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Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery [Paperback]

Martin Gardner
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2008
Well-known skeptic and acclaimed popular science writer Martin Gardner presents a complete history of the Urantia movement, from its beginnings in the early 20th century to the present day. In addition to providing an outline of the Urantia cult’s worldview, Gardner presents strong evidence to establish the identity of the man whose trancelike orations formed the basis of the book. Gardner also analyzes the flaws in Urantian science and points out many instances of plagiarism in various sections of the book.

In a new postscript to this paperback edition, Gardner details recent developments in the Urantia movement, corrects some errors in the original edition, and responds to critical reactions from Urantia believers to his skeptical perspective on the book and the movement.

Although there are other histories of The Urantia Book, this is the only one written by a skeptic. Anyone interested in the New Age, cults, or the development of new religions will find much fascinating material in Gardner’s thorough overview.

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From Amazon

The media has temporarily turned its large but constantly blinking eye away from cult-of-the-day reportage after the Waco conflagration, but such organizations continue to collect adherents. Martin Gardner, best known as mathematical-games-meister for Scientific American, turns his refreshingly unblinking gaze on the origin and continuing growth of the Urantian cult. It is a marvellous study of the ways in which ideas can be propagated through society. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1955, the Urantia Book, a 2097-page tome hailed by its advocates as the channeled wisdom of celestial beings, posits one infinite God, the great I AM, and billions of lesser gods. It contains pronouncements on evolution, cosmology, physics and quantum mechanics, which Gardner (The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher) finds deeply flawed, and it includes a biography of Jesus that asserts he toured Rome and Greece at ages 28 and 29, becoming an adept of Greek philosophy, mathematics and art. The Urantia cult was founded by two former Seventh-day Adventists?Chicago psychiatrist William Sadler (1875-1969) and his brother-in-law, Wilfred Kellogg (1876-1956), a businessman. In this intriguing expose, Gardner, former Scientific American mathematics columnist, makes a strong case that the Urantia Book is filled with plagiarized passages from other cult books. He also charts bitter schisms among the Urantians and looks at other Adventist splinter groups, notably David Koresh's Branch Davidian cult consumed by flames near Waco, Tex.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Even though Gardner's book is fairly formidable (445 pages; 1.7 pounds), do yourself a favor and read it before you buy and read the Urantia Book (2,097 pages; 4.3 pounds, per Gardner). By doing so, you will hopefully save the cost of buying, the time spent reading, and, most importantly, avoid a possible commitment to the Urantia Book.
I first ran across the Urantia Book (UB) in 1973, bought it and spent months of careful reading before finishing it in early 1974. At that time I got rid of the UB because I felt that, although unconventional, it was essentially Christian and capable of only producing yet another Christian sect, and was therefore limited in perspective and usefulness. The racial and religious prejudices, spread throughout the book but concentrated especially in the Jesus papers, were obvious, and likely not the product of those with a comprehensive view of the world, as assumed by the UB's purported cosmic authors. Because of the UB's complexity and obviously Christian focus, I concluded at the time that the source must be, say, a very cynical Christian mathematician.
Although I have not paid much attention to the UB for the last 30 years, I was very interested to recently run across Gardner's book in the library and to find that my initial reaction to the UB had some elements of truth. From Gardner's book, I learned that the authors of the UB, or at least its editors/compilers, were from a strong Christian (Seventh Day Adventist) background. Also, to date, approximately 50% of the UB has been shown to be directly copied or summarized from a variety of early 20th century religious, scientific, sociological, and historical publications that were available to UB authors prior to its publication in 1955.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gardner is a theist not a skeptic Jan. 1 2000
Format:Hardcover
As the person who turned Martin on to the UB and corresponded with him during most of its writing, it would interest most readers of UTGCM to know that Martin believes in God, prayer and faith. Is this "platonic mystic's" new book about the UB slightly prejudiced by his own pseudo-religious beliefs? In his 1983 book, The WHYS of a Philosopical Scrivener, Gardner plainly states: "It goes without saying, as a theist who accepts no Revelation, I believe we can learn nothing about life after death from such all-too-human visions..."--pg 304 WHYS. Does this include any future books he may run across? Apparently it does, whether he reads them or not.
