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Sunday, January 23

Scanners Set To Discernment: Examples Of UFO Religions

 To most Americans, the idea of beings from beyond this world does not at the moment impact their lives to any appreciable degree. Usually to most people the consideration of the topic is more akin to a transient pondering that may creep intermittently into their minds from time to time. Sadly, in that way then, such entities are a bit like God to many who are, for the most part, self-sufficient in their own hearts and existentially content. However, it is because of this philosophical complacency that the idea of powers from beyond the terrestrial sphere becomes such a danger in terms of worldview since the hearts of so many are open to persuasion and influence.

Though they are at present considered to be outside the mainstream of contemporary thought and convention, there are a number of sociological cults, theological sects, and religious organizations that embrace what our culture categorizes as UFO’s or extraterrestrials as the pivotal elements of their respective belief systems. It might be asked that, if these groups and their adherents are for the most part found along the fringes of acceptability, then why ought Christians take the time to acquaint themselves with these outlooks when the church finds itself confronted by a staggering number of other spiritual challenges?

The simplest response as to why the Christian should acquaint themselves with the rudiments of UFO religions is that Christ died for these people as well. II Peter 3:9 assures that the Lord is not willing that any should perish. In I Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes that "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." These verses indicate that believers need an apologetic for these people as well as they do for more conventional styles of unbelief such as evolution or the New Age. After further study, one will likely discover a degree of philosophical overlap with these more widely known systems of thought that often serve as intellectual tributaries introducing many to worldviews embracing extraterrestrials.

There are also reasons of a more practical nature as to why the Evangelical Christian needs to have a basic grasp regarding a number of these seemingly bizarre groups. Admittedly, the most enthusiastic adherents of these kinds of ideas regarding extraterrestrials may not rank among the most conventionally gregarious of people that come to mind. Often comedians such as Jay Leno make jokes deriding the social skills of science fiction fans a regular feature of standup routines. However, members of these groups often posses a zeal for what they believe comparable to career missionaries or professional clergy in more establishmentarian religions.

World history teaches that the obscure sects of one era can become the major religions later on down the flow of time. For example, Christianity was in its early days in the time of the Roman Empire considered a minor cult within Judaism and Buddhism began as one troubled Hindu's quest to find true enlightenment. Thus, if for no other reason, the Christian needs to be aware of the basics of UFO-based systems of belief in order to protect the church against infiltration by these doctrines and to prevent loved ones from being lured into what could very well be part of the strong delusion spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:11.

Perhaps the most prominent example of a group drawing its spirituality from UFO's and extraterrestrials was the Heaven's Gate cult. This particular group earned a place in infamy when, on March 26, 1997, thirty-nine members committed mass ritualistic suicide. Though this act is not necessarily the outcome that will befall all of those embracing ideas about UFO’s, it does serve as a warning as to how seriously some of the most enthusiastic are willing to take their beliefs. For it was a belief in UFO’s that prompted the group to end their lives together.

Heaven’s Gate was founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles. The two met when Nettles served as Applewhite’s nurse during a hospitalization for a heart blockage in 1975. A relationship blossomed around a shared interest in the occult. Nettles ultimately abandoned her family to devote herself full time to these pursuits that would take on a fanatic missionary fervor.

Nettles and Applewhite were not simply interested in UFO’s from the standpoint of an aerial phenomena or even as a scientific curiosity pointing to the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Richard Abanes writes in End Time Visions: The Doomsday Obsession, “They came to believe that they were each possessed by a space being from The Evolutionary Level Above Human [T.E.L.A.H] (33).” Applewhite claimed he had been possessed by the entity inhabiting Jesus. Nettles claimed that the being humanity referred to as God the Father resided within her. The two were not satisfied simply with the knowledge that they had been selected to host such august cosmic personages. The duo wanted to spread their "revised gospel" to the world.

The message advocated by Applehwite and Nettles, who would pop up from time to time under a number of aliases such as "Bo" and "Peep" or "Nincom" and "Poop", could be described as a kind of futuristic Gnosticism. It was expected that their most devoted followers were to give up nearly every aspect of their individual human natures including names, family relations, gender identity, and sexual impulses even within the context of marriage for the chance of being deemed worthy of a place aboard the spaceship that would elevate them above mundane existence to the Kingdom of God (Abanes, End Time, 33). But whereas to many such notions end up being idol and fashionable philosophizing often in the attempt to look cool in the pursuit of picking up the opposite sex or climbing the corporate ladder, Applewhite’s disciples would take their beliefs to a shocking level.

The technognostics of the Heaven’s Gate sect believed all trappings of the physical needed to be eliminated before the essential inner self could be deemed worthy of the Next Level. In pursuit of this objective, six male members of the group (including Applewhite) castrated themselves in order to free their flesh from sexual desires. Female acolytes were required to downplay their feminine characteristics by cutting their hair. And of course, members were drilled in the importance of submitting nearly every single thought to cross their minds to the leadership of the group, referred to reverently as the “Older Members” (Abanes, End Time, 35).

If not for an otherwise wondrous event, the Heaven’s Gate group would have likely remained just one of those idiosyncrasies jotting the California intellectual landscape. They would have otherwise likely never gained all that much attention beyond the notice of specialized religious scholars and UFO enthusiasts. But towards the end of 1996, the Hale-Bopp Comet began drawing in the direction of Earth.

When astronomers had to adjust their trajectory for this celestial body, a number of zealous ufologists began circulating the idea that this course alteration had been carried out by extraterrestrial intelligences in order to conceal their spacecraft flying close behind the comet as it made its way around the solar system. Such enthusiasm erupted that the amateur astronomer taking a photograph of an object behind the comet (ultimately believed to be the star SAO141894 by more dispassionate researchers) debated his findings on Coast To Coast (a national radio program focusing on paranormal esoterica) that a UFO had been discovered with the comet’s co-discoverer Alan Hale. For his troubles, Hale was denounced in an Internet smear campaign claiming he was part of a government conspiracy for failing to embrace the extraterrestrial hypothesis (Abanes, End Times, 40).

