Hindsight is 20/20

This is Part 2 of a multi-part story of one woman’s journey leaving Christian Science. For all posts see ‘Spice‘.


File:Refraction through glasses 090306.jpg From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

I have been unable to see properly for at least half of my life.

While a lot of modern day Christian Scientists don’t go to doctors, many of them do go to eye doctors, because Mary Baker Eddy herself went to eye doctors. Eye doctors and dentists are exceptions to the rule of not seeking medical care — but that’s a whole ‘nother article. For now we’ll just leave it with the concept that Christian Scientists are allowed, under religious doctrine, to go to eye doctors and get and wear glasses.

Even though both of my Christian Scientist parents wore glasses, they didn’t know how to help me navigate what I feel is the labyrinth of optometry.

I first found out that I needed glasses at the DMV, testing for my driver’s license at age 16. Having been raised by Christian Scientists, I was exempt from vision screening in school. I was also exempt from health class, scoliosis screening, hearing screenings, and vaccinations.

I was at the DMV after a rough driver’s ed experience in school. I didn’t pass the course and needed additional hours with the instructor which took additional time, cost additional money, and further inconvenienced my parents who had to transport me. Within my family, I got a reputation as being a bad driver.

After the DMV, my mother took me to Wal-Mart for an eye exam and to buy a pair of glasses. I remember being scared and frustrated and crying during the exam, because he was asking me which lens I “liked” better, and I didn’t know. I didn’t know by what criteria I should like one lens over another, and I was very scared at my first experience at a doctor’s office. I remember when I first put them on and looked across the big store, I could now read the signs across the ceiling. The first time I wore them outside I reveled in the ability to see each individual leaf on a tree. Being able to see was amazing, and driving became much easier.

I don’t think I got another pair of glasses until I was away at college, a couple of years later. Why would a good Christian Scientist get their eyes checked every year? That would be acknowledging the idea of mortal decay and giving it power. Well, I accidentally left my glasses on a desk in a classroom and never found them. In a panic, I had to figure out how to get — and pay for — another pair of glasses. And why would a good Christian Scientist have a backup pair of glasses? That would be acknowledging that things can be lost, which is error.

From Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy, “Recapitulation,” p. 472:

 

Question. — What is error?
Answer. —

Error is a supposition that pleasure and pain, that intelligence,
substance, life, are existent in matter. Error is neither Mind nor one of Mind’s
faculties. Error is the contradiction of Truth. Error is a belief without
understanding. Error is unreal because untrue. It is that which seemeth to be and is not.If error were true, its truth would be error, and we should have a
self-evident absurdity — namely, erroneous truth.Thus we should continue to
lose the standard of Truth.

 

I found a coupon in the newspaper for a $25 exam, which sounded great to me, being on my own financially. I went to Wal-Mart to pick out a pair of frames and get an idea of the price. (After all, my mom had taken me to Wal-Mart for glasses. Isn’t that where everyone gets glasses?) Then I went to the optician designated on the coupon for my eye exam. Afterward they asked if I’d like to look at frames, and I said I could not afford the glasses that they sold there, and that I needed my prescription to take to Wal-Mart. They did not want to release my prescription, and I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or the law stating they were required to give it to me. So I bought from them glasses that were out of my budget even after discounting. (The coating wore off of those glasses before my year warranty was up, and those bastards charged me for “shipping” to replace/recoat the lenses.) I was at this shady place because I didn’t know about medical insurance, what I had access to via my parents or the university while in college, or that I could have had a proper exam from a non-swindling eye doctor. I didn’t know that non-swindling eye doctors existed until several years later, and I hated “the glasses racket” and treated it with proper disgust and distrust.

Later in college, I lost my glasses while out dancing. Of course I blamed myself horribly for losing them, because Christian Science teaches that “nothing is lost in God’s Kingdom.” This is probably based on the phrase, “thy kingdom come,” found in “The Daily Prayer” from The Manual of The Mother Church, Eddy:

Daily Prayer. Sect. 4. It shall be the duty
of every member of this Church to pray each
day: “Thy kingdom come;” let the reign of
divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in
me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy
Word enrich the affections of all mankind,
and govern them!