In Garnder's book, The WHYS, where he knows no skeptic would dare tread (alas, there are too many big words), it is no surprise to me that he makes such off-the-cuff comments like "On the other hand, we cannot leave the nature of the afterlife a total blank. If we make no guesses at all, how can it satisfy those longings that impel the leap of faith?"--pg303 WHYS. Or, "Yes, we philosophical theists are a lonely, fragmented breed. We are the closet theists. We work for years alongside someone who will never suspect that we believe in God... When we pray, we pray in secret, as Jesus himself (remember? Matthew" 6:6) recommended."
Are these the comments of someone who disbelieves in many of the UB's "wild" assertions, or are they the thoughts of someone with competing beliefs who wishes to dismiss the competition without having to supply any alternatives except to say, how can we know anything about anything.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Is this the best author for the job? April 27 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
After going through parts of The Urantia Book and finding kernels of truth, and an underlying consistency in the overall message, I found Martin Gardner's book a bit disturbing. It seemed as if his mind was made up well before his investigation into this text. An authors bias can run through his/hers work in a negative way. I do not know Mr. Gardner, but it seemed there was a surprising amount of anger and negativity involved here. Most pages had numerous negative references in an attacking manner. In the end it was too emotional and not professional enough to rely on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Bible and Urantia Nov. 12 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Actually, my comment is more on the comments about Urantia. I find it so interesting that everyone takes the Bible as the literal Word of God. I only have time for one example, but would like you to think about it, and why some of those things mentioned in the Urantia Book could be anymore bogus than some of the things found in the Bible. Do you remember in Genesis where God said, "Let there be light." That "light" took place on the FIRST DAY. What was the form that God used to give the Earth light? If you read on, you find that the light was created on the first day! However, it wasn't until the FOURTH DAY that the sun and moon were created. There is information in Urantia that makes more sense to me than that. Light created first day, sun and moon created fourth day. Hmmmm...what's wrong with this picture?
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1.0 out of 5 stars Why Did Martin Gardner Write this Book? Dec 30 1999
Format:Hardcover
Ask yourself the question: Why did Martin Gardner write this book?
-and also-
Ask yourself the other question: Why was The URantia Book put in print?
Once you correlate those two answers for yourself, you will understand which is closer to the truth.
On a personal level, I still marvel that Gardner could *debunk* the entire URantia Book even though he has not read it in its entirety.
He must be truly blessed because with the turn of a few phrases, he can singlehandedly discredit something that took 20 years and hundreds of personalities to put into print.
It has taken me over 25 years, not just to read, but to begin to UNDERSTAND the contents of The URantia Book.
Maybe, just maybe, he MISSED something in his hurry to publicize the personal lives of persons involved with the human level of publication.
Maybe, he missed 2097 pages of fascinating reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars An Angry Man with an Angry Agenda
Martin Gardner ia an angry man with an angry agenda.
Interestingly,The Urantia Book is a beautiful book based on unlifting hope for all of God's children.
Published on July 17 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars To Correct the Record: Gardner's misquotes and distortions
Half Truths (Suppressed Evidence): Any statement usually intended to deceive that omits some of the facts necessary for an accurate description. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2002 by Fellow Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars Why waste your time?
I suggest Mr. Gardner actually read the Urantia papers in their entirety. In my opinion, his review is fiction, sophomoric and wreaks of sour grapes.
Published on Nov. 21 2001 by Jonathon Johnson
1.0 out of 5 stars An axe to grind...
This book is an example of someone taking a belief and working very hard to mold reality around it. Some of his arguments are circular, depending only on themselves for support. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2001 by "worldwork"
1.0 out of 5 stars What's happened to Martin Gardener?
Martin Gardener is, or was, the editor of that popular magazine Scientific American. His astute recommendations for scientific books (e.g. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2001 by "theredbuddha"
1.0 out of 5 stars Bogus Critique
Mr. Gardner is not correct in most of his critiques commensing with Urantia being a 'cult'. This is simply untrue. Read more
Published on July 9 2000 by Marian J. Mateu
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading - Even for Urantians!
Given that Martin Gardner is a skeptic, and that the Urantia book is a so-called "revealed" Bible-like text which mixes Christianity, philosophy, history, and many... Read more
Published on Dec 1 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Be skeptic of the skeptic
Marvin Gardner has a formula to be the prolific writer that he is. He looks for a subject with considerable interest and takes an opposing and controversial view. Read more
Published on Aug. 11 1999
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