Five Questions

In the last month or two I’ve started being more open with some of post-Christian Science friends about my Christian Science upbringing. Often, the people I’ve shared with have been people who never knew me while I was still “in Science” — or people who were not quite aware of my background and upbringing. Everyone has been supportive, but they’ve also been baffled as to why anyone would believe in Christian Science in the first place.

This post is being done in collaboration with my fellow ex-Christian Scientist blogger at Emerging Gently. We have also posed these same questions to other ex-Christian Scientists. Their answers appear in a series of posts on The Ex-Christian Scientist*.


There have been five questions that have popped up again and again
  1. How did you get into Christian Science?
  2. Why did you stay in for so long?
  3. What made you decide to leave?
  4. Why would anyone join?
  5. Did you really believe?

I can only answer these questions for myself, but I welcome others to chime in on their experiences in the comments, or as a contributing post over at The Ex-Christian Scientist*.


How did you get into Christian Science?

Like many Christian Scientists (and members of most religions) I was born into it. My father discovered and converted to Christian Science in the mid-1960s (he was in his mid-to-late 30s), and convinced my mother (who was in her mid-to-late 20s) to convert (in the late 1970s early 1980s) as well. They were strongly in the faith when I arrived on the scene in the early 1980s.

My mother has argued I was “not raised quote in Science” and to some extent I agree, I was allowed to take biology classes in school, and got to sit through some very basic “our changing bodies” videos in elementary school. That did not prevent me from remaining relatively ignorant of human physiology and biology (the library and internet were helpful there), a very warped perspective of pain and illness, and a lasting discomfort surrounding all things medical.

Why did you stay in for so long?

When you are raised with these ideas from birth and are repeatedly told them by people that you love, trust and respect it is hard to break free from them.

Like many others, I was raised being told that Christian Science was the One True Religion, Ms. Eddy’s “time for thinkers has come” quote was great, and as long as my thought came back to CS as the OTR things were fine. After I moved out, the ingrained CS habits — not going to a doctor, “praying” about (or flat-out ignoring) problems, general ignorance of the human body/basic biology, etc. remained. Acknowledging health issues or other problems (aka “error”) gave them power and made them “real” and therefore even more difficult to “handle” in Science. My negative childhood experiences with dentists, and my mother’s very vocal anti-doctor/anti-medicine stance only reinforced my decision.

What made you decide to leave?

In retrospect I’d been drifting away for years, what really made me examine my beliefs, and their implications, was having children.

Why would anyone join?

Christian Science promises amazing results. Committee on Publications bloggers regularly run articles about healthcare and quantum physics that make Christian Science appear to be a viable alternative to modern medicine and scientific. Spoiler alert: it is not. The Church has over 100 years of “testimonies” of healing attributed to Christian Science, as many Christian Scientists do not visit doctors, and are generally ignorant of human physiology, they regularly are healed of “what appeared to be” the worst-case-scenario from Dr. Google or a concerned friend.

Did you really believe

That’s a complicated one, I’d say I believed at least some of it.

Which part? That there is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-everything Loving God? That I was a perfect spiritual reflection of that God? That my wellbeing, health, grades, etc. were all a reflection of how spiritually attuned I was to God? That if I listened to God I would be guided in my decision making? That the belief in sin was punished only so long as the belief lasts? That all of this is an illusion? That there was some secret higher knowledge? That if I studied “the books” hard enough…

Did I really believe that prayer could heal? On some level, yes. Recent Christian Science propaganda has latched on to the “thought impacts health” and to some extent it does, but not to the extent Christian Science would like you to believe. If you want to pick it apart from a Christian perspective, Jesus did not teach that thought impacts health, and Christian Science has set about to restore the lost art of healing the way Jesus did.

Did I really believe in the unreality of matter? I’m less sure of that one, I think that’s been one of the nagging questions that has lingered from when I first started forming questions. No one has ever given me a satisfactory answer to this question.


So where am I now?

I’m aspiring to be a humanist and generally reasonable human being. Some days I am better at this than others.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author of this blog is also an editor/developer of The Ex-Christian Scientist website.

