Ancient, Basic, and Genuine Spirituality

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group editor/writer. This is part of our on-going series about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. Find other related posts under the tag, ‘other spiritual paths’.

In March 2009, my mother died after a short battle with an unknown illness. Later that same year in December, my father died after a seven year battle with what turned out to be heart failure. Neither of my parents sought medical attention for their ailments, and they both suffered immensely in their last days. These were the events that gave me my final push out of Christian Science.

Like the vast majority of people who are or were ever adherents of Christian Science, I was born into it: third-generation on both sides of my family. While I always harboured doubts about Christian Science, and never witnessed any dramatic ‘healings’, I largely immersed myself in the culture. It was always my comfort zone, weird as that may seem. I always did everything I could do to make it ‘work’, but I never really saw it work. It took the abysmal failure of Christian Science to heal my parents to finally make me realize that my life-long doubts had a basis in truth.

It was shortly after my mother’s death that I was introduced to an Indigenous sweat-lodge ceremony by an old friend from my high school days with whom I had reconnected on-line. Her own father had died only a few months earlier, so we were walking down a similar path. She had mentioned this ceremony in passing in a comment, and I asked her about it. She didn’t say much, but told me to research it myself, which I did. I’ve always been curious about other spiritual/religious paths, especially Indigenous spirituality, and this looked interesting to me. I grew up in Tsleil-Waututh territory, and the culture of the Coast Salish people (of which they are a part) was something that had always been around me, and I had always felt an innate connection with it that I couldn’t explain, and deep respect for it, even though as a child my knowledge was limited. I asked my friend if I could attend with her when I came out to be with my Dad, as she lived near where my parents had lived–and where I now live, and that became my introduction to the spiritual path I now walk, a path that is often referred to as the Red Road.

The sweat-lodge ceremony…

Briefly, I’ll explain what I can of what a sweat-lodge ceremony is. First and most importantly, I need to state that I am not an Indigenous person on this land (North America, or as many Indigenous people call it, Turtle Island). My ancestry is European (Irish, Scottish, and English). I am a ‘settler’ on this land. I state this because in Indigenous culture, your ancestry and who your ancestors are is an important part of your identity, and it is part of how you introduce yourself. Also, it is important that the perspective I speak from, and my status on this land are clearly understood and acknowledged. I speak only for myself and my own experience, and only from my own perspective.

A sweat-lodge ceremony is conducted in a structure known as the ‘lodge’, which is usually a dome-shaped structure that is tall enough for you to sit, but not stand–you enter humbly, on your hands and knees. The ceremony consists of usually four rounds, each with its own focus–which is different in each lodge, depending on the person pouring (the term for running a lodge), and the purpose of the lodge. In each round, a number of heated rocks (usually known as ‘grandfathers’) are brought in and water is poured on them. During the ceremony, the lodge is closed, and it is pitch-dark. You are not distracted by anything visual, it becomes extremely warm, and your thoughts become very focused. There is usually a break between each round, where you can go outside to cool off.

I am not entirely sure where the sweat-lodge ceremony originates, and there is a fair amount of information on-line. Many nations throughout Turtle Island have similar ceremonies of their own or have adopted forms of the ceremony from other nations. From what I understand, the ceremony I have become familiar with, and what has become most common, has its origins with the Lakota people from the Great Plains region of North America. There is also evidence of similar ceremonies in cultures in other parts of the world as well.

My initial experiences…

The sweat lodge is a very sacred ceremony, and because of that, I can’t specifically discuss what happens there outside of the circle of people who are present at the ceremony–even my own experiences. It’s not that there is some deep dark secret, it is to preserve the sacredness or sanctity of the ceremony, and the privacy of what is shared and experienced there.

What I can talk about is what it has done for me. It brought me tremendous healing of the grief and trauma surrounding the circumstances of my parents’ deaths. It brought me comfort, understanding, and a fellowship of people who supported me in my journey, and most importantly (and quite unlike my experience in Christian Science), validation of the grief, anger, and other emotions I was feeling. I came to realize that grief is a natural and necessary part of life. It is how you process traumatic events. It is actually a healthy thing. But, like anything else, it can become unhealthy if you do not process it and move through it.

The sweat lodge is what ‘grounds’ me each week. If I’ve had a stressful week, or just have a lot of stuff to work through, it is a time for me to quietly meditate or ‘defrag’ the hard-drive of my brain. I feel re-connected with the Earth, and everything around me, and it brings me back to a healthy perspective.

What my path is to me…

In addition to the sweat lodge, I’ve attended and supported other ceremonies, such as the Sun Dance, and many others. What this spiritual path is to me, and I want to emphasize that this is what it is to me (I don’t speak in any way as an authority or someone with extensive knowledge–I have no right to do so), is an ancient, basic, logical, humble, and genuine spirituality. It is not filled with dogma or human interpretation. It’s me and whatever higher power I commune with, and my connection to the environment around me. Humility is at the core of this spirituality. People from many different faiths (or no particular faith) and nations have attended the lodge I go to. As for me, I consider myself to be agnostic. I go to the lodge to meditate and find my own connection to Mother Earth and the universe. I also practice other teachings I’ve received, many based on the Medicine Wheel, in my day-to-day to bring balance into my life as much as possible. It balances me. It makes sense to me. There’s nothing abstract or esoteric about it to me.

Do I believe in God? No, not really–not the Judaeo-Christian version found in the Bible–that makes no logical sense to me at all. I believe that consciousness is a form of energy, and that we’re all a part of a collective intelligence or consciousness that connects us to everyone and everything else. Is that what Indigenous spirituality teaches? Yes and no–it depends on the teachings you’re receiving, and the cultural traditions they originate from. This interpretation I have of consciousness and the universe is what I’ve come to myself through my own walk and experience. It’s not any particular teaching of any form of Indigenous spirituality.

