Death and the afterlife in the Raëlian religion

Authored by: Erik A. W. Östling , James R. Lewis

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315723747.ch22

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Abstract

On the fifth of March, 2004, the Raëlian religion announced the passing away of Réal Thériault, a Raëlian guide (priest). The announced ceremony was described as a moment of joy and celebration. Raël himself, the founder, was quoted as saying:

Do not be like those hypocrites who say they believe in “god” and paradise and cry in despair when one of their loved ones dies. If you really and sincerely believe in life after death in a paradise, you should rejoice and joyfully celebrate the arrival of your friend or relative whom you claim to love on this planet, this world of pleasures and wonders that awaits us all thanks to science.

(Raelian Movement, 2004) The inevitable decay of the physical body and the fact of death are universal to human existence and, as such, are prone to be focal points in the various religious systems humankind has constructed. This chapter will deal with the issues of death and the afterlife within the Raëlian religion, a religious group claiming over 90,000 members worldwide (Raelian Movement, 2013). While this number is without doubt exaggerated, the Raëlian religion is in all probability the largest religious group explicitly incorporating extraterrestrial entities into its system of thought (see Sentes & Palmer 2000: 86). Benjamin E. Zeller has observed that a characteristic feature of UFO religions is that “they operate at a hazy boundary between religion, science, pseudoscience, and science fiction – what I call the nexus of science and religion” (2011: 666). Similarly, as the Raëlian notions surrounding death and the afterlife are in the same nexus of ideas surrounding atheism, science, and, further, the claims of human cloning, these themes will also be addressed.

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