In reality, people lose or break glasses all the time. It’s so common that it is normal to have a “backup pair” of glasses so that this exact situation does not happen. My prescription was expired, so I had to do another “fire drill” to get replacement glasses in a hurry. You can bet I didn’t go back to those bastards for a $25 eye exam.

After graduating college, I had a reimbursable cash incentive from my employer for medical expenses. Because I was driving slowly when approaching signs, the coworkers I was on a business trip with suggested that it was time for new glasses, which was embarrassing. I found an independent eye doctor and got an exam. He suggested that I get my eyes checked every year. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

I got eye exams every year for the four years that I had that job because of this reimbursable cash account. The next time I went to this doctor for an eye exam, he said that my prescription had changed only slightly and started to write a new one. I begged him not to change my prescription if it was only slightly different, because new prescriptions gave me horrible headaches. I remember the look he gave me, like I had just asked him to commit a felony. I didn’t learn until 10 years later that headaches upon getting a new glasses prescription is not uncommon, but in the meantime this reinforced my disgust and distrust in what I perceived as being “the glasses racket”.

After that I went to graduate school, which is very reading-intensive. I knew the signs that my vision was going by now, so I went to an independent eye doctor for a prescription and went along just fine. After a couple of years the lenses became crazed, and I needed to replace these glasses. I was so frustrated and did not have the time, money, or patience to deal with it. Since I felt like I could see just fine and had a deep distrust in “the glasses racket”, I decided not to play their game this time. In the state where I lived then, a glasses prescription was good for 2 years, instead of 1 year, which had been the case where I lived previously. Well, if 2 was just as good as 1, then why not 3? I felt like it was all bullshit anyway, just designed to make eye doctors money. So I did a forensic copy job on my prescription and extended it for a year so that an unnamed optical provider would make me another pair of glasses. (Thankfully, the statute of limitations has expired on this. I did not know at the time that this is very, very illegal, but that is no excuse.)

After I graduated and started my next job, the first thing I did was to get Lasik. It had been about four years since I had had an eye exam and gotten new glasses, and the doctor thought that my prescription was stable. Lasik was a terrifying experience, but was well worth the emotional upheaval. I remember seeing every individual snowflake falling outside the window the next morning with my naked eyes. I proudly went to the DMV with my Lasik letter to get the corrective lens restriction removed from my license. I could see as soon as I woke up everyday! Life without glasses was SO FINE.

A little over a year later, I was in an accident that caused a vision problem called Purtcher’s Retinopathy. It took a while to diagnose and affects the retina — a different part of the eye than Lasik fixes and which glasses corrects (the cornea). While signing myself into the ER after the accident, I asked if the pen worked because I couldn’t see my signature on the admittance paperwork. The ceiling tiles were also fuzzy as I laid in the ER bed. But, we had much bigger fish to fry (injuries to treat), and the doctor said that the accident probably kicked up floaters, that my body was under stress, and that it would clear up.

Two days later I was following up with my primary care doctor, and they were asking me for all kinds of information for the insurance claim. I couldn’t read well enough to get insurance info from my email on my phone. I successfully advocated for myself at that appointment and begrudgingly got orders for a CT scan, which did not show any abnormalities. (By this point, I had been getting medical care for 10 years.) Purtcher’s Retinopathy takes two days to fully present. That night, I picked up a plate full of liquid that I couldn’t see, and splashed the liquid all over myself. After watching me do this, my husband took me to the ER at a hospital with a well-known eye center. My intake eye exam (which I cried through) revealed my vision was only 20/200. The ER resident was able to confirm that there was nothing wrong with my Lasik flap,and that my optic nerve looked fine, and agreed my problem must be caused by floaters. I pushed back and said that I felt like I was looking through snow on an analog TV and the interference stayed in the same place wherever I looked, which is not explained by floaters. I ended up seeing a total of six eye doctors over four months before getting definitive test results proving that I had a vision problem. Every time they gave me the same stupid exam, and every
time I bawled my eyes out because I couldn’t see.