Indigenous spirituality…

It is important to note that there is no one singular form of Indigenous spirituality or culture. There are as many forms as there are nations, and in North America, there are over 600 nations, each as distinct from the other as French are from Germans, or Russians are from Turks. Yes, there are some common threads through many, but they are all distinct.

A couple of concepts I’ve been finding to be at the core of most teachings I’ve received, are respect and humility. Respect for everyone and everything around you: your fellow humans, animals, plants, water, air, and Earth. If we treat all with respect–taking only what we need, we all always have what we need, and we don’t destroy the environment around us. Humility to realize that we are not any better or worse, higher or lower than anyone or anything else, and that none of us knows everything or has all of the answers. I like to think that I know more today than I did yesterday, and tomorrow I will learn more.

One term I have become very familiar with, Wankan Tanka, is a term in the Lakota language that some people mistakenly think means ‘God’. There isn’t really an exact translation, but one interpretation holds that it refers to the power and sacredness that resides in everything. This is a concept of a ‘higher power’ (if you choose to call it that) that makes logical sense to me. My own conclusions on what ‘higher power’ and/or other ‘mysteries’ there may be are just the logical conclusions I have come to. Others have different perspectives, and that is a large part of what the Red Road path is–it is an individual journey that is as unique to you as your fingerprints. Yes, you are guided by teachings from Elders you connect with, but ultimately it is your own individual journey.

Evidence and logic are what guide me now, and are the only things that will change my mind. Faith does not. Faith has failed me, and it won’t get another chance. Faith will never be a part of my life again. The spiritual path I am on now is one that resonates strongly with me, it is open, accepting, and as individual to me as my fingerprints are. It simply makes sense to me.

Why can’t Nana keep up with us?

By a contributor to The Ex-Christian Scientist.

“Why can’t Nana keep up with us?” my child asked.

The question hung in the air.

“She’s older,” I replied. “She’s not as young and energetic as you are.”

This answer seemed to satisfy my child, who skipped further up the path, leaving me to wait for Nana.

But more questions follow:

“Why does Nana sleep in until noon?” … “She didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Why doesn’t Nana join us on our walk?” … “She has some work to do.”

These answers are not lies, but they are not the entire truth. How much truth does a child need? How much privacy does Nana?

Nana is a Christian Scientist, born into and raised in Christian Science for at least two generations. She knows no other religious path, no other solution for any health condition that has arisen.

One day, my child might notice other people’s Nanas are often spry and youthful. Then my child will be less satisfied with the answers. Other people go to doctors; Nana doesn’t. Or rather, Nana isn’t accustomed to it. But Nana recently faced some “health concerns.” With a bit of urging from her children, she sought medical treatment.

Nana is “in the system” now—and expresses heavy regret for doing it. They want to run tests and make diagnoses. This makes her uncomfortable. Denial is a much cozier place than a doctor’s office.

She has always relied on Christian Science for healing; she claims, “It has always worked.” Now that Christian Science doesn’t seem to be working so well, she has doubts—not about Christian Science, about “the system” which exists only to run tests, diagnose, and find fault. In turn, this means more things for Nana to work out and overcome through prayer. More Sentinel articles to read, more Journal articles to ponder. More time spent praying, less time spent with the grandchildren.

There are tears. Is she “a bad Christian Scientist” to go doctors for medical aid? Her children try to comfort her, to no avail, despite these statements by Christian Science’s founder:

  • 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 use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust in Him find that — “God is a refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.” Science & Health, p. 444
  • If, from an injury or from any cause, a Christian Scientist were seized with pain so violent that he could not treat himself mentally — and the Scientists had failed to relieve him — the sufferer could call a surgeon who would give him a hypodermic injection, then when the belief of pain was lulled, he could handle his own case mentally. Science & Health, p. 464
  • Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. It is the only bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness. The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin. Rudimental Divine Science

But to Nana, these human compromises apply to others, not to her. She’s been a good Christian Scientist all her life; why is it failing her now? She is spiritual, not material, yet her body is struggling to live up to the spiritual standards. Her body is wearing out after decades of ignored medical challenges and neglect.

There is a vicious cycle of fervent prayer, no healing, guilt for her failure to be healed, then more fervent prayer. She isolates herself from her church community; they never have these problems.

Nana’s most difficult barrier fear of the unknown. Fear of what might be, fear of a diagnosis that would lead to more tests — more forbidden knowledge of the (unreal) material self. Fear of failing Christian Science. Fear of being ostracized by the Christian Science community. “All are privileged to work out their own salvation according to their light” Ms. Eddy writes at the start of chapter 13, but that does not mean the community will support them on their medical path.

Nana has been raised with these beliefs from day one. She has practiced them for decades and raised her children with these views. Nana also knows that, “[when the] sick find these material expedients unsatisfactory, and they receive no help from them, these very failures [of material/medical aid] may open their blind eyes. In some way, sooner or later, all must rise superior to materiality, and suffering is oft the divine agent in this elevation. “All things work together for good to them that love God,” is the dictum of Scripture.” Turning to medicine in the long run is futile. She must demonstrate Christian Science.

One day, I’ll have to explain Nana’s actions to my child. I don’t know if I have the words. My child is not growing up in Christian Science. My child doesn’t know who Mary Baker Eddy is. Yet eventually I will have to explain Nana’s religious views. I hope I can do it in a respectful way.

Why did I leave Christian Science when Nana didn’t?

I watched people I loved suffer and die when they didn’t seek medical care. I couldn’t do that to my child or myself. But we must watch Nana put herself through this hell.

I don’t know. Until now, I have felt compelled to shelter my child from it even while I guard Nana’s beliefs. It is a fine line to walk. And I don’t want to walk it anymore.

My thoughts on Father’s Day…

This originally appeared on Emerging Gently, and is re-published here–with some edits, with permission.

