Is The Urantia Book a Hoax?
Over its 50+ years as a published work, The Urantia Book has come under severe scrutiny from time to time, and from various quarters. It's not surprising, given the fact that The Urantia Book presents some revolutionary concepts, and posits some mind-expanding ideas that are disturbing to those who have become comfortable with a certain world view. It can be very threatening to one who believes that they have "the truth" to be told that there is more to know; that even the truth that they have nurtured for so long may also be open to question and scrutiny. This article is written to those who are sincere truth seekers and who would like to understand something they're unfamiliar with so that they can make an informed decision.
One of The Charges made against the book is that it is a hoax; in fact, in the fall of 2013, Google returns 221,000 results for "Urantia hoax."
What is a hoax?
- hoax: A humorous or malicious deception
- hoax: Something that has been established or accepted by fraudulent means
- hoax: To trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous
- hoax: Something intended to deceive or defraud
Why Perpetrate a Hoax?
Some practical considerations regarding hoaxes might include the following: What is the purpose of perpetrating a hoax? What's the payoff for the hoaxer? If it is just to trick people, where's the satisfaction? Who profits? And why choose to impose such an elaborate hoax as The Urantia Book (if it were in fact a hoax)? This is a 2000 page book, written with obvious great care and precision. What kind of mind would spend the countless hours necessary to prepare such a hoax, and then fail to either take credit for it or realize a profit from it?
Speaking of profits: In all the years of The Urantia Book's presence in the world, this writer has yet to see anyone make money, or become famous as a result of promoting it. In fact, up until the emergence of the internet, Urantia Foundation's caveat to all who wanted to promote the revelation was that it would be better to allow the teachings to spread quietly, in person-to-person ministry. Blatant promotion or mass-marketing has never been part of the spread of The Urantia Book.
The Search For Critics
We've recently spent a long afternoon reviewing the results of a Google search. The intent was to find out what it is about The Urantia Book that causes critics to declare that The Urantia Book is a hoax. What we found, we found to be interesting.
The search "Urantia hoax" resulted in about 220,000 hits. We reviewed the first 75 most active pages of this list and found that:
There were twice as many hits promoting The Urantia Book as those negatively criticizing it (42 to 20),
- 7 hits were neither pro or con,
- 3 were unrelated to the relevance of The Urantia Book, and
- 2 were promoting it as an alien bible or science fiction.
So, someone actually trying to learn whether or not The Urantia Book is a hoax will most likely see more positive than negative results in their search.
We wanted to use those hits that promoted The Urantia Book as a hoax or a fraud and to develop a list of their specific complaints. However, most of the hoax/fraud hits offered only opinions, not valid issues. The 75 hits We did review offered up the following specific complaints:
Specific Complaints Uncovered:
- "It was channeled by Wilfred Kellogg"
- "Its contents can be explained purely on the basis of human authorship"
- "All of the source authors identified by Matthew Block were published in English between 1905 and 1943 by U.S. publishers and are typically scholarly or academic works that contain concepts and wording similar to what is found in The Urantia Book. Block has since claimed to have discovered over 125 source books and articles, written by over 90 authors, which were incorporated into the Urantia papers."
Is Urantia Book Science Inaccurate?
- "The described formation of the solar system is consistent with the Chamberlin-Moulton planetesimal hypothesis. Though popular in the early part of the 20th century, by the early 1940s it was discarded by Henry Russell's argument that it was incompatible with the angular momentum of planets such as Jupiter"
- "Its scientific claims were either common knowledge at the time of writing and are now outdated or were just plain wrong to begin with"
- "It repeats the idea prevalent at the time of its origin that one side of the planet Mercury always faces the sun due to tidal locking. In 1965, radio astronomers discovered that Mercury actually rotates fast enough for all sides to see exposure to the sun."
- "It says that a solar eclipse was predicted in 1808 by the Native American prophet Tenskwatawa. The eclipse actually was predicted in late April 1806 and occurred on June 16, 1806."
What About The Urantia Book's Religious Content?
- "This fast growing cult is considered a "new age", UFO cult."
- "It lacks any authentic spiritual content"
- "It's claimed that The Urantia Book compliments the Bible, and that Christians should not be wary of it. But in reality, it is in direct conflict with the Bible on many important doctrines, including the most important one which is the issue of salvation from eternal damnation in Hell through faith in Jesus Christ."
Is Urantia Book History In Error?
- "Its historic content is more fiction than fact"
What Else is in Error?
- "Lucifer is a fiction and did not exist"
These few complaints are the only specific ones we found out of the 75 websites we reviewed so they'll be the ones to be focused on.
