Vol.6, No.2 | [Articles] The “Happiness Academy”: Relaxing Holiday, Religious Pilgrimage and Development Strategy of a New Religious Movement in a Mediterranean Country




Since 2003 and the human cloning scandal, the Raelian movement, a small organization but one known all over the world, has been particularly active in the media, on the Internet and on the international stage. Their "Happiness Academy", organized in mid-summer in Slovenia in order to highlight the life of the movement, is a singular religious manifestation, bringing together Raelians from all over Europe around their prophet, Claude Vorilhon, alias Rael. First, this study analyses the results of a survey, conducted during this Raelian training in Lendava in 2010, and in Strunjan in 2011. It emphasizes all the efficiency of an Internet marketing strategy and the uniqueness of an event that represents both a relaxing holiday and a religious gathering. The researcher also questions the reasons for choosing these two sites and Slovenia from a transnational geographic, economic and juridical point of view (imprisonment for the act of "apology for human cloning" is practiced in some European countries like France). Second, the study focuses on the ephemeral, sacred side of the event but also on the originality of the experience and the practices that the Happiness Academy conducts, for example the sensual meditation and the worship rather subtly maintained around the "prophet" Rael and the Elohim (aliens supposed to have created the world). Finally, the researcher makes reference to the exploitation of the Internet by the Raelian movement, not only for the promotion of this event but also for an overall strategy based on the strengths of religious tourism (particularly when the organization targets states that could sell their land to build the embassy welcoming the Elohim when they come to earth).

Keywords : Raelian movement, new religion, religious tourism, marketing, Slovenia