Five Questions: A’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 A, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I am a ‘parent pleaser’. Adherence to Christian Science made my parents happy, and it took until I was about 25 to openly admit that I wasn’t practicing it, and that I didn’t want to pretend I was anymore.

What made you decide to leave?

As I became an adult the culture of the church bothered me more and more, beyond just the dogma. It was narrow minded, ‘tunnel visioned’, and often just uninspiring. The culture really seemed to discourage human feelings and normal stages of development. There were wonderful things about it that I consider part of my spiritual and personal development–the ability to listen to instinct (still small voice); the power of Love, Truth, and goodness; for example. There are many more aspects that are just wishful, hopelessly ignorant, outdated, and fear-based. As I grew older, the idea that all these people, many of them privileged and well educated, were following the ‘teachings’ of this clearly unstable 19th century woman became more shocking to me.

Why would anyone join?
Virtually everyone I’ve ever known in the church was born into it. I don’t think there is much meaningful conversion happening beyond the occasional person who marries into it, and it sounds like they are doing outreach in Africa that seems to be effective. It certainly isn’t for the fellowship, as in my experience Christian Scientists are generally pretty snobby and aloof, and the church communities not particularly welcoming beyond the surface. I think the demographics intersect with upper middle class white culture, especially in New England, which is ‘play by the rules’ and somewhat conformist. Add to that the fact that some people get drawn into networks of camp, school, Prin, etc. and either don’t realize how insulated they are or feel afraid of being isolated from what they know.
Did you really believe? 

I’m really not sure. I probably did for some time, as an elementary age kid, as much as I was capable of it. I really wanted to, and my Mom really wanted me to, and I respected her very much growing up so I believed what she told me. I also had one beloved practitioner who is still one of my favorite people. But the overwhelming feeling is one of wanting to be seen as good by those whose approval I wanted, more than anything else. There was always the message “if you would just read the lesson every day, you wouldn’t have such and such a problem.”

I still think of Christian Science phrases and concepts often as they become relevant in something I’m experiencing. There are pieces of it–like certain wonderful hymns–that are very comforting and beautiful still. There are many other pieces that are just laughably insane and I can’t believe I went along with it into adulthood. I feel strongly that you can take what is useful to you and move past the rest, and be better off for it. The fear of acknowledging physical evidence, and inability to take charge of what is happening in your body, and be informed is just crazy. I feel so sorry for people who are trapped in that, and remember the helplessness of it–the feeling of, “I am having this problem because there is something wrong with my thought–what is it?!? How do I know to stop doing it?! There must be something!” No…sometimes a cold is just a cold. Take a nap and some sudafed and let it pass. Looking back on the time I wasted worrying about that, makes me grateful that I was able to move on and that my family supported me, or at least didn’t fight me, in doing so.


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

Five Questions


When people leave Christian Science there are five questions that pop up again and again.

  1. How did you get into Christian Science?
  2. Why did you stay in for so long?
  3. What made you decide to leave?
  4. Why would anyone join?
  5. Did you really believe?

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

If you would like to contribute your experiences, or answer the Five Questions, email us at [email protected]

I would go on trips without my glasses with the expectation of healing

By Brett Buchanan, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I had an INSTANTANEOUS HEALING yesterday!

After decades of extreme myopia (couldn’t focus on anything beyond five inches in front of me), my eyesight was completely restored! Since third grade, I would hear of healings of eyesight, read Journal articles about the spiritual meaning of eyes, I would go on trips without my glasses with the expectation of healing, work on my understanding of my relationship with God, sometimes discouraged by the sin or ignorance preventing perfect perception… But then I got some f*cking laser beams in my eyeballs, and my eyesight is better than ever. Thanks, science!!!

In some ways, I’m grateful to have been raised in such a bizarre religion. I think it was easier for me to question all religions, compared to someone raised in a more benign denomination, and arrive at my tentative conclusion that all religions are man-made; that although most religions strive for a cosmic connection with grand answers, awe, and transcendence, they all ignorantly capitulate to emotion or superstition or wishful thinking or dogma or authority or tradition.