One author admitted he hadn't read much of the book; probably most of them should also have confessed to this oversight. Several of them referred to Martin Gardner's Urantia, the Great Cult Mystery. Martin Gardner also confessed that he'd written his book without having read The Urantia Book; using his book as a source for disproving anything about The Urantia Book is wholly amateurish.
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We Answer the Critics
The Charge : "It was channeled by Wilfred Kellogg"
The Answer: The identity of the sleeping subject (the individual through whom the revelation was delivered) has never been revealed. Those who knew the identity of the subject were sworn to secrecy, and no one of them ever divulged the person's name. It is commonly accepted that the subject was a man, but his name has never been disclosed, and never will be. All of those who were privy to this information have died, and so, speculation, while perhaps a part of human curiosity, serves no one.
The Charge: "Its contents can be explained purely on the basis of human authorship"
The Answer: A thorough reading of The Urantia Book will assure the reader that its content is far beyond the abilities of a single human being. The revelation about God, about cosmology, about astronomy, geology and evolution are sweeping, detailed, and ordered. The celestial hierarchies, details of the ascension plan and life after death, explanation of God's relationship within the mind of man, definition of the constitution of the human soul...all of these are revolutionary and revelational subjects. Presuming that all of these disclosures sprang from one person's imagination is less credible than believing it is what it claims to be... a divine revelation of spiritual truth to our confused world. Again, the issue of human authorship has no validity, as no one has ever claimed authorship, nor profited from it.
The Charge: "All of the source authors identified by Matthew Block were published in English between 1905 and 1943 by U.S. publishers and are typically scholarly or academic works that contain concepts and wording similar to what is found in The Urantia Book. Block has since claimed to have discovered over 125 source books and articles, written by over 90 authors, which were incorporated into the Urantia papers."
The Answer: The authors of The Urantia Book state clearly:0:12.11" ...we are to be guided by the mandate of the superuniverse rulers which directs that we shall, in all our efforts to reveal truth and co-ordinate essential knowledge, give preference to the highest existing human concepts pertaining to the subjects to be presented. We may resort to pure revelation only when the concept of presentation has had no adequate previous expression by the human mind.
"Successive planetary revelations of divine truth invariably embrace the highest existing concepts of spiritual values as a part of the new and enhanced co-ordination of planetary knowledge. Accordingly, in making these presentations about God and his universe associates, we have selected as the basis of these papers more than one thousand human concepts representing the highest and most advanced planetary knowledge of spiritual values and universe meanings. Wherein these human concepts, assembled from the God-knowing mortals of the past and the present, are inadequate to portray the truth as we are directed to reveal it, we will unhesitatingly supplement them, for this purpose drawing upon our own superior knowledge of the reality and divinity of the Paradise Deities and their transcendent residential universe."
And so, identifying these 1000+ human concepts is not an indictment of the validity of The Urantia Book; on the contrary, as Matthew Block continues his discovery of these human concepts, one is struck again and again at the consummate skill of the celestial authors in weaving these previously expressed human concepts into a new and attractive package for the seeking minds of 21st century mankind.
Is Urantia Book Science Inaccurate?
The Charge: "The described formation of the solar system is consistent with the Chamberlin-Moulton planetesimal hypothesis. Though popular in the early part of the 20th century, by the early 1940s it was discarded by Henry Russell's argument that it was incompatible with the angular momentum of planets such as Jupiter"
The Answer: A criticism such as this implies that The Urantia Book incorporated an existing astronomical hypothesis that later lost favor, that it's based on obsolete and erroneous science. One of the praises of scientific inquiry, as opposed to religious inquiry, explained in The Urantia Book is that good science offers a hypothesis which is analyzed in an attempt to either prove or disprove it and in so doing new concepts and understandings are developed which can lead to a better hypothesis. The explanation of the formation of the solar system given in The Urantia Book may be consistent with the Chamberlin-Moulton hypothesis, but it is a unique presentation not to be found in its entirety in any scientific work and it deserves serious scientific consideration.
The Charge: "Its scientific claims were either common knowledge at the time of writing and are now outdated or were just plain wrong to begin with"
The Answer: A comment like this one is not a valid criticism of the science contained in The Urantia Book since the author offers no credentials upon which to base his claim nor has he given specifics about which Urantia Book scientific claims are being disputed. It's simply an unsubstantiated personal opinion, which anyone can make about anything they object to.
The Charge: "It repeats the idea prevalent at the time of its origin that one side of the planet Mercury always faces the sun due to tidal locking. In 1965, radio astronomers discovered that Mercury actually rotates fast enough for all sides to see exposure to the sun."
