Christian Scientists are ignorant about sickness and its development.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about how illness and death are ‘handled’ in Christian Science.

Christian Scientists are ignorant about sickness and its development. They have no idea how to interpret their symptoms and instead of getting medical advice they blame themselves for creating the problem with their incorrect thinking.

– Anonymous


This is the dark side of all mentalities that insist on seeking alternatives to basic medical care: it’s all well and good when you’re young and healthy, but eventually you get old or have health problems and end up suffering horribly.

– Hilary


Growing up, our family went to the orthodontist and dentist regularly, but we weren’t allowed to use Novocaine and I suffered through several fillings without it. We also went to the eye doctor to have eye exams and wore glasses, but never had vaccinations or went to the doctor for life-threatening illnesses. It really doesn’t make any sense, but a brainwashed Christian Scientist doesn’t see it that way.

– Anonymous



I lost both my parents relatively early in life to very treatable illnesses, and my oldest sisters who are both devout Christian Scientists have had a tough go of it. One had breast cancer and the other had colon cancer, and I don’t think The Mother Church will let her be a Practitioner now, so it is the end of her life-long dream. They both waited until they were on death’s door before seeking medical treatment at the urging of their children. After receiving medical treatment they both said later that they felt bad that they just did not continue to pray, and said that they felt pressured to seek medical help. I think I am resigning myself to watch them die messy deaths before their time, just like my parents.

– Anonymous


I will never understand how it is that when someone loses a loved one under Christian Science care, especially a child, it doesn’t occur to them that in 99% of the cases the individual would have survived with medical care. I have several friends who are examples of this. In my mind, it is what makes Christian Science a cult.

– Stacey


When I was 22, a hernia provided a very difficult challenge for me. Being a third generation Christian Scientist, I went to a practitioner. In those days, before long distance healing, I went to his office once a week and listened, and was told to have no fear. He kept telling me I was healed and not to be afraid. I resumed activities.

The hernia strangulated while I was at work, and I went into the hospital as an emergency case. It was quite an experience. I learned how to take a pill for the first time and a lot of other good things. Thinking about it now, I don’t remember hearing of many, if any, hernia healings. Do you?

– Anonymous

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story

The following is by Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor, and was originally published as a guest post at Kindism.org on February 1, 2015. It is reprinted with permission, and has been slightly modified for The Ex-Christian Scientist.


Did Principia hide conditions from authorities during the fall 1989 Upper School measles outbreak? What were your experiences with Christian Science nursing while at Prin during the measles outbreak? How did they diagnose it, since they’re trained to see disease and contagion as unreal?


This measles epidemic hit at the beginning of my first year at Principia Upper School, in fall of 1989.  I was fifteen, and it was the first time I had attended a boarding school or been away from my family. The student population was almost entirely unvaccinated due to Christian Science beliefs. The first quarter, I was paired with another sophomore named A___. She was a most unusual combination of kind, unconcerned with appearances, and popular. And she was totally into Christian Science, or appeared to be on the outside. A tranquil understanding of the philosophy, is how I would describe it, although it sounds strange to say it that way now as ex-Christian Scientist, but that is how I remember perceiving her. A___ tells me, “I’m not going to get sick, you’re not going to get sick.” That kind of worked, and I remember thinking, “ok, of course we’re not going to get sick.”

Then one Sunday after church, A___ laid down and didn’t get back up. She just laid there with her eyes closed, skin blotching up, listening to Christian Science tapes. I was scared. Still, nobody said anything, but frequently housemoms–the women employed by Principia to live in the dorms with us, one per wing, and act as our guardians, would walk by and look in the door at A___ without comment to either of us. Eventually a housemom came and took A___ away. The dorm got really quiet. Lots of kids came down with it the same weekend that A___ did. I’m happy to presume I felt this way for my own reasons, but I definitely felt that I was expected not to get it, in the same way I would be expected not to sneak off campus or expected not to skip my homework.

The housemoms never said ‘measles’, only the kids spoke of it: “some kids have measles”, “this one has it now”, or “so and so’s roommate was gone when she came back from practice.” But no one in the administration talked about it. They would just tell you reassuringly that they were “taking good care of” your roommate (anyone who got spots disappeared shortly thereafter). The housemoms did not say anything about your symptoms, they would just appear at your bedside after you’d been down for the count for a few hours to a day, and they’d say, “Come with me, honey. Is there anything you want to bring?” There was no communication from the administration otherwise. Continue reading “1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story”

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Paul’s Story

By Paul, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was a student at Principia Upper School during the measles epidemic in Fall 1989, and I contracted measles. I had the good fortune of being a day student, so instead of being on lockdown in ‘Gulag Clayton Road’, I was at least able to suffer in the discomfort of my own home.

I remember being really freaked out because I had to get my blood tested to see if I was immune, and I was scared to death by the process of the blood draw. My, how far we’ve come… Anyway, it was pretty pointless because I more or less felt like crap by the time I showed up at the lab. I drove home, took a nap, and began to notice blotches when I awoke. I can’t recall how many days I was ill—it seemed like forever. I couldn’t get comfortable, etc., as I’m sure all of us experienced. The whole experience was utter hell. At least I could shower as often as I wanted and didn’t have to deal with petulant houseparents.

They sent the principal and dean of students out to deliver ice cream to all of us day students who were de-campused due to illness, and we had to come to the door to get our goodies. I realize now they were probably sent out to check on us to make sure none of us was at death’s door so the Christian Science Committee on Publication could be given a heads up if we were.

My eyesight was on the line!

