You’ve heard the old cliche that Las Vegas has more churches per capita than any other city in America. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. But we’re about to get another one. The Raelians are unlike any other religion in the world since they do not believe in God at all. But it’s their other beliefs that are more likely to raise hackles among other faiths. Investigative reporter George Knapp has the story. Aired on May 27, 2006, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
It’s just a coincidence that Raelians rhymes with aliens, but it is telling.
Although they’ve been called a UFO cult, they’re far different from any religious cult you’ve ever heard of. God plays no part in their religion. Instead, they believe we’re all the product of cloning experiments from an extraterrestrial lab.
But it’s their status as sexual libertines that will probably drive rivals up the wall. The Raelians have been in Las Vegas since the ‘80s. Now our town will become their headquarters.
When the adult video industry held its annual convention in Las Vegas in 2006, it attracted the usual assortment of porn stars, sex merchants and switch hitters, but tucked in among the baudy booths and abundant cleavage were religious ambassadors, including JC’s girls, former strippers and escorts who found Jesus and quit the biz.
As the yin to their yang, meet Rael’s Girls, made up of Raelian sex workers who think there’s nothing wrong with sexual freedom and that there’s no need for strippers or hookers to repent at all.
“Trying to make these girls feel guilty for what they’re doing with their with their lives, with their bodies … they’re bringing pleasure to other people,” said Ricky Roehr, a musician on the Las Vegas Strip and president of the U.S. Raelian movement.
“It’s your right to do with your body as you wish as long as you’re not harming other people,” he said.
Although there are only a few dozen Raelians here, Las Vegas will soon become the North American headquarters for the church, which has already sold the Canadian retreat that has long been the site of annual get-togethers for the faithful.
Roehr acknowledges that Las Vegas is a good fit for the church.
“It’s an open-minded community. It’s a happy community,” Roehr said. “If you travel around the country, as you do, you know there’s a lot of happy people here.”
Chances are there will be fewer happy people among local religious leaders once the Raelians relocate. It is the world’s only atheistic religion. The Prophet Rael, a former French journalist who to the Raelians is on a par with Jesus or Buddha, says humans were created not by a god but by extraterrestrials, cloned in a lab.
A private company run by Raelian scientists claimed to have duplicated the ET science by creating human clones three years ago. If it’s true, the birth of the cloned babies has never been confirmed by outside experts. Still, it prompted the president of France and others to call for a ban on human cloning experiments. The Raelians preach tolerance for other religious beliefs, but seem to revel in tweaking the noses of rival religious leaders by promoting science over faith.
As Rael himself puts it, “I hope everybody in this room, when your grandchild or your child is sick, you don’t run to the church or the temple. You run to hospital, because you prefer science.”
The Raelians have been slammed by other religions as perverts, Satanists, pedophiles, racists and a lot more. Death threats are not uncommon.
But if there’s any spot where their core philosophy should fit, this could be it.
“Pleasure is good. We’re created for pleasure,” Roehr said.
“Everything we do in every moment of our life is for pleasure, whether it’s to eat, to pay your taxes so you don’t go to jail,” he said. “And you know, either we do it for pleasure or for the avoidance of displeasure. It’s a very fundamental … that’s how we were made. That’s why we were made.”
The group plans to either build a headquarters here or perhaps buy and renovate a hotel. They don’t need a place to worship, they say — only a place to hold seminars.