The Answer: This criticism comes from an inability to read the text of The Urantia Book literally and to understand the words in their proper context. This critic assumes that The Urantia Book is a work, or a hoax, perpetrated by humans with an agenda, and so reads superficially looking for errors. What The Urantia Book actually says is not in error although it could appear to be to the superficial reader. For an in-depth analysis of this comment about the planet Mercury see the article on UBTheNews.
The Charge: "It says that a solar eclipse was predicted in 1808 by the Native American prophet Tenskwatawa. The eclipse actually was predicted in late April 1806 and occurred on June 16. 1806."
The Answer: Analysis of the transcribed text of The Urantia Book by the Standardization Committee concluded that this error was a keystroke transcription error. See the Committee's explanation.
What About The Urantia Book's Religious Content?
The Charge: "This fast growing cult is considered a "new age", UFO cult."
The Answer: It is only in the minds of critics that Urantia Book readers are part of the "new age" or that readers constitute a "UFO cult." A reading of the definition of the New Age at Wikipedia discloses a hodge-podge of Eastern and Western religious thought, ancient religious practice, and various schools of philosophic and spiritual thought. The New Age movement is a largely unfocused free-for-all...a grab-bag of disparate beliefs and it has nothing whatsoever to do with The Urantia Book. Further, the UFO connection is one that is frequently cited by those who criticize. Why? Because The Urantia Book explains that we are not alone in the universe, that the universe is teeming with life, and that there are countless beings who inhabit the universe with us. We are told of other inhabited planets but never are we told that we are visited by UFOs. With the current interest in extraterrestrials it is probably understandable that such an error might be entertained. It is however, not grounded in fact. Rather than being "new age" The Urantia Book will help new age believers find a new, rational, and consistent reality.
The Charge: "It lacks any authentic spiritual content"
The Answer: Even a cursory reading of The Urantia Book will disclose a deeply spiritual element to the reader. From the first page to the last, God is included, and is essential to any understanding of the content of the book. This is a typical form of criticism... it shows that the critic has no understanding whatsoever of the material being criticized.
The Charge: "It's claimed that The Urantia Book compliments the Bible, and that Christians should not be wary of it. But in reality, it is in direct conflict with the Bible on many important doctrines, including the most important one which is the issue of salvation from eternal damnation in Hell through faith in Jesus Christ."
The Answer: This is a valid criticism, and one that any Christian should know; however the statement that Christians should not be wary of its content is false. We know of no Urantia readers making such statements. The Urantia Book tells us it's an epochal revelation and as such it will not be wholly consistent with current Christian theology nor with the theology of any other religion. The atonement doctrine of Jesus' blood sacrifice for the redemption of mankind is roundly discredited by the authors of The Urantia Book (just as it is by numerous Christian theologians), and for good and sufficient reasons that should be crystal clear to any person who is able to fearlessly face an honest assessment of this most-cherished of Christian dogma. In the face of the revelation of the loving Father-God of all who was embodied in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the atonement doctrine becomes less and less real, as the overpowering love of God takes hold in the mind of the seeker.
Is Urantia Book History In Error?
The Charge: "Its historic content is more fiction than fact"
The Answer: This criticism is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. We are told many, many facts regarding the history of this planet: its origins, its inhabitants, its visitations by celestial beings, the failures and triumphs of the distant past that have led to where we find ourselves today. When taken as a whole, these facts and disclosures lend an air of completion and reason to our planetary history. All the gaps in our knowledge are filled in: Why we find ourselves so alone, why God seems so hard to find, who Adam and Eve really were, why Jesus really came here, where he was before that, and where he is now. Absent any existing human histories of the events of ancient times, the planetary history that is presented in The Urantia Book is credible, logical and meaningful.
Scientists believe that humans have inhabited this world for about a million years... humans every bit as human as we are. Yet our documented history as a race only extends several thousand years into the past. What of the other 990,000 years of unrecorded human history? Where do the superstitions, myths, folklore, fairy tales, sagas, legends, and mythical gods come from? Much of the historical record given by The Urantia Book is given as a gift to us by the angels who recorded human history... this may seem to some to read like fiction but it is wholly relevant to our present condition when read with an open mind.
What Else is in Error?
The Charge: "Lucifer is a fiction and did not exist"
The Answer: To simply aver that Lucifer is a fiction is as unsubstantiated a position as simply saying that Lucifer is a real person. Context is needed for both positions. The Urantia Book offers compelling context for the existence of Lucifer. Far from a fictional character, Lucifer and his rebellion are key components in understanding the present condition of our planet. Understanding Lucifer helps one understand why we grope in the dark here; we grope for truth, we grope for goodness, and we grope for peace and brotherhood. But understanding Lucifer also helps us to understand how to by-pass the influence of this evil personality and live in the Kingdom of God, which still stands with the invitation to all who want to enter to do so. Even though evil still holds sway on our planet, we are not its unwitting pawns when we understand where we stand in light of our history with Lucifer.