The leadership of Heaven's Gate picked up on this unfolding controversy. At last, Applewhite concluded, a craft was arriving to whisk the initiated away from the calamity about to commence and upward into expanding levels of enlightenment. The thing was, though, the group believed that the physical body was an inherently corrupt distraction that had to be discarded before this great journey or transmigration could be undertaken. Since the comet (or rather the craft using this interplanetary wanderer as a disguise) was not going to wait around and allow each of the members to saunter aboard at the end of a natural course of life, the adherents of this belief acted preemptively by taking their own lives. On the scene, police found thirty-nine people wearing the same black uniform, draped in a purple shroud, laying in bed with their hands at their sides (Abanes, End Time, 32).

Granted, the Heaven’s Gate sect represents the most extreme example of a UFO cult. Most such groups, though just as dangerous to the eternal well being of an individual’s soul, would much rather keep their followers alive if for no other reason than the continued propagation of the group and to get as much as possible out of the adherents in terms of either finances or contributed labor. In an age of tolerance and diversity where one can face the loss of a job or even jail time in certain countries for expressing anything less than glowing approval regarding the motivations of the proponents of certain minority viewpoints, it can take courage to point out that some have not so much gotten aboard the UFO phenomena out of a sense of philosophical sincerity but rather as a way to turn a quick buck or two. Foremost among the examples of such that quickly come to mind is none other than Scientology.

Most Americans passingly familiar with Hollywood celebrity culture have at least heard of Scientology because of that movement's association with household names such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The movement has achieved a degree of popularity in entertainment circles as a technique whereby these often troubled souls hope to gain a degree of control over their mental and emotional lives. However, once an individual gets involved with the group, they might find out too late that they have gotten involved with something that will not so much assist them in keeping them grounded in reality but may actually result in them losing their grip on it by ushering them into a fantasy realm surpassing an effects-laden summer blockbuster.

Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a pulp magazine and science fiction author, so skilled at his craft that, even to those critical of him, it can be a challenge to decipher where the facts about him end and the imaginative yarns begin. If nothing else, one could not question this particular writer’s sense of self. According to Richard Abanes in Religions Of The Stars: What Hollywood Believes & How It Affects You, to his supporters, Hubbard is nothing short of “the single most influential author and humanitarian of the modern age” whose works are “the definitive statement on the human mind and spirit (100).” Yet others dismiss him as little more than a creative charlatan.

Trying to decipher who exactly L. Ron Hubbard was beyond a prolific weaver of tales could be an undertaking with all of the mystery and intrigue equal to a big-budget Hollywood thriller. According to J. William Smit in The Seductive Power Of The New Age: Where Do We Draw The Line, L. Ron Hubbard, who spent his early years on his grandfather's Montana cattle ranch, was noted for his love of adventure from an early age as epitomized by his involvement in scouting and blood brother membership in the Blackfoot Nation (43). However, whether that thirst translated into heroic physical exploits or simply imaginative feats of the mind would be another matter entirely. For example, despite claims of acts of valor in World War II such as fleeing imprisonment from the island of Java on little more than a raft, sinking two submarines off the coast of Oregon, and sustaining a partial loss of eyesight, no definitive record of these adventures exist anywhere in the archives of the U.S. Navy (Abanes, Religion, 102). If anything, what records do exist seem to paint him, to use highly technical language, as something of a screw up that would put Gomer Pyle in the league of first rate military greats such as Hannibal and General Patton.

According to Richard Abanes in Religion Of The Stars, Hubbard claimed that when he commanded the patrol boat the U.S.S. PC-815 on a supply run to San Diego, he spotted two submarines that led a pursuit resulting in the release of depth charges. Navy investigators would later conclude that no such enemy craft were in the vicinity despite the considerable excitement (103). However, that would not be the conclusion of Hubbard’s bumbling aquatic escapades. Soon after the encounter with the phantom u-boats, Hubbard unwittingly dropped anchor in Mexican waters where he proceeded to conduct live fire exercises in close proximity to Mexican nationals. As a result of these actions and in conjunction with a recurrent ulcer, L.Ron Hubbard would not go down in the annals of naval history as the dashing hero he hoped to become (Abanes, Religion Of Stars, 107).

What L. Ron Hubbard lacked in the applied military sciences he more than made up for when it came to applying imaginative and esoteric concepts to the printed page. During the 1930’s, Hubbard’s science fiction, fantasy, and adventure stories earned him a reputation likening him to such authors as H.G. Wells and Edgar Allen Poe (Smitt, 44). However, the modest success such literary undertakings might have brought him would not be enough to satisfy his expansive ego.

In one of his most remembered comments among friends and associates, Hubbard remarked that the real money was not so much in churning out stories for a pittance per word but rather in starting a religion. Left a bit shiftless and morose following the conclusion of the Second World War, Hubbard would begin steps down the path that would free his imagination from being seen as something only fanciful no matter how much it might be appreciated by readers to become something disciples would stake the very well being of their souls upon.

In the mid 1940’s, Hubbard’s interest in occult philosophy that he had had since his teens upon reading the works of infamous Satanist Aliester Crowley was sparked with renewed vigor upon making the acquaintance of Jack Parsons. Through his verbal acumen, Hubbard ingratiated himself to, as described by Richard Abanes in Religions Of The Stars, the "odd mix of Bohemian artists, writers, scientists, and occultists" that had taken up residence in Parson's California domicile (107). This residence turned out to be something of a forerunner to a commune complete with the sex and drugs even if it was a few years early for the rock and roll. The mansion also doubled as the headquarters of a local chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis (an occult society founded by Aliester Crowley). Hubbard's motivations for associating with such a group are open to dispute. Scientologist doctrine would claim that Hubbard infiltrated the sect on behalf of naval intelligence (Smitt, 45). Others, including Hubbard's own son, point out how Hubbard would come to view Crowley as a very good friend and how many of Hubbard's writings borrowed considerably from the infamous occultist.

Even if Hubbard had infiltrated the group to gather information on its activities, the extent to which he was willing to participate to maintain his cover was downright disturbing. In 1946, Parsons and Hubbard undertook a ritual, which was essentially a glorified orgy, where it was hoped that nearly two weeks of ongoing fornication with Marjorie Cameron would impregnate the aspiring actress with the Antichrist as Hubbard and Parsons channeled an entity referred to as "Babalon" (Abanes, Religious, 108). Hubbard absconded a few weeks later with Parsons' girlfriend and ten-thousand swindled dollars.

