A few years ago, in a census held in Estonia, about 30 people indicated Urantia as their religion. I have never called the Urantia teachings a religion, even though they are religious in content. Some consider it an organized religion. But do we have such a religion?
Religion can be viewed both from the inside with some preconceptions about everything that follows, and it can also be viewed from the outside without special preconceptions. I don’t try to find supporters for any point of view. These are just my personal views from the outside today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think a little differently, that’s natural because we all evolve and therefore change. No doubt, I have internal views as well, but they are not very important in this case. Therefore, I deliberately leave them aside.
The book reveals:
The true perspective of any reality problem—human or divine, terrestrial or cosmic—can be had only by the full and unprejudiced study and correlation of three phases of universe reality: origin, history, and destiny. 19:1.6 (215.3)
I use this method to understand the present Urantia movement, especially its connection with religion. First, let’s consider how Christianity became a new and powerful religion:
Christianity came not merely as a new religion—something all the Roman Empire and all the Orient were waiting for—but as a new order of human society. And as such a pretension it quickly precipitated the social-moral clash of the ages. The ideals of Jesus, as they were reinterpreted by Greek philosophy and socialized in Christianity, now boldly challenged the traditions of the human race embodied in the ethics, morality, and religions of Western civilization. 195:0.3 (2069.3)
The word “religion” itself has a Latin origin, where it meant respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods, or moral obligations, among other definitions (Online Etymological Dictionary). But The Urantia Book authors use the word with different meanings. Followers of Eastern religions don’t use the word so much. For instance, some say that Buddhism is not a religion at all, it’s a way of living. It all depends on what we mean by “religion.” I try to use the word as it is used in The Urantia Book and as generally used in the West.
William S. Sadler mentioned:
We were enjoined to refrain from discussing the identity of the contact personality and after the publication of the book, to make no statement at any time as to whether the ‘subject’ was still living or was deceased. … Our troubles will be greatly lessened if we avoid all discussion of the origin of the book. We should be determined to know but one thing – the soul-surviving message of the book. (The Plan for The Urantia Book Revelation by Carolyn B. Kendall – member of Forum 1951-1956, wife of Thomas A. Kendall, Urantia Foundation president 1973-1983.) 1
Consequently, I don’t discuss the identity of this individual. I am only looking at the Urantia movement that arose after the book was published and its connection to religion.
We know that in April 1955, William S. Sadler, Jr. presented The Timing of The Urantia Book, which was later known as The Publication Mandate.
You will doubtless live and die without fully realizing that you are participating in the birth of a new age of religion on this world.
You must again study the times of Jesus on earth. You must carefully take note of how the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated in the world. Did it evolve slowly and unfold naturally? Or did it come with sudden show of force and with spectacular exhibition of power? Was it evolutionary or revolutionary?
You must learn to possess your souls in patience. You are in association with a revelation of truth, which is a part of the natural evolution of religion on this world. Over rapid growth would be suicidal. The book is being given to those who are ready for it long before the day of its worldwide mission. Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence and the book must be translated into many tongues. Thus will the book be in readiness when the battle for man’s liberty is finally won and the world is once more made safe for the religion of Jesus and the freedom of mankind.Pato-Birmingham
When I first read The Publication Mandate, these words were authoritative. The book influenced the birth of a new age of religion. But is our world safe now? Not at all! We have had several years of war in Europe, and we don’t see the end in the near future. The leader of our neighboring country (Russia) has an arrest warrant issued against him by an international court because he and many others have been charged with war crimes. This has not happened before during the long history of Europe. Is such a system sustainable where we have war crimes, occupation and so on? First, we should not be naive peace seekers. True peace can only come with spiritual achievement, which is when people no longer want to establish themselves in a violent way. However, our civilization still has a long way to go.
A lasting social system without a morality predicated on spiritual realities can no more be maintained than could the solar system without gravity. 195:5.9 (2075.12)
I lived most of my life in the Soviet Union, and I cannot say that there were any spiritual realities in that system. Most of us knew that this wouldn’t last long and we were right. If you look at the world today, especially Europe, such violent adventures (aggressions) have little hope of succeeding. As already stated in the Book of Daniel and mentioned also in The Urantia Book, the Most Highs rule in the kingdoms of men.
