Dispelling the “Unity Is a Cult” Myth

By Elaine Meyer
Is Unity a cult?

Since the movement's inception, detractors have lodged that claim against Unity time and again. Is there any truth to it?  

No, says Tom Thorpe, Unity minister and Unity Institute® faculty member, citing The Hungry Minds College Dictionary. According to Thorpe, the dictionary's definition of a cult as the term is generally used states: a quasireligious group often living in a colony with a charismatic leader who indoctrinates members with unorthodox or extremist views practices or beliefs.

“Based on that definition, Unity is definitely not a cult,” he states.

Why Isn't Unity a Cult?
The differences between Unity and classically defined cults are sharp and clear.
  1. Unity does not claim to possess the whole truth or the only truth. In fact, Unity teaches that each of us has a relationship to God that is constantly evolving.
  2. Unity does not require people to accept teachings unquestioningly. On the contrary, Unity encourages independent and critical thinking and honors all spiritual paths.
  3. Unity does not ask anyone to leave his or her current church or family and friends. In fact, many people use Unity materials in tandem with their own spiritual practices and traditions.
  4. There are no requirements for membership and no demands—behavioral, financial, or otherwise to participate in Unity. A defining characteristic of Unity is belief in the absolute freedom of each individual to seek God and to worship and pray in his or her own way.
  5. Unity leadership is shared, rather than being embedded in a single charismatic leader or leaders. The movement's founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, died in the mid-1900s. Moreover, when they founded Unity, they had no intention of creating a new religion or denomination or in any way being worshipped themselves. They created Unity to be an open, accepting common ground where people of different backgrounds could discuss universal truths.  

So if Unity Isn't a Cult, What Is It?
Unity is a spiritual movement that sees God as good and present everywhere and affirms a spark of Divinity in all of us. Unity also offers a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity, regarding Jesus as the great example of what is possible for every human being, rather than the great exception.

Rev. Jim Marshall of Unity of the Huachucas in Arizona, says, “The Bible is Unity's textbook. We study the Bible as history, as allegory, and interpret it for the spiritual meaning behind the words (metaphysically). The Bible is the story of man's spiritual evolution toward spiritual awakening and becoming one with God.”

Unlike cults, Unity has no specific dogma to which one must ascribe. “In Unity one often hears, ‘Take what fits for you and leave the rest,'” says Marshall.

Unity also teaches that there are many paths to God. This concept contradicts some traditional Christian viewpoints and may be a reason some people believe Unity is a cult. Thorpe continues, “Christians who believe that only one definition of Christianity is correct try also to claim that only one interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ is correct. The fact that there are several hundred Christian denominations does not support this idea.”

Sage Advice From Myrtle Fillmore—Unity Cofounder
Myrtle Fillmore advised future generations to “look for all points on which to agree, and praise the other's faith and good works. We should not stamp our faith ‘Unity' or stress points of doctrine. We should keep to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, as the source of our light and the application of his teaching as the way of life. We should give God the glory for any and all good in our lives, and emphasize the Truth that it is God's working in and through us that does the transforming.”

Unity board member Ellen Debenport agrees. “We can support and facilitate spiritual growth without telling people how to believe in God. We very much encourage people to find their own individual relationship with the divine. Although we (at Unity) have a set of teachings that are useful for us, spirituality is still a do-it-yourself project.”

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Unity is not a Cult
I am saddened that anyone would have the erroneous thought that Unity is anything other than a loving, positive, supportive source of Truth teaching for spiritual growth and Christ Consciousness evolvement. Their affirmation that God is All Good and everywhere present, our One Source for everything good in our lives is mine as well. For more than 25 years the Unity material has been all-inspiring, uplifting, supportive, and healing for me, my loved ones, and friends. The prayer support provided by Silent Unity has lifted me, my loved ones, and my friends in so many different circumstances of life, and I cannot begin to count the numbers of answered prayers we have received as a result of our joining in with the prayers of Silent Unity. I am very thankful for my early Christian foundation established within a Protestant denomination. However, my real spiritual growth and evolvement really began to expand at the time of my access to Unity's voluminous supportive resources. I am extremely thankful for my first exposure to Unity with the copies of Daily Word I found left on the counter of the restroom at work more than 25 years ago, which contained the kind of spiritual reinforcement I desperately needed at the time. Since then, I have received my own subscription, and everyone who sees my copies of the Daily Word booklet exclaim: "This is wonderful, and it is just exactly what I needed to hear for my individual situation at this particular time. So, I give thanks to God for Unity. Unity is no Cult! Prayers, Love, and Light,
Two Arrows
7/4/2009 10:30:06 AM
Being involved in an Evangelical church, I see the fear in people's eyes when I mention Unity or bring them out to Unity Village and it makes me sad. I try to avoid the inaccurate cult discussion simply by focusing on the teachings of Jesus. Focusing on the idea of Unity as a movement of practical Christianity that bases its philosophy on the teachings of Jesus often helps people drop their defenses. Most people don't really understand what the word "cult" means anyway. They simply know that Unity discusses different things than they are used to hearing (praise God!)Using Jesus' own words helps too...."You have heard it said...But I say to you...." I believe the teachings of Unity help us follow the teachings and truths of Jesus even better...Thanks! Love the posts here!
7/3/2009 8:07:46 AM
thank you
cult is as cult does... and I haven't seen anything in Unity to indicate cultic aspects... but I must admit I am just a marginal Unity admirer (on and off subscriber to the magazine), since I first discovered Unity magazine and wrote a brief article published there in 1980... I was encouraged for the Unity voice then, and continue to be encouraged now... Thank You! Robert L. Rose Blooming Glen, PA
Robert L. Rose
7/1/2009 4:37:58 PM
Unity is unlimited
My background is traditional protestant Christianity. As a young adult, I began searching for something that felt right to me. Over the years, I have pieced together a spirituality that works for me; it feels right and it inspires me to keep growing. My practices include meditation, small group, breathing, etc. For the past four years, I have actively engaged in Unity teachings and have been able to grow spiritually through a more fully actualized use of prayer and affirmations. In my childhood, there was judgment regarding dancing and playing cards. There was a sense of limitation and punishment. My guess is that a cult is a limited experience. My experience at Unity is that there is no limitation. Whatever my heart desires is available to me as I release my judgments of myself and attend to my spiritual growth. Even teachings from other spiritual traditions are available to me if they align with my heart's desire and illuminate the path walked by Christ. In peace, NanciT
2/20/2009 1:43:46 PM
Not a Cult
I whole-heartedly agree that Unity isn't a cult. I've been in Unitarian Universalist churches for well over a decade, and people still call us a cult, so I know where you're coming from. I've only recently found Unity and started researching the beliefs and ideas. Already, it is quite obvious that there is nothing "cultish" about it. However, I wish your article gave some references from some other sources. Of course all of the Unity Reverands are going to say, "It's not a cult." Even with great points to back up the statements, references or opinions from people outside of the movement would help this article and, I believe, give it much more power. Perhaps friends from the other New Thought branches (Divine Science, Science of Mind), or more liberal Christians, or even Unitarian Universalists could comment. To convince more people you will have to branch out and include more types of people. A wider range of resources would bolster your statements and lend it more credibility in a doubting world. In Peace, M
2/19/2009 2:03:31 PM
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