Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Conversations from Starbuck's - Urantia Book

Conversations at Starbuck’s, part II.

My son boogied next door to the Starbuck’s where where he was getting a footlong  sub-sandwich from Subway... you know those 16-year-olds will eat you out of house and home. Me, I had to have a "cup-o-joe." As I was waiting for my venti java-chip frappachino with two add shots and caramel drizzled on the inside of the cup (yes, I am trying to beat the rapture), I noticed a guy reading a book. Being the bibliophile I am - (and Masters College being so close... brothers in the Lord and all that) - I accosted the guy and asked what he was reading. I was somewhat surprised to see he was reading the Urantia book. So my mind did a switch from a planned friendly conversation with a fellow seminary student to that of evangelism.

For those who do not know what the Urantia book is, I suggest a few stops online, as well as reading my intro to the new age:
The year 1989 saw an end to the URANTIA Brotherhood and a beginning for the Fifth Epochal Fellowship. In a letter dated 9 November 1989 all members of the Brotherhood were notified that a shake-up at headquarters had taken place and things, including the name, had changed. While the group has a new name, its doctrines and purposes remain as they were "originally established," (p. 3).

Of all the cultic systems in all the world, none is more intricate than that of URANTIA! This organization has Orders of Trinity Beings, Supreme Beings, Ascending Beings, Sons of God, Universe Power Directors, Michael class (a very important group) and nearly ad infinitum. Within each Order there may be anywhere from a few thousand to many million beings (The URANTIA Book, pp. 330-344). Various sections of this 2,097 page book were sent to earth by the "Orvonton administrators" (p. 354), and the "...Nebadon commission of twelve acting under the direction of Mantutia Melchizedek," (p. 1319).

The doctrines are nearly as hard to understand as the source from whence they came. As with many groups which do not appreciate the thought of Jesus being the Only Begotten Son of God, URANTIA has an interesting solution to this problem. They teach, prior to His Earthly life, Jesus' real name was Michael of Nebadon. They state, "Our Creator Son (another Order of beings) is the personification of the 611,121st original concept of infinite identity of simultaneous origin in the Universal Father and the Eternal Son.

"The Michael of Nebadon is the `only-begotten Son' personalizing this 611,121st universal concept of divinity and infinity," (Ibid, p.366; parenthesis added). In other words, Jesus (Michael) is the Son of the Son of God and the Father in the sense that when these two beings had a simultaneous original thought for the 611,121st time, Jesus (Michael) was begotten.

The Brotherhood does have a similarity to other groups in that they teach, "There dwells within you a fragment of the Universal Father, and you are thus directly related to the divine Father and all the Sons of God," (Ibid, p. 448). However, unlike many other cults which teach they are the only true church, the URANTIA teach, "We believe in every church and in all forms of worship," (URANTIA Brotherhood Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 4). With this attitude in mind, and in their own peculiar way, they hope to unite "...all world religions and all world religionists," (Bulletin, Supplement, p. 1).

Now that you are caught up, I will continue. I sat beside the guy and mentioned that the Urantia book was an interesting read. He asked if I had read it, I mentioned that I had read large swaths of it. Naturally he asked what I thought of it, I said my feelings were mixed. I then asked him if he believed in reincarnation of the soul, he eventually answered yes.
This is important, almost any new age religion or Eastern religion adherent you meet you can break their religious view down into the lowest possible denominator, which in this case is pantheism. Almost all pantheists believe in reincarnation, here in the West they would believe in classical reincarnation: souls that revisit the earth and are punished according to their built up karma. You do not have to worry about side issue, you can have one line of attack for hundreds of religious views, and it will work.

I made mention of the Killing Fields and the fact that during the mass slaughter of people in Cambodia, people were fleeing (these people being Buddhists) into neighboring Buddhist nations. This influx of people created refugee camps. You would think that fellow Buddhists would be concerned about their own, but they were not. Because the Buddha taught that you are your own island, and you must work out your own karma. So these fellow Buddhists viewed these refugees plight through the lens of Eastern ideology. In other words, these people were starving and being killed and dying because of something they did in a previous life. It took many Christian organizations to come in and feed, clothe, and provide shelter to these Buddhists.

I then mentioned that this is why the holy men in India can walk by those who are maimed, starving, uneducated, and the like, and walk right by them. Why? Because they are in that predicament because of some built up karma. This is why it takes a Mother Theresa to literally adopt the city of Calcutta. As he was ingesting this, I continued my challenge:

I mentioned that the Urantia book was a message given to the author by an alien civilization through the means of automatic writing (where the author allows a spirit or some being to write through them while they are in an altered state of consciousness). I politely engaged him in conversation, challenging him at one point with this:

"The Urantia book was given through automatic writing, so too was The Book of Laws by Alistair Crowley (Alistair saying a spirit at the Great Pyramid gave this writing to him), as well as some of the writings of Carl Jung. However, even though these books/messages were given by 'spiritual' means as a way to properly view reality, they contradict each other... how do you delineate what is true, in other words, do you have a way to judge which of these books/messages is true and which are false."