Fun fact: there are no criteria for a doctor clearing you to drive after you have vision problems. I asked about the fact that it took me 10 seconds sometimes to make out a letter and the several times that, as a passenger, I did not see a scooter, small, neutral-colored car, or pedestrian. They said to just “use my judgement.” My husband drove me to all of my appointments and to work for six weeks. Then he needed to go on a business trip, so I started driving again. I got a new GPS and used voice prompts and drove slowly. By the 4-month point, I was testing at 20/35, which was close enough to 20/30, the legal requirement for driving. This should scare the hell out of you. It scared the hell out of me.

A year after the accident, I passed a DMV vision test and my retinologist said that my retinas looked just as good as any adult’s off the street.

Life went on for a couple more years. I started treatment for migraines that included medication. I didn’t feel like I could see very well and blamed it on the meds, like a good semi-pseudo-sorta-former Christian Scientist. In fact, after a few days on one medication, I almost missed a school crossing guard, and immediately quit taking that medication. It got so bad that I avoided driving at night as much as possible and drove very slowly on exits and when taking turns. I thought to myself: ”I am too young to be having these kinds of vision problems and limitations.” I read about blurred vision in my medication side effects. (Spoiler alert: they ALL say this.) I discussed this with my doctor, and we slowly reduced the medication until I no longer took it. My vision improved slightly, but was still so bad that I couldn’t read signs across the room. My husband told me to try on his glasses. Goddamnit, it was time for new glasses. AGAIN.

At this point, it had been 4 years since I got Lasik, and my eyes kept deteriorating. I’m sure that some of my Christian Science family members blame my having gotten Lasik for needing to wear glasses again. I didn’t solve my vision the “right” way, through prayer. Yeah, ok.

So it turns out that I will not achieve my goal of cutting the glasses industry out of my life. But now (I think) I know how to deal with it like a rational adult. I now have not only one pair of backup glasses, but also a fashion pair, plus prescription sunglasses. This feels like pure luxury.

Because I was raised as a Christian Scientist, I got the reputation for being a bad driver during my formative years and felt guilty for needing glasses and for not being “God’s perfect child.” I did not get eye exams every year or even every two years while in high school and college — the prime age range for getting into a car accident for non-vision-related reasons. My lack of knowledge about eye doctors and the glasses industry made correcting my eyesight a very painful and expensive process — not to mention incredibly dangerous, because without a backup pair of glasses, I was out on the open road unable to see properly. All of this stress occurred during the most important years of my education. As an adult, I unwittingly committed a felony by changing the date on my prescription, because I was sure I knew better than these swindling, glasses-hawking eye doctors. Finally I blamed my vision problems on meds and did
not have the self-awareness — or body-awareness — to recognize that I had needed new
glasses for over 8 months.

“​My lack of knowledge about eye doctors and the glasses industry made correcting my eyesight a very painful and expensive process — not to mention incredibly dangerous…”

I have major emotional baggage when it comes to glasses and vision. What I went through was completely unnecessary thanks to 14th century technology (glasses) and middle-class means (the ability buy a backup pair) during modern times when vision screening is mandatory during elementary school (unless you have a religious exemption). I have been terrified of driving, made to feel like it was my own fault that I couldn’t see, felt swindled, despaired that I would never be able to see again, and I committed a felony. My troubles didn’t occur in 1900 — this was Anno Domini 2000+. Except that for Christian Scientists, it may as well have been 1900s — medically speaking.


image via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Refraction_through_glasses_090306.jpg

Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place

This is Part of Elizabeth’s story about ‘Believing Christian Science’.


It’s 1993, and I’m nineteen years old. I am a Christian Scientist–something that is very important to me. I live with my family, and I’m driving to my college class. I am looking at the road ahead of me, and the familiar traffic light is green, which it never is, and I’m pleasantly surprised but sure it will turn red before I get to it. For some reason there is plenty of time today; I’m at the intersection and it’s just turned yellow. I maintain my speed just under the limit of 50 mph. I’m not wearing my seat belt.

