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UFO–Based Religious Cults: A Sample Descriptive Essay

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UFO religions are classified as any new religious movement with a belief system centered on the existence of cosmic life and unidentified flying objects (UFOs). A common theme of such religions is the belief in alien civilizations that are far more advanced than humans. Adherents insist that these more intelligent, enlightened civilizations will eventually land on Earth to bring the human race out of its present–day strife. 

In some UFO religions, aliens are used metaphorically in a similar manner to angels, cherubs, and unicorns. The majority of religions in this category date from the mid–1950s onward, and draw inspiration from science fiction, space operas, and accounts of individuals who claim to have encountered aliens or flying saucers. Although research on UFO-based religions may be abundant, as you'll see in the following example, ordering a descriptive essay from Ultius can more effectively support the structure of your research.

Aetherius Society and UFO-based religion

The Aetherius Society was founded in 1955 by Englishman George King (1919—1997), a Christian–bred yoga practitioner with a longtime interest in UFO–based religion and the occult. Claiming to have had telepathic contact with a cosmic master by the name of Aetherius, King formed the Society in honor of the deity. Since that time, the Society has operated as a millenarian religion that seeks to prevent worldly destruction by keeping humans in contact with alien intelligence.

As The Aetherius Society courted its initial flurry of attention, King conducted events in which his followers would supposedly come into contact with cosmic beings via telepathic transmission. In actuality, the transmissions were delivered from a voice box operated by King himself. Like many religious leaders throughout history, George King believed himself a prophet or monarch or sorts - with a divine right. As quoted in a sample history essay on the Magna Carta

The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal absolutism. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the church. (Ultius)

The nine core tenets of Aetherism 

  1. Selflessness: helpfulness towards others is believed to be the highest act of mankind.
  2.  Yoga: believed to be an extension of enlightenment practice.
  3. Spiritual energy: believed to be a natural energy that heals, guides, motivates, and protects.
  4.  Divine nature: each life comes from and returns to a higher force, and is therefore a divine spark.
  5.  Psychic power: believed to be gained through yoga and other forms of self–development.
  6.  Mother Earth: the planet is represented as a goddess that has halted her own evolution in order to allow life as we know it to flourish.
  7.  Cosmic life: believed to exist at higher frequencies than current science can detect; contact with these life forms protects Earth from danger. 
  8.  UFOs: believed to have visited Earth for thousands of years; said to be referenced in the Bible.
  9.  Karma: used positively as a synonym for wisdom, which a person gains by learning from life experiences.

According to noted cult/sci–fi critic David V. Barrett, the global Aetherian population is numbered in the thousands and spread primarily across Great Britain, North America, New Zealand, and Africa (Barrett).

UFO religions and The church of the SubGenius

The Church of the SubGenius is a satirical UFO–based religion launched in 1979 by Dallas–based writer Ivan Stang in partnership with Philo Drummond in the self–published SubGenius Pamphlet #1. Despite its comedic nature, the Church has grown to more than 10,000 members around the world, who pay a $30 fee to join. Members are said to be descended from the mythic Yeti snow ape. Conspiracy theories based on cryptozoology are among the primary themes of SubGenius literature.

The brand, if not the Church itself, is recognized by the heavily circulated clipart image of mascot/fictional founder J.R. "Bob" Dobbs: a bright–eyed, pipe–smoking, 1950s–era salesman who made a fortune off the stock market. As legend has it, Dobbs founded the religion after building a television set and seeing a godly apparition appear on the screen. 

In its 1983 publication The Book of the SubGenius, the Church claimed that Dobbs — who's supposedly been killed and resurrected several times — had come into contact with a cosmic race called the Xists, who would be invading Earth on July 5, 1998. Even after the date had passed with no Xist invasion, Church members have held onto their faith, and the date is celebrated annually in SubGenius circles as “X–Day.”

Church of the SubGenuis debated legitimacy

Viewed by and large as a UFO–based cult of religious parody, the Church counts atheists and agnostics among its fans. As member and multimedia contributor St. Joe Riley once explained, "I'm not into SubGenius for the religious aspect so much. I see the Church more as... genetic stuntmen." (Riley).

Heaven's Gate and UFO–based religious cults

A popular subject for clients ordering model criminology essays, The Heaven's Gate cult was a UFO Millenarian group founded in 1974 by music educator Marshall Applewhite and nurse Bonnie Nettles. They first met in 1972, and quickly discovered their mutual interest in mysticism and divine messengers. Believing they had met in a past life, they spent two years imbibing themselves with literature on Christology, science fiction, and asceticism. They came to believe that they were the Two Witnesses from the Book of Revelation, and Applewhite believed that he was a blood relative of Christ. 

With their beliefs now forming the outline for a new doctrine, the pair placed advertisements for meetings in the San Diego area. 