The sensitive might remark that the aforementioned anecdote was included for no other reason that to titillate in a carnal or sensationalistic manner. It does little to shed light on the subject of extraterrestrial spirituality. However, as this analysis progresses, and in harkening all the way back to the traumatic encounter where the Hills believed they had been violated against their wills, it will be seen that human sexuality and reproduction are central issues of focus in these varied encounters with intelligences from beyond our physical world.

After parting ways with Parsons, Hubbard returned to his literary undertakings. However, following his excursion into the world of intensive occultism, Hubbard’s musings began to turn from adventuresome space opera towards a more openly metaphysical bent. Buzz was afoot that Hubbard was developing a new science of the mind. Enthusiasm for it was not confined to obscure circles of science fiction fandom. In a time when news was less than instantaneous, no less a public figure than Walter Winchell, whom many would consider one of the primary journalistic figures of the mid-20th century on whom Matt Drudge would model his own persona, reported in 1950, “There is something new coming up in April called Dianetics, a new science which works...the physical in the field of the mind. From all estimations, it will prove to be as revolutionary for humanity as the first cavemen’s discovery and utilization of fire (Smitt, 45).”

First introduced in the May 1950 issue of the science fiction magazine Astounding, Dianetics would eventually serve as the path through which many would be introduced to the ideas that would serve as the foundation of Scientology. Dianetics postulated that the mind consisted of the analytical or conscious component and the reactive component consisting of the mental records of everything experienced by the individual that Hubbard referred to as engrams. These held over mental impressions, that we are usually not necessarily aware of, are what lead to human misery and prevent the individual from actualizing their full potential. It was these for a fee, of course, that the organized practitioners of this brand of mind science would assist the maladjusted in releasing so that the person might be made whole or rather “clear”, to use the technical parlance.

So far so good. No one is locked into any particular worldview or religion for agreeing with the assertion that the individual can become bogged down from the traumas and disappointments of the past. However, this near universal truth that draws the initially unsuspecting in through Dianetics’ promise of emotional health and mental vitality is eventually swapped for an entirely different variety of metaphysics as aspiring members move higher up the levels into the Church of Scientology. This was the movement’s more outrightly religious arm established by Hubbard when he ran afoul of business partners and the critical eye of the psycho-medical establishment. Hubbard wanted the wider leeway granted to expressions of religious belief under the First Amendment.

All very interesting, the student of Apologetics might remark. But apart from the fact that Hubbard spent part of his public career as a science fiction author, what does this really have to do with this chapter’s topic of examples of UFO religions they might ask? As one moves up the ranks of Scientology (all for a fee of course), one learns that a number of the engrams wearing down the human psyche, which Scientology’s auditing process claims to expunge, are not necessarily the mental residue left over from the disappointments of childhood or the other let downs we all experience as we travel through life in a fallen world.

According to Scientologist doctrine, the individual at his core is composed of an immaterial spirit body known as a “thetan” which is a manifestation of theta or the ground and source of all life (Smit, 51). Thetans, in turn, created the physical universe as a form of amusement but became so enchanted by their own handiwork that they lost touch with their origins transcending the matter/space/time continuum in which we now find ourselves mired. Since the thetans go through a continual cycle of embodiment and disembodiment, unresolved engrams compile over multiple lifetimes spanning back eons.

The goal of the Scientology auditing process is to reach the level of Operating Thetan. However, once one reaches this threshold where one is on the verge of achieving what can be described as nothing short of super powers such as astral projection (the ability to travel outside of the physical body) and to perceive reality without reliance upon the senses, one learns that there are yet additional levels one must progress through before the individual can truly reach total liberation of consciousness. Foremost among these is where what would be considered extraterrestrials come into play. Not only must we expunge our own emotional shortcomings and disappointments, Scientologist doctrine insists, but each of us has latched onto us any number of disincarnated "Body Thetans" that must also be removed.

This is the result of an intergalactic warlord named Xenu. Seventy-five million years ago, to solve interstellar overpopulation Xenu conspired to have billions of his subjects massacred by imprisoning them on jetliners capable of space travel which where to be flown into volcanoes over which H-bombs would be detonated (Abanes, Religions, 114). These disembodied thetans then roamed the Earth in search of hosts. For his crimes, Xenu was imprisoned somewhere beneath the Pyrenees and Earth was declared to be off limits to most alien civilizations with the planet to be used primarily as a penal colony (one might suppose as something reminiscent of the original intentions for Australia).

Because such a belief flies in the face of what most for now are willing to accept as rational, the Church of Scientology has gone to considerable lengths to keep what it classifies as Operating Thetan Level Three out of the public limelight. In pursuit of such a goal, lawsuits were filed in the attempt to block the release of this teaching beyond paying members. Even in his recounting of it, researcher Richard Abanes went out of his way to point out that the version he consulted came from publicly available Internet files rather than from documents obtained from disgruntled Scientologists, no doubt attempting to protect himself from the vindictive tactics Hubbardites have often been accused of inflicting upon critics of the group (Abanes, 128). However, not all such groups that hold beliefs regarding non-terrestrial entities at the center of their respective worldviews resort to the intimidating nature of America's system of adversarial jurisprudence to keep knowledge of these kinds of doctrines confined to the respective sect's higher-level initiates. Some actually publicly acknowledge their embrace of extraterrestrials as the intelligences from beyond the Earth that imbue their lives with meaning and go to considerable lengths to secure the attention of the media through a variety of outlandish stunts and claims to promote this viewpoint.

One such group is known as the Raelians. The members of this group, also known as “the Structure”, follow a French-Canadian former race car driver named Claude Vorilhon. Vorilhon changed his name to “Rael” after extraterrestrials contacted him to be their messenger to prepare mankind for the pending arrival of these beings from beyond the stars (Larson, 171).

Though the balanced Christian realizes that the Bible contains figurative language allowing an infinite God to convey His message to His finite human creatures in a form we are capable of comprehending, for the most part believers take the holy text to be a record and revelation of actual events that have or will take place. For example, when it says in the Book of Genesis that in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth, the good Evangelical believes that the omnipotent spirit being referred to as “God” made the world and everything in it out of nothing as a result of His own power, goodness and love.