Everything is always in its right place.

I see the black car then. It had been stopped at the intersection, but it starts to turn in front of me. “Why is he turning, what is he doing?” I stomp on the brakes but this won’t happen, I will not be in a car accident, God will stop this, and I scream “ahhhhhhhOOH” as I’m thrown forward and my head cracks the windshield, but I don’t even realize what has happened to me until afterwards, at that instant, all I know is impact, a jerk, a smack!

When I wake I look in the rearview mirror and see my forehead growing visibly, all purply-blue and rounded like a china doll’s forehead, with one scary wet reddish mark in the middle, off-center to the left. My vision is affected, trails stream behind everything I look at. Now I am aware that my knees hurt. My ribs hurt. It feels like my body is coming back to life from somewhere far away. Continue reading “Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place”

The mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury.

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When I was five years old, I fell on my face onto concrete while running and destroyed my upper lip. My mom did a nice job of hiding her terror from me and calming herself and me down. There was lots and lots of blood which wouldn’t stop. My mouth and nose were cleaned with water and a washcloth, no dressings were used and I don’t know that anyone other than a medical professional would have been capable of dressing it.

I was told I would not be going to school for a few days, not because I had been injured, but because the mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury, and we had to protect the healing, which had already occurred, because in Divine Science, the injury never occurred. I never fell from God’s arms. We sang the hymn, “Everlasting arms of love, are beneath, around, above.” My face hurt a lot from my chin to my nose and eyes to my forehead and the top of my head.

I was not supposed to look in the mirror because that would reinforce the material picture, and I was praised repeatedly for not looking in the mirror. Meanwhile I was sneaking into the bathroom to stare at myself every chance I got, because holy crap the top of my mouth was missing! I was absolutely transfixed at my horrible appearance. It was thrilling. Not the injury, but the looking; the possessing of the information regarding my injury, illicitly. I think in that climate where injury was not properly acknowledged, it became an absolute high to observe and acknowledge my own damage.

For a long time I had this experience filed under a legitimate Christian Science healing. My mother and I wrote a joint testimony about it which was published in the Christian Science Sentinel, and this made quite an impression on me. But in retrospect, the evidence contrary to a Christian Science healing is much stronger:

  • It took a normal amount of time to heal. It’s indisputable that my lip and mouth needed stitches and it sure is nice that things healed up as well as they did.
  • My upper lip changes appearance in childhood photos after this incident. Luckily it works for me and my upper lip is still cute in a different way.
  • The frenulum of the upper gum was ripped and did not repair. Mine just hangs there and my upper lip is not connected to my gums. It’s the thin connector way up top above and in front of your front teeth; you can find it with your tongue easily.

This incident is at the root of my personal version of the ‘I’m a fraud’ worries all humans have to varying degrees. And possibly the beginning of my doubts about Christian Science, but I suppressed them deeply.

Five Questions: S’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from S, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was really born into it.  My mother converted when I was just an infant so I don’t remember anything else. I was probably 6 months old or so because I know she had me baptized in the Presbyterian church. I never went to any other church.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

Probably a couple of reasons:  (1) My mother’s control and (2)  my own desire for it to be true and work for me.

What made you decide to leave?

Leaving was a gradual thing for me. I continued to attend church into my adulthood, send my children to Sunday School, and try my best to make Christian Science work. But, I did take my kids to the doctor and to get their vaccinations. I could not abide having them ill. Every illness they had caused me to experience unreasonable fear. I was scared to death something terrible would happen to them and scared to death that my own thinking about it would cause it.

Why would anyone join?

I have no idea at this point, maybe out of a sense of desperation because of an illness, maybe because they are generational Christian Scientists. I joined when I was 12 years old so I could usher because I thought it was ‘cool’.

Did you really believe? 

