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Credo: Upendra Singh

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People,Liz Essley

Singh came to the U.S. from Nepal in 1999 and now works for two nonprofits in the Washington area. He also serves as a guide -- the equivalent of a priest -- in the Raelian Movement. The D.C. region has about 10 active Raelians, he says, though the religion claims 70,000 members worldwide.

Raelism is a "UFO religion." What do you believe?

We were created by extraterrestrials about 25,000 years ago through the means of science. We do not believe in a mystical, ethereal god in the sky. We're atheists. You can find implications of our creation in all the religious texts, including the Bible. If you read the original version of the Bible in Hebrew, it does not have the word "God." It says "the Elohim did this, did that." "The Elohim" in Hebrew, literally translated, means "those who came from the sky." Later it became mistranslated into the singular word "God." We believe in Jesus, Moses and all the prophets. But they were sent by our creators, the Elohim, who are from another planet. They are of course much more advanced in technology and consciousness.

Raelians helped organize the recent topless protest in D.C. Why?

We're advocating for equality first. If us men can be top-free, so should women. As Raelians we believe the body is a creation of its creators, and it's beautiful. As opposed to a lot of other religions, we don't believe we were born in sin, so there's nothing to hide about it.

Also, about the chest --a lot of people say it's very sexual. But so is the nose; so is the lips. Why is the breast more sexual than the lips or the nose? If you go to other cultures, women are breast-feeding their babies in public. We go back to these very Judeo-Christian values here, and it's very constrained, especially in terms of sexuality.

Raelism's emphasis on sexuality, with practices like "sensual meditation," is one of its more controversial aspects.

First of all, sexuality and sensuality are not the same. Sensuality is everything to do with your senses, and sexuality is one part of sensuality. Sexuality is central to the Raelians. As a woman social scientist once explained, especially for women, it is the central part of their lives. It's in your genes -- it's about expressing who you are. Sensuality, sexuality, spirituality --they're all linked.

What makes you put your trust in Rael, a former sports journalist who first published these ideas in the 1970s?

It's a belief based on understanding. The book made sense to me; it wasn't a blind leap of faith. When you look at a butterfly, the beautiful wings -- that to me is a much more compelling evidence for intelligent design than for Darwinism, that we came from monkeys or a unicellular organism. That theory in itself has lots of flaws.

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

We were created by extraterrestrials through science. It is possible to have paradise on this planet. We are promoting the idea of paradism -- where we live in a system where there is no money and work, where we use machines to do all the boring work we don't want to do today. Also, femininity is the way to save the world. Right now we are really out here promoting femininity as opposed to feminist values --femininity meaning more nurturing and caring.

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