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Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists, Dr. Linda Kramer’s Talk

This is a fascinating talk by Dr. Linda Kramer, author of Perfect Peril: Christian Science and Mind Control — I have not read it, but it is on my list.

Content warning: Dr. Kramer has “found Jesus” so there are strong, recurrent themes of Christianity in the first 20 minutes.

Around the 20 minute mark, Dr. Kramer embarks on an interesting analysis of Christian Science as a cult, as well as a discussion of the mythos that has grown around Christian Science and Ms. Eddy’s early years (the fall on the ice, animal magnetism, sacred science).

FFCS Conf 14080102 Kramer Linda S PhD Journey Book Ministry – http://youtu.be/KK_zRnRWlgI

Other videos from the FFCS Conference:

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Anything you purchase through these links helps keep the coffee going. Thank you in advance for choosing to support us.

renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth – shut down the questioning

It seems the “Circle of faith” community at christianscience.com is closing down. While I never spent much time there, I did enjoy the idea that The Mother Church would permit “open idalogue among Christian Scientists, their fellow Christians, and people of other faith traditions.”
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.58.00 PMThe reason given?

we feel this is an opportunity to pause with some of our online activities and renew a focus on our primary resources for spiritual growth — our Pastor: the Holy Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

Fear not little flock, the Circle of Faith blogs will remain up — you’re still welcome to comment there, but the discussion boards? Those will be gone as of August 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.57.49 PMIn skimming through them earlier, I found some great “conversations” including

And gems like this:

Understanding illusory nature of matter is essential and indispensable for Christian Science. An idea of unreality of matter is not a new one. It is as old as Hinduism, or at least 4000 years old. Hindu religion teaches that material world is an illusion – Maya, a dream of mind based on sensory perception. Buddha 500 years earlier than Jesus also taught about the nature of material world. To Western thought unreality of matter can be explained from subject-object frame of reference. If we look at the tree from one side and then change our subjective position, the tree will remain the same even in case subjective picture has changed. The tree can be dry from one side and wet from the other. It can have more branches on visible side, but lack branches on the other. Based on subjective perception, can we say that the tree is dry or wet? Can we count all branches just looking at the tree from one side? What subjective picture of mind can we create on the basis of our sensual perception?

They go on at some length and then conclude:

To understand all miracles of Jesus, it is crucial to realize that not only “matter” is unreal and subjective, but the whole world is unreal. It seems a very radical idea and a far stretch . But consider the fact that the “world” depends on self and its subjectivity. The world can be one for one conscious self identity and different for the other. There is a world of a schizophrenic and a world of a saint. The world of the same tree is different whether it is a botanist who looks at the tree, or a tree chopper. The world can contain all sorts of projections, attachments, fears and beliefs, which are not real. So, if the world is unreal, what is real? God is real, Spirit is real. God is much bigger than any world our perception and imagination can grasp. And Spirit belongs God, comes from God and returns to God. Spirit is permanent and immovable in the world. There is only one Law Spirit obeys before God. It is described in the words of Jesus, “Give to God what is God’s.”

With all these delightful variations, interpretations, and legitimate questioning of what Ms. Eddy’s claims, it is no wonder that they’re closing down the forums and limiting comments to CSP-authorized posts.

I highly recommend checking out the forums before they’re closed in August! https://community.christianscience.com/community/ecumenical_and_interfaith

Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science)

I love when non-CS go to a CS service and share their views, it is always refreshing to get a new perspective and to hear what stands out as “odd” to them.

Steeple Stretch

photo 3-2 First Church of Christ, Scientist

Sunday #14 – Church of Christ, Scientist, 501 N. Alamo, San Antonio, TX

After last week’s “toe dip” into Scientology, I thought I’d check out one of the other religions often mistaken for Scientology – Christian Science. The church is one of several on the decline in America’s religious landscape. However, you might be surprised to learn that some pretty well known people were raised in the Christian Science faith: Doris Day, Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Andy Rooney, Bette Davis, Gene Autrey, Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Val Kilmer, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, and on and on.

