If someone happened to tell you that a single thread connects Kanye West’s recent antisemitic public breakdown, UFO sex cults, and motorsport journalism, you’d think it was the setup for a bad joke. It’s not. Welcome to the wild world of Raëlism, a religion based on the belief that aliens created humanity in order to satisfy their sexual urges, whose controversial symbol — a swastika embedded in a Star of David — just got Ye banned from Twitter.
First, some context. West, who now goes by “Ye,” has been on an antisemitic bent for several weeks, most recently including an appearance on Alex Jones’ InfoWars, during which Ye wore a black mask and said “I see good things about Adolf Hitler.” His hate speech also spread into tweets, many of them since deleted, that threatened Jewish people.
This all culminated last night when Ye tweeted an image of a swastika embedded in a Star of David. It was the final straw in a long series of hateful comments, and it resulted in Elon Musk banning Ye from Twitter for inciting violence. Obviously, the blending of the swastika — a symbol co-opted by the Nazi party that’s become shorthand for antisemitism — into a symbol of Jewish faith is a bad move. But Ye didn’t invent the symbol. Someone named Claude Vorilhon did, and this is where the story gets especially weird.
Vorilhon, who goes by “Raël,” is a former French motorsport journalist and semi-professional racing driver. As Road & Track wrote in an in-depth history published last year, Vorilhon descended into the world of cultism after claiming to encounter an alien named Yahweh. After his supposed contact with the alien race he called Elohim, Vorilhon was compelled to give up his post as the head of the French racing magazine Auto Pop in order to spread word of this new religion, which he called Raëlism.
In essence, Raëlism is an atheistic extraterrestrial cult-like religion. It’s based on a belief that aliens created the human race as a receptacle for their sexual urges, to prevent the Elohim from turning violent. Raëlism posits that the prophets of the major global religions — Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed — were all Elohim/human hybrids. Followers of Raëlism also believe that the Elohim can alter human DNA.
Raëlism blends aspects of Abrahamic traditions with the sexual liberation and world peace movements to push its own view of history: That after the development of the atomic bomb, humanity entered an era of self-destruction that could only be curtailed if humans joined forces to create technology that would promote peace. These new technologies could only be developed after having sex, which Vorilhon believes can create new neural pathways in the brain that enhance human intelligence. As part of this effort, Raëlians have worked to build an Elohim embassy and landing pad to welcome our horny alien overlords.
Raëlism has managed to secure quite a few followers, and it might even be one of the biggest UFO-based religions in existence today. Its followers are primarily based in French-speaking areas of Western Europe, North America, and East Asia.
While Vorilhon stepped back from motor journalism in 1973 to focus on his UFO sex cult religious movement, in 1994 his Japanese followers rented a race car for him to use in competition. Why? As Road & Track explains, going to race tracks was a pretty great way to rub shoulders with wealthy folks who might donate to the cause, and putting the religious movement’s name on a race car was a great way to get noticed. Vorilhon even gifted a copy of his book, Let’s Welcome Our Fathers from Space, to actor-turned-racer Paul Newman at a 1997 IMSA race at Lime Rock Park, where Newman finished in second place and the cult founder nabbed third.
Vorilhon’s cult-pumping racing career started small, with the religious leader competing in local Japanese series like the Toyota Celica Cup and the Honda Civic Cup. With ample international support from his followers, he was able (despite a string of mediocre racing results) to progress to the big leagues of sports car racing. He eventually retired from racing in 2001, at age 55, but he still leads the Raëlian movement, which seems to be enjoying modest popularity around the world.
Which brings us back to the image Ye tweeted. Vorilhon claims that, during his first contact with the Elohim, their spaceship wore the insignia of a swastika encircled by a Star of David. Raëlism used this image as its logo for a time (it’s still in use among some followers), but due to understandable backlash, it was largely replaced by a swastika-free version in 1992. The current symbol of Raëlism is a Star of David with a swirl in the center.
Is Ye aware of the UFO sex cult origins of the symbol he tweeted? Were the Raëlians involved in an antisemitic plot carried out by sex-obsessed aliens? Did Paul Newman ever read Claude Vorilhon’s book? It’s hard to say. But if you’re looking to dig into the wild world of Raëlism, you can read more on Religion Media Centre, Timeline, and Third Mill.