Are the Raelians A Dangerous Cult?

How the Raelian Movement Stands Up to Common Indicators of a Cult

The Raelian Movement is often labeled a “UFO cult” primarily because of the centrality of extraterrestrials in their religion, a factor that should more accurately have them described as a UFO religion. Using these guidelines for determining a dangerous cult, let's see how the Raelian Movement actually stacks up.

Central Authority In a Single, Charismatic Leader

Rael is most definitely the central leader of the Raelian movement, and he is highly charismatic. He is viewed as both prophet and messiah. Currently, he is the only person in contact with the Elohim, our alien progenitors whom Raelians wish to welcome and emulate. In the early years, Rael explicitly taught the Raelians not treat him as particularly special. He urged them to look at where he was guiding them rather than at the guide himself.

In recent years, some Raelians have become critical of his expectations of bows and titles, which he feels are necessary for him to be taken seriously as a religious leader. In this, he models such behavior on that afforded the Dalai Lama or the pope.

Control Over Life and Death

Most certainly not. While Rael does occupy a central location in Quebec, most Raelians do not even live in Quebec, much less in his close proximity. He has no control over their lives, much less wielding a power to order someone's death. In addition, the Raelians are pacifists. If Rael were to do command violence against someone, it would be viewed as a complete betrayal of their most fundamental beliefs.

Commission of Felonies

No. While Rael does disagree with various laws in various countries (such as laws that allow men to go shirtless in public but not women, which he considers sexist), he does not encourage members to break such laws. Instead, he urges protest to get such laws changed.

Strict Control Over Lives of Members

No. There are no lifestyle requirements for Raelians. There are certain ideals taught, but only their Guides, the closest equivalent to a priest that they have, are expected to follow such ideals as examples to others.

Separation From Contacts Outside The Group

No. Members live ordinary lives in their own homes, freely interacting with friends and family.

Polarized Worldview

No. While there are people and groups whom Rael considers negative influences, there are no teachings that there is a force of evil preparing to crush the faithful, nor is there any urging to combat such people violently

Living In Communal Isolation

Again, no, for reasons already stated

Large Required Donations

No. There is an annual membership fee ($150 in 2003, the most current source I have), and members can donate more if they choose, but there is absolutely no obligation.

Conformity: Subjection of Individual Desires and Thoughts

No. There is no punishment for disagreement with the teachings of Raelians. At best, the teachings are suggestions and tools for guidance. For example, Rael condemns smoking of all kinds and the drinking of alcohol because of the negative effects it has on the body. However, many Raelians continue to do such without fear of reprisals.

Punishment For Defection or Criticism

The questioning or criticism of Rael personally is not tolerated.

Group Is Small

No. The Raelians have about 40,000 members. Small groups can be more easily manipulated, in part because they are in regular contact with their leader. Large numbers spread across the globe are difficult to control.


Almost all religions (including mainstream ones) bear at least a couple markers listed above, and the Raelians fall well within that range of control of members. Referring to them as a dangerous cult is not appropriate.