writing about aliens. So when I saw this woman talking about Raelism, I was instantly drawn. I read the book that she had and was blown away. It had a host of stuff in it: God, Religion, UFOs, Sex, Love, Spirituality, Science, Poverty, Hunger. Post that, I attended a seminar, and soon converted,” says Naubagh.

If it was love for sci-fi that made Naubagh adopt Raelism, for Sai Subramanium, it was the strength Raelism provided to help him quit smoking. “I was very skinny then, constantly drinking and smoking. It was taking a toll on my health.” Subramanium, who works as a professional DJ says, “But deep meditative practices and telepathic connection helped me not only quit smoking but also find focus in my life.

Tapan Naubagh, Raelist. Image Credit: Facebook

Although they call themselves a religion, Raelism has no ‘religious customs’ except a mere suggestion for members to meditate for a minute daily. Raelists are encouraged to ask questions about God and faith and are strongly against those forcing their beliefs on anyone.

The only ritual they follow is perhaps a ‘cellular transmission’ for anyone who wishes to convert to Raelism through which “the cellular plan or the member’s DNA frequencies are transferred to the motherboard”.

This is done through a guide who dips his hand in the water and places it on the forehead of the convert to download his genetic information to aliens. The ceremony can only occur between 3 and 4 p.m since it’s believed that at the particular time, the connection with the motherboard is the fastest,” says Kumar, who co-heads the Raelist chapter in India.

In addition, Raelists support a sense of complete individualism—an aspect that makes it appealing for many.

I always had questions, but I never found any answers in my supposed religion Hinduism. Here though, we are encouraged to ask questions, even though we may not have the answers. My wife, my parents don’t get it. They think I have gone crazy, joined a cult. But I don’t care,” says Kumar, who became a Raelist after communicating with Raelist guides for more than a year, to clear his apprehensions.

True Lies Vs False Truth: What Do You Believe?

Even though the cult revolves around a fairly peaceful understanding of science, technology, and love, the movement has received plenty of bad press for not only for its sensational beliefs but also some of its practices.

To many, the whole idea of criticising established religion in favour of reason, and then unquestioningly believing in a so-called messiah who spouts another creation myth, seems wildly contradicting.

Sure, you can be happy and support science, technology and love without the guilt of God and religion, but you can also do so without the fiction of Rael’s alternative creation myth, and without adopting an untrue belief system. The Raelian of the story of creation cannot be reconciled with what we know of evolutionary biology and our planet’s geological development,” writes Brian Dunning, in a scathing criticism of the group.

Ardent Raelists, however, say that it’s unfair to compare them to other religions. “Most religions are based on faith – ‘you believe us because we are telling you and don’t question us’. We’re not here to force anyone. We just want to pass on the information we have and then let people decide for themselves,” says Kumar.

Many also believe their theory of creation to be the most ‘realistic’. “It’s not a mere fantasy to believe in an extraterrestrial civilization anymore. Scientists now agree to a high probability of the existence of intelligent life outside our solar system. Humans are creating their own artificial intelligence. Knowing this, why can’t we accept that we could be the brainchild of a higher, more intelligent species? Is it really that far fetched?” Naubagh asks.

It’s a reasonable question. How you answer depends on what you choose to believe.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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