He was caught off guard I am sure because this is a poignant question that 1) has never been asked of him, 2) gets him to think internally about whether he has ever questioned his own thinking on the acceptance of such an occult text, and 3), how does he judge truth. This is the answer I got:

"There have been studies where people are hooked up to machines and when presented with truth they somehow know it to be true, likewise, I just know the Urantia book to be true."

This answer is similar to those adherents of Scientology and also the "burning in the bosom" that Mormons experience. It is just that, experience, which are subjective at best. I then asked the gentlemen if he bases truth on his feelings, to which he responded positively to. I didn't press the issue as I had already challenged his thinking on other issues (I used some examples from a paper I did - I attached it if you are curious), but I could have continued with this line of thinking by comparing Hitler's feelings on truth as compared to those of Mother Theresa.

I hope this short brush with this guy will help you formulate a response to a self-refuting worldview, here I will post the end of a paper I did for my world religions class, enjoy (references have been removed for ease of publishing):

~ Adapted from an online debate many years ago ~

The law of cause and effect to which on the “spiritual” plain is called Karma. One writer says of the law:
Karma simply means that there remains naught after each personality but the causes produced by it. No “personality” – a mere bunch of material atoms and of indistinctual mental characteristics – can of course continue as such, in the world of pure Spirit.
The fundamental idea behind karma is that of action followed by reaction. The Bhagavad-Gita, one of the best-known Hindu scriptures, defines it quite simply as “the name given to the creative force that brings beings into existence” (8:3). Thus, it may be viewed as the fundamental creative action that is perpetuated in each individual soul.

Practically, karma is somewhat like Isaac Newton’s law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Mark Albrecht continues:
It could be pictured as a set of moral scales; all the bad deeds piled up on one side must be balanced by good deeds on the other.
Yet it is more complicated than that. Perhaps the best way of picturing karma and its relationship to rebirth (reincarnation) is something like this: Each person is a sort of electronic sensor or microphone with a wire hooked up to a great computer in the heavens; the computer is ‘God’ Each thought, motive and act, as well as all the things that happen to us, are relayed back to the computer and filed away. Upon death the data bank in the computer is activated, and the ‘readout’ of our next life or lives, is cranked out and handed to us. If our negative karma (deeds, thoughts, motives, circumstances, and so on) outweighs our positive karmic pattern, we are assigned a more miserable existence in the next round, and vice versa. We have nothing to say about it. There is no mercy, forgiveness or court of appeals.

Earlier Albrecht made the point that:
Hinduism and Buddhism teach that humans can only achieve final liberation from the round of rebirths by this doctrine. Only through the pitfalls and travails of the human condition can a soul earn sufficient merit to warrant its release or liberation (Sanskrit: moksha or samadhi). Thus, a soul must evolve through various life forms to the human state, the evolutionary plateau where moral lessons are learned through multitudes of reincarnations.

If you are born into a family that is well off, and you have a good family relationship, then you are being rewarded for some good work[s] from a previous life. If you are born into a famine-ridden area, destitute, or mentally or physically incapable of caring for yourself, then you are in retribution for the “cause and effect” law of karma. This is the reason that there is no firm “right or wrong” in this life according to Eastern thought. All people who are treated unfairly or unjustly -- like slaves were in America, racial wars, famine and disease in undeveloped nations -- are merely reaping what they sowed in a previous incarnation. In addition, to interfere with this process -- outlaw slavery, end racial strife, feed and heal the hungry and sick -- is to interfere with a person’s karma, which is strictly forbidden in the eastern philosophies! (Alternatively, doing so has no intrinsic value – e.g., no real positive moral benefit.)

It is laughable that some defend this doctrine tooth and nail. However, if really believed, they would come to realize there is no real good or evil! The Inquisitions, the Mumbai terror killings at the hands of Muslims, as examples, were merely the outgrowth of the victim’s previous lives. Therefore, when those here defend karmic destiny in other posts speak of the horrible atrocities committed by “religion,” they are not consistently living out their philosophy of life and death, which are illusory. The innocent victims of the Inquisitions, terror attacks, tsunamis, or Crusades then are merely being “paid back” for something they themselves did in a previous life. It is the actions said persons did prior that creates much of the evil upon them now. So in the future when people who are believers in reincarnation say that Christianity isn’t what it purports to be because of the evil it has committed in the past, I will remind them that evil is merely an illusion (maya – Hinduism; Sunyata – Buddhism) to be overcome, as karmic reincarnation demands.