Raelians, on the other hand, believe that what is referred to as God in the pages of the Bible is actually a reference to extraterrestrials from beyond the Earth. According to this perspective, that is why in the Old Testament that God is called "Elohim". The Hebrew plural does not signify the triune nature of the unified godhead, as insisted upon by orthodox systematic theology, but rather because there was more than one alien appearing to primitive man that did the best he could to record these encounters in the pages of the documents now considered to be the Scripture.

Thus, the Bible is reinterpreted in a manner less than supernatural but with more intervention on behalf of humanity than if the species was left to fend on its own in a universe without the oversight of any higher order intelligence. In Raelian theology, man did not come into being by God sculpting him from the dust of the ground and breathing life into the nostrils of Adam. Instead, the Elohim through genetic intervention advanced the native hominids of primordial Earth to man’s current physiological configuration, which bore considerable resemblance to that of the Elohim. This is what was meant when the text reads in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image.”

This kind of hermeneutic is applied to other Biblical narratives as well. For example, the pillar of smoke that guided the Israelites through the wilderness in the Book of Exodus was the exhaust of a spacecraft. The Ark of the Covenant was a nuclear-powered communication device through which the Elohim relayed messages to the nation of Israel (Larson, 172).

Likewise, Raelian interpretations of the New Testament are no less fanciful and thus as dangerous to the soul. For example, when Christ walked on the water, the act was not the result of His divine power that even the winds and waves had to obey, but rather the deed was the result of highly sophisticated anti-gravity technology (Larson, 173). Even more spiritually threatening is the Raelian notion that Christ's Resurrection from the dead was not the definitive proof of His own godhead as described in Matthew 12:39-40. Instead, the resurrection of Jesus was the result of the advanced medical knowledge of his extraterrestrial benefactors.

Upon hearing what those in the Raelian movement profess, at first it can elicit a bit of amusement in realizing that people can believe something as fanciful. Upon additional reflection, one cannot help but feel a bit of sadness for those so desperate to avoid the realization that they are a sinner in need of redemption through the work of the Savior that they feel the need to construct or assent to such elaborate scenarios to explain away the intertwined simplicity and profundity of the Gospel message. However, the Christian must realize that the Raelian movement presents a greater threat than a momentary sense of glum pity the believer might feel as they see those professing such concepts strolling past the church window. As with many worldviews and religions, the Raelians hope to influence the universe around them.

As has been pointed out earlier in this exposition, most groups and individuals involved with paranormal intelligences to the point that these beings influence the way those holding these assumptions perceive and approach reality have a preoccupation with the human reproductive process or have been victimized by those that do. In the case of the Heaven's Gate sect, profound disgust with human physicality led to the members of the sect first mutilating themselves through the act of castration and later suicide so that the adherents might be able to shed their material bodies in order to ascend to the next level of enlightened existence. It would be an understatement to say that the Raelians held to an opposing perspective.

If belief in extraterrestrials is the bedrock upon which the Raelian movement is built, then sex is the oil that keeps that movement lubricated. In what might be considered a carnal distortion of the Vulcan philosophy from Star Trek of infinity diversity in infinite combinations (known as the "IDIC") Vorilhon teaches that any form of consensual sex is acceptable as a form of sensual meditation that transports the individual closer to infinity (Larson, 174). For the really spiritual, there is the longing for sexual union with the Elohim to bring about an ecstasy that those in the group might describe as simply out of this world. About the only kind of relationship Rael seems to frown upon is traditional monogamous marriage where the partners stick together even through the times of unhappiness and ebbed feelings for the sake of the children. Partners are encouraged to abandon spouses that no longer interest them and to pawn off on social service agencies unwanted children.

As can be seen, Raelians can theoretically pack a wallop in terms of ravaged relationships and broken families. Sadly, in this day of moral and cultural relativism where it is constantly insisted that what is right for you is not necessarily right for me, not much can be done about those whose lives that have been knocked out of orbit by this extraterrestrial sect other than perhaps enforcing child support laws against the parents attempting to run out on their families when the idea of an earthbound domesticity no longer seems like an idea out of this world. There is little the Christian can do on behalf of the average Raelian other than to be a personal witness and perhaps a shoulder to lean on when lives are shattered as is the inevitable result when lives are lived in a manner so alien to what God intended. However, it must be noted that members of the Raelian movement are not simply content to live their lives in seclusion in a continual spate of nihilistic debauchery. Like so many aberrant sects, this one hopes its beliefs will have an influence upon the world beyond the organization’s formalized membership.

Most Americans, including this author, first heard of the Raelians in the opening years of the twenty-first century in regards to a story serving as an example of how the lines between news and science fiction are growing increasingly blurred. In 2000, a biotech company called Clonaid announced plans to produce a clone. This research would be undertaken primarily for the benefit of homosexual couples wanting a child of their own or parents that had lost an offspring in death as was the case of the wealthy couple serving as the effort's primary financial backers. Children theoretically engineered through a cloning process would differ from test tube babies brought into existence as a result of more conventional invitro fertilization techniques. For whereas the children coming about through established laboratory insemination procedures still exhibit the same kind of genetic fortuity or divine artistry (dependent upon one's perspective) resulting in an individual whose composition and traits are not known beforehand like in a conception brought about through natural copulation, a clone would be the genetic duplicate of the individual being cloned.

The haughty advocates of a pure science divorced from any apriori philosophical presuppositions might insist that Christians ought not bring religious principles or ethical concerns into what ought to be considered merely an exercise in technological advancement. If that is the case, the same counsel should be extended to the Raelians as well. As with their counterparts in the more blatantly political arena, often the spokesmen and leaders of sects of questionable forthrightness are masters of media manipulation and carefully weigh everything that they say. For example, in a 2002 CNN interview, Rael or Claude Vorilhon explicitly informed anchor Carol Lin that Clonaid --- the biotech company conducting research into this variety of human replication --- is organizationally distinct from the Raelian movement. However, it cannot be denied, and Vorilhon admits as such, that his unique spiritual perspective serves as the inspiration behind the corporation’s undertakings. In fact, the head of Clonaid Bridgette Boisselier --- who holds two doctorates and has taught college level chemistry --- has also served as a bishop in the Raelian church (Meekins, 28).