A few years ago on Father’s Day, I shared a picture of my Dad on my Facebook timeline. Unlike many other pictures that people share of their fathers on Father’s Day, I don’t share the camera space with him in this picture: my cousin does. It was taken during a visit she and her husband had with him the summer before he died. It is also the last known picture that was ever taken of Dad. He died later that same year on Christmas Day. I’ve looked at this picture often. Even now, nearly seven years after his death, it still brings a tear to my eye.

I look at his face and remember how it felt to hug him. I hear his voice, a kind voice that carried so much wisdom. Yes, I miss him, I always will. The grieving has long passed, and I go on with my life without him and Mom, but I never stop missing them. I’ve been told you never do, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It keeps them alive in your heart.

My thoughts turn to a conversation I had last week with a friend as we were driving back home from a camping trip. It was a long drive, so we dived deep into a lot of topics, and the discussion eventually turned to religion. We’re both what you’d call ‘spiritual, not religious’. We both attend First Nations/Native American ceremonies and follow that spirituality. I told him the whole story about my parents’ deaths–he knew some of the story, but not the Christian Science back-story–I haven’t shared that very much with my current circle of friends. It came out through the conversation that I have moved into a stage with my whole process of dealing with my parents’ deaths of very deep anger. I hate what Christian Science made my parents do to themselves in their latter years. No, they didn’t die young (Mom was 81, Dad was 79), but it was the fact that they suffered needless physical pain (in Mom’s case it was extreme), and discomfort (Dad lived for around seven years with untreated heart failure).

Each and every day, they prayed for a healing in Christian Science. They paid hundreds of dollars to Christian Science practitioners, and in Mom’s latter days, thousands of dollars to a Christian Science nursing facility where she languished in the most unimaginable pain. Yes, I seethe with anger over how their last days were thanks to their unwavering adherence to Christian Science. It promised them healing, it gave them painful deaths. They chased the elusive healing like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow–it was always ‘just around the corner’; but, they never could get around that corner.

I see, through the stories told in the ex-Christian Scientist Facebook groups I’m in, of horrific ways lives have been damaged thanks to Christian Science. People who, as children, were scolded simply for being sick, for instance. Or, in a more extreme example, my friend Liz Heywood, who ultimately lost a leg due to a bone infection that was “treated” with a Christian Science “treatment”. This condition could have been routinely treated with antibiotics if her parents had simply taken her to the doctor, and the disease would have just been a footnote in her childhood memories. My anger is also kindled at the recent news that someone I knew from my college days at Principia died at the ripe old age of 43. Now, I don’t know if this person was still an actively practicing Christian Scientist, but there have been many deaths of Principia graduates far before their time.

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”
~Christopher Hitchens

Yes, I hate Christian Science, and I hate what it’s done to my family, and so many others. It promises everything, and delivers little to nothing. It’s nothing more than an opiate for desperate minds. Christian Science asserts that it can heal anything, yet offers little credible evidence that it can; so, to follow on Mr. Hitchens’s thought, it can also be summarily dismissed. However, I can trot out plenty of irrefutable evidence that it absolutely cannot heal anything, and it causes people to suffer needlessly and in many cases die far too young. It is one of the most refined forms of delusional thinking there is. So, I do not dismiss it without evidence. Quite the opposite–I have seen plenty of evidence that Christian Science can’t heal anything.

Ex-Christian Scientist Book Survey

Compiled by the editors of The Ex-Christian Scientist.

We were curious as to the past and current reading habits of former Christian Scientists, so we did what any good group of curious website editors would do: we did a survey. This is by no means a scientific survey–that would require more thought and planning than we are able to do; but, it is interesting to look at how much we used to consume Christian Science literature, versus how much we consume writings that are critical of Christian Science.

The results are in…

We received 71 responses on this survey. The most popular answer to each question is indicated in red.

About you.

Respondents could choose multiple answers (69 responses).

a) Former Christian Scientist (66 respondents: 95.7%)
b) Attended Sunday School (64 respondents: 92.8%)
c) Participated in Christian Science youth activity other than Sunday School (50 respondents: 72.5%)
d) Former Mother Church or branch church member (48 respondents: 69.6%)
e) Class taught (18 respondents: 26.1%)
f) Attended Principia (30 respondents: 43.5%)
g) Attended another Christian Science-related school (5 respondents: 7.2%)
h) Worked for The Mother Church or other Christian Science-related institution or organization (14 respondents: 20.3%)
i) Journal-listed in some capacity (1 respondent: 1.4%)
j) Christian Science Organization member (25 respondents: 36.2%)

Overall, most respondents had some depth of involvement in Christian Science and its ‘culture’ above and beyond church or Sunday School attendance, whether it be participation in youth activities, being a member of a Christian Science Organization, or working for a Christian Science-related organization, there is a reasonable depth of involvement represented in our respondents.

How much of Science and Health have you read?

Respondents could choose more than one answer (71 responses).

a) Cover-to-cover – once (24 respondents: 33.8%)
b) Cover-to-cover – more than once (15 respondents: 21.1%)
c) What was required in Sunday School (50 respondents: 70.4%)
d) What was marked in the Lesson (50 respondents: 70.4%)
e) Skimmed it a few times (16 respondents: 22.5%)
f) Not much (5 respondents: 7.0%)

Not surprisingly, most of our respondents only read the parts of Science and Health that they had to, be it for Sunday School or reading the Weekly Bible Lesson. However, a large number (55%) indicated having read it cover-to-cover at least once. So, our respondents by and large were not merely casual consumers of Mary Baker Eddy’s book. They were regular readers, and many were serious readers–taking the plunge to read the whole thing.

How much of the Bible have you read?