Though the church doesn’t publish its membership numbers, I’ve read estimates of membership in the 100,00 to 500,000-range worldwide. However, many feel the number is closer to the lower level. Why is this? I can only guess its due to its unwillingness of the…

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Christian Science, the Affordable Health Care Act & Congressional Lobbying

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.33.45 AMThe Christian Science Church has a special Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office:

Located in Washington, DC, this office works with U.S. Congressional, executive, and regulatory offices to help them and the public gain a more accurate understanding of Christian Science. We follow developments in health care and insurance, and we work to ensure that spiritual health care services and the public’s access to them are not adversely affected by any law.

I was always under the impression people were welcome to pray for themselves at any time — separation of Church and State, the State can’t tell me not to pray, so I’m really not sure why the Christian Science Church feels they need to be involved. The State can, and does, request that I pay taxes, our taxes go to schools, roads, public services (police, fire, etc.), and that we have insurance (car, house, etc.). Render unto Caesar and all that good stuff.

Ms. Eddy was clear that Christian Scientists follow the laws established by the State, which is interesting, because The Christian Science Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office has been hard at work — again, lobbying Congress for health care exemptions — this time for an exemption to the Affordable Health Care Act. I’m NOT saying the Affordable Health Care Act is the answer, but health care in the United States is a mess, and the reforms with the ACA are a step towards at least doing something about the problem. Perhaps that is a little over-simplified, but if Christian Science prayer worked as well as the Christian Science lobbying machine we’d have a peaceful, disease-free utopia.

A few things to keep in mind:

The Christian Science Church has an EXTENSIVE ACA FAQ at http://christianscience.com/member-resources/for-churches/committee-on-publication/us-federal-office/health-care-reform/frequently-asked-questions. My FAVORITE of the FAQ:

Isn’t there a religious exemption from the ACA’s requirement to purchase health insurance?

Yes, but it applies primarily to the Amish and certain Mennonites. This is because the current exemption (on page 326 of the linked PDF) has the following requirements:

  • The individual must be a member of a religious group whose tenets and teachings establish that its members are conscientiously opposed to receiving any insurance benefits, including Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The individual must waive all Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The religious organization must pay for the health care and disability costs of its members.

I don’t see Christian Scientists giving up their Social Security or Medicare benefits any time soon. If anything, they actively encourage members to seek out Medicare assistance to cover the cost of treatment at Christian Science Nursing care facilities.

The EACH Act (HR1814 & S.862) should be opposed for many reasons (via CHILD)

  • It’s unenforceable. There is no way the IRS would be able to accurately determine what a person’s religious beliefs are, much less how “sincerely held” they are. Therefore, ANYONE, whether they really refuse medical care or not, will be able to say they have religious beliefs against medical care and use that as an excuse to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance. It would gut the Act.
  • Many sincere religious people object to only SOME kinds of medical treatment. Christian Scientists, for example, have broken bones set, get pre-natal and birth care, and often end up rushing to the emergency room when their prayers fail to heal them. If they are not covered by insurance, taxpayers must fill the gap.
  • Even those objecting to ALL medical intervention will still receive it when they are unable to refuse it, say, after a car accident, and taxpayers must then pay the entire cost of that care also.
  • The CBO has just released a fiscal analysis indicating that the bill could increase the number of uninsured by 500,000 persons each year and cost $1.5 billion over ten years.
  • The House bill has been pushed forward without due process, with no public hearing, no committee markup, no fiscal analysis
  • Parents who send children to religious schools are not exempt from taxes that support public schools. Religious people shouldn’t be exempt from this tax either.
  • Children in uninsured families are particularly at risk. It’s one thing for an adult to refuse medical treatment for himself, but children should be insured and therefore able to receive lifesaving care until they are old enough to decide for themselves

More from CHILD: Christian Science bills endanger children (http://childrenshealthcare.org/?page_id=2165), and statements from organizations opposing prayer-based treatment of children:

More on the Legislation in Question

More on the Christian Science Church’s efforts:

Other concerned Parties:

From the blogs:

Question: If a Christian Scientist is gravely ill and prays for healing and dies when a medical intervention could have saved their life is that, in the minds of their loved ones, simply because God didn’t want them to live?

