There wasn’t just cloning around happening when the Toronto chapter of the Raelian movement held a lecture on “Human Cloning: A Giant Step Forward for Humankind” in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education building at the University of Toronto Feb. 26.

The movement, considered a cult by most, gained notoriety recently when it claimed to have produced five cloned babies through its affiliate Clonaid, although observers throughout the world expressed skepticism that it had the ability to do so. It alleges itself to be the largest UFO-related, non-profit organization in the world, with some 55,000 adherents in 84 countries.

Of particular concern to pro-lifers and Christians is its assertions that there is no soul and that, “Contraception and abortion are choices which we can conceive without guilt and which we can regulate, as many countries have already done.”

The cult was started in 1973, when a French journalist named Rael alleged he was spoken to by an alien (“Elohim”) who told him that scientists from another planet created all life on earth using DNA. He asked Rael, who remains head of the movement to this day, to establish an “embassy” on earth, in order to welcome the Elohim back to earth.

In Toronto, about 25 people heard lecturers predict that cloning will soon become commonplace.

“What cloning can do for us is pretty amazing. It holds out hope for many people,” said one lecturer, “Patrick.” He added that humanity is at “an exciting stage” where it can redesign society. “Some people prefer not to be cloned. Anything is acceptable. What would you do if you had the opportunity to be cloned and live forever?”

Patrick said cloning offers the opportunity to create life forms that will perform all the menial and dangerous tasks of life, such as working in factories, cooking, cleaning and so on. In addition, these beings could be made to look visually appealing, “like Richard Gere or Jennifer Lopez.”

“We can create combinations of biology and technology – Imagine if we could download our brains to a few (micro) chips – Maybe in the future, we’ll be able to choose our bodies. Today, I’ll be a man; in 10 years, I’ll be a woman.”

He said that spirituality can be used to transform society, especially when it is combined with technology.

Another speaker, “Fabrice,” said that the ultimate goal for Raelians is eternal life, and the vehicle for that is cloning. “We should have the choice to be whoever we want to be. Is it good for you? That is the question. We have found a philosophy that suits us.”

Fabrice added that “those who created us (the Elohim) know how we work. They’re giving us some tools to be happier.” He characterized their leader Rael’s messages as a “compass” and “light” that allow humans to move towards happiness and find out who they really are.

“The media are trying to make you scared with negative propaganda about cloning,” he warned. “The Elohim do not want to impose themselves. They created us with that gift of choice and freedom. Have fun. Enjoy your life.”

Among the literature distributed at the lecture was a document entitled, “Is Cloning Pro-Life?” composed by James Pinkerton. In it, Pinkerton suggested that anti-cloners actually refute many pro-life arguments. “They argue, without realizing it, against themselves; they suffer from an unacknowledged schizophrenia, in which one lobe of social conservatism opposes the other,” he wrote.

The cult’s Toronto chapter is active in staging monthly gatherings, and holds special events including a “philosophical evening” and a full-day seminar on the Raelian teachings.