I think I did believe as a young child. But I had an experience with a broken leg as a young teenager that made me realize that I was really afraid to depend on Christian Science. The leg was set using what they called back then an ‘Open set’ which means the doctor actually did an incision for both bones that were broken and set them. Back then suing a doctor was unheard of and they seemed not to be afraid of saying if they screwed up because no one did anything to them. This doctor reached in to set my tibia and used too much force, tearing all the muscle, the ligaments, the nerves and the blood vessels to the area. The result was that I had an open wound and exposed bone for over a year. It developed gangrene. Now, I just have scar on bone. This gave my mother the opportunity to say, “see what materea medica does to you?” and she asked me if I would quit going to the doctor to treat my leg and rely just on Christian Science.  I remember I told her that I was afraid to do that because I was afraid I would lose my leg. Surprisingly, she didn’t make me quit and continued to take me over to the doctor and have my dressings changed.

So, I guess at that point I began to question Christian Science, but it was many years before I actually left.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: P’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from P, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it. My mother was born and raised in Christian Science, and my father converted to Christian Science when he married my mother.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I didn’t actually stay for very long. I left at age 16, which is fairly young for a child to renounce his parents’ religion.

What made you decide to leave?

My parents and Sunday School teachers raised me to believe that the universe was literally perfect. They told me that there was no such thing as pain, suffering, or death–there were only dreamlike illusions of pain, suffering, and death. They told me that if we could only stop being fooled by these illusions, they would melt away like a bad dream.

One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”
The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”
That was the moment when Christian Science stopped making sense to me. Over the next three months, I struggled to maintain a coherent theology, but instead, I just kept coming up with more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain, if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery (as they say), why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Christian Science is self-contradictory, and that even if you take out the contradictory parts, everything that’s left is still demonstrably false.
Why would anyone join?
I ask myself sometimes why my father converted to Christian Science. I don’t think that he did it just to marry my mother. I know that my father’s mother (my grandmother) died when my father was still a boy, after wasting away in a hospital, and I suspect that this gave my father a lifelong unconscious resentment of doctors and medicine. Christian Science is a welcoming environment for someone who doesn’t like doctors.
Another reason why someone might join Christian Science is that they’ve been reading books by Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, or Rhonda Byrne, and they’ve come to believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world. Christian Scientists also believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world, so a person who holds this belief might see a Christian Science church as a community of like-minded individuals. (They might be in for a surprise, though, when they learn about Christian Scientists’ other beliefs!)
Did you really believe? 

Yes. All throughout my childhood, I believed that I was perfect, and that I could make bad things go away if I concentrated on disbelieving them. In hindsight, I can see that my efforts had no effect, but at the time, I never doubted that Christian Science was true. If the ailment that I was praying about happened to resolve on its own, I would see that as a confirmation of Christian Science. If the ailment didn’t resolve, I wouldn’t attribute the failure to Christian Science, I would just assume that I wasn’t praying hard enough. That’s called confirmation bias, and it’s an insidious force.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: N’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag

The following answers are from N, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was raised in it.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I was too scared to believe anything else. I thought it was logical, and that I had seen proof.

What made you decide to leave?

I felt that it was working against me. I couldn’t be part of a religion that made its adherents feel guilty about trying to seek help. I became increasingly depressed. So for one week, I decided to not pray at all, and to think whatever I wanted to. I felt that for the first time in my life, my thoughts weren’t controlled.

Why would anyone join?

The promise of cheaper and more immediate healthcare, it is promised to be a panacea. Not just for physical but also mental ailments. There’s something comforting about knowing that God is with you at all times and that all evil is an illusion.

Did you really believe? 

Yes.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: M’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from M, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?
My mother, who was always looking for ‘the answer’, went to a Wednesday evening service at TMC (The Mother Church), and never looked back. I was about ten years old, and my younger sister was born into Christian Science.
Why did you stay in it for so long?
When you’re raised in it, it’s just part of life and you don’t generally question it until you’re older. I didn’t start having doubts until my late 30’s/early 40’s! As an adult I began to have doubts, but would always push them away, figuring it was either ‘personal sense, ‘animal magnetism’, or ‘human will’.
What made you decide to leave?

