Compiled by the editors of The Ex-Christian Scientist. This is the second of three posts. For all posts related to this, see the tag Ex-CS Survey 2016.
In the first post on our 2016 survey of former Christian Scientists, we focused on the answers to a number of multiple choice questions. While these pointed up a number of identifiable trends among former Christian Scientists, it’s the answers to what we’ll call ‘essay’ questions that dig into some of the personal stories, reasons why people have left Christian Science, and some of the common threads between different people’s experiences. While all of us who’ve left Christian Science have our own unique perspectives and paths that led us out, there are still a lot of common experiences, emotions, and sometimes traumas that we’re processing. Most of these were follow-ups to multiple-choice questions.
What motivated you to leave Christian Science?
It didn’t show consistent results, and didn’t hold up to rigorous questioning.
A majority of answers fell along these lines: Christian Science failed to heal consistently; or not at all; respondents saw family members or friends die of things that shouldn’t have killed them. Some respondents recounted multiple family members needlessly suffering and dying in sometimes horrendous ways.
My grandmother had been praying for 10+ years for a very treatable skin cancer to go away. She died after almost 20 years of the cancer eating away her face.
Several others recounted experiences where they found quick and/or lasting relief from medical conditions through medical care–often it was something as simple as pain or cold medication. For some, it was life-saving medical intervention.
I had heart surgery which saved my life.
I took an Excedrin to relieve one of the migraine headaches I had all my life–and it worked!
Some people found that Christian Science wasn’t a true reflection of Jesus Christ’s or other Biblical teachings; while others found fault not only with the teachings of Christian Science, but also with the Bible itself.
Bible fell apart for me, too many contradictions, moral wrongs etc…
I had to believe what the Bible actually had to say instead of the garbage Mary Baker Eddy said that it said.
I wasn’t getting answers or the relationship with God that the Bible promised. It completely contradicted the Bible and it stopped making any kind of sense to me.
Many respondents came to feel that Christian Science simply did not make sense. Others simply just drifted away.
It wasn’t a defining moment – I just gradually drifted away from it after I left home and went to University.
It made no sense to me.
Another common thread among many responses was the feeling of a distinct lack of compassion from Christian Scientists in the face of death, illness, or other traumatic events in the respondents’ lives, although this was often more of a contributing factor rather than a sole reason for departure. Perceived or real hypocrisy among fellow Christian Scientists, and/or Church officials was also a contributing factor for many departures from the faith.
However, there were some (sort of) lighthearted responses, or ones that brought a smile to our faces…sometimes with just one word that sums things up well.
Really liked Advil and beer.
I came to the conclusion that it was batshit crazy.
I was falling asleep in church services.
How did working for a Christian Science-related institution influence your views of the religion?
This was a follow-up to a question that asked respondents if they had ever worked for either The Mother Church/Christian Science Publishing Society, or any other Christian Science-related organizations. Only those who had worked for such institutions were asked to answer this question.
Logically, there were three possible answers: no effect, negative effect, or positive effect. The majority of respondents reported a negative influence on their faith in Christian Science, or no influence. Positive influences were in the minority. We had 48 responses, and they broke down along these lines:
- Positive influence: 9
- Negative influence: 22
- No influence: 17
Working at [The Mother Church] gradually caused my views toward [Christian Science] to become more unfavorable.
It helped solidify my faith.
Very negative. Worked as a [Christian Science] Nurses Aide and saw much suffering.
I had a positive experience as a student worker because I had good supervisors.
I actually loved my time as a camp counselor. It did make me want to be the best Christian Scientist.
I was very young, but it was hard seeing the physical conditions of some of the [nursing facility] guests.
Made me see [Christian Science] also had politics.
Extremely negatively and part of why I left.
Some good. Some insanity.
Only proved the crazy.
I was alarmed at injuries untreated when campers were away from home. It cemented my decision to walk away.
Made me feel more guilty for not handling things ‘correctly’. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect.
What attracted you to your current religious views?
This was a follow-up to a multiple-choice question asking respondents what their current religious belief/non-belief were. This was not a mandatory question, so not all respondents gave an answer.
Across the board, whether people left Christian Science for another Christian denomination, a non-Christian religion, spirituality, atheism, or agnosticism, many respondents gravitated toward their current belief/non-belief because it made sense to them, it was logical, or it was something that just resonated with them. These were strong underlying themes within many respondent’s answers. For those who went to another Christian faith, some common themes that came out were a desire for more truly Biblical teachings, and a love and comfort with the church services, fellowship, ceremonies, and/or rituals of their new faith.
I believe there is Something Else beyond what we can perceive with our 5 senses- but I do not think the answers are contained in any established religion.
Deep searching study of the Bible and Christian writers.
It makes the most sense to me, especially after being brought up in a cult.
Consistency with the real world, the Bible, logical coherence.
It’s logical and obvious.
Logic. Enlighten thinking. Commons sense. Not carrying the weight of the world trying to make a flawed system work.
The fellowship I attend, is warm, caring, open, and nonjudgmental. I feel safe to be there.
The most spiritual moments I have had, have been when I slow down and pay attention to Mother Nature.
I’ve met atheists and others who helped me understand why I never could fully believe in an invisible, unknown entity. The first question that got me thinking was, “Why do YOU believe in God? And, you can’t recite the Bible, your parents or church views.” I couldn’t answer it. That scared me to think I wasn’t thinking for myself.
Reality. I prefer the indifference of science & nature to a vindictive deity.
Have always believed in God, but now free from the warped view of Him.
Years of thoughtful education, trying other religions, and questioning everything.