Respondents could choose more than one answer (69 responses).

a) Cover-to-cover (20 respondents: 29.0%)
b) Started and failed to read it cover-to-cover (22 respondents: 31.9%)
c) Took Bible class in college or other academic setting (20 respondents: 29.0%)
d) Done Bible studies focused on specific sections (21 respondents: 30.4%)
e) Only what was required in Sunday School (25 respondents: 36.2%)
f) Only what was marked in the Lesson (34 respondents: 49.3%)
g) I’ve skimmed sections (22 respondents: 31.9%)
h) Not much (1 respondent: 1.4%)

Nobody can claim that our ex-Christian Scientist respondents aren’t (or weren’t) serious students of the Bible. It was surprising to find out how many (29%) had actually read the Bible cover-to-cover, and another 31.9% tried to. Over 60% indicated some deep study of the Bible in either academic or Bible-study group settings. It was a relatively small number who had only skimmed or not read much at all. It’s worth noting that we do not know whether or not respondents who’ve done in-depth Bible study have done it while they were in Christian Science, post-Christian Science, or both. Anecdotally, we have noted through on-line interactions over the years that there are a number of people who left Christian Science when they embarked on a more in-depth study of the Bible, which would support the hypothesis that a solid number of former Christian Scientists’ deeper interest in the Bible has developed ‘post-Christian Science’.

What is your preferred translation of the Bible?

Respondents could only pick one (71 responses).

a) King James Version (24 respondents: 33.8%)
b) English Standard (1 respondent: 1.4%)
c) American Standard (2 respondents: 2.8%)
d) New American Standard (1 respondent: 1.4%)
e) New International Version (7 respondents: 9.9%)
f) New Living Translation (1 respondent: 1.4%)
g) The Message (1 respondent: 1.4%)
h) Amplified Bible (4 respondents: 5.6%)
i) I use a non-English translation (0 respondents)
j) I don’t have a favorite (11 respondents: 15.5%)
k) My favorite is not listed (6 respondents: 8.5%)
l) I’m not a fan of the Bible (13 respondents: 18.3%)

Not surprisingly, given that the King James Version is the preferred among Christian Scientists, it would follow that its popularity or familiarity would carry forward among former Christian Scientists. Running a distant second, a number of respondents are not fans of the Bible–indicative of a number of respondents being non-Christian at this point.

Have you read or skimmed through any of Mary Baker Eddy’s writings other than Science and Health?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (71 responses).

a) When required in Sunday School (39 respondents: 54.9%)
b) When required for Class or Association (14 respondents: 19.7%)
c) When curiosity got the better of me (20 respondents: 28.2%)
d) When doing ex-Christian Science research or if someone had a question about Christian Science (15 respondents 21.1%)
e) Prose Works (45 respondents: 63.4%)
f) Christ and Christmas (38 respondents: 53.5%)
g) Collected shorter writings by Mary Baker Eddy (32 respondents: 45.1%)
h) The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany (39 respondents: 54.9%)
i) Manual of The Mother Church (50 respondents: 70.4%)
j) Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896 (45 respondents: 63.4%)
k) Poems by Mary Baker Eddy (36 respondents: 50.7%)
l) What Christmas Means to Me and Other Christmas Messages (30 respondents: 42.3%)
m) I didn’t read any! (4 respondents: 5.6%)

Our respondents were generally more interested in the Bible than Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. Most only read Eddy’s ‘other’ writings when it was required either in Sunday School or Class/Association. Otherwise, not so much, although several (20) indicated reading Eddy’s ‘other’ writings after leaving Christian Science. By a good margin, the most read work of Eddy (other than Science and Health) was the Manual of The Mother Church. It’s worth noting that other than Science and Health, the Manual is the only other work that Eddy claimed to be fully “divinely inspired”. There was a follow-up question that asked if we had missed any works of Eddy. A few of the answers were kind of entertaining: Liar Liar Pants on Fire and Blue Book, Red Book.

Have you read any Christian Science children’s/youth lit?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (71 responses).

a) Bats, Bullies, and Buddies (15 respondents: 21.1%)
b) Bible Stories for Children (15 respondents: 21.1%)
c) Big With Blessings (16 respondents: 22.5%)
d) A Child’s Life of Mary Baker Eddy (31 respondents: 43.7%)
e) Christian Science on the College Campus (5 respondents: 7.0%)
f) Elizabeth and Andy (29 respondents: 40.8%)
g) Filled Up Full (26 respondents: 36.6%)
h) God Answers Our Prayers (4 respondents: 5.6%)
i) God Is At Camp Too (8 respondents 11.3%)
j) God’s Flowers (1 respondent: 1.4%)
k) Happy Playmates (5 respondents: 7.0%)
l) The House With the Colored Windows (21 respondents: 29.6%)
m) I Love to Pray (12 respondents: 16.9%)
n) It’s About You (2 respondents: 2.8%)
o) Listening to God (9 respondents: 12.7%)
p) Pets, People and Prayer (9 respondents: 12.7%)
q) Picnics, Pine Needles & Peanut Butter (18 respondents: 25.4%)
r) Recorded & Read-along Bible Stories (Ruth, Jesus, Joseph, etc.) (13 respondents: 18.3%)
s) Step By Step: Learning to Trust God (3 respondents: 4.2%)
t) Straight Talk (5 respondents: 7.0%)
u) Travis Talks With God (38 respondents: 53.5%)
v) I haven’t read any! (12 respondents: 16.9%)
w) I read one(s) that is/isn’t on this list (9 respondents: 12.7%)

Reflective of the inherited nature of Christian Science (ie. most people in Christian Science grew up in it), the majority of our respondents had read some child/youth literature. While we did not ask the age of our respondents, it’s reasonable to assume that the age distribution for this survey is similar to that for our Ex-Christian Scientist survey, in that most respondents are probably under the age of 50. We note this because the more popular items that have been read are ones that have been put out by the Christian Science Publishing Society since 1970. The older ones have far fewer respondents indicating a familiarity with them. Why Travis Talks With God is the breakaway winner in this category is anyone’s guess. It seemed to be a universally popular book since the 1970s when it first appeared, as any of us who came of age as Christian Scientists in the 1970s and later, all have memories of this particular book.