A number of renowned scientists such as Issac Newton credit as inspiration for their experimental undertakings the desire to think God's thoughts after Him. In regards to cloning, the Raelians do not simply want to understand how the extraterrestrials they view as mankind's creators brought our species into existence through tinkering with lower order primates. Rather, the sect's goal is for humanity to master the technology so that we might, to quote words uttered during another moment of cosmic hubris whose repercussions echoed down through the ages, "be as gods". However, in this instance, those would be little green men that zoom about in flying saucers.

Raelians do not believe in a traditional conception of God per say, at least in terms of an incorporeal omnipotent intelligence. This does interestingly raise the question of how far back into infinity does this leapfrogging of advanced space travelers to raise what pass for apes on other worlds to the level of reflective self awareness extends. To the Raelians, God is simply the leader of the extraterrestrial council that came to Earth to engineer our world’s version of humanity. Interestingly, Lucifer was the scientist among the Elohim that actually bestowed humanity upon our species and Satan the leader of the faction opposed to our creation because of the violent tendencies he realized that would be within mankind (Palmer, 80).

This creates a bit of a problem when, in terms of fundamental being or existence, your God is not all that different than you with the exception that he has more advanced toys. Part of the appeal of any religion is what it offers as an escape from the inevitable decline we all realize that lays before us that will ultimately result in death. The carnal allure of Raelianism with its emphasis on sexual pleasure is not without its appeal. However, even that does not keep away the terrors in the middle of the night no matter how buxom or virile your slumber companion for that evening might happen to be.

Thus, since Raelianism is circumscribed by the boundaries of a closed materialistic system, the hope of the eternal it offers must reside within that narrow sphere of finitude. Thus, the observer of religious affairs has uncovered the motivation for the fascination Raelians possess for a branch of science that at best has only taken a few baby steps beyond a fringe status and is still many light years away from the respectability of the conventional medical establishment in terms of application to the generation of full scale human beings.

Raelian doctrine holds that the key to continued existence beyond the traditional biological lifespan (eternal life if you will) is to be found in cloning. This sacrament within the Raelian faith has been proposed in a variety of conceptual variations. Initially referred to as a regeneration of the cellular plan, it was originally taught by Rael that such bio-reconstitution would be carried out by the Elohim themselves for the benefit of mankind (Palmer, 84). In anticipation of such a day in a manner reminiscent of the way many Christians prefer burial in anticipation of the resurrection, part of Raelian funerary ritual consisted of removing a small portion of bone from the forehead for storage in a Swiss bank vault. It was taught that the Elohim would reconstitute the person from the preserved portion of DNA if the individual was deemed worthy of such from the records in the databanks of the Elohim's computers that monitor the actions of all individuals (Palmer, 60). Some will note that the forehead is also the location of the third eye, prominent in a number of occultic and esoteric traditions, that is considered the seat of mystic or psychic power.

However, over time Rael has altered the doctrine slightly. While the hope of intervention on the part of the Elohim is still held out for those that have already passed on, other promises are extended (like a hand regrown as a result of cloning) to those still alive at the moment. If one waits until after death to grow a new body, one wades into a philosophically murky dilemma of how identical the resurrected clone would be to its progenitor. For the life experiences of the clone would be different from those of the genetic source (perhaps the Raelians ought to get together with the Scientologists to work out a way engrams could be transferred from the neural network of one brain into another).

In this revised message, Rael insists that the Elohim may not be as directly necessary as once thought. As cloning technology advances, members could simply replace failed tissues and organs with bioengineered upgrades, thus theoretically postponing physical death indefinitely. This could also take a bit of pressure off of Rael and prevent his entire movement from collapsing if the Elohim do not manifest themselves visibly on Earth by 2035 as predicted.

In terms of success, the aspirations of the Raelian movement may outpace what the group is capable of accomplishing. This is evident in regards to the issue over which the group has garnished its largest portion of public attention, namely this one of human cloning. Despite such enthusiasm and bold statements attempting to place the Raelian movement or those inspired by the sect at the forefront of this biotechnical revolution, their involvement in such endeavors has come to a screeching halt. It seems the crescendo was reached around Christmas time of 2002.

On December 26, 2002, Bridgette Boisselier announced to the press that birth had been given to a cloned child referred to, of all things, as “Eve”. The Raelian geneticist assured the world that both the interests of the child and the integrity of the scientific method were utmost priorities. Matters such as DNA testing were to be overseen by an international panel of independent scientists.

As the days progressed, Boisselier backed down from one claim after another. First, she claimed that, though she wanted the child to be genetically tested, she was not going to rush the parents into anything. Demands to see Baby Eve or at least her parents would extend beyond the court of public opinion as epitomized by the press to be made in an actual court of law. Even with threats of contempt of court charges made against them if they did not disclose the whereabouts of Baby Eve, Clonaid executives refused to reveal the location of the child. Eventually, Boisselier announced to the press that Baby Eve would be cutting off contact with the Raelians and Clonaid so as to effectively disappear.

No conclusive proof was ever provided regarding Baby Eve despite the considerable hoopla surrounding her conception and the embarrassment that those connected to this alleged project had to know would result if they did not put their gold press latinum where their mouths were (to frame the issue in terms of Star Trek currency) should these genetic engineers not come forward with objective evidence. Dawson College Professor of Religious Studies Susan Palmer puts forward a number of viable theories as to what may have happened regarding Baby Eve in Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion (189). These are the following possibilities.

First, Baby Eve could actually exist and is living in seclusion so that she might enjoy a life as normal as possible despite extraordinary beginnings and to protect her from imbalanced individuals pushed over the edge by the implications of a cloned child whatever those might be in any particular worldview. The next possibility as to why Clonaid leadership decided not to introduce Eve to the public was because the child was not physically well or even deformed. At the current stage of technological progress, the ethical prohibitions against human cloning are in place in large part because, for every clone brought to physical maturation, a considerable number did not make it out alive beyond the early stages of development. While it may not be a major moral dilemma if cloned livestock embryos cease to exist before they ever come to be in a form the average motorist might recognize as they drive leisurely past farmland or pastures, such a casual attitude cannot be taken in regards to human beings even if they have not yet arrived at the point of self-awareness or even a primitive nervous system that responds reflexively to stimuli.

