Expert Opinions--Is Urantia a Religion?

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One aspect of the recent court case was an attempt by Mr. McMullan to nullify Urantia Foundation's ability to use “Urantia,” “Urantian,” and “The Urantia Book” as trademarks to identify its publications and services. McMullan claimed that the term “Urantia” is the name of a religion, that the term is generic, and that Urantia Foundation should be precluded from using it to identify its publications. Urantia Foundation did not agree with the legal basis for his claim, and we pointed to numerous instances of valid trademarks held for words such as Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc. We also questioned the premise that the word “Urantia” constitutes the name of a religion. Prior to trial, the Court issued a summary judgment in favor of Urantia Foundation holding, as a matter of law, that the trademarks in question are valid even giving McMullan the benefit of the doubt by assuming “Urantia” to be the name of a religion.

In the months leading up to the trial, Urantia Foundation asked two outside experts in the field of new religious movements, Drs. Gene Thursby and Jeffrey Hadden, to research this issue and to render their opinions as to whether Urantia is properly classified as a new religion. In addition, the Foundation asked Jim Nelems, President of The Marketing Workshop Inc., a professional market research company, to design and conduct a survey of readers of The Urantia Book to gauge whether readers themselves consider the word 'Urantia' to be the name of their religion. We thought you might be interested in the results of their inquiries.

The survey concluded that the vast majority of readers do not consider 'Urantia' to be the name of a new religion or the name of their personal religion. A summary of the survey results appears below. In addition, both Drs. Thursby and Hadden concluded as a result of their research that the term 'Urantia' is not the name of a new religion or sect.

Dr. Thursby based his conclusion on five points. First, Urantia is not classified as a religion in scholarly texts, dictionaries, or encyclopedias. Second, nothing in The Urantia Book, nor in documents from Urantia Foundation, encourages the establishment of a new religion. Third, a typical definition of religion includes exclusivity of belief and affiliation, where members typically renounce membership or participation in other religions.

Organizations that serve readers of The Urantia Book do not require this exclusivity. Fourth, the structure and work of Urantia Foundation and related organizations serving readers of The Urantia Book function more like educational, personal enrichment, or life-enhancement groups. And fifth, there is no organization of clergy, or orders of initiates authorized by The Urantia Book. The absence of clergy, creedal statements, and obligatory ritual acts supports the conclusion that there is no religion named 'Urantia.' In addition, the readers of The Urantia Book themselves do not consider themselves to be members of a Urantia religion.

Dr. Jeffrey Hadden based his opinion on five distinct dimensions of inquiry and concluded by saying, “This multi-dimensional process demonstrated the overall lack of a 'family resemblance' to groups that are appropriately classified as religions. It also seroes to highlight differences and reduce the ambiguity that would confuse readers of The Urantia Book with religious groups and, thus, point to the conclusion that these readers should not collectively be classified as a religion.”

Some individuals have raised a concern that Urantia Foundation wants to take away people's first amendment rights to freedom of religious expression. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is bue that for many years Urantia Foundation has used the trademarks “Urantia,” “Urantian,” “The Urantia Book,” and the Concentric-Circles Symbol as a means of identifying the inviolate text of The Urantia Book published by Urantia Foundation and has licensed the use of these marks by fraternal organizations. However, Urantia Foundation's copyright and .trademark policies are specifically designed not to interfere with anyone's personal religious experience or expression.

The Declaration of Trust Creating Urantia Foundation calls for “the fostering of a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology which are commensurate with Man's intellectual and cultural development.” It is our belief that this epochal revelation is destined to benefit all religions, all peoples; it serves to break down religious barriers rather than to create them.

William S. Sadler, Jr., one of the founding Trustees of Urantia Foundation, when asked if the book constitutes a new religion, stated:

“This book is not religion. This book is a cosmology, a philosophy, a metaphysics, a theology. Anything which is in written language is not religion. It's intellectual. That should be very, very clear....

“This book is a tool. Use it when you need it, but if you don't need it...don't bring it into the picture. It's sort of like the guy that's using a pitch fork, and he finds it such a handy tool that he takes it with him wherever he goes, including to a tea party.

“I many times discuss God with men, and I seldom mention The Urantia Book unless I sense that this tool is needed to complete this job, and then I get it going with everything I have.”

We feel our responsibility is to foster a personal religion (as the term 'religion' is defined in The Urantia Book) in the hearts and minds of individuals from all nations, cultures, and faiths. The teachings on religion in The Urantia Book are designed to build upon the religious heritage of the past and present, and to act as a leavening of existing belief systems rather than to become a competitor or replacement of any traditional religions.

Religion is not a specific function of life; rather is it a mode of living. True religion is a wholehearted devotion to some reality which the religionist deems to be of supreme value to himself and for all mankind. (The Urantia Book, p.1100, par.3)

Since true religion is a matter of personal spiritual experience, it is inevitable that each individual religionist must have his awn and personal interpretation of the realization of that spiritual experience. (p.1091, par.6)

Religion cannot be bestowed, received, loaned, learned, or lost. It is a personal experience which gruws proportionally to the gruwing quest for final values. (p.1095, par.2)

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