If you’re not familiar with the Raelians, here’s the rundown: A religious cult started by a Frenchman named Claude Vorilhon (who now goes by the name Rael, so you know where he put himself in the organization) back in the ’70s. Pros: they’re pretty sex positive. Cons: their symbol is a Star of David with a swastika in the middle. Controversial? Yes, and I suspect deliberately so.
The thing I find interesting is their theological position. It is their assertion (and I’m greatly simplifying here) that the Bible and the Koran and all the holy books are true, but when you see the word “God” or “angels” or any other supernatural reference, what they really mean is that they are advanced space aliens named the Elohim. Bronze Age man was apparently too impressed by technology and called these emissaries from the stars “Gods.” The Elohim, it seems, are so very concerned about inaccurate PR that they contacted M. Vorilhon, a French racing journalist, to set the record straight for the rest of humanity. And they aren’t even paying him to buy some air time. He’s got to rely on humans for funding his message. Or maybe he’s saved every receipt since ’73 and the Elohim are totally good for it. The literature is unclear on this point.
But just think about this for a second: without changing a word the genre of the Bible went from being a Swords and Sandals epic to a Sci-Fi saga! Not even the Watchtower Organization pulled that off. The best they could manage was to turn a cross into a post. Now we can put the Bible on the shelf next to Dianetics and the Book of Mormon.
The first time I saw The Matrix I remember thinking, “Oh my god! Someone made a screenplay about one of my marijuana-induced conversations with Al and Jamie from the early ’90s” Which, I really thought at the time, was a unique experience to me. Nope… turns out I was really a cliché. Innocence is always the first casualty in the War on Bullshit.
Of course it wasn’t unique to me! These ideas are what the philosopher Karl Popper referred to as unfalsifiable beliefs and everyone gets them. They seem true, because it’s set up in a way so that they can never be false. The CIA is reading your thoughts via satellite, and only those with the highest security clearance have the proof; All your troubles are part of a vast conspiracy, and you could prove it if you ever got into one of their secret meetings; Jesus knows when you masturbate, which only the dead can say for certain.
Yet one also experiences statistically improbable bouts of good fortune which is proof that your dead Grandma is looking out for you; Proof that the Illuminati have bigger plans for you; Proof that prayer works. What these all have in common is that it makes one’s self the object at the center of a vast metaphysical or organizational network deeply concerned about the individual in question. That’s probably why, in a world full of things that make one go hmmmm, no one has ever suggested that the dog is telekinetic.
How often to we drop our imagination over reality, like a veil of bullshit that adheres to every object we touch with our eyes? And with every confidence we have a working model of the universe filed in our heads?
All the time. More than we are aware.