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)”