I think it’s an important distinction that you can be BOTH an atheist and an agnostic. I’m both. The two labels are often conflated into a single spectrum of certainty or belief. But they answer different questions: one is about belief; the other is about certainty. I am not a Theist. I don’t believe in an intervening personal God, therefore a non-theist or a-theist.; also I am open to revision with sufficient evidence, I am not certain of anything. I am not a Gnostic, therefore a non-gnostic or a-gnostic.

It’s helpful and inspiring to sometimes name all of the Universe’s puzzles and mysteries by a single name, as Einstein did as a self-described Pantheist (a philosophy Eddy despised). But it’s important to remember that we have solved some of the Universe’s puzzles recently and we will solve more very soon…even while some of our neighbors would prefer to remain ignorant to the wonderful and useful answers of evolution, heliocentrism, or the germ theory.

Recently, science has presented a much better methodology with better and greater answers, transcendence, and awe based in reality, through clever experiments that reveal a universe immensely grander than humans and their imagination have ever imagined. Without a God in our heads giving us our purpose, we can be the custodians of our own life’s meaning. Now we can be the sole voice in our minds. Hallelujah!

Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about the impact Christian Science has had on relationships.


Not quite twenty years ago, my marriage ended. He and I were both devout Christian Scientists. We were very involved in the Principia community, and our kids were at Prin College and Upper School. My then-husband had a very bad temper, and eventually I summoned all my courage and went to the local woman’s shelter for guidance and help. I felt like such a scofflaw for relying on outside help, but I was losing my mind. God bless that shelter and all its angels. I learned so much, and it was such a blessing, and that was the first crack in the Christian Science armor, when I learned that it’s okay to be a human being.

One day, a woman friend called to ask why I hadn’t been in church. She’d been a good friend, and her husband was well-loved at Prin. It seemed right to lay my soul bare, so I told her the truth: I told her that my husband was abusive. My friend went silent. I thought she’d hung up on me. After a moment, she said, “My husband is just like yours.” Two more times, I confided in women friends with Prin-employed husbands, and both times, they hung their heads and said, “My husband is also abusive.”

– Anne


Christian Science’s teachings can create the perfect breeding ground for abuse of all kinds, because the Christian Science way of thinking, if there is someone abusive in the home, is that the abuser’s behavior is the victim’s responsibility to ‘un-see’. This is a completely wrong and unproductive guilt created by Christian Science dogma on top of the abuse by the spouse or parent.

Abuse and dysfunction in the home is definitely not unique to Christian Science; it can happen in any family, group or culture. But Christian Science is a culture deeply tied to shame, denial, and secrets. This applies to health, sexuality, mental health, emotions— everything. We are strong for having survived, for moving forward, and for breaking the cycle.

– Abigail


A dedicated Christian Scientist doesn’t need an outside influence in order to feel guilty about not having a healing quickly or about resorting to ‘materia medica.’ We are programmed to feel that way from the time we enter Sunday School, if not before. Christian Science is never to blame, it is always the individual’s lack of understanding.

– Stacey

Lucy’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

By Lucy, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. ‘Lucy’ is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.


My husband and I both grew up in Christian Science families. We first met at Principia Upper School and then attended Prin college together. He has always been more spiritual and I’ve always been more practical, so when both of his parents died early from treatable diseases he really dug into Christian Science as a way to try and find healing from his grief, which he didn’t think he was supposed to feel. But at some point, probably a few years ago, I began to realize that as much as I really wanted it to be true and work it made NO sense to me. I began to get into science… you know, actual science!

Continue reading “Lucy’s Story”

Buddhism actively tells you to question it.

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I am rather a lapsed Buddhist at the moment but I would call myself that rather than anything else, and an old (doubtless now out of print) library book called The Heart of Buddhism by Guy Klaxon, that contained nothing otherworldly at all, led me out of Christian Science when I was a teenager, which I have always been very grateful for.the Heart of Buddhism

There are a lot of different ‘flavours’ of Buddhism that have taken on the cultural aesthetics of the countries they originated from. The thing that appeals to me is that the Buddha (allegedly) said to give his teaching a try and if you find it doesn’t work then discard it. I found that very refreshing after having tried to cram Christian Science blind faith cognitive dissonance into my head to the point I thought I would go mad, and that’s really the thing that put me off theistic religions in general. I just cannot make myself go back to trying to believe something I can see no evidence for. Not again.

