Saturday, October 5, 2013

Quebec Free-Love Saucer Cult Joins Muslim-Headscarf Debate, Suggests Censoring Religious Texts

A discordant note has just been added to the passionate debate in Quebec, Canada, over the ruling separatist party’s reprehensible initiative to restrict the display of religious symbols and attire, in a thinly veiled attempt to target the province’s Muslim minority (reported in detail last month in this blog).  The latest condemnations of the Parti Québécois’s policy comes from a global but Quebec-based flying-saucer cult called the International Raëlian Movement.

Raëlian bishops have publicly announced that religious symbols should not be banned but that all religious texts should be censored in order to remove references to male dominance, intolerance of homosexuality, or the elevation of the superiority of any particular religion.  Raëlism considers itself in some ways a science rather than a religion and it voices respect for all faiths.  It also promulgates a free-love doctrine and freedom for all sexual orientations.

Raël himself
Founded by a French race-car driver turned U.F.O.-contactee named Claude Vorilhon, who goes by the name Raël, the group claims that human life on earth was seeded by extraterrestrials.  Raëlians have had their own controversies over religious symbology.  Their original logo was a swastika set inside of a Star of David (below, left) but a tide of complaints over the juxtaposition—especially when they tried to open an intergalactic “embassy” in Israel, where displays of swastikas are banned—led to its replacement by a more stylized version (below, right):

This has not mollified everyone—despite the Raëlians’ designation of July 20th earlier this year as “Swastika Rehabilitation Day.”  Raël points out (correctly) that, before its use by the Nazis in the 1930s, swastikas were primarily a religious symbol of good luck and harmony and other positive virtues, found around the world in traditional Native American, Egyptian, Buddhist, and many other cultures.  He also points out (far more debatably) that he saw such a symbol on the spaceships of the “Elohim” who contacted him and took him to their planet.  Adolf Hitler’s occultic religion of Ariosophy replaced a common Aryan (i.e., north Indian) counter-clockwise swastika with a clockwise one.  Some scholars believe that some swastikas were originally counter-clockwise because they indicated the direction of the rotating earth (as seen from above).

Other controversies in which the Raëlians have been embroiled have included nude parishioners distributing condoms in front of Catholic churches and, in 2002, a fraudulent but widely publicized claim by Raëlian geneticists that they had performed the first human cloning.

Raëlians celebrating August 25, 2013, as “Go Topless Day”
This week, Raëlians are offering to be the first religious group to submit their texts to a proposed international board of censors for the deletion of any homophobic, sexist, or religious-chauvinist passages—of which they say there are none in their 1975 founding holy writ, Vorilhon’s Space Aliens Took Me to Their Planet.

To many Americans, there is something off-kilter about the entire debate.  As in Europe, Canadian legal institutions and mainstream civil society seem to take it for granted that some forms of expression should be suppressed.  In Canada and much of Europe, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust or to “incite hatred” against minorities, however that might be defined.  As a result, Nazi sympathizers in those countries are emboldened by what they see as an official attempt to suppress the truth, and their logic is understandable: if Holocaust-denial literature is blatant nonsense, they reason, why are the authorities so desperate to prevent people from reading it?  Publishing Mein Kampf and displaying swastikas is illegal in Germany; consequently, Nazi symbology has acquired a rebellious mystique, and the sight of a swastika has a taboo allure about it in Europe which it does not in places like the United States, where it is commonly seen in historical references (and when fringe neo-Nazis make the news).  The U.S. has neo-fascists, but they are the fringe of the fringe.  And the U.S. has many forms of epidemic violence, but large gangs of neo-Nazi skinheads setting fire to immigrant and minority neighborhoods is not a recurring scourge the way it is in central and eastern Europe.  The global center of Holocaust-denial research, not coincidentally, is Canada.  And the suppression of some ideas naturally leads bigots like those in charge of the Parti Québécois to put forth a “Charter of Quebec Values” that sees implicit support for terrorism in the display of Muslim symbols—since where does one draw the line? isn’t jihadist terrorism as bad as neo-Nazi violence? and don’t many suicide bombers wear burqas? etc. etc. ... and then we’re right back where we started.

A German neo-Nazi.  Censorship won’t make this problem go away.
It’s not clear if the Raëlians are serious about their proposal to censor religious texts, just as it’s never clear if they’re serious about anything.  Mostly, I think they just like getting on the news.  But if they prod Canadians and Québécois to contemplate the absurdity of religious censorship, and to question the originally-well-meaning but deeply-illiberal approach to “bad ideas” and “bad symbols” prevalent in Canada and Europe, then they will be making a contribution.

[You can read more about Quebec and other separatist movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]


  1. Another very interesting and well-written post! The stories you somehow find seem almost too bizarre to be true. And Space Aliens Took Me to Their Planet sounds like a good read.

  2. Quebec has a history of clerical fascism including the victimization of the hundred thousand plus Duplessis orphans who were used for medical experiments, forced labor, etc.

  3. Display of the swastika is not banned in Israel, it can actually be found in many different places there:


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