Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part One)

Compiled by the editors of The Ex-Christian Scientist. This is the first of three posts. For all posts related to this, see the tag Ex-CS Survey 2016.

Recently, we took a very unscientific (but more scientific than Christian Science could ever be) survey of some former Christian Scientists, to see what their backgrounds were, how they got into Christian Science, when they left it, and some details on their lives as Christian Scientists. While this isn’t a scientifically-based poll, it does offer some insights–both expected, and unexpected by those of us who have conducted this survey.

We had 135 responses, and the survey was open to accept responses for about two weeks. Many thank-yous to the Google Forms application, which made this survey so easy to conduct, and of course to everyone who participated.

In this first post, we will look at the multiple-choice questions. All except follow-up questions based on answers to previous questions were required. There were also some open-ended questions asking for written responses that were follow-ups to some of the multiple-choice questions, and we will be taking a look at those questions in a future post.

First, the raw data…

The answers with the most responses are indicated in red.

What was your age when you became a Christian Scientist?

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a) I was born into it (122 respondents: 90.4%)
b) 1 – 9 years-old – my parents converted (5 respondents: 3.7%)
c) 10 – 20 years-old – my parents converted (3 respondents: 2.2%)
d) 15 – 20 years-old – I discovered it myself (3 respondents: 2.2%)
e) 20 – 29 years-old (1 respondent: 0.7%)
e) 30 – 39 years-old (0 respondents)
f) 40 – 49 years-old (0 respondents)
g) 50+ years-old (1 respondent: 0.7%)

If you were born into Christian Science, how many generations back did Christian Science go in your family? (NOTE: this question was only required for those who selected ‘a’ above, however it was answered by 125 respondents…)

a) My parents were converts (24 respondents: 19.2%)
b) My grandparents converted (49 respondents: 39.2%)
c) My great-grandparents converted (36 respondents: 28.8%)
d) My great-great-grandparents converted (6 respondents: 4.8%)
e) Christian Science goes so far back, we’ve lost track (4 respondents: 3.2%)
f) Distant relatives studied with Mary Baker Eddy (1 respondents: 0.8%)
g) As good Christian Scientists, we didn’t keep track of age or generations
(5 respondents: 4%)

What age were you when you left Christian Science?

a) Under 20 (36 respondents: 26.7%)
b) 20 – 29 years-old (55 respondents: 40.7%)
c) 30 – 39 years-old (21 respondents: 15.6%)
d) 40 – 49 years-old (12 respondents: 8.9%)
e) 50 – 59 years-old (7 respondents: 5.2%)
f) 60+ years-old (4 respondents: 3.0%)

How recently did you leave Christian Science?

a) One year or less (8 respondents: 5.9%)
b) 1 – 3 years (5 respondents: 3.7%)
c) 4 – 6 years (14 respondents: 10.4%)
d) 7 – 9 years (10 respondents: 7.4%)
e) 10 – 20 years (33 respondents: 24.4%)
f) 20+ years (65 respondents: 48.1%)

During your time in Christian Science, were you a member of The Mother Church (TMC) or a branch church? (this was a ‘select all that apply’ question)

a) Mother Church (80 respondents: 59.3%)
b) Branch church (63 respondents: 39.3%)
c) Neither (47 respondents: 34.8%)

Have you resigned your memberships? (NOTE: this was only required if a respondents selected ‘a’ or ‘b’ above)

a) Yes, I’ve resigned from TMC (52 respondents: 57.8%)
b) Yes, I’ve resigned from TMC, but still get mailings (9 respondents: 10.0%)
c) Yes, I’ve resigned from my branch church (16 respondents: 17.8%)
d) No, I haven’t resigned from TMC (16 respondents: 17.8%)
e) No, I haven’t resigned from my branch church (4 respondents: 4.4%)
f) It’s complicated (12 respondents: 13.3%)

Did you go through Christian Science class instruction?

a) Yes (104 respondents: 77.0%)
b) No (31 respondents: 23.0%)

Have you notified your Teacher that you’ve left Christian Science? (NOTE: this was a follow-up question, only required if a respondent chose ‘a’ above, however not all who chose ‘a’ answered this question)

a) Yes (14 respondents: 29.2%)
b) No (9 respondents: 18.8%)
c) It’s complicated (3 respondents: 6.3%)
d) Other (22 respondents: 45.8%)

Have you worked for any Christian Science-related institution? (This was a ‘select all that apply’ question)

a) The Mother Church (9 respondents: 6.7%)
b) Principia – employee (10 respondents: 7.4%)
c) Principia College – student worker (21 respondents: 15.8%)
d) Christian Science nursing institution (9 respondents: 6.7%)
e) Christian Science summer camp (23 respondents: 17.0%)
f) None (77 respondents: 57.0%)
g) Other (12 respondents: 8.9%)

What best describes your current religious belief/adherence, or non-belief/non-adherence? (This was a ‘select all that apply’ question)

a) Agnostic (24 respondents: 17.8%)
b) Atheist (37 respondents: 27.4%)
c) Buddhist (5 respondents: 3.7%)
d) Christian – Catholic (5 respondents: 3.7%)
e) Christian – Protestant (30 respondents: 22.2%)
f) Christian – Other (9 respondents: 6.7%)
g) Spiritual – Non-Religious (34 respondents: 25.2%)
h) Other (15 respondents: 11.1%)

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Did you attend a Christian Science camp or youth activity? (This was a ‘select all that apply’ question)

a) Adventure Unlimited (39 respondents: 28.9%)
b) Cedars Camps (24 respondents: 17.8%)
c) Christian Science Organization (29 respondents: 21.5%)
d) Camp Bow-Isle (3 respondents: 2.2%)
e) Crystal Lakes Camps (6 respondents: 4.4%)
f) Newfound/Owatonna (15 respondents: 11.1%)
g) Leelanau/Kohahna (5 respondents: 3.7%)
h) Discovery Bound (7 respondents: 5.2%)
i) Did not attend any camp/youth activity (34 respondents: 25.2%)
j) Other (22 respondents: 16.3%)

Did you attend Principia? (This was a ‘select all that apply’ question)

a) Yes (37 respondents: 27.4%)
b) Upper School (31 respondents: 23.0%)
c) Middle School (11 respondents: 8.1%)
d) Lower School (12 respondents: 8.9%)
e) College – graduated (24 respondents: 17.8%)
f) College – left/transferred out (11 respondents: 8.1%)
g) College – asked to leave/expelled (2 respondents: 1.5%)
h) Did not attend Principia (73 respondents: 54.1%)

Some analysis and conclusions…

As expected, the vast majority (96.3 percent) of respondents were either born into Christian Science, or they were brought into Christian Science at an early age by their convert parents. This reinforces a long-held notion that Christian Science is largely an inherited religion.

Since about 1950, it has attracted few converts, however 24 percent of respondents reported that their parents converted, so there are still some newer converts, and four respondents converted themselves after the age of 15.

So, one might ask: were there any surprises? Yes, there were a few.

We were surprised that we had any respondents, let alone four, that converted to Christian Science on their own. What was surprising on a few questions was some of the second to third most popular answers–which in some cases came close to equaling the most popular. For instance, just under a quarter of our respondents did not attend any camps or youth activities.

The numbers of current atheists (the most popular), Protestant Christians, and Spiritual/Non-Religious respondents were somewhat close.

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that we had one respondent who came into Christian Science after the age of 50.