Have you read any ‘authorized’ (by The Mother Church) biographies of Mary Baker Eddy?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (71 responses).

a) A World More Bright: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (3 respondents: 4.2%)
b) Christian Science and Its Discoverer (Ramsay) (7 respondents: 9.9%)
c) The Destiny of the Mother Church (Knapp) (15 respondents: 21.1%)
d) Historical Sketches From the Life of Mary Baker Eddy, and The History of Christian Science (Smith) (9 respondents: 12.7%)
e) Mary Baker Eddy (Gill) (24 respondents: 33.8%)
f) Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer (Von Fettweis) (12 respondents: 16.9%)
g) Mary Baker Eddy and Her Books (Orcutt) (7 respondents: 9.9%)
h) Mary Baker Eddy: Her Mission and Triumph (Johnston) (6 respondents: 8.5%)
i) Mary Baker Eddy: A Life Size Portrait (Powell) (10 respondents: 14.1%)
j) Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (Peel) (30 respondents: 42.3%)
k) Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (Peel) (25 respondents: 35.2%)
l) Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (Peel) (23 respondents: 32.4%)
m) Painting a Poem: Mary Baker Eddy and James F. Gilman Illustrate Christ and Christmas (5 respondents: 7.0%)
n) Persistent Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (Nennemen) (5 respondents: 7.0%)
o) The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (Wilbur) (17 respondents: 23.9%)
p) Tributes From the Press: Editorial Comments on the Life and Work of Mary Baker Eddy (3 respondents: 4.2%)
q) We Knew Mary Baker Eddy (multi-volume series) (24 respondents: 33.8%)
r) I haven’t read any ‘authorized’ biographies of Mary Baker Eddy (27 respondents: 38.0%)

It appears that a slight majority of our respondents weren’t overly interested in the life of the ‘discoverer’ of Christian Science. Again, it might be safe to assume that this might be owing to the possibility that a large number of our respondents left Christian Science at a relatively young age, before one would generally become interested in reading biographies. Notably, second place is a tie between one of the Robert Peel biographies (The Years of Trial) and the biography by Gillian Gill. Both of these biographies, while ‘authorized’ and therefore distributed in Christian Science Reading Rooms, were not 100% flattering in their portrayal of Eddy–they also portrayed her flaws to some degree, which most of the other biographies do not. The other two Peel biographies (The Years of Discovery and The Years of Authority), which garnered a number of responses, also are not entirely flattering in their portrayal of their subject–although all of the Peel biographies are more biased in favor of Eddy than is the Gill biography, which tends to be more balanced. All of these particular biographies caused some controversy within the Christian Science community when they were first published and/or distributed by the Church.

Have you read/skimmed any other literature or material published/distributed, or formerly published/distributed by the Christian Science Publishing Society?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (65 responses).

a) Anthology of Classic Articles (Volumes I, II, and III) (9 respondents: 13,8%)
b) The Building of The Mother Church (Armstrong) (13 respondents: 20%)
c) A Century of Christian Science Healing (36 respondents: 55.4%)
d) God’s Law of Adjustment (Dickey) (35 respondents: 53.8%)
e) Healing Spiritually (9 respondents: 13.8%)
f) The Reforming Power of the Scriptures (Trammell/Dawley) (1 respondent: 1.5%)
g) Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age (Peel) (24 respondents: 36.9%)
h) Any of the many pamphlets that have been published (37 respondents: 56.9%)
i) I’ve read one(s) that are not on this list (11 respondents: 16.9%)
j) I haven’t read any! (11 respondents: 16.9%)

Most people are quick readers, and chose pamphlets. God’s Law of Adjustment, a familiar classic, was popular, along with two books that were anthologies of accounts of Christian Science healing–likely indicative of a desire to ‘see it work’ or see how it works.

Have you ever ordered any literature from The Bookmark?

Of the 25 responses to this question, here’s how it broke down:

  • No (17 respondents)
  • Yes (6 respondents)
  • Unfamiliar with The Bookmark (2 respondents)

The Bookmark is considered ‘subversive’, or otherwise undesirable by many Christian Scientists because it distributes Christian Science literature that is not authorized by The Mother Church. While some of the material is critical of the Church, it is all supportive of Christian Science. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that the vast majority of our respondents did not order from The Bookmark, as most Christian Scientists try to be as loyal to The Mother Church as they can.

Have you read any of these unauthorized biographies and ‘obnoxious’ literature?

Respondents could choose as many answers as they wanted (71 responses).

a) Christian Science (Twain) (36 respondents: 50.7%)
b) God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church (Fraser) (51 respondents: 71.8%)
c) The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science (Gardner) (13 respondents: 18.3%)
d) The Life of Mary Baker Eddy and the History of Christian Science (Cather/Milmine) (31 respondents: 43.7%)
e) Mrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind (Dakin) (20 respondents: 28.2%)
f) Perfect Peril: Christian Science and Mind Control (Kramer) (19 respondents: 26.8%)
g) I haven’t read any of these! (13 respondents: 18.3%)
h) I’ve read one that’s not on the list (2 respondents: 2.8%)

Since God’s Perfect Child is a more modern history of Christian Science, delving into more recent events within the movement, and due to the diligent research behind this book, it is considered by many former Christian Scientists to be the ‘gold standard’ of literature that is critical of Christian Science. On the other side of the coin, it is one of the most despised books within the Christian Science community. In any category in this survey, no single answer has had the popularity that God’s Perfect Child has. Many former Christian Scientists who’ve offered their opinions of it usually cite the thorough and well-annotated research that backs-up the claims made in the book. Interestingly, the next two most popular books are ones that were written by authors who lived close to (Cather/Milmine) or during (in Twain’s case), and wrote from first-hand knowledge–either their own or that of those who knew Eddy. The common thread we see among the most popular biographies are factors that make them unassailable in their claims. Proof is everything to our respondents, and the popular books back up their claims with proof. Two respondents listed books or items they’d read that weren’t listed: encyclopedias of cults, and According to the Flesh by Fleta Campbell Springer.