The following is a Question & Answer post where former Christian Scientists try and explain Christian Science reasoning to fairly commonly asked questions. We will be periodically sharing them, as questions that would benefit from multiple perspectives arise. This post is being answered by EG, who blogs at emergegently.wordpress.com, and  Kat, who blogs at Kindism.org. It will be simultaneously cross-posted on both blogs. We have catagorized and tagged these as “Christian Science Q&A”

If a Christian Scientist is gravely ill and prays for healing and dies when a medical intervention could have saved their life is that, in the minds of their loved ones, simply because God didn’t want them to live?


Answer from EG @ Emerging Gently

For someone to think it was “God’s will” that their loved one was not supposed to live is to believe somewhat in the vagaries of fate. That is not something the Christian Scientist accepts. In the Christian Science worldview, God does not really have a random “will” per se. That would imply that God can be fickle, and unpredictable. That is not the case with the Christian Scientist. To them, God only sees one thing–perfection–this is a steadfast constant in the Christian Science universe. In it, there is no sin, disease, or…death. All of these things are illusions. They are not real to God, therefore they are not real to the Christian Scientist–they’re as real as the huge lake you think you see in the middle of the hot desert. This is the universal constant for the Christian Scientist. In essence, to them, in “God’s image/perception” the death, and the sickness for that matter, never happened.

Now, dear reader, how’s that for some mental gymnastics? The fact that the Christian Scientist prays in any way for healing of sickness is a contradiction to the bedrock aspect of their theology that dictates the illusory nature of sin, sickness, and death. The true-blue Christian Scientist will tell you that they’re not really praying for healing; more accurately they’ll say that they’re praying to see “what’s really there”–the person’s perfect nature in the eyes of God. However, we all know that their prayers are occasioned by the very real perception of sickness. It’s a somewhat mind-bending exercise to mentally try to change what we all know to be an unchangeable perception. Unfortunately, sin, sickness, and death are real. One ignores that fact at one’s own peril. I could cite any number of cases in which serious illness was treated as illusion in the minds of Christian Scientists with tragic, and in some cases fatal results.

In the minds of the loved ones of the deceased, the death never happened. It is an illusion to God, and to God, death doesn’t exist, so it would be impossible for God to will something that doesn’t exist. That is also the main reason Christian Scientists are often so oddly unemotional in the face of the death of someone close to them. It’s not necessarily that they don’t care, it’s that to them, death is unreal. It never happened.

Answer from Kat @ Kindism

A Good Christian Scientist will firmly inform you that Death is an Illusion. As one staunch defender of the One True Faith reminded us, “death is no more real than a paper cut and it has no power over us!” The notion that medical intervention could have “saved their life” is foreign to them. Just go to a doctor! their non-Christian Science friends will implore, but the Good Christian Scientist will hold fast to Ms. Eddy’s reminder

We cannot serve two masters nor perceive divine Science with the material senses. Drugs and hygiene cannot successfully usurp the place and power of the divine source of all health and perfection. S&H 167:12-14 S&H 167:12

A Good Christian Scientist reminded “don’t give up now!” There is never a good time to turn from the One True Path in search of healing or treatment elsewhere. God, and Christian Science nursing homes, will not accept nominal worshipers. God will always provide!

Some will argue Ms. Eddy never intended for Christian Science to be taken to such extremes, and some say that Ms. Eddy offered a loop hole:

If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, – their brethren upon whom they may call, – God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal meansS&H p. 444:7-10

Of course, at the end of the day, the illness is all the fault of the person suffering. Ms. Eddy is quick to point out the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts — put another way, as long as the person believes they are sick they will remain that way. God has very little to do with healing, the person is not really ill, their thought is just not properly aligned with God. It is all about the person’s ability to align their thoughts with God and ignore (“overcome”) their ailment that will heal them.

The most important thing to remember is that healings never fail. They may not produce the results you had hoped for, but God knows best. God is testing you, and never gives you more than you can handle.

While a person is trapped in the unreal clutches of malicious animal magnetism (aka illness), Christan Scientists are quick to criticize the individual for their thought not being properly aligned with God. As long as they are suffering they must be doing something wrong. Once the person “passes on” the Christian Scientist is quick to remember the person’s True Spiritual Identity and praise them for their wonderful nature. The individual is “continuing on” — they are after all, Spiritual and Immortal.

Further reading from Kindism