The decision happened in an instant. I was 45 years old, and I was sitting in The Mother Church on a Sunday morning next to my mother, who was very sick, listening to the first reader drone on and on, and then looking at my mother, (who was) shaking all over, and I just knew that I was done. Done watching her suffer, and done being in this cruel mental prison. After the service, I left and never looked back. I went home, threw all my books, class notes, diaries–all of it, in the garbage…in the rain.

Why would anyone join?

The same reason anyone joins any religion or cult; to feel like you have some sense of control over life or have ‘the answers’.

Did you really believe? 
Absolutely! When I wasn’t doubting it! Most of the time I believed it completely and that it was the answer that would change the world. I was part of of something revolutionary that had ‘the answers’. I never told any of my friends that I was a Christian Scientist though; I don’t know if I was afraid I’d be judged or that on some level I was embarrassed or ashamed.

If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: L’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from L, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into a Christian Scientist family (on my mother’s side). My sibling and cousins and I made the fourth generation. The fourth generation has now all escaped from Christian Science. Hallelujah!

Why did you stay in it for so long?

By the time I was ready to leave home for college, I had doubts. My mother told me that as soon as I finished high school, I could decide if I wanted to continue in Sunday School. I think she thought I would keep going, but the Sunday before I graduated was the last time I ever attended. So, that whole summer before I left for college, I slept late on Sunday mornings with no guilt. But four years later, after I married and moved across the state, I began, for the first time, to have health issues that didn’t go away quickly. I still didn’t want to attend church, but my husband and I sometimes went to Wednesday evening services. I struggled. I was half in and half out. Christian Science treatment wasn’t helping me, but I had no experience whatsoever with medical services, and I was away from home and family. I had no idea what to do. Radical reliance in Christian Science had been the only option I had ever had, but now I was an adult and I realized I could make choices.

What made you decide to leave?

I left for good in my late twenties with my first-ever doctor’s visit. Thankfully, that was in time for my first childbirth, in which a C-section and the NICU and modern medicine saved my baby’s and my life. I can’t stand to think about what would have been had I remained, doggedly, in Christian Science, trying to demonstrate my and my children’s way to perfection. Shudder.

I had struggled and attempted to ‘work out a problem’ in Christian Science for several years with the help of various practitioners. One visit to a family practice doctor who prescribed medication and lifestyle suggestions finally cured the problem once and for all. That was enough for me. During this period, I watched my practitioner mother treat her malignant melanoma through radical reliance on Christian Science…and die. To watch this happen, to know what was coming, to attempt to care for her without causing her to believe that my unbelief was hindering her healing, was pure torture. By the time she died, after lying six days in a coma in her home with just her immediate family caring for her (after a Christian Science nurse disappeared without a word), I hated Christian Science with a white-hot passion. Every remaining family member still in Christian Science had seen enough at that point. My mother, the strongest Christian Scientist in the family, had not been able to ‘prove’ that matter was unreal, or that there was no sensation in matter, or that pain and sickness were illusions. Every supposed healing we had had in our family up until that point was easily explained as natural bodily healing…because the body really is quite as remarkable as it is REAL. And there were many other healings that had never come at all. We all stopped pretending and faced life. We embraced humanity. And my sibling and I were traumatized and would face years of undoing the damage Christian Science had done in our lives.

Why would anyone join?

I don’t know why both of my mother’s grandmothers joined Christian Science. I can imagine the appeal back then though, in the early days of the movement, more than I can understand it now. In the nineteenth century, there was much that could not be understood about the human body and the process of illness, and much that could not be fixed medically. Today, I suppose people are attracted to the promise of goodness and light and freedom from pain and suffering. Christian Science is an illusion though. All is not perfect or good, and practitioners cannot metaphysically obliterate the very real disease processes or other ills of humanity. When mortals are confronted with unpleasant reality and turn to it for relief, Christian Science does not deliver in any way.

Did you really believe? 

