Sacramento Raelian: 'It just makes so much sense'

Raelians eat salad. Raelians go fishing. They have children and pets. They have state jobs and worry about layoffs like anyone else.

At least one does, and he lives in Sacramento.

Angelo Napolitano, an information systems technician at the State Board of Equalization, is Sacramento's Raelian, the more involved of only two members in the region. He belongs to the spiritual organization that burst into the news recently for its claim of cloning a baby girl.

Napolitano, 46, is a gung-ho believer.

"It's going to be the dominant philosophy on the planet," he says. "It completes all the religions."

In a white, collared shirt and gray coat, eating salad with his wife, Sherry, at downtown's Il Fornaio, nothing makes Napolitano seem out of place except a big, gold-plated Raelian medallion around his neck.

And the beliefs in his head.

Raelians believe:

* On Dec. 13, 1973, a French sports journalist named Claude Vorilhon came across an alien who took him into his spaceship, named him Rael and explained the origin of life on Earth. Rael last communicated with the aliens, telepathically, in 1998.

* Life on Earth was created by the aliens, called Elohim (translated as "God" in the Bible), who reside on the "planet of eternal life" (heaven) in our galaxy. The Elohim created humans in their image using genetic engineering.

* Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were prophets sent by the aliens to educate humans, and they are all alive and well on the Elohim's planet.

* The Bible describes the Raelian story with imprecise language.

* Humanity will achieve eternal life through cloning. The next step is to transfer the mind and memory of a human to its clone.

* The aliens want Raelians to establish an embassy on Earth for them (near Jerusalem, if possible) so they can officially meet us.

What drew in Napolitano was Rael's book, "The True Face of God," now titled "The Message Given by Extraterrestrials," which he bought off the Internet two years ago.

"I knew I had to get the book because I had been really interested in the way God and aliens relate to each other," he says.

A member of the high-IQ society Mensa International and a black belt in Korean martial arts, Napolitano grew up in Nevada City. A California State University, Chico, graduate who served in the U.S. Army, he has two children by a previous marriage and five grandchildren.

Napolitano has always been hooked on outer space. As a child, he peered into telescopes and hoped to become an astronaut. His father, an engineer, worked on the United States' first satellite and scrawled Angelo's name on the inside of a panel.

Rael's book fascinated Napolitano. He wasn't completely convinced but decided to try out a Raelian seminar in Las Vegas.

"I had to go," he says. "I said, 'Hey, if these guys are in contact with extraterrestrials, I have to find out.' "

Of course, he was a little worried, joking that a clone might come back in his place.

"I was telling him, 'Don't shave your head and don't sign anything,' " says Sherry, his wife of 15 years.

Actually, Napolitano signed up.

"I did a cellular transmission," he says, smiling. "It tells the Elohim ... that I recognize them as our creators, that they created us scientifically in their laboratory -- which kind of boggles the mind until you think about it. It just makes so much sense."

A transmission is a Raelian baptism performed by a priest, or "guide." In Napolitano's case, it was Brigitte Boisselier, who, as head of Clonaid, a company affiliated with the Raelians, made the cloning claims.

The priest serves as an antenna, putting a wet hand on the forehead and on the back of an initiate's head.

The transmission is required to become an official member but can be performed only on someone old enough to consciously choose involvement in the movement, says Felix Clairvoyant, the Northern California guide.

"The genetic code of the individual is directly transmitted to the Elohim spaceship, which is hovering above the Earth," Clairvoyant says. "It sounds difficult to comprehend, but now that we understand quantum physics and how bodies are bioelectrical in nature, it's easy to understand."

If a catastrophe occurs on Earth, the Elohim can re-create those people, using the genetic data.

And when Raelians die, they have a piece of their forehead sent to a Raelian safe, where it will be used to re-create them when the technology is available.

Clairvoyant concedes it "might sound a little far-fetched," but says the books explain everything.

Though sometimes portrayed as a loony cult, the Raelian movement does not show the earmarks of a violent or dangerous one, says Susan Palmer, a religious studies professor at Montreal's Dawson College who has studied the Raelians extensively and interviewed Rael. Instead, she says, the organization encourages members to be integrated in society, to attain an education and excel at their jobs.

"There's a lot of anti-cult feeling in our society, so anyone who joins a new religion or a baby religion is considered to be duped," she says. "It's a new religion, but in another hundred years it might become as respected as the Mormon church."

Though there have been charges that Raelians are anti-Semitic, based, in part, on a swastika incorporated into their original symbol, Palmer says they're not. Rael, whose Jewish father hid from the Nazis, believes Jews are more intelligent than other people, she says. Raelians advocate feminism, gay rights and racial diversity. The one thing Raelians are not tolerant of is the Catholic Church, she says, because of some of its actions and messages.

Napolitano was raised Catholic, became a born-again Christian, then explored Mormonism and Buddhism. Later, he returned to Catholicism but left it again.

His wife also left the church. "I'm not really a religious person," Sherry says. "I guess I'm a Raelian sympathizer. It's as believable as any other religion, as far as I'm concerned."

"Actually, it's more believable," Angelo breaks in, "because they give you answers for everything at the level of scientific understanding."

The organization claims 60,000 members worldwide, a 10 percent increase since its recent blast of publicity. There are 15 to 20 Raelians scattered throughout Northern California.

Napolitano spreads the word to everyone he meets, every chance he gets. At work, he keeps a Raelian poster in his cubicle, wears his medallion and hopes people will ask him about it.

He hasn't experienced harassment but said his family members "just kind of shake their heads."

He doesn't harbor a grudge against the naysayers. The essence of the religion, he says, is "love each other, have a good time, love your creator."

Other than that, it's up to you. Because the movement is based on personal freedom, specific practices aren't required. Napolitano gave up coffee and cigarettes because they "damage your genetic code," but doesn't spend as much time on "sensual meditation," a contemplation of infinity, as he should, he says.

Raelian marriage is loose, too. Even multiple partners are fine.

"We were created for pleasure," Napolitano says. "We like sex -- everyone likes sex. There is no human response that avoids pleasure, especially sexual pleasure."

His idea of government, though, isn't so free and easy. He favors a "geniocratic" system like that of the aliens, in which "you have to be smart enough to vote, and you have to be even smarter to run (for office)."

Intelligence, science, understanding and facts. That's the basis of their movement, Raelians say, not blind beliefs. But when it comes down to it, Napolitano is taking a leap of faith.

"You just understand that we were created by aliens," he says. He motions to his copy of Rael's book: "You just accept this."