In other instances, clones that do make it to physical maturation often suffer from crippling deformities or related illnesses. For example, Dolly, the cloned sheep that in large part introduced this Pandora's Box of genetic research to the broader public, did not live the expected lifespan of a conventionally conceived sheep. The ewe's cells are alleged to have displayed signs of aging greater than the amount of time that Dolly had actually been alive.

The next possibility put forward by Professor Palmer and the one likely accepted by skeptics as to the most plausible explanation as to the whereabouts of Baby Eve is that the child never really existed. Either Boisselier was part of an elaborate publicity stunt or deceived by unscrupulous scientists she was working with from afar but whose work she never examined or verified directly.

Given of what has been seen thus far in regards to organizations and sects with beliefs in intelligences beyond humanity understood in terms of being extraterrestrials, it would be easy to assume that such groups and their way of thought have little impact upon those cautious and discerning enough to avoid them. That is not necessarily the case.

From the fiasco detailed of the cloned child that did not appear as promised, it would appear that those within the Raelian movement can barely get their own act together much less stand on the brink of world (or perhaps better stated) interplanetary conquest. However, even the ideas of groups that one knows to be based upon such blatant falsehoods patently absurd can exert influence on those areas where there is a degree of congruence with social tides gaining strength or pushing against cultural bulwarks that have grown disturbingly weak. For example, Raelians have distributed condemns outside of parochial schools in Quebec in protest of the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial birth control. Not only have the Raelians promoted the application of their materialist worldview in such a grassroots manner, but they have been lauded by the provincial authorities in Quebec for possessing a positive and healthful sexual ethic.

Even if the Raelians and groups like them never grow large enough in number to become the predominate religious authority, they can in earthly terms be quite successful in an environment where traditional religious authorities are in decline. This is precisely the situation in Quebec where the Raelian movement has its strongest presence. Bishops in the province have categorized the philosophical and moral climate there as "segmented, pluralistic, and secular among other degeneracies”, prompting Susan Palmer to conclude, “In view of this precipitous decline of the Catholic Church, the appeal of Rael’s godlike aliens with their anti-Catholic, pro-science, body conscious, and politically correct philosophy might be better understood (Palmer, 79).”

Thus far in this chapter, a number of groups have been presented that embrace extraterrestrials both as intelligences from beyond this Earth and as sources of meaning for the adherents of these respective systems. Yet very few Americans, other than seeing Tom Cruise bounce giddily up and down on Oprah’s sofa insisting that psychological imbalances are not actual mental conditions, have knowingly had encounters with adherents of formalized belief systems where intelligences other than humans are explicitly referred to as being from outerspace. However, most Americans have had contact with faiths that, even if one would not think of them as taking part in the deification of UFO’s and extraterrestrials, do possess elements that are easily borrowed from this new religious phenomena or that might prompt the observer to recategorize such beliefs as perhaps straddling the boundaries between more traditional religions and those looking more to a technological spirituality of the future as the source of inspiration.

Having seen them peddling down the street on bicycles in white shirts and dress slacks or Mitt Romney's formalized manner of speech as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, most Americans would not think of the Mormons as professing a faith that would place it in the orbit of religions where life is believed to exist on worlds or in realms physically similar to yet distinct from our own. Even at his most conspiratorial, one cannot recall Glenn Beck making claims as so outlandish as to be literally out of this world.

To the unsuspecting, Mormons are often perceived as not being all that different than the run of the mill Evangelicals in terms of what adherents of both creeds profess as social philosophy. In fact, the Mormon might even surpass the average born again believer in terms of behavioral standards in light of the things allowed to creep into the church these days (with nary an askance glance caste) such as conspicuous tattoos, serial divorces, and the acceptance of those living together outside of marriage as if they are habitating under the sanction of a solemnized union like any other wedded couple. Despite these cosmetic similarities which inspire both the Evangelical and the avowed Mormon to be model citizens in the earthly kingdom of man, at their foundational core Biblical Christianity and Mormonism are fundamentally different from one another.

Christianity believes that the one God existed from eternity past in the form of three distinct persons. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God. The Lord is one.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Christians believe this Word spoken of to be Jesus Christ because it says in John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came down from the Father, full of grace and truth." Believers insist that the Holy Spirit is also a personage within the Godhead because of the baptismal formula spelled out in Matthew 20:19 where Jesus instructs the Apostles to conduct this right in the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Before the Incarnation of Christ, God did not have a body. John 4:24 teaches that, since God is a spirit, He must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Not only is God spirit, but He is complete within Himself; not dependent or contingent on anyone or anything else. God says in Isaiah 44:6, "I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." This idea of God's completeness and self-sufficiency are summarized by the name to which He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 of simply "I AM".

What the Mormon means when one presses him on the ontology of the professed God concept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints is markedly different. It does not take long to see how Mormonism fits nicely in the pantheon of UFO religions while holding onto a vocabulary for those so backwards that they prefer their religion to be mired in what passes for theism rather than flying saucers and little green men.

It must be pointed out that applying the word "theism" to Mormonism about stretches that idea nearly to its conceptual breaking point. And the discerning analyst or casual commentator will eventually realize that, in its fullest form, Mormonism does not qualify as monotheism.

In Mormonism, the being we refer to as God was once a man not unlike us. He was named "Elohim" (Carlson, 166). That no doubt sets off the red alert buzzer of those reading this aboard a starship as the Raelians also have an affinity for this term misappropriated from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. And though one might not realize it at first glance given the sect’s members’ standard starched shirts, clean cut appearances and overall modest apparel, but the Mormon deity is every bit the sex maniac that the entities guiding the Raelians happen to be. Unlike the Christian God that brought the first humans into existence by creating Adam from the dust of the ground and breathing life into the sculpted form, the Mormon God brought each member of humanity into a preincarnate celestial existence though nearly endless sex with his numerous goddess wives.