Concepts of the Heaven's Gate belief system:

  1. The Next Level: Believing that Earth would soon be wiped clean, the only way to survive was to be accepted into the Next Level, which required members to abandon all aspects of personal identity, such as names, families, professions, homes, possessions, and sexuality. 
  2. Walk–ins: With humanity corrupt and due for extinction, members would undergo walk–ins, in which the body was overtaken by an extraterrestrial soul. This allowed each member to start anew from a clean slate; cleansed of his or her flawed human history.
  3. Ancient astronauts: The seeds of humanity were planted by aliens who visited Earth thousands of years beforehand on UFOs. The aliens would soon return to save a handful of enlightened individuals, and poison the rest of humanity for its corruption. Only people who joined Heaven's Gate, entered the Next Level, and underwent a walk–in would get to join the cosmic exodus and escape the fate of mankind.

Nettles was diagnosed with late–stage cancer in 1983, but insisted that she was immortal and wouldn't really die. She held firm in this belief on up to her death two years later. Applewhite convinced his followers of the UFO–based religion that she'd left her human body to join the aliens early. 

Similar to America's most infamous cult led by Charles Manson, the group lived a communal, ascetic existence and generated revenue through a computer maintenance service. According to one anonymous survivor, the member's daily tasks "made for elements of higher level discipline and lessons that only improved the way that we behaved with each other." ("A Survivors Perspective"). 

The end of Heaven's Gate

In March 1997, Applewhite persuaded the group to commit mass suicide under the pretext that their souls would simply exit their human bodies and float to a UFO that he claimed was following Comet Hale–Bopp, which was then approaching the perihelion. On the 26th, thirty–eight Heaven's Gate members were found dead in the group's Rancho Santa Fe mansion. The corpses lied separately in bunk beds, each one covered in purple cloth. The members ranged in age from 26 to 72 at the time of death. Each corpse bore an armband that read "Heaven's Gate Away Team." 

Raëlism: The largest UFO–based religion

Said to be the world's largest UFO–based religion, Raëlism was started in 1974 by French automobile journalist Claude Vorilhon, who claimed to have been in contact with aliens who taught him the origin of each world religion. Advancing his beliefs with The Book Which Tells the Truth (1974) and Extraterrestrials Took Me to their Planet (1975), his teachings soon spawned The International Raëlian Movement (IRM). Interestingly enough, UFO sightings in the U.S. date back as far as 1639.

Raëlians believe that Earth was visited thousands of years ago by advanced cosmic beings known as the Elohim, who created life on the planet through genetic engineering. The Elohim continued to occupy the planet in human disguise, and were mistaken for angels and cherubs by early, unsophisticated humans.

Unlike UFO–based cults such as Heaven's Gate and People's Temple — in which the afterlife is believed to offer a superior existence to life on Earth — Raëlians believe that human existence is the best possible experience, and that all the pleasures of life on Earth should be maximized to the fullest within each person's lifespan. Raëlians also believe that life can last eternally as souls pass from one body to another.

Baptism into the Raëlian Church 

Initiation into the Raëlian Church involves a baptism that can only be performed on four specific days out of the year:

  • August 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945.
  • December 13, the day that Vorilhon claims to have initially communicated with the Elohim in 1973.
  • October 7, the day that Vorilhon claims to have been brought aboard the Elohim spacecraft in 1975.
  • The first Sunday of April, believed to be the day that the Elohim created Adam and Eve. 

The IRM has spread to at least 90 countries, with the highest membership counts found in Northeast Asia and Europe. Men comprise roughly two–thirds of the Raëlian community, though women can easily earn high status within the movement. Two prominent groups have been established exclusively for women in the UFO–based religion.

Roles of women in The UFO-Based Raëlian Church

  • The Order of Angels, which consists of women who take oath to defend the teachings of Vorilhon and promote the higher virtues of femininity. Membership in the Order is split into two hierarchies: Rose Angels and White Angels.
  • Raël's Girls, which solely consists of prostitutes, strippers, and women from other areas of sex work. Their purpose is to un–shame the sex industry and promote sex–positive feminism. 

According to cult expert Mike Kropveld, the Order of Angels is a transparent movement, though he expressed surprise at the Angel's devotion to their leader's physical well–being (eerily similar to the ideology of terrorist organizations like ISIS), which they purportedly vow to defend with their own lives (McCann).

Raëlian Church controversies In mainstream media

In 2002, the Raëlian Church sparked international controversy when it claimed that one of its members had delivered the world's first baby clone. The scandal thrust the Church into the center of the human cloning debate. Vorilhon has asserted that cloning will make it possible for humans to reach eternal life ("Free-love"). 

Raëlism has also been criticized by mainstream religious leaders for its liberalized sexual values. In Israel, IRM was barred from setting up locally because of its positive use of the swastika, which Raëlians are known to wear in combination with the Star of David.

Scientology: UFO–Based Religious Cult Of Hollywood

Out of all the belief systems that include extraterrestrial elements, few embody space opera (fiction involving interplanetary strife) more than Scientology. Founded in 1954 by sci–fi novelist L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology is a UFO–based religion built on the premise that humans are immortal beings (thetans) with many past lives. Some of which have been lived in advanced, ancient civilizations. Human limitation is the result of trauma caused by bad experiences during these past lives. Through a process called auditing, the spirit can be restored and the individual can harness his or her supernatural powers.