Have you read any of these memoirs of former Christian Scientists?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (71 responses).

a) Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood (Wilson) (33 respondents: 46.5%)
b) A Collision of Truths (Ellis) (8 respondents: 11.3%)
c) fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science (Greenhouse) (48 respondents: 67.6%)
d) The Last Strawberry (Swan) (18 respondents: 25.4%)
e) Learning to Drive (Hays) (11 respondents: 15.5%)
f) Pretend You Don’t See the Elephant: The Family Secrets and Silence of Christian Science (Medina) (9 respondents: 12.7%)
g) The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood (Simmons) (19 respondents: 26.8%)
h) I haven’t read any of these! (17 respondents: 23.9%)

fathermothergod is the break-away winner in this category. While all are first-hand accounts of life and in most cases also childhoods in Christian Science, fathermothergod seems to stand alone in its popularity. It’s possible because its central theme is a caregiver’s (who grew up in Christian Science but left it) struggle in dealing with ailing Christian Scientist parents–a struggle many former Christian Scientists can relate to as they deal with ailing/aging parents/relatives. One autobiography/memoir that a respondent added to our list was Healer In Harm’s Way by Cynthia Tucker.

Have you visited any of these blogs/websites by and/or for former Christian Scientists?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (70 responses).

a) Ananias: Pilgrims to the Cross of Christ from Christian Science (9 respondents: 12.9%)
b) Christian Science Inquiry (5 respondents: 7.1%)
c) Christian Way (39 respondents: 55.7%)
d) Emerging Gently (54 respondents: 77.1%)
e) The Ex-Christian Scientist (web resource for former Christian Scientists) (58 respondents: 82.9%)
f) Ex-Christian Scientist (discussion forum) (41 respondents: 58.6%)
g) Ex CS UK (16 respondents: 22.9%)
h) Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists (7 respondents: 10.0%)
i) Incredibly True Stories of Christian Science Healing (9 respondents: 12.9%)
j) Kindism (52 respondents: 74.3%)
k) MT Space (11 respondents: 15.7%)
l) One Leg Liz (36 respondents: 51.4%)
m) The Pseudoscience of Christian Science (8 respondents: 11.4%)
n) Timothy J. Hammons (3 respondents: 4.3%)
o) Understanding Mortal Mind (11 respondents: 15.7%)
p) I haven’t visited any of these! (4 respondents: 5.7%)

Well, *blush* we’re happy to report that yours truly (this website) is the winner in this category. Likely this is owing to regular updates, and the fact that it aims to be a one-stop shopping place for resources of interest to former Christian Scientists, whether they be currently religious (in any form) or not. Other popular blogs are also ones that are updated frequently and have been operating for a long time–in the case of Kindism and Emerging Gently, both blogs have been in operation for more than three years. It’s likely that many of the other blogs listed here, which are fairly new on the scene (most a year or less), will garner more viewers as time goes on. Some of the other blogs that have fewer viewers are ones that don’t appear to be currently updated regularly. The two keys to popularity of blogs are: longevity, and frequency of updates. Other than Yahoo groups, no respondents indicated additional blogs/websites that weren’t listed.

Have you read any these other books that are heavily critical of and/or discuss Christian Science, but not are not exclusively Christian Science-focused?

Respondents could choose multiple answers (71 responses).

a) Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine (Offit) (16 respondents: 22.5%)
b) Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment (Heimlich) (6 respondents: 8.5%)
c) Each Mind a Kingdom (Satter) (3 respondents: 4.2%)
d) I haven’t read any of these! (53 respondents: 74.6%)
e) I’ve read one that isn’t on this list (1 respondent: 1.4%)

In this case, the ‘no-s’ have it. By far, most respondents haven’t read critical literature of a more general nature, even if it does criticize Christian Science. It’s hard to say why; the most likely reason might be that former Christian Scientists are more interested in material that is directly related to their experience, rather than reading other material that isn’t directly Christian Science-related.

Are there any other books you think members of the Ex-Christian Scientist community would enjoy or benefit from reading? They don’t have to be Christian Science-related.

Here is a sampling of responses:

    • For a whole NEW take on the bible, try Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin (the original ancient alien scholar who makes a great case!)
    • The God Virus by Darrell Ray. It explains the mindset of the religious fanatic, and demonstrates how (and why) the refusal to acknowledge facts or listen to reason is present among members of many faiths, regardless of specific doctrine. Ray only mentions Christian Science once, but many Christian Scientists, along with fundamentalists from other churches, share the mindset he describes.
    • When God Becomes a Drug by Leo Booth
    • The Child Cases: How America’s Religious Exemption Laws Harm Children by Alan Rogers
    • The Saint by V.S. Pritchett
    • Christian Science In Germany by Frances Thurber Seal
    • Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin
    • Fallen: Out Of The Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior by Annie Lobert
    • The Ethical Slut by Easton & Hardy

Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part Three)

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer. This is the third of three posts. For all other posts related to this, please see the tag Ex-CS Survey 2016.

You’ve probably read the first two installments about our survey, and wondered, what more is there to say? Well, there’s a bit. In 2014, the author of the blog Emerging Gently ran a similar survey, albeit with a smaller number of respondents. We were wondering what similarities and what differences were there between the two, and what (if anything) did that say to us. With the permission of the author of Emerging Gently, here’s a comparison of their survey and ours. Continue reading “Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part Three)”

Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part Two)

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. Continue reading “Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part Two)”

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. Continue reading “Ex-Christian Scientist Survey (Part One)”

Five Questions – Prin Edition (T’s Answers)

Why did you attend Principia?