Very interesting, it might be observed, but what does this have to do with the phenomena of extraterrestrial spirituality analyzed from a Christian perspective? According to Ron Carlson in Fast Facts On False Teaching, to the Mormon, our God is not the God of all the cosmos but merely of our own planet (166). It would, therefore, follow that there would be other planets with other gods overseeing the development of worlds dedicated to their own unique plans and intentions.

In fact, our God is from a planet known to Mormons as “Kolob”. To many, that sparks no phonetic recognition or association whatsoever. However, science fiction aficionados that delve into the backgrounds of their favorite series beyond the level of enjoying the sleek spaceships and laser battles cannot help but notice the similarity of the word "Kolob" to "Cobol", the name of the world on Battlestar Galactica from which the protagonists of the series believed the thirteen tribes of man originated before colonizing the wider universe.

That would not be the only similarity between the theology of this sect and this classic television series. In the episode titled "War Of The Gods", the crew of the Galactica tangled with a being remarkably similar to Satan in that this entity of formidable power and charisma fell from his original place of status and glory among his luminous brethren and came to crave the worship and adoration of the human race. As the protagonists strive to uncover the mystery of this character named Count Iblis, they are taken initially against their will aboard a spacecraft of crystalline appearance that evokes “heavenish” connotations with its pure white decor and soft choir-like tones playing in the background. Starbuck and Sheeba then encounter ethereal beings in shimmering garments. When asked if they might be angels, the entities respond, “As you are, we once were. As we are, you will become.” Such dialog has been altered only slightly from the Mormon phraseology of “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become (Carlson, 165).”

Thus, as man moves upward according to the Mormon teaching of Eternal Progression, likely in a manner similar to the way young newlyweds often pack up and depart their parents’ homes to establish their lives elsewhere, good Latter Day Saints will likely one eon fan out across the cosmos to planets of their own to raise the next batch of darling little godlings. And if each planet in turn has its own god, what is to prevent the Mormon from being duped into believing any potential visitors from beyond the Earth showing up on our planetary doorstep are simply God's in-laws stopping by for a visit or celestial house hunters mistakenly thinking there was a "For Rent" sign sticking in the Earth's front yard?

Mormonism is not the only sect outside of the religious groups initially perceived as having a connection to UFO's but in which this phenomena also plays a pivotal role. Another is none other than the Nation of Islam. It would be an understatement to say that the Nation of Islam often finds itself surrounded by controversy. Interestingly from the standpoint of analogy, one might make the case that the Nation of Islam is to the broader faith of Islam what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to traditional Christianity. For while both of these groups claim a descent and share considerable vocabulary with the respective faith from which each claims derivation, each is distinctively different enough from their original sources to be considered unique creeds entirely.

As a world religion, Islam views itself as the successor of Judaism and Christianity as the conceptual vehicle through which the revelation of a monotheistic God is made to the world. Unlike Christianity which believes God became incarnate through the person of His Son Jesus Christ when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, traditional Muslims do not believe that God (whom they refer to by the Arabic term “Allah”) has taken on human flesh. Unlike Judaism, Islam believes that the beneficence and favor of God is universal in the sense of being available to all that submit to His will as described most fully in the Koran and not bestowed to a greater degree on a single tribal or ethnic group. The Nation of Islam, despite sharing in part the name of the wider religion, actually turns each of these foundational Islamic tenets on their respective heads by recasting each with an unique interpretive spin.

The Nation of Islam was founded by an enigmatic figure known as Wallace Muhammad Fard whose most renowned follower was Elijah Poole, who changed his name to Muhammad as well following his conversion. These two met when Fard knocked on the door of Poole's Detroit home as an itinerant garment salesman (Lieb, 132). Through this encounter, Fard revealed to Poole that he (Fard) was from Mecca and had come to liberate Black people from the oppression inflicted upon them by the White race, who were themselves the product of genetic experimentation on the part of a dissident Meccan scientist named Yakub in his ongoing struggle against Allah (Lieb, 140). This brand of Islam, formulated initially by Fard and later expanded upon by Poole, drew inspiration from the Koran, the Bible, and selected works of Freemasonry (Lieb, 133).

Fard met Poole in 1930. By 1934, the movement had established a temple, a private school, and a paramilitary wing known as the Fruit of the Nation. It was also around this time that Fard mysteriously vanished. A number of theories have been put forward as to what happened to this cryptic figure. One contends that he was "taken out" as part of a FBI counterintelligence operation designed to keep organizations considered subversive by this federal law enforcement agency in line. Others have hinted that Elijah Poole, who at that point had his name elevated to that of Muhammad to signify he had found favor as Fard's likely successor, may have had his mentor murdered in order to seize and solidify his control over the sect. A few others insist that Fard simply decided to retire to a life of seclusion and anonymity.

As fascinating as such an historical whodunit might happen to be, it pales in terms of the spin officially provided by the Nation of Islam regarding the disappearance of the movement's founder. According to Elijah Muhammad, Fard was not only the Madhi (a great world leader predicted to make his appearance before the End of Days and the Final Judgment also found in more orthodox expressions of Islam) but also Allah in human form having appeared on Earth to commence the liberation of his people, specifically Blacks of African descent once known as the nation of Shabazz (Lieb, 139). It was claimed that once Fard felt the Nation of Islam was in the hands of capable leadership (meaning Elijah Muhammad of course), Fard he could fade from the earthly scene to assume a more celestial role.

As in Christianity, this would not be the last time those deemed to be the faithful of this particular creed under examination could expect the one they believed to be the savior would intervene in history. The eschatology expounded by the Nation of Islam as set forth in the works of Elijah Muhammad entitled Message To The Blackman and The Fall Of America focuses significantly on a concept referred to as the Mother Plane or the Mother Wheel. Drawing on Ezekiel’s vision of the wheel within a wheel as do a number of other theorists attempting to syncretize ancient texts such as the Old Testament with speculation in modern times regarding craft from beyond the Earth, the Mother Plane could quite literally be viewed as the Deus ex Machina of this particular theology. For example, the Mother Wheel is the vehicle through which the world was brought into existence (Lieb, 162). It is also the device through which the present world will be brought to destruction in order to make way for the renewal of all things. This will take place when Black people are transported on board and the vessel will rain down what sounds like nuclear annihilation upon the White peoples of the Earth who are, to use an expression making Tim LaHaye untold millions, left behind.