In the end I settled on SE Asian (Hinayana, or the so called ‘Lesser Vehicle) Buddhism as it is very straightforward. There is no official stance on reincarnation, the Buddha is presented as a regular person who figured things out on his own rather than having been born from a magical tusk or whatever, and it is not in any way supernatural.

Buddhism is the only religion—although more a philosophy—I have found that actively tells you to question it while you are practising, rather than just believe something and get a reward after death which, like I mentioned, was important to me after Christian Science.

Continue reading “Buddhism actively tells you to question it.”

We went to the park

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was chatting with a woman in line at the bakery this morning. She got her grandson a sticky roll and hot chocolate and was expecting him to behave in church. I got my children something similar, and we went to a nearby park.

I sat and watched the kids play, occasionally coming back to check in with me, and to eat a few more bites of their pastries. When they tired of climbing, swinging and sliding, we went for a walk along the trails through the protected nature area adjacent the play area.

As we walked, I thought back to the little boy and his grandmother who were heading off to church. I remembered all the Sundays growing up, where I had wanted to sleep in, but instead we were hurried off to church, a twenty minute drive, and we often had to get there early so my parents could usher, or my mother could mind the childcare room.

Almost every Sunday from birth until I turned 20 (the magical age we were ‘allowed’ to attend with the main congregation), I was at church, either in the childcare room (until I turned three or four), and then in Sunday School. I did slack off a bit on Sunday School attendance when I was at Principia, but in my defense, being at Prin was like always being at Sunday School.

Christian Science was all around us, selected readings at house meetings, inspirational post-its on the bathroom mirrors, roommates who read the lesson, friends who attended the Christian Science Org. meetings on Tuesday mornings, and professors, practitioners, and lecturers who gave talks in the evenings about how Christian Science inspired them. Attendance, while optional, was recommended, and your absence was often commented upon.

Some days I liked Sunday School. It was one of the few places I could be ‘normal’. No one looked at me because I was weird for not visiting a doctor, or because I decided not to drink, experiment with drugs, or have premarital sex. I was free to talk about my understanding of God and Ms. Eddy’s seven synonyms and how they could apply to my life without being looked at like I was a freak.

Some days this felt more sincere than others, some days I felt I believed it, and some days I felt like I was parroting the party line, memorizing and regurgitating information. I had a lot of questions for my Sunday School teachers, I was eager to learn more, I wanted to know how Christian Science worked, I wanted answers.

I spent a fair bit of time ‘chatting’ with the Sunday School Superintendent (that sounds much more official than it was) about how I was ‘interfering’ with others’ spiritual growth and my questions were ‘not appropriate’. Sunday School teachers tried to put me off, by telling me I’d have to wait and take Class Instruction and all would be revealed, but I never made it that far as I was never ‘led to the right teacher’.

The best part were the Thanksgiving Day services. We all got to sit in the main auditorium; everyone, even the little kids (little kids being about six and up, the childcare was usually quite full those days). We would read the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation which always included something about pilgrims, and then the most random people would stand up and talk at length until the reader had to say “THANK YOU” in a super firm tone and an usher had to come take away the microphone. It was like the Oscars of Christian Science testimonies.

When I made the non-optional transition to church at the age of 20, I hated it. There was no time for discussion, or questioning. You sit and are read the same lesson you have (theoretically) been reading all week. Christian Science church services are not fun, they fail at being interesting, they don’t engage the audience, and they’re tedious.

To the consternation of my mother, my children are not going to experience any of these things. As an adult, I do plenty of things I dislike that I have to do. Church attendance is not one of them, and forcing my children to attend Sunday School isn’t either.

“Are Sin Disease and Death Real?” taught us the obvious answer: no.

 

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about Church and Sunday School. 

 

 

When I was about ten, and a student of the Christian Science Sunday School since I was two, I was so indoctrinated that I thought the last sentence of the Scientific Statement of Being was “Sunday School is dismissed!”

A friend’s father died, and since we had been taught so much about the unreality of death, I decided I should handle it that way. I did not tell my parents, and was expecting to see the departed one walking around any minute. My parents found out about the death from someone else and asked me why I didn’t tell them. I explained all I learned in Sunday School about death! My non-Christian Scientist dad then gave me a talk on reality— real reality.

