He claimed he was visited by aliens and could clone babies. Why do thousands believe him?

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Claude Vorilhon, a man known to thousands as Raël, has a story. It goes like this: One morning in December 1973, Vaurilhon went for a walk on a volcanic stretch of highland in his native France. There, Vorilhon claims he was visited by an alien who revealed to him that his people, the Elohim, had created human life on earth. Two years later, in 1975, Vorilhon claims he was visited by aliens again, and this time taken to visit their planet.

From those encounters, Vorilhon says he came back with a mission: spread the word of the Elohim on earth, and prepare its inhabitants for the aliens’ upcoming return. Using that set of beliefs, Vorilhon started Raëlism, a movement that has endured for five decades and spread across continents—and which the French parliament, back in 1995, classified as a cult.

Vorilhon and his Raëliens—as his followers are known—are infamous in France, where they regularly make headlines. (I told a French friend I was working on this story and asked: “You’ve heard of Raël, right?”—“I’m a millennial,” she shot back without a second’s hesitation. “Of course I’ve heard of Raël.”)

A new Netflix documentary is bound to introduce the movement to a brand-new audience around the world. Raël: The Alien Prophet, a four-part docu-series featuring interviews with current and former members, as well as Vorilhon himself, is a sweeping, in-depth, richly documented dive into Raëlism. It’s also a compelling examination of why and how people join and remain in such groups, no matter how sensational their gospel.

Vorilhon was born in 1946 and raised in the small town of Ambert in central France. In a 1994 French TV interview conducted by the notoriously crotchety host Thierry Ardisson, Vorilhon described his father as “unknown” and his mother as a “very sweet” homemaker. He was a fan of the Belgian singer Jacques Brel and moved to Paris to try his hand at a singing career—which was “quickly forgotten”, as noted in a 2003 write-up by the French newspaper Le Parisien. Vorilhon told Ardisson he did “everything he had to do” to avoid doing his military service), then became a journalist—or, as he put it himself, he was an auto racing enthusiast, and he “tried, via journalism, to have [access to] race cars.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rael-documentary-netflix-claude-vorilhon-b2492207.html.

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