The Urantia Book is a book about religion, it’s not a science book. But what kind of religion can arise from the book? Part IV represents the religion of Jesus, but it’s not in connection with any Christian view or organized Christianity. But that does not mean that Urantia Book readers cannot be Christians.
According to the former forum member, Carolyne B. Kendall, there were several such instructions for starting the Urantia movement, but they were not included in the book. She wrote:
The original messages, which outlined the plan, were not published as part of the revelation and would eventually be destroyed. The former Forum members who became Brotherhood leaders and Foundation trustees carried on knowledge of how the revelation was to progress.
The plan was never presented as a 1-2-3 listing of do’s and don’ts. If one is discerning, facets of the plan will emerge, just as they dawned upon each Forum member and Brotherhood leader. As was true in past revelations, in the realm of revelatory planning, timing is everything.2
Why were these original instructions ignored? Perhaps it was wise to have no proof of this and thereby limit our human choices, or perhaps these organizations must grow under their leadership’s own wisdom. I suggest that the authors of the book influenced the Urantia movement in the beginning but later on wished to see it from a distance. There is also one more reason. “It was the design of our unseen friends to prevent the appearance of an ‘Urantia Apocrypha’ subsequent to the publication of The Urantia Book.”
Later on we read:
It was inevitable some sort of fraternal organization would grow out of the teachings of The Urantia Book. All interested persons could see that the Urantia teachings were opposed to the sectarianism of Christian believers. It was clear that it was not the purpose of the Urantia Revelation to start a new church. (William S. Sadler, M.D., contact commissioner. History of the Urantia Movement, ca. 1966.) 3
A new church is an interesting idea. Why not have some kind of church? We haven’t done that in any country as far as I know. I think it was a wise decision not to have a church for the Urantia Movement. First of all, it would be one church or sect among many others. Second, a certain clergy would inevitably arise to perform religious ceremonies and establish their spiritual authority. Of course, this would be an opportunity for charismatic preachers to emerge, and several papers speak of such dangers. We can read from Bill Sadler’s Triennial Report, January 20, 1958: “There are three main differences between the Brotherhood and a typical church: we claim no spiritual sovereignty; we claim no exclusive path to salvation; we claim no ecclesiastical authority. So long as we do not claim any of these things, we can hardly become a church.”4 And there are more negative consequences with organized religion, as we can glean from the book.
Organizations are necessary to organize readers’ activities, such as the support of study groups, the organization of seminars and conferences, as well as the maintenance of websites. But study groups are autonomous in the Urantia movement, they are not part of reader’s organizations, that is, they do not belong to the hierarchical structure of the organization. But are these organizations religious? They are social types of organizations and that is how it has been with the Urantia Association International so far. In my opinion, social organizations provide more freedom for interpretations of The Urantia Book. If we have religious organizations, then we have to believe in something. Therefore, there is a need for creeds and members will have fixed religious concepts.
What does religion look like from a theological viewpoint? The Urantia movement can be seen as religious in nature, although it has not formed a church. As I understand it, it is considered by theologians to be a new type of religion. Their understanding is that spiritual movements are also religious.
On March 7, 1955, William S. Sadler. Jr. distributed a memo addressed to the Executive Committee of Urantia Brotherhood, with copies placed in each committee secretary’s notebook. Again, the paper was adapted from written communications and was read to the Forum. It was entitled Some Problems Confronting a New Religious Organization, and opened with:
Create an organization which will organize the least and thereby prevent all other organizations with their tyranny and disgrace and their disrupting influences…. That organization is best that coordinates most while it organizes least. 5
There is always a danger of being too intellectual and less spiritual when it comes to any kind of organization. But a religiosity which is natural and spontaneous is much better than an organized one.
It’s good to compare the Bible and The Urantia Book. Sometimes people ask, why replace the Bible with The Urantia Book? First, we don’t do that. And second, it’s fashionable these days to say I’m spiritual, but not religious. The same could be said about the Urantia movement in general.
The Urantia Book is religious by nature, but the authors’ aim was not to establish a new religion named Urantia. However, if someone wants to see the Urantia movement as a religious one, why not? It’s their own decision.