I was miffed! I talked to a practitioner about this later and she advised me “You don’t walk on the water.” How much should we be expected to handle—or not handle—at the age of ten? Doing some thinking, we had a lesson called ‘Are Sin Disease and Death Real?’ which taught us the obvious answer: no. It made for a very confusing childhood!

– Anonymous


I really liked Sunday School and always enjoyed talking about philosophy and religion. Most of my Sunday School teachers were nice and interesting people. Of course, I always had a nagging feeling that even though I talked the talk, I would someday disappoint everyone in terms of Christian Science.

– Marie


There was a little girl in my Sunday School class; I was shy and awkward and she was pretty and popular. She picked on me very overtly, I mean loudly made fun of me and other things that were downright mean. When I finally got the courage to ask my dad to tell the Superintendent about it, the Superintendent chose to respond by sending me a letter to my home address. She said I was letting personal sense get in the way of enjoying Sunday School, and that I must remember that “we can’t always arrange things exactly the way we would want them to be.”

– Ashley

Conditions under which a family could possibly bring up happy and healthy children while indoctrinating them with the tenets of Christian Science

By Marion, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I have wondered, are there any conditions under which a family could possibly bring up happy and healthy children while indoctrinating them with the tenets of Christian Science and living by those tenets?

Some ideas:

  1. The parents hide any failures from the children. In effect, they lie to them in the interests of not ‘contaminating the children’s thought’ because of the parents’ failures.
  2. The differences children perceive between their practices and beliefs and those of their companions are cast as ignorance on the part of the majority, and the children are taught to view that ignorance with compassion.
  3. The children are lucky in that they have no serious illnesses or accidents.
  4. The children are academically gifted, and have strong reinforcement from teachers and authority figures; they achieve recognition for accomplishments in music, spelling, mathematics and other areas.
  5. Parents are liberal in the sense that they excuse regular practices…eating well, having good hygiene and appropriate schedules as temporary accommodations to the weight of human belief.
  6. The parents are good actors, passing off as certainty what might be questionable, maintaining continuously a kindly, even temperament.

These qualifications pretty much describe my husband’s Christian Scientist family. Incongruities were treated with humor, and there were definitely exceptions made to the rule. My husband was a very effective dental researcher, while in his religious beliefs he denied the  physical evidence.

He and I were Christian Scientists while our children were growing up, and the kids went to Sunday School, but, given some ‘non-demonstrations’, we concluded that, while the truth was the truth, we weren’t good enough to demonstrate it, and they all had medical care.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Everybody does it.”

By Marion, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I was 42… over forty years ago now. I was teaching at a university thirty miles from my home, and had four kids, aged nine to nineteen. The stress level was pretty high, and during the Christmas break I observed the unmistakable signs of breast cancer.

I remember quite vividly the reasoning I went through one night, taking the premises of Christian Science down to the basics. At its heart, they are that human life is illusory, and physical evidence is meaningless. That is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you seem to die. With four children, a husband, a teaching job I loved, and an appreciation of the beauty of this life, I decided that it did make a difference to me whether or not I continued to be here. I gave myself the time to ‘un-see’ it. If the evidence was still there at that time, I would go for surgery.

Just before Spring Break, I told the administration that I would be out for a time after the break and told them why. The response: ”Why didn’t you give us more notice?” I told them that I was a Christian Scientist and that I had hoped to solve the problem metaphysically. Talk about people looking at you funny. A substitute was found, and I was out for the break time and about a month after. Since the university and my home community were quite separate, almost no one in the home or church community knew about it.

The wake-up call for me was after I had chosen to have the mastectomy. Having acted on that decision, I confided to another church member that I had broken the faith’s directives, and that I felt that I should resign my membership. This is the response that angers me still: a whispered response, ”Oh, don’t worry about it. Everybody does it.”

I had been on the verge of risking my life. I believed these people were sincere and committed to what they professed. I should have known. Eddy was ‘committed’ until it became inconvenient for her. I may well have known about her dental work and morphine use even then, but still, the sense of betrayal was overpowering.