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The Straight Dope




If your Straight Dope column of July 10 on the Urantia Book is indicative of your ethics as a journalist, one must conclude that your column is named after you. It's not surprising the word "stupid" came to your mind when you encountered the Urantia Book (if you actually did), for anyone who would evaluate it by trying to summarize its "plot" as if it were a romance novel should probably stay away from revelations and sharp objects. But to claim its "only feature of interest is who wrote it" is nothing more than a wimpy parroting of Martin Gardner's obsession with proving his pointless theory of authorship. He figures if he can prove it was written by a mortal, then he doesn't have to deal with the hundreds of other things in the book which validate it as a genuine revelation. Like Gardner, who continues to salivate over the messenger while totally ignoring the message, you weren't capable or didn't bother to discover what the Urantia Book is. It deserves to be read in its entirety before making a judgment on its many astonishing assertions. It should not be dismissed with the glib ignorance that characterized your remarks. Ironically, you were right about one thing. The book does weigh about four pounds. But it's obviously way too heavy for you. --Terry Kruger, editor, Urantian Sojourn, Boulder, Colorado

Got quite a number of letters along similar lines--the Urantia Book has more readers than I thought. Scary, but better they're inside reading than out roaming the streets. Among other things I am accused of:

Not reading the book from cover to cover. No, I didn't, and I can't believe anybody else has either. Here's a sample passage:

The Universal Controller is potentially present in the gravity circuits of the Isle of Paradise in all parts of the universe at all times and in the same degree, in accordance with the mass, in response to the physical demands for this presence, and because of the inherent nature of all creation which causes all things to adhere and consist in him. Likewise is the First Source and Center potentially present in the Unqualified Absolute, the repository of the uncreated universes of the eternal future. God thus potentially pervades the physical universes of the past, present, and future. . . . The mind presence of God is correlated with the absolute mind of the Conjoint Actor, the Infinite Spirit, but in the finite creations it is better discerned in the everywhere functioning of the cosmic mind of the Paradise Master Spirits. Just as the First Source and Center is potentially present in the mind circuits of the Conjoint Actor, so he is potentially present in the tensions of the Universal Absolute. But mind of the human order is a bestowal of the Daughters of the Conjoint Actor, the Divine Ministers of the evolving universes.

If this is eloquence, as some Urantia Book buffs claim, give me the funny pages.

Parroting the views of Martin Gardner. One of the nation's most distinguished science writers, Gardner wrote the Mathematical Games column in Scientific American for many years and has been a vocal critic of mysticism, cults, and other effusions of the irrational. He has written at length about the Urantia Book; I agreed with his views and passed them along with the appropriate attribution. If that's parroting, then welcome to journalism, parrot heaven.

Some have disputed Gardner's identification of the channeler as Wilfred Kellogg, a friend of Dr. William Sadler, the Chicago psychiatrist who was the prime mover behind the book. Gardner's best source on this is Mrs. Harold Sherman, who along with her husband was close to the Urantia folks at one time. According to Gardner, Mrs. Sherman says she has documents to support her contention, although he hasn't seen them yet. Granted this isn't ironclad evidence, but all the principals are now dead and it seemed better to take a stab at the question of authorship than to write the thing off as unknowable. Besides, people who'll take at face value a book that says Adam and Eve were eight feet tall, glowed in the dark, and communicated by telepathy are hardly in a position to lecture me about what constitutes good evidence.

Screwing up the facts. I said the Urantia Brotherhood runs the Urantia Foundation; I am now informed the two are separate. I also said the channeling of the book began in the early 1920s; Gardner tells me that to the best of his knowledge it started in 1911. My apologies. In the future, I will conduct all my research via seance.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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