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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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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
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging expose' of the Urantia movement April 12 1999
Martin Gardner's book entitled URANTIA: The Great Cult Mystery is a skeptic's critique of The URANTIA Book (UB), a 2097-page compilation of several papers allegedly authored by several 'divine revelators,' each one claiming to be a representative of God's vast celestial hierarchy. These 'authors' were commissioned by their heavenly 'supervisors' to enlighten the inhabitants of this planet (which they call Urantia) as to how mankind has been supposedly misled throughout human history by the errors of religious thinking. The primary target for which the UB 'authors' claim is in need of 'correction' in the arena of religion is the Bible, with all its misconceptions regarding the nature of God, who Jesus was, etc. Mr. Gardner, although not a Bible-believer himself, finds it difficult to accept the truth-claims that these alleged celestial authors present, in light of several factors. To begin with, Gardner takes exception to the many scientific errors to be discovered within the pages of the UB. He devotes two full chapters of his book to illustrate portions of the UB's vast science content which have been rendered outdated because of discoveries made since its publication in 1955. In some cases, the science content became outdated even before the UB was published, and in still others, the purported scientific 'facts' were already incongruent with the science of the time, which can only be attributed as outright errors on the part of these alleged higher minds! Why would these divine revelators allow the publishing of such self-damning evidence? Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading - Even for Urantians! Dec 1 1999
By A Customer
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 strange, wild, and often nutty ideas, Gardner's book is primarily worth reading for the history and background of the Urantia Book and movement based upon it. Gardner's opinions are condescending and nasty at times, but one expects that from so harsh a critic of spirituality as he. I am a liberal Christian and an open-minded skeptic, not a "Urantian", yet I have read much of the Urantia Book and know many Urantians, good people all of them. While I am generally skeptical of any claims of spiritual revelation, I have found the Urantia movement peaceful and positive in nature, not worthy of being labeled "cult" and lumped in with Waco, Heaven's Gate, etc. I do not buy most of what the Urantia Book claims as reality, but that does not mean I do not respect much of what the readers stand for. I do believe Martin Gardner has done us all a service in tracking the cloudy history of the Urantia movement and how "the book" came to be, and I believe as he that the U Book is simply a creation of human minds. Educated human minds, but human minds, nonetheless. Yet that does not lessen my appreciation for the merits of the U Book, it's devoted readers, and the message it tries to get across. I would recommend this book with very few reservations, to all Urantia readers and believers, and anyone interested in the real history of the movement. It not only enhanced my understanding of the U Book, it filled in most of the blanks on the creation of that mammoth text. To Urantians afraid of reading this book or critical of Gardner, I believe you do yourselves and your movement a disservice. I would invite you to open the windows a bit. Start with this book.
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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 Is this the best author for the job?
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. Read more
Published on April 27 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bible and Urantia
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. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2000
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Gardner is a theist not a skeptic
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,... Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2000 by Julio in Denver
1.0 out of 5 stars Why Did Martin Gardner Write this Book?
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? Read more
Published on Dec 30 1999 by Mary J. Michael
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