Raëlians in France set up an inflatable flying saucer with the movement's logo.
By now, you've probably heard that Pope Francis is cool with aliens. In an out-of-the-blue nod to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Pontiff told a Vatican City audience last week that he would definitely baptise aliens if they landed in St Peter's Square and asked for a forehead sprinkling. The way the Pope sees it, Catholic baptism is a lot like an open bar at the Star Wars Cantina, where gays, atheists, unwanted children and little green men can all receive the Holy Spirit (no droids, though). Because, as he said this week, “Who are we to close doors?"
“If, for example, tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here,” the Pope half-joked in his homily. “Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them…. And one says, ‘But I want to be baptised!’ What would happen?”
The problem, naturally, is that aliens have no interest in being Catholic, at least according to the International Raëlian Movement, a UFO religion whose followers believe humans were created by an advanced extraterrestrial species known as the Elohim. In fact, Raëlian leaders are offended that the Pope would even suggest baptism.
“There will be no need to baptise those he calls ‘aliens’ when they decide to come back,” the movement’s founder and spiritual leader, Raël, said in a strongly worded statement on Thursday. “They are the ones who created all religions on Earth, and they were mistakenly taken for gods. Instead of offering them baptism, the Pope will have to acknowledge that they are the gods he has been praying to all along.”
At this point, a little explanation on Raëlianism is probably useful. The movement was founded in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon, now known as “Raël”, a former French auto-racing journalist who claims to have had UFO encounters with the Elohim. Members are best known for sexual-liberalisation events, including "Go Topless" protests, as well as for their emphasis on technological utopianism, particularly through cloning, which Raëlians see as the key to eternal life.
Raëlians also believe that most major world religions were engineered by the Elohim through “messengers” here on Earth – including Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and Joseph Smith. Raël is the final messenger, who will prepare Earth for the aliens’ eventual return. Upon their return, the extraterrestrials will determine who is intelligent enough to be cloned for eternal life.
“Evidence of the their work is worldwide, and we ourselves are becoming creators as new forms of life are now being conceived and created in our laboratories,” said Brigitte Boisselier, a French doctor and Raëlian leader who ran the movement’s for-profit cloning lab Clonaid and now runs the Raëlian-affiliated Clitoraid, which raises money to provide reconstructive surgery for victims of female genital mutilation. “The arrogance of the Pope in wishing to baptise those who sent Jesus shows the level of his ignorance.”
The baptism issue is not the first time the Raëlians have butted heads with the Catholic Church. Raëlians in Canada and Europe were pretty active in protesting the Church during the paedophilia scandals of the 2000s, and in 2010 the organisation sued Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’s predecessor, for claiming that condoms don’t stop the spread of AIDS. More recently, Raëlians have accused the Church of stalling the opening of a Clitoraid hospital in Burkina Faso.
But Ricky Roehr, the North American leader of the Raëlian Movement, insists that “there are no hard feelings” from these battles. When I called him on Wednesday at his home in Las Vegas, where he also works as a musician, he told me that he sees Pope Francis’s comments as an indication that the Church is starting to begrudgingly acknowledge the truth about extraterrestrials. “The Church is always playing catch-up,” he said. “Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo – they were all branded heretics because science always proves that religion doesn't have the monopoly on the truth.”
“What we’ve been trying to make people understand for 40 years is that there is no God,” he said. “So it just doesn’t make sense to us that any of these extraterrestrials would want to be baptised into what we believe is a primitive belief system.”
A few hours after we got off the phone, Roehr, with great urgency, called me back.
“I just want to make sure to add that when the extraterrestrials arrive, we, the Raëlian Movement, would be happy to baptise the Pope,” he said. “Because when the extraterrestrials come back, the Pope will then understand who the god of the Bible really was. Or is.”