What A Bunch Of Cults

My New Year resolution was to join a cult. Preferably an entertaining one. Why? Well, the world's a bit fucked at the moment and it looks like it's going to end. By one of many ways, one of which is the terrifyingly dull one of banks boring us to death with new credit agreements (e.g. small print saying "There ain't any, so we're going to climb into a cardboard box in the loft and hibernate with full pension, until the lovely Sun of capitalism is shining - in the meantime, enjoy the Ice Age"). Money has always been the new church altar in these Godless times and I admit to praying regularly every Sunday, blind faith pounding in my heart as I turn to view the miracle that never happens - namely winning the Thunderball lottery. But even money and credit is evaporating, destroying yet another deity. It's also not coincidental that TV schedules have been packed with post-apocalyptic visions of Mother Earth ("Survivors", "Dead Set", even "Doctor Who" kiddy spin-off  "The Sarah Jane Adventures" - oh and they're resurrecting "Day of the Triffids" with lots of big star names). All the visions have one thing in common; we're all fucked and the atheists got it right. I recognise a fecking zeitgeist when I see one and I don't need Sunday colour supplements to tell me. So, like a shopping mall, there'll now be a dazzling array of new cults appearing on the shelves near you.

My personal favourite is the Raelians. In summary, they follow their leader, Rael (rael, sorry, real name Claude Vorilhon, a former racing car driver), who met an alien near a volcano who told him that humans were a genetic experiment by the Elohim, of which the alien was one. Call me old-fasioned, but I think this alien was blowing its own trumpet a bit. As a potted autobiography of a species, it's a little bit on the boastful side.

Plus, as aliens go, the description would have it filed away in a police report as the worst case of confabulation - in one case, Rael described the alien as having pale green skin, four foot high and having almond eyes; while in another case, Rael said the alien would've been barely noticed walking down a high street in Japan. My guess is that it might have been a high-spirited, short Japanese tourist with too many gadgets - kudos to him for starting Rael on his way in gathering together a sizeable group of 40,000 followers. He must be really pissed off that he isn't seeing any of the royalties. Rael, by the way, had to move away from his native France to the USA, because the French authorities weren't sure about having such a cult on their shores. The USA love cults - they elected one for the last 8 years (okay, that's enough playing on a word with one consonant difference from another word).

I went to a cult meeting of their's a few years ago, along with a kindred of open-minded responsible adult friends. It would be a fascinatiing sociological analysis of a closed hermetically-sealed microcosm of society with a singular obsession. Oh fuck it, okay, we were going to go along to a meeting to have a jolly good laugh at them! We were the Scooby Gang and, at worst, we were going to run away , Hannah-Barbera sound effect at the ready, at the slightest hint of the word 'conversion'. At best, we were going to rush Rael on stage, pull his face-mask off and reveal him to be Keith Harris, while Orville quacked behind him, "If it wasn't for you darned kids, we'd be ruling the world now!".

"A fiver", my pal Sam says, "for seeing a cult leader called Rael? That's a bargain, it beats most comedy performances in the Edinburgh Fringe!". Sam, and his fabulously cool Dad, were fixtures at the Fringe festival Pleasance hang-out. Sam could smell comedy gold a mile off. As a starting-point litmus test, he was a God-send (or, Elohim-send, so to speak).

Big Bearded Rob thought it was good value for money too - mind you, this is the bloke who used to buy several tins of Asda Basic Range meatballs for his weekly lunch, which were cheaper than the dog food in the same range. Again, he was a fantastic thermometer measuring pennies-to-minutes of family entertainment.

And my other pal, Big Nosed Barry, was happy to bring his camera along. He loves to catch a moment on camera, like this photo - of a drunken Rob being dragged away from stand-up comedian Richard Herring, after the always unwelcome inebriated contribution for funny writing, "Awright, you're a comic, ain't you? I've got a good joke for you...". Big Nosed Barry's good at catching moments like this, things to be treasured with friends and family. Amplitudinous stonkered cunt that he is (shite, there's no photo - I'll put it up on this blog soon).

So, we arrived in the spendid confines of the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh. We were quickly shown through to a specific suite by a gaggle of baffled hotel staff - presumably they knew what to look out for; a bunch of giggling, socially-retarded, hairy-arsed software developers that should be rightly locked-up at home, setting up Linux networking solutions. After we signed ourselves in, our first port of observation were the bouncers. Bouncers. As in, real proper, huge, ebony-skinned bouncers. The type that you see in hyper-reality movies like "Last Action Hero", as opposed to vomit-stained-pavement Glasgow pub bouncers. And just to continue in that hyper-reality, we saw some Raelians scattered on the stage like proper cult leaders.

Not cult representatives who jump about on couches on Oprah Winfrey TV shows, but people dressed like Marlon Brando in that first scene out of "Superman" (I wish I was making this up, I really am not).