Accepted Jesus for who the Bible says he is.
I don’t agree with many religious practices. I prefer to practice spirituality privately.
Welcoming spirit, genuine caring, and Biblical teachings.
A long (often bumpy) path through many spiritual traditions that eventually led to an appreciation of life itself without the need of a belief system.
Did your experience at Christian Science camps/youth activities influence your views regarding Christian Science?
This was a follow-up to a multiple-choice question that asked respondents what (if any) Christian Science-related camp or youth activity they participated in. This was not a mandatory question, so not all respondents gave an answer.
While this question was similar in nature to the question about the effect of working at a Christian Science-related institution, the pattern of responses here was somewhat opposite, which came as a bit of a surprise. The vast majority of respondents reported that their camp/youth activity experience was either positive or strengthened their faith in Christian Science, or it had no effect. For a few, there were both positive and negative experiences.
We had 87 responses and they broke down along these lines:
- Positive influence: 30
- Negative influence: 20
- No effect: 34
- Both positive and negative influences: 3
That was probably the time I was most committed to [Christian Science]. However, I remember one time when I tripped and hurt my foot- and I told my counsellor- and she said, “It’s just a material foot!” Even then, that seemed wrong to me.
I wanted to go to Prin College after I had attended A/U.
Yes. I thought all the staff were mentally disturbed. They frightened me.
Not really. I actually really enjoyed Newfound.
Yes. I loved A/U in Buena Vista. I had so many great memories there it was hard not to love [Christian Science].
Yes I think it made me temporarily believe in it more strongly.
I hated Discovery Bound. Cliques everywhere. I loved Cedars Camps. It was hard to give up; until it wasn’t.
Unfortunately yes. It drew me back into [Christian Science].
Reinforced that it is a religion for hypocritical dolts.
Yes, it made it seem more ‘normal’ to see other [Christian Scientist] kids, unfortunately.
I enjoyed my time at camp, except the church services!
Camp was actually the most positive experience I had with [Christian Science].
Yes, was asked to pray for parents of child who died in [Christian Science] that they would not be convicted of his murder, which made me uncomfortable as a 9 year-old.
A Christian Science ski trip I participated in influenced me in a positive direction to be more serious about my [Christian Science] faith. This, in turn, gave me more opportunity to see that it wasn’t true.
I had a terrible time of it as a rising eighth grader at Cedars Summer Camp. Like the other [Christian Science] institutions (churches) around me, I found the environment to be snobby, judgmental, and very class-conscious. My family was the ‘poor’ one, and my mother accompanied her kids to the camp to work. We also had a ‘scholarship’ from a wealthy church member. I felt particularly ‘othered’, inadequate, and uncomfortable during this pubescent period surrounded by a higher concentration of [Christian Scientist] ‘peers’.
Did your experiences at Principia influence your views of Christian Science?
This was a follow-up to a multiple-choice question that asked respondents if they attended Principia, and what levels at Principia they attended (Pre-school; Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools; or College).
Anyone who attended Principia for any length of time and is no longer a Christian Scientist, will not be surprised by the break-down of responses to this question, or some of the comments offered. By far, the majority of respondents came away from their Principia experience with a more negative view of Christian Science, and in some cases, it was what caused them to leave the faith. This question seemed (at least to this editor) to garner more especially pointed comments on the negative side than others in this survey.
Even many of the people who reported that their Principia experience strengthened their faith at the time, look back now in retrospect and see it as ultimately having been ultimately a negative influence; or they reported that their recollections upon later reflection hastened their departure years after they left Principia. Many respondents cited hypocrisy (both with those in authority and among fellow students), abuse of power, and double-standards as being strongly negative memories of their time at Principia.
There were 58 responses. Here is the break down:
- Positive influence: 14
- Negative influence: 30
- No effect: 11
- Both positive and negative influences: 3
Helped confirm me in [Christian Science].
Somewhat–it was the first time I saw the darker side of Christian Scientists, and the deep hypocrisy that permeates the [Christian Science] community.
No…I actually love my Principia experience.
I had a big healing very public healing in tenth grade and that made me a real believer. Now I’m second guessing things, but it’s still somewhat confusing.
Yes! The way [Christian Science]is practiced at Prin is toxic.
Lots of a-holes. 🙂
Yes; it continued to reinforce my feeling that [Christian Science] was the truth.
The hypocrisy of some of the students, the extreme views of some professors turned me off to [Christian Science].
Asked to leave Upper School. Prin clarified the hypocrisy and lies of those in power.
Prin is where I learned that all kinds of ‘forbidden’ things happen in a restrictive community. They just happen much deeper under the surface, with much lying and deception. I have more trouble with the lies than the original behaviors.
I was bullied and hated it there.
There was so much restriction, hypocrisy, and pressure to be perfect.
I grew very jaded at Principia by the hypocrisy and the double-speak and also very withdrawn. That profound disillusionment accompanied my exodus from [Christian Science].
At the time I was a devout, pious [Christian Scientist], and was constantly frustrated by the extent to which adult Christian Scientists (who were also pious and devout on the surface) lied to or bullied the innocent Christian Science children in their care. The fact that no amount of prayer could heal that abuse of power shook my belief in [Christian Science] to the core.
The editors of The Ex-Christian Scientist would like to thank everyone who participated in this survey. Telling our stories, even in short answers, is important for our own healing from the effects Christian Science and its related institutions and activities have had on us. The results of this survey speak collectively to our experiences.
A similar survey to this was conducted almost two years ago by the author of the blog Emerging Gently. View the related posts here. The next (and last) post in this series will be a comparison of the two surveys. Stay tuned!