Two More Positive Rebuttals
But again, on the internet, one can find both positive and negative. Following are two rebuttals provided by Urantia Book student/reader/believers.
A good answer to the question of UB hoax is to be found in Larry Mullins' book A History of the Urantia Papers. In this article we read:
"There are no gurus, saints or new age fanatics associated with its origin. If The Urantia Book is a hoax, no one has ever figured out why it was perpetrated. No one achieved fame or fortune from it."
And here is the best rebuttal all: This one was written by William Sadler, who was actually connected with the origins and delivery of the book to the world back in the first third of the 20th century. For one who just wants to be a naysayer, this article will not hold, but for the sincere seeker, this rebuttal will be of great value.
Notable in this document is the following, written by William Sadler, M.D, who was instrumental as one of the human contacts with the celestial authors of The Urantia Book as it was taking shape in the early years of the 20th century
Criticism: In my opinion The Urantia Book is a fraud — a hoax. Those who perpetrated this book are criminals.
Anyone who would call the Urantia Papers a fraud does not know much about the people who were concerned with the factualization of this unique book. My wife and I had considerable experience with the exposure of mediumistic frauds and psychic humbugs during our earlier years, and some forty years ago I wrote a book depicting our experiences in dealing with these practitioners of the occult.
There was nothing questionable, much less fraudulent, connected with the origin of The Urantia Book. At the first glimpse of such, my associates and I would have forsaken the whole affair. We never detected anything fraudulent in the phenomena spread out over twenty-five years. True, we encountered much we could not explain, cannot explain even today. But there was no deception or other questionable practices.
Neither did the Forum — more than one hundred and fifty persons who supplied the questions which brought forth the Urantia Papers — ever detect any evidences of fraud.
No one has ever found a contradiction in The Urantia Book, a book of more than one million words. If your story is fictitious, you just can't go on the witness stand for more than twenty-five years to be examined and cross-examined by more than one hundred and fifty people, and never make a single slip-up. To pass such a test you have to be telling the truth.
It is now more than three years since the book was published; several thousand copies have been distributed which have been read by more thousands of people, and yet no one has discovered a contradiction; not even the severest critic has brought forth such an accusation.
When my son came home on furlough from the Marine Corps to read the Urantia Papers, the first question he asked me was:
"Dad, is there any one making money out of this thing?" I answered:
"No Son, but there are a number of us who are putting money into it." By the time the book was published we had, in time and money, put in over one hundred thousand dollars. Except for professional proof reading, no one was paid one cent during all the years of the production and publication of The Urantia Book.
But the cry of fraud is an old one. They charged Jesus with being a fraud — "Are you not Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter' s son?" And they went on to charge that he was in league with devils. Said one minister critic of The Urantia Book: "It unfolds the melodramatic shotgun wedding of secondhand neoplatonized Gnosticism and slipshod Protestant rationalism to sanctified science-fiction and sheer damn foolishness. The bastard offspring of this union is called Urantia. There is no place for it in the house of the Lord."
Suggestions on How to Effectively Criticize The Urantia Book
- Read the book first. Your opinion is meaningless unless you're able to demonstrate that you have an understanding of the subject.
- Critics, tell us who you are and why your opinion is valuable. What are your credentials? Does the critic have an agenda? A bone to pick? Bias is usually the foundation for criticism. Give your bias right up front so we'll know the comparisons that are meaningful to you.
Anybody can say anything about something. Does this critic have meaningful credentials? Why should the reader believe them? Did they cover the first two points?
It is difficult to convince anyone of the truth of The Urantia Book - especially those who insist on sharing their comments without having actually read the book. In most, if not all of these charges against The Urantia Book, that appears to be the case.
In the years to come, when The Urantia Book makes significant inroads into the established institutions of religion and science, we can expect more-and more severe-criticism of the teachings.
In the areas of race improvement and eugenics, Urantia Book students may expect a significant backlash, especially when those who criticize neglect to read the book in its entirety. It is only through a complete reading-in context-of the teachings about these sensitive subjects that the dawning of understanding can come, free of kneejerk reactions that are colored by societal fears and misinformation. It is only through understanding why the revelators counsel as they do, that the reader can grasp the bigger picture which holds promise for the future of all of mankind.
We welcome true criticism of The Urantia Book. An honest critique of its contents can only come from having first read the book and then understanding its origins. The Urantia Book Historical Society provides an expanding library of the early letters, articles, personalities and studies relating to the reception of the Urantia material spanning the late 1800s to the present. In addition to a sincere evaluation of the book's contents, an honest critic will familiarize himself with much of this material before launching into any review of the Urantia material.