We then had the powerpoint presentations by posh female leader scientist of the Raelians. She told us about the science of reproduction and put up lots of slides. It sounded like science, it looked like science, it was pontificated by a scientist-like person. It used words like 'genetics', 'cloning' and 'Clonaid' (the company that was funded by the Raelians). However, if the subject matter was written by Noel Fielding and acted out as Vince Noir in full-spangled "Mighty Boosh" silver suit, I would've believed it more than the silvery Raelian lady scientist witterings. Without any recourse to marijuana either. 

Big Bearded Rob agreed and walked out, during this slide ("Evolution vs religion"), and ostentatiously shouting the phrase, "This is bollocks". This is a shame, because he missed out a chance to gaze on the main act, "Oasis" Rael, after "Shed Seven" lady scientist. There's no way he could've seen photographs of Rael later either, because of what Big Nosed Barry was asked, nay, ordered to do next. "Don't take pictures of His Holiness, " demanded one of the hulking bouncers, slapping a loin joint of a hand down on Barry's shoulder. Barry, understandably, put the camera down.

Another reason Rob chose the wrong moment at walking out was because he missed Rael's glowing paen to masturbation, something that Rob has professed to being a great fan of when drunk. I thought it would've been a true Road to Damascus vision for him. It would certainly explain why the Raelians find monkeys so funny, as they do a fair amount of audacious bishop-bashing when the moment grabs them. If that wasn't enough for Rob, the reference to Intelligent Design's contribution to nature, by creating glowing pink rabbits, was surely a masterstroke and one that would aid the fight against world hunger.

Okay, it was the slide before this one and Big Nosed Barry was desperately trying to snap a shot before Hyper-reality Bouncer grabbed him by the shoulder again. But honestly, there was a Powerpoint picture of some glowing pink rabbits. Honest. How come NO-ONE believes me?!? I think it illustrated, with New Age fluency, how genetic engineering could save our future (it involved cloned humans and downloads/uploads or something into the soulless clone - don't ask me about such expert stuff, I'm only a software developer).

I thought it was a strangely compelling argument. Well, not the argument itself, but the importance of faith in being a part of a faith-based organisation. I mean, how come Scientology is respected? Is it because that bloke L Ron H wrote a few best-selling novels? Actually, screw it - all that stuff about loaves, fishes and burning bushes from mainstream Christianity sounds considerably less believable than a French bloke bumping into a well-spoken alien after a few laps around the Grand Prix. And then there's Rael himself. He seems a pleasant enough bloke, with a polite manner. Okay, as a British citizen, I regard any Frenchman that can speak English as polite for our snooty-nosed Gallic cousins. But you get the point, plus he didn't seem as hard-nosed and out for conversion as the thrusting superficial and dull proponents of Scientology. As an example, Rael's got a considerably more interesting biography than Scientologist spokesman Tom Cruise. Check it out; singer, songwriter, racing car driver and Messenger of Elohim. I'd be proud of that sparkling line on my curriculum vitae. Plus, reading his early biography, he had a singing career based on Jacques Brel.

Well, I, for one, would legitimately like to worship the Brel-influenced Scott Walker in some form of spiritual ceremony, but I understand he doesn't particularly like the attention (or, indeed, the more mundane and perfectly innocent stalking). If Scott doesn't want to be the new Messiah, I'll just have to settle for second-best in the form of another Brel singer with avant garde pretensions. Plus, you need only hear Scott Walker and Rael speak and you realise that they both hear the same weird 'blocks of symphonic sound' in their heads. Probably.

Incidentally, and as a post-script to all this, one of my friends, Anti-Hippy, was extremely annoyed that he hadn't known about this meeting. He says he would've been grilling them on every point of their culture and religion, in typical Goth Victor Meldrew, which is his style. In some respects, I think Rob's "bollocks" exit sounds like it would've been ultimately (and poetically) more polite. As a cult, they're not a suicide one - or preaching a particularly nasty message. Supposedly, they're just wanting an excuse for wanking each other off (whilst dressed in spangly Superman white suits) in the spirit of organised religious cults. None of the journalists present, incidentally, asked any particularly heated questions, with the possible exception of "Are you SURE you want to do that to those poor bunnies?". As religions go, in the supermarket sweep of unfounded beliefs, it ranks pretty high in "Compare A Religion" dot com.

Just don't freeze me cryogenically and wake me up in 200 years time, in time to see Keith Harris gazing benignly at me.

Update: My pal, Sam, has reminded me that it was the Sheraton hotel and not the Caledonian Hotel. Presumably, he reminded me, in case I was sued by the proprietors of the Caledonian for daring to suggest they'd host such a nutty event. I've also stuck the rest of the slides below. I love the fact that, supposedly intelligent humans (who are in contact with aliens and our destiny) notwithstanding, they still forgot to turn the spellchecker on for some of the Powerpoint presentation.


Chris Nicholson would like it to be known that he has no intention of starting his own cult. It's bad enough that this blog is building up a disturbing 'following'.