My parents decided and I said fine. There was a private school up the road that I liked better, but it was too far to commute and too close to board. I’m sure that my parents liked the idea of the Christian Science community too. One parent had attended Prin as well, which surely impacted their thought process, and may have helped with financial aid. I visited as an 8th grader and had a pretty fun time. Living in a dorm seemed fun, but the thing that stuck with me was the school store. That tells you all you need to know about whether 14-year-olds can make good long-term decisions for themselves!

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

I’m sure it changed it some due to a wider range of exposure. I don’t think I grew closer to it or further from it because I attended. I could not have identified this at the time, but there were always people trying to pass judgement on me under the guise of Christian Science. This happened at home, at church, at Prin. So while Prin perhaps had an opportunity to help me like it more, they didn’t take it. As I became more broad-minded in college I realized that many Christian Scientists maintain their naivety, judgmentalism, and prejudice through the religion. At the same time, there were good people practicing it too, so it just felt like a normal cross-section of the world at the time.

If you had a ‘do-over’, would you attend Principia again? Why or why not?

No, because it kept me from critical family events of the time that I did not know were coming. Of course, that may have been part of the reason that I was shipped off. Not accounting for that facet, and IF I knew then what I know now, then maybe the Upper School only. Living in a dorm was indeed fun, and I had a vast number of experiences that I never could have had at home–participating in productions in an auditorium of a quality that few high schoolers enjoy, sneaking out of the dorms at all hours, eating meals with friends three meals a day. I’m sure a therapist could help me make a long list of traumas and disorders stemming from living in a Christian Science bubble 24/7, but I’d say that the damage that caused is probably no more or less than the damage I would have sustained going to high school as the lone Christian Scientist. In most ways it was a relief at the time. College, though, is too important a time to waste hiding in a bubble. It’s when young adults should be turning outward to the real world.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

I’ve gone back and forth on this many many times since graduating, for a different reason each time. But in the end, the most major consideration is the lack of security in health and safety available in a Christian Science community. One student died in the dorm when I was a student there. He had a heart problem of some kind or another … We got no more information, and I’m not sure there was much more to be had. Would he have survived at another school? His chances would have been a lot better, anyway! Many Christian Science parents go out of their way to ensure that if anything happens, an ambulance is NOT called for their children. This just isn’t where you want to send your kids, or where you want to be, when it hits the fan. If you’re an 8th grader contemplating Prin, just remember that at your public school you can probably get to the hospital before your folks find out. It may save your life.

One positive experience & one negative experience.

Having a huge campus as a 24-hour playground was a positive. I never injured myself, but I did face major disciplinary action a few times. A negative was the ignoring of the students’ emotional health by houseparents, teachers, administrators, everybody. High school is a period of huge growth in a child’s life, and I had family and other situations that made my progress difficult in many ways. During my time at the US I had a couple people who were helping me by playing the long game, but no one who I really thought cared about my day-to-day struggles. I turned in a couple pieces of work that would probably have gotten me sent to the school psychologist in a public school, but which were completely ignored at Prin–not as much as a line from Science and Health offered.

Are Christian Scientists free to choose medical care or not?

By Bruce, an Ex-Christian Scientist group writer.

A number of child death cases in the 1980s and 90s involving Christian Scientists, exposed The Mother Church, Christian Science practitioners, and Christian Science nurses to the potential of criminal and/or civil liability for the deaths of children under their care and/or treatment. The Church subsequently published a policy to make it clear that it is an individual member’s decision whether to use medical treatment:

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants.1

This policy is frequently repeated by the Church’s Committees on Publication (media relations contacts) in columns, blogs, and editorials. Indeed, The New York Times reported in 2010 that, “Christian Science leaders have recently found a new tolerance for medical care. For more than a year, leaders say, they have been encouraging members to see a physician if they feel it is necessary.”2

Free to choose, or forced to ‘radically rely’?

This represents a dramatic change from the ‘radical-reliance’* culture I and many others were raised in–a culture that strongly discouraged any mixing of medicine with Christian Science. But unfortunately, this new policy is not always honored in practice. Most Christian Science institutions—including schools, summer camps, and nursing facilities—discourage, limit, or prohibit medical treatment.

For example, nowhere does Principia College (a school for Christian Scientists) have a policy acknowledging an individual’s right to choose the form of health care they want. In fact, Principia is explicit that:

Members of the faculty, staff, and student body will be expected to rely on Christian Science for healing” (Policy 4).3

However, they make a ‘compassionate’ exception for short-term use of medicine:

In certain circumstances, temporary use of doctor-prescribed medicine is compassionately regarded (see Science and Health, p. 444: 7-10). Under such circumstances, the college will try to find a way to help a student complete as much of the current term’s academic work as possible . . .4

Principia’s compassion has its limits, however:

Students who rely on medicine beyond one semester will be asked to temporarily withdraw until such usage is discontinued. A withdrawal is not a suspension and does not negatively affect the student’s record.5

So, Principia will show a student the door if they employ medical treatment beyond one semester. They are quick to add however, that such action is not a ‘suspension’ (i.e., not disciplinary), although it probably feels like it for the student who is forced to leave.

And how about faculty and staff? Let’s say a middle-aged professor chooses to seek medical care for a health issue they have struggled with unsuccessfully using Christian Science. If they require medication long-term, is their situation ‘compassionately regarded’? Or, will they lose their job?