I think I really believed in the lessons I was taught in Sunday School and at home when I was very young. But by the time I was in middle school, I could easily see that not all of the testimonies my mother told in church on Wednesday evenings were accurate. It wasn’t hard to see either, that my supposedly ‘healed’ stomach virus lasted the same 24 hours as my best friend’s and caused the same symptoms. It wasn’t hard to see that my non-Christian Scientist friend got relief from her sore throats and headaches by turning to her pediatrician and her medicine cabinet, and I just suffered until my body healed itself. By the time I was in my late teens, I could also see that, despite my usually happy childhood, I suffered way more from health-related anxiety and phobias than my friends; and I do to this day.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: H’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from H, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it, but both of my parents converted as adults.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

(This question is poorly phrased – maybe you weren’t in it very long – regardless – how long were you in, and why didn’t you leave sooner would be fair)

I was in Christian Science until I was 24, and started distancing myself then, but didn’t officially split with the church until I was 28. It’s not that I was actively ‘practicing’ Christian Science until I was 28; it’s an insidious religion where existing is participation and the only way to deviate is to have something wrong with you AND do something non-Christian Science as a solution. But if you don’t know how to go to a doctor, and you don’t know who to ask for help with that–it’s not that you’re IN Christian Science, it’s that you don’t know how to operate outside of it. Without several illnesses that required medical attention, and a strong focus on science in academia, I might still be in. But I would hope not.

What made you decide to leave?

Watching religion seep into politics, even ‘benign’ religious intent was resulting in horrible policy: sure, it wasn’t my religion and therefore I was definitely offended, but if it was my religion? Well, I couldn’t say that my religion had helped people; it actively harmed some, and the point of making informed decisions was… the information. Christian Science claimed to be all about ‘thinkers’ but removed information, options, and self determination from the people it claimed to enlighten. That’s not divine, that’s absurd.

Why would anyone join?

Excellent question. Desperation because you’ve exhausted all other options? Not sure.

Did you really believe? 

Of course. The testimonies of healings and the tiny bits of finding your misplaced items seemed like evidence enough that good things happen, and it’s a nudge of aligning your thoughts with God. It’s a very effective religion if there’s nothing at all wrong with you or your life. But when things start to unravel, and you try to grasp it more firmly, it falls apart under pressure. It has no substance. It turns all of your problems back on you because you’re just not as good as God. But when you’re born into it and that’s all you know, it shapes your world view and your comprehension of reality.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]

Five Questions: C’s Answers


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again. We can only answer these questions for ourselves. By sharing these answers, we hope to shed a little light into the murky depths of Christian Science. Find all the answers to the Five Questions on the FiveQuestions tag.

The following answers are from C, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was raised in Christian Science. My dad’s mother converted around the time he was born, from what I understand. My mom’s maternal grandmother was the convert on that side. My parents met at their Association.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I stayed until I was about 24. I felt a lot of pressure from my family, especially my maternal grandmother, to be in Christian Science. She took me to Summer Session at Principia College a couple of times while I was in high school. I fell in love with the campus and didn’t apply anywhere else. I met my first husband when he came to visit a roommate of mine at Prin. He and I made the decision together to leave Christian Science a couple of years after I graduated, when we mutually realized we were just going through the motions of attending church.

What made you decide to leave?

My then-husband and I decided that the fact that we were dragging ourselves to services and falling asleep during the readings meant that we really didn’t want to be there. After that, we had a few discussions about our developing understandings of spirituality, but went in different directions. I slowly came to realize that I had never really had faith in Christian Science or God, but I had viewed it as an intellectual challenge. I thought that it was a method to empirically understand God. Once I realized this was false, I became atheist.

Why would anyone join?

I honestly never understood this. I was so mystified by Christian Science theology, even while I was in it, I never saw what would attract someone to it.

Did you really believe? 

I believed that there must be something to it because everyone at church was so sincere and intelligent. I believed that I just hadn’t figured it out yet, that my Sunday School teachers knew something I didn’t. I didn’t see any healings or have any other experiences that made me have faith in Christian Science.


If you would like to contribute your experiences to The Ex-Christian Scientist, you can email us at [email protected]