Comparing Scientology to the Human Potential movement, religion expert James A. Beckford has written that both strive for "a new global order," in which "human beings come into possession of the knowledge required to free them from traditional structures of thought and action." (Beckford).

L. Ron Hubbard

Hubbard published numerous works in his lifetime that detail cosmic entities which landed on Earth millions of years ago and filled the planet with spirits. In one of his most derided tales, the Galactic Confederacy headed by Xenu came to Earth 37 million years ago, dropped millions of frozen bodies around volcanoes, killed them by igniting the volcanoes, took their spirits, and repackaged those spirits with new programming.

Hubbard believed that once a thetan dies, the soul floats to Venus, where it gets wiped of its memory and reprogrammed. The soul is then capsulized and sent back to Earth, where it crashes along the California coast and proceeds to find a newborn body to inhabit. In order to avoid this repetitive cycle, Hubbard advised his followers to avoid Venus after death.

Long after Scientology was being recognized in research on understanding Charles Manson's cult, crimes, and murders, and Since L. Ron Hubbard's death in 1986, prominent figures within Scientology have disavowed literal interpretations of the author's cosmic claims. Regarding the Xenu story, the Church's New York president John Carmichael has stated "that’s not what we believe" (Oppenheimer).

The Universal Industrial Church of the New World Comforter

In 1973, Allen Michael (aka Allen Noonan) founded The Universal Industrial Church of the New World Comforter: a UFO–based religion that attracted a cult following within the then–burgeoning hippie movement. The seeds of his conviction were planted 25 years beforehand, during which time he claimed to have first encountered aliens while working as a sign painter in the Long Beach area. He also claimed to have stumbled upon a flying saucer during the mid–1950s in the Mojave Desert.

In 1967, Michael launched the One World Family Commune, which congregated in a string of vegan restaurants (Here and Now and One World Family Natural Food Center) that he opened in the epicenter of the Bay Area's acid rock/flower power scene. By the early 1970s, the commune was grouped into two Berkley houses. Along the side of the OneWorld restaurant, a mural was painted that read "Farmers, Workers, Soldiers Unite - The People's Spiritual Reformation 1776–1976!" With the three arm–in–arm characters respectively holding a pitchfork, hammer, and gun, the mural was designed to promote peace.

The Church was launched with Michael's publication of The Everlasting Gospel, which described his revelations. Soon thereafter, the Church established an official base in Stockton, California. Its founder ran as a third–party candidate in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. 

Unarius Academy of Science

Promoting the notion that advanced cosmic life exists on higher frequencies than anything science can detect, The Unarius Academy was founded in 1954 by the husband–wife team of Ernest and Ruth Norman. Centered in El Cajon, California, Unarians claim to communicate with higher intelligence through fourth dimensional physics. The key tenets of Unarian beliefs consist of the following:

Key Tenets of Unarian Beliefs

  • Advanced life currently exists in other galaxies.
  • Humans consist of energies that, when harnessed, can communicate with alien intelligence.
  • Everything that happens in this lifetime stems from actions taken in a prior life.
  • Positive actions must outweigh and compensate for the negative in order for a person to advance.

The UFO–based religion also holds the belief that the solar system was once occupied by advanced, interplanetary races, and that an alien invasion of Earth will sometime occur. 

Works Cited

Barrett, David V. A Brief Guide to Secret Religions. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2011. 122. Print.

Riley, Joe St. "Great Quotes." The Stark Fist of Removal. Church of the SubGenius. n.d. Web. 3 June 2016. http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/answers/articles/X0024_GREAT_QUOTES.TXT.html.

"A Survivors Perspective." Heaven's Gate Cult. n.p. n.d. Web. 3 June 2016. https://heavensgatemembers.weebly.com/a-survivors-perspective.html.

McCann, Brigitte. "REALM OF THE RAELIANS: RAELIAN NATION – Part 1." Calgary Sun. Postmedia. 7 Oct. 2003. Web. 3 June 2016. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/4709/realm-of-the-raelians.

"Free-love group behind the human clone project." The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 28 Dec. 2002. Web. 3 June 2016. https://www.smh.com.au/world/free-love-group-behind-the-human-clone-project-20021228-gdg166.html.

Beckford, James A. "New Religious Movements and Globalization." New Religious Movements in the 21st Century. Eds. Phillip Charles Lucas and Thomas Robbins. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2004. 208. Print.

Oppenheimer, Mark. "The Actualizer." The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 15 July 2007. Web. 3 June 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/magazine/15Katselas-t.html?_r=0

Ultius. "A Historical Essay on the Magna Carta." Ultius Blog. Ultius, Inc. 30 May 2016. Web. 27 May 2016. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/a-historical-essay-on-the-magna-carta.html.



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