Christian Science nursing facilities are even less flexible than Principia. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities is adamant that medical treatment of any kind is not to be allowed:

Patients in Christian Science nursing facilities have chosen to rely on prayer for healing while receiving practical, physical care from Christian Science nurses, without the use of medicine, medical techniques, therapy, or procedures.6

Their policy requires a patient to have made the choice to rely exclusively on prayer when being admitted to a facility. But what if a patient changes her choice sometime after being admitted? Is it okay to take pain medication if pain becomes unbearable? Their answer is “no”, and consequently, many elderly Christian Scientists die in great pain in Christian Science nursing facilities—notwithstanding the fact that Mary Baker Eddy made provision for medical relief from extreme pain in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 464).

When my mother was in pain at a Christian Science nursing facility, we were put into the bizarre position of having to smuggle pills to her. Some days later, she called me in tears–imploring me to transfer her to a medical hospice. I was able to arrange the move, where she later died under compassionate palliative care.

My mother made a choice to change the form of health care she wanted. But, she was in full possession of her mental faculties. What about patients who suffer from dementia, don’t realize they can choose to leave, or are dissuaded by an assertive Christian Science practitioner; or are children and cannot choose for themselves?

In 1993, the Church severed its official ties with Christian Science nursing facilities, which are now organizationally independent, and independently accredited. Principia has also always asserted that it is ‘unaffiliated’ with The First Church of Christ, Scientist. However, there is little doubt that the Christian Science Board of Directors could ask these institutions to fully implement its policy on this issue and they would comply.

To come into compliance, Principia would need to change its policy to make it clear that a student is free to choose the form of health care they want, and if it is medical care they will be allowed to complete their studies and graduate. Christian Science nursing facilities can comply by informing incoming patients in writing of their right to choose to move to a medical facility at any time, with no questions asked and no explanation needed.

Until such changes are made at these various Christian Science-affiliated institutions, the Church cannot honestly claim that Christian Scientists are completely free to choose the form of health care they want. The cultural and peer pressure to rely only on Christian Science for health care is extremely strong. The freedom exists on paper, but not so much in practice.


* This term arises from this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.” (p. 167).


1What is Christian Science? [Relationship with Western Medicine].” Christian Science. The Christian Science Board of Directors. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

2 Vitello, Paul. “Christian Science Church Seeks Truce With Modern Medicine.” New York Times. 23 Mar. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

3Purpose and Policies.” The Principia. The Principia. 22 Oct. 1944 (Modified: 30 Nov. 1962, and 26 Oct. 1983). Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

4Spiritual Reliance.” Principia College (2015 – 2016 Catalog). The Principia. n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

5 Ibid.

6Christian Science Nursing is spiritually based healthcare.” The Commission. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities, Inc. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Visiting the pharmacy

By Jeremy, an Ex-Christian Scientist group editor/writer.

Other than the doctor’s office and the hospital, the other scary new place for the former Christian Scientist entering the new (to them) world of medical care, is the pharmacy. At some point in their lives, almost everybody who seeks medical care will need to have a prescription filled. Sometimes, it’s just for the short-term or, it’s an on-going prescription or prescriptions for chronic (long-term or persisting) conditions.

In my own experience, I’ve had numerous ‘one-time’ prescriptions for antibiotics, and once or twice for immune-response suppression medication (to reduce allergic reactions); I also have on-going prescriptions for asthma medications (asthma is a chronic condition), and also for allergies. While none of this has been scary for me, at times–especially early on in my experience in dealing with prescription medications, I felt woefully and embarrassingly ignorant of how to administer them, and what they actually did to/for me. This is where your pharmacist can be your best ally and source of information.

The role of the pharmacist

Most people just think of the pharmacist as the person who measures doses and packages up prescribed medications according to doctors’ prescriptions. While this is a central role that they fill, they are also much more; and what a pharmacist can do does vary by jurisdiction, so some of what I relate here may not be applicable to where you live. Talk to a pharmacist in your area to find out what services are available from them.

In addition to their well-known role of filling prescriptions, pharmacists can sometimes administer medications and/or vaccines. In some jurisdictions, they can even prescribe some medications. However, the most crucial role they play is in their knowledge of medications and how they interact within the body, and with other medications. For the patient, the pharmacist is a source of knowledge.

Pharmacists can also advise you on OTC (over-the-counter) medications. OTC medications do not require a doctor’s prescription. Sometimes, OTC medications can have reactions with prescription medications. Also, the pharmacist can advise you on the best OTC medication for the condition you’re dealing with. For example, there are a few different OTC pain medications, and each one treats pain in a different way, so some will work better on certain conditions than others. Your pharmacist will know what’s best for you.

Additionally, pharmacists can also advise and instruct you in the use of medical devices such as crutches, braces, or compression bandages to name a few.

Ask your pharmacist instead…

For example, one of my prescriptions is for a relatively new drug that reduces allergic reactions. It is a type of steroid–a corticosteroid. I also take an asthma controller medication, which is also a similar corticosteroid. I asked my pharmacist recently if I needed to be taking the allergy medication all the time, or if I would be fine just taking it during allergy season (usually in the spring). He said that since I was already getting a corticosteroid via my asthma medication, there was little need for the allergy medication outside of times when my allergies were flaring up. So for now, the prescription for the allergy medication is going unfilled. It was easier and more convenient to simply ask the pharmacist than to try to get in touch with my doctor or the specialist who initially prescribed the medication–and sometimes, doctors can be scant with little details. When it comes to medications, your pharmacist knows everything you will likely need to know–and they’re far more accessible than your doctor is.

It’s important to have your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy and establish a relationship with your pharmacist. This way, they will know all of the drugs that you’re taking and if there are any potentially dangerous interactions. They are an important ‘safety valve’. With the advent of on-line health records (especially in Canada, where I live), the dangers of drug conflicts are being reduced, and it is becoming easier to have prescriptions filled at different pharmacies. However, a relationship with a regular pharmacist is still invaluable. Once per year, my own regular pharmacist will do a quick review of my medications with me.