When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.
The following answers are from a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.
How did you get into Christian Science?
I was raised in a deeply CS family–three of my grandparents were raised in it, and the fourth converted at marriage and became a life-long practitioner. Most of the relatives I saw with any regularity had stayed with it, and many of my parents’ good friends were from church, so I was deep within the bubble in that respect.
Why did you stay in it for so long?
I didn’t, really. By age 15 I knew for certain that I was not a Christian Scientist. Out of deference to my parents, I kept going to Sunday School until age 18, at which point I considered myself free of such filial obligation.
What made you decide to leave?
It had never made sense to me, and when I started taking chemistry classes in high school I was blown away by the consistent logic of real science, in stark contrast to CS. I remember standing in the kitchen with a glass of water and thinking of the theories that I was learning that explained why the molecules behaved in the way that I observed, and it made so much sense. I realized that I could apply the same analytical thought process to anything I wanted to understand, and I could recast all my doubts and questions about Christian Science. Rather than personal failings, they were actual holes and contradictions in the doctrine, that if unexplained meant the theory was false. I gave my parents and Sunday School teachers every chance I could to answer these questions, but it always came down to circular logic, blind faith, or blank stares. It was so personally empowering to realize that rather than taking the word of intelligent people, who clearly could still be deeply mistaken, that I could figure out on my own what made sense and what didn’t. That was all the nudge I needed; I was done. And if somehow I had clung to it into adulthood, I’m sure the excruciating deaths of my grandmother and mother under medically preventable circumstances would have ripped me away.
Why would anyone join?
There seem to be two primary paths into Christian Science: 1) raised in it from a young age, or 2) adults looking for an alternative to either other religions or medicine. The latter I think was much more prevalent and understandable in the time of MBE, when medicine was far less reliable and capable than it is now. But these days I see church membership dwindling (in the US, at least), because most members were raised in it, and many of them are leaving as they see the harm it can do. Despite our family’s strong CS lineage, only 1/3 of my generation has stuck with it so far, and we’re ready for the hold-outs whenever they want to say goodbye.
Did you really believe?
No, but I tried really hard for a long time. As a young child, there are lots of things that don’t make sense–credit cards, plumbing, rules of etiquette, Christian Science. You quickly learn that even though you don’t understand these things, your parents do, and they do a pretty good job of taking care of you, so you trust that they know what they’re talking about. Someday you’ll understand it all, if you try hard enough. I think that’s most people’s pathway into lifelong belief, and it’s reinforced by doctrine that puts blame for failure on your own thoughts, and by social pressure. (“I understand plumbing, credit cards, and rules of etiquette now, but not CS. Oh no, I haven’t raised my thought high enough to align it with Christ! I can’t let anyone see that I can’t see that I’m a perfect child of God! Pray harder, believe, see the perfect spiritual reality!!!”)
Fortunately, for all their own faith, my parents were surprisingly open-minded and liberal about my exposure to other religions, philosophies, and modes of thought, so I had many external validations of my doubts even as a child. They weren’t enough at that time to overcome my faith in my family’s faith–I remember vigorously defending CS doctrine to a precocious childhood friend, despite ultimately drawing a blank at his persistent questioning–but they made it easier a few years later for me to let go on my own.