To those having never before heard of this particular sectarian Islamic eschatology, the concept sounds very similar to that of a UFO. And the Nation of Islam has no qualms about incorporating interest in this phenomena as part of its official public discourse. As far back as the 1940’s, the Nation of Islam would reference occasional UFO reports in expositions regarding the Mother Wheel. However, for failing to recognize the vehicle for what it was as the very conveyance of Allah in the form of Wallace Fard, Elijah Muhammad heaped condemnation upon the "devil scientists" (meaning Whites) for bringing the critical and analytical tendencies inherent to the most degenerate of the races to the study of this phenomena that only Elijah Muhammad was legitimately selected to reveal to mankind (Lieb, 162).

The Mother Wheel was not a teaching that the Nation of Islam quietly set aside with the passing of Elijah Muhammad in the attempt to attract a broader audience. In fact, belief in it continues and awareness of this peculiar doctrine has spread beyond the sect's membership. In a sense, the topic has been used as a bridge to those that might otherwise be turned off by the Nation of Islam's ideology of racial supremacy.

As part of the group’s Savior’s Day event in 2010 where it was reported 10,000 were in attendance, a three hour expert panel discussion was convened for the purposes of establishing a dialog between the sect and the wider ufological community. The Nation of Islam’s national assistant minister Ishmael Muhammad told AOL News that not only does the group believe that UFO’s exist as divine or miraculous vehicles but that there is an advanced civilization on Mars as well as life on other planets (Speigel). It was detailed at the discussion how the sect believes that craft sited measuring smaller than the reported half-mile by half-mile dimensions of the Mother Wheel are likely part of the 1500 member squadron that deploy from the larger vessel and use it as a base of operations.

It cannot be denied that Louis Farrakhan loves to be at the heart of media controversy given the nature of the statements he has made over the years. And though one cannot be sure that he is also not manipulating the issues to his own advantage, Farrakhan not only presents himself as an individual sincerely interested in UFO's as an objective reality even if like everyone else he construes them through the prism of his own worldview. He also testifies to be a person whose life has been profoundly impacted by these vehicles and whatever beings might be operating them.

To the panel of experts assembled at the sect's Savior's Day Convention, Farrakhan deliberately expressed his gratitude to the researchers. He assured that, in the Nation of Islam, these analysts had not only allies and protectors but also benefactors willing to extend financial support.

Farrakhan can also himself serve as an anecdotal source regarding these craft if one views such testimony as establishing the validity of such experiences going beyond the boundaries of agreed upon normality. Farrakhan claims that, in 1985, he was actually taken aboard the Mother Wheel. There, he heard the voice of Elijah Muhammad speaking to him through a cubical communications device. But whereas most taken aboard such vessels such as in the case of Barney and Betty Hill undergo highly traumatic experiences that could not be categorized as anything short of sexual molestation if the perpetrators inflicting it had been human beings, one might say Farrakhan's experience is remembered a bit more fondly.

On September 17, 1985 while visiting the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Meso-American Indian deity Quetzalcoatl, Farrakhan claims to have had an encounter where he was transported by a beam of light (in a manner similar to a tractor beam in popular science fiction) onto one of the smaller wheels that descended from the larger Mother Wheel (Lieb, 208). At no point during the encounter did Farrakhan get a direct glimpse of his abductors, and when the voice of Elijah Muhammad spoke to him, it was a disembodied one transmitted through a speaker device. As in the case of countless other abductees, this would not be the only time that Louis Farrakhan would get to interact with the entities that apparently took such a direct interest in him.

Following his initial mystical conference call aboard the Mother Wheel, Farrakhan would come to be in what could be considered regular contact with this ethereal vehicular conveyance. In fact, one might say it even followed him like some kind of saucer shaped pet. For example, during his October 1985 Madison Square Garden appearance, sixty of the smaller wheels that use the Mother Wheel as a base of operations were seen in the area. Since unidentified aerial phenomena manifest themselves so regularly wherever Farrakhan appears such as in the American Southwest, the Middle East, and the Orient, this cleric with a flair for the dramatic proclaimed, "I am telling America that wherever I am the Wheel is (Lieb, 211)." Such a declarative utterance cannot help but evoke in the mind of the student of the New Testament Christ's declaration in John 14:9 that those that have seen Him have seen the Father. Farrakhan's own claims are no less grandiose.

As stated previously, many come away from their encounter with phenomena categorized as beyond the boundaries of conventional terrestrial experience psychologically and even physically shattered for the remainder of their earthly lives. Farrakhan's have, in a sense, left him as full of himself as a human being can possibly get. The doctrine of the Mother Wheel is drawn in part from a passage in the Book of Ezekiel. As such, Michael Lieb writes, "As the wheel accompanied the Son of Man everywhere in prophecy, so it accompanies the new seer in the modern world. Like Ezekiel, Farrakhan is connected to the Throne of God (211)." In other words, Farrakhan is like a Christic or Messianic figure to his followers on the current stage of history.

In this chapter, a number of belief systems have been examined that hold as a central tenet that the phenomena known popularly as UFO's are not simply visitors from another planet. Rather, these beings are on a mission to Earth to present to those among mankind receptive to these outsiders a new or expanded revelation regarding ultimate truth. Thus far, the creeds examined have been embraced by those most enthusiastic about the expanded horizons possible through an awareness brought about through interaction with intelligences claiming to be from beyond this world.

Left to themselves, despite the enthusiasm these groups exhibit in pursuit of this question, their numbers would be of an insufficient number to exert an appreciable influence upon a population grounded on a solid Christian foundation. In such a situation, these perspectives under examination would at best be a religious curiosity for highly specialized academic researchers or a mission field for evangelists feeling a calling to minister to a particular group or subculture. However, since the contemporary world is anything but settled in terms of its underlying theological and philosophical identity, the question of life beyond this world and its spiritual implications will become one of the great apologetic challenges of the twenty-first century and for whatever amount of time remains until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

By Frederick Meekins