The following text is from Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
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Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998.
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For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE.
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Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.
UGARIT: the name of an ancient city discovered at Ras Shamra on the Syrian coast in 1928 where hundreds of religious literary texts were found. The name is applied to the language used in many of these texts which is based on an alphabet and had been previously unknown. The texts are an important source for information about CANAANITE RELIGION and the background of ANCIENT JUDAISM.
ULAMA: a learned man in ISLAM who is able to give FATWA or guidance on the basis of ORTHODOX Islamic BELIEF and practice.
ULTRAMONTANISM: a movement within the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH originating in France during the seventeenth century which favored direct, centralized, control from Rome. The JESUITS were strong supporters of this position which came to dominate the Church in the nineteenth century.
UMAYYADS: the MUSLIM CALIPHATE established by Mu'wiyah ibn Ab Sufyn based in Damascus which held power for over 600 years.
UNCONSCIOUS: a psychological theory popularized by FREUD and JUNG which argues that below the conscious, RATIONAL, aspect of the mind there lies a realm which has the ability to affect our dreams, thoughts and actions without our being consciously aware of the source exerting the influence on us. Many other scholars see this as an unproved assumption which is part of modern IRRATIONALISM.
UNDERHILL, Evelyn (1875-1941): English ANGLICAN who wrote extensively on MYSTICISM and SPIRITUALITY. Her best known book is Mysticism (1911).
UNIFICATION CHURCH: a highly controversial Korean NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT which gained much publicity in the 1970s. The full name of the movement is The Holy Spirit Association for The Unification of World Christianity, and was founded in 1954 by an engineer Sun Myung MOON. The principle document is The Divine Principle which lays out its fundamental teachings. The THEOLOGY of the CHURCH is one of the most comprehensive found in any of the New Religious Movements. It consists of a systematic attempt to interpret the BIBLE from the perspective of Korean thought based on CONFUCIAN and BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY with insights gained from Korean SHAMANISM. The result is one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to produce an intellectually defensible non-Western theological system based on the BIBLE. Among the many ideas generated by this theology, which are likely to influence similar non-Western theologies in the future, are Indemnity, the Fourfold Position, the idea of the Principle, and the Lord of the Second Advent.
UNITARIANISM: a modern religious movement characterized by its rejection of the doctrines of the TRINITY and the deity of CHRIST. It first appeared in Poland and Hungary among ANABAPTISTS during the PROTESTANT REFORMATION but remained dormant until 1785 and the birth of the first American Unitarian congregation in Boston. The THEOLOGY quickly spread among CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES in Eastern Massachusetts and found support at Harvard Divinity School which became its center. Unitarianism is a creedless RATIONALIST movement which rejects ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN views about the AUTHORITY of the BIBLE stressing instead many FORMS of divine REVELATION and the inherent goodness of man.
UNIVERSALS: something belonging to all the members of a GROUP which therefore identifies the specific NATURE of that group distinguishing it from other things or particulars. Philosophically the question of universals and particulars or the "one and the many" has been important since the time of the Greeks and many answers have been offered to the basic questions raised. For example: What is it that leads us to call poodles and fox terriers dogs and not cats? The quality of "dogness" is the universal.
UNIVERSALISM: a theological view within CHRISTIANITY usually deemed HERESY which teaches that all people will eventually be SAVED as opposed to the ORTHODOX position which maintains that only people who show repentance and FAITH in CHRIST obtain SALVATION.
UNIVERSALITY: a quality of TRUTH. To be true something must be so under all conditions regardless of the contingencies of time and space.
UNIVERSE: a Latin term meaning "the whole" referring to the COSMOS and all that exists in space and time. For CHRISTIANS the use of the term has implied a FORM of philosophical MONISM which sees everything originating in the actions and will of the creator who is the GOD of the BIBLE.
UNIVOCAL: having only one MEANING.
UNKNOWING, CLOUD OF: a fourteenth century MYSTICAL work which teaches that GOD cannot be known by REASON but only by LOVE.
UNMOVED MOVER: the term used by ARISTOTLE to refer to the creator and sustainer of the UNIVERSE which was taken by CHRISTIANS to apply to GOD.
UNTOUCHABLES: the lowest CASTE in HINDU SOCIETY who are RITUALLY unclean and therefore excluded from both religious and civil SOCIETY. Although the Constitution of India outlaws the practice of untouchability, abuses continues and many untouchables report being unable to vote in elections.
UPANISHAD: literally "to sit near" or "near sitting." The term can mean secret; a MYSTICAL doctrine or teaching; or, most commonly, a collection of texts which since the eighth century B.C. have been known as "the last of the VEDAS." The content and doctrine of the Upanishads vary considerably from treaties which promote ATHEISM to devotional THEISM thus representing a wide spectrum of philosophical schools and outlooks. The thirteen classical Upanishads were composed between the eighth and fourth centuries B.C. but many later works also use the name some of which are dated as late as the fifteenth century.
URBAN, II (1042-1099): reforming POPE who initiated the First Crusade to help defend Eastern European nations against MUSLIM attacks and to obtain free access to JERUSALEM for PILGRIMS.
URIM AND THUMMIN: a mode of DIVINATION mentioned in the HEBREW BIBLE which Joseph SMITH claimed to use to translate the Book of Mormon.
URSULINE ORDER: a ROMAN CATHOLIC Order of NUNS originally founded in 1535 by Angela Merici as a SOCIETY for unmarried women dedicated to teaching. It developed into a religious Order following the RULE OF SAINT AUGUSTINE in the seventeenth century.
USSHER, James (1581-1656): Irish PROTESTANT Prelate and scholar who added dates to Biblical HISTORY and proposed the date of creation to be 4004 B.C.
USURY: the lending of money at exorbitant interest. The practice was banned by the CHRISTIAN CHURCH and by ISLAM which also bans all FORMS of interest on the basis of ARISTOTLE'S theory of money. Following the PROTESTANT REFORMATION most Protestant Churches distinguished between usury as extortion and interest as legitimate reward for venture capital. The ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH also adopted this position in the late nineteenth century.
UTILITARIAN: a philosophical movement, often identified with ETHICS, developed by BENTHAM and popularized by MILL in the nineteenth century based on the BELIEF that what is important is whether something is of use to people or not. In ethics the utilitarian principle was developed in terms of promoting "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." Thus the goodness or any act is to be judged by its consequences in terms of the principle of utility. The movement had a great impact on nineteenth century thought promoting SOCIAL and political REFORM and continues to exert considerable practical influence even today.
UTOPIA: a term signifying an ideal SOCIETY first coined by MORE who used it to describe an imaginary island where justice, peace and happiness prevailed.