By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

When I was in my final year at Principia College, I developed some kind of eye infection. I went to the emergency room secretly, but was still somehow found out by a Christian Science nurse who interrogated me about why I was there. When I refused to tell her, she called my house mom and the dean of students. They each spent an hour or so interrogating me, trying to get me to tell them why I was at the hospital.

The crux of the issue for them was not my well-being or health or whether my eye problem was contagious, but whether I had been given a prescription. They told me that if I didn’t tell them they would have to make me move to Cox Cottage or possibly kick me out. I told them it was my body, my choice, and that I felt it was confidential.

We eventually reached a truce when I told them that if it would make them feel better I would be more than happy to lie to them and tell them that I was not taking a prescription. It was one of the single weirdest experiences of my life. My eyesight was on the line! What would have happened if I had been less sure of my decision or more concerned about public perception or what my parents would say if I was asked to leave?

Childhood fascination with medicine & desire to fit in

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about childhood health and safety issues they faced growing up in Christian Science. 

 

Once I was at a friend’s house, and the mom handed me a Flintstones vitamin at dinner and I FREAKED. OUT. I jumped out of my seat and ran to hand it back to her with a breathless “I’maChristianScientist!” She looked at me so confused and said, “It’s just a vitamin.” And I launched into a mangled six-year-old’s explanation of Christian Science. I feel like they didn’t have me over again after that.

– Elizabeth


The problem with not being allowed to have something that everyone else in the general population takes for granted, and more so being told it is wrong, is that it leads to trying it anyway and sometimes in the wrong way. I was very curious about medicine and actually went so far as to steal a little tin of Bayer Aspirin. I locked my little brother and myself in the bathroom and made him try one first. Of course they tasted bitter and horrible and we spat them out. To this day I don’t remember how I disposed of them. Worse was stealing a bottle of pills from a drugstore in the days when many drugs were on the shelf. I waited until my grandfather was in another aisle and whipped it into my pocket. They were tiny brown pills, god knows what. I took them to school and told my friends I had to take them. I was desperate to fit in.

– Tessa



Until now, only my wife has known this embarrassing truth: at age 37 when I was first properly under the care of a doctor and was put on a few month-to-month prescriptions, I switched to Target pharmacy because they had red prescription bottles, and I had them all arranged artfully on my bedside table.

– Anonymous



When I was six or seven, I got a pre-made Easter basket, and deep inside was a bottle of ‘Vaseline medicated lotion.’ Do you remember how it used to say that? I can’t imagine what the ‘medication’ was; anyway it was instantly my most prized, secret possession until my dad caught me showing it off to my cousin and made a huge scene and took it away. My non-Christian Scientist cousin must have thought we were complete nitwits.

– Anonymous

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!

I just believed what they told me. Because I was a kid!

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The Christian Scientists I grew up around all pretty much disappeared the moment my mother drowned in her own bed of a mysterious lung condition after a long period of radical reliance. I can’t say I ever really missed them, though a ‘sorry’ would have been nice.

Some of the people from her church came to the funeral. They avoided me for as much of it as they could, and left as soon as it finished. I never saw or heard from any of them ever again, despite the fact I had known all of them for years, I was a teenager, and they all knew I was then left on my own.

I had tried to stage a sort of adolescent intervention in my mother’s Christian Science treatment. Her best friend was also a Christian Science practitioner, and a fairly big lifelong contributor towards my mother’s reliance on ‘Science’. My mother looked on her as a sort of contemporary Mary Baker Eddy. Of some indeterminate late age, she was a bustling dynamo of a woman who arrived in the middle of a situation, then strode around setting everyone straight and bullying them into ‘Divine Mind’ for their own good. The idea of criticising this woman was almost tantamount to blasphemy, so I was surprised that I would be granted an audience about the issue with my mother present. I stupidly thought it was because we were actually going to talk about my mother’s failing health and devise a plan for managing it.

This meeting with them—where I wanted it to be agreed that she needed to see a doctor—dawned, and I went down from my bedroom with suddenly sweating palms and hammering heart, and this woman just ran rings around me and made me feel about two inches tall. She turned all my carefully planned arguments back at me and by the end of it I wasn’t even sure if the sky was blue and grass green. To cap it off, it was implied that the lack of a healing might be due to my negative thinking. Actually to really cap it off, she finished up with explaining that our family’s poverty was down to my laziness in not applying Christian Science better and that I was now ‘in charge of the finances’ and that she expected to see results from me because it was unfair that my mother had to deal with a physical healing and a situational one while I did nothing. I left meekly agreeing that I would and feeling terrible at my own selfishness. For every day after that until my mother’s death, I felt our poverty and her ill health was my fault. I was thirteen.

I sometimes wonder what I would say to her, or them, now. I would like to give them a piece of my mind, to be honest. I had an absolutely horrible time growing up in Christian Science, and none of it was my fault. I just believed what they told me. Because I was a kid!

There was another group of friends that that my mother had made comparatively very recently through an evening class, who all turned out to the funeral and the wake and all showered me with offers of help if I needed. It was actually the first time I began to understand that people who weren’t in Christian Science were generally a lot nicer and more human than people who were.

She was a true believer and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way

By Paul, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

My mother died a long, drawn out death from skin cancer that was also very unnecessary because a routine visit to the dermatologist could have prevented the whole thing. It’s so senseless. After she passed I had a rather cloying conversation with her practitioner (she called me), and the practitioner went out of her way to assure me that at no point did my mother suffer any pain whatsoever. Of course I don’t believe her, and I didn’t then; but the only thing that has been of any help at all, and not much, is that my mother was able to make her exit on her own terms and in accordance with her faith. She was a true believer and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, even if it would have spared her life and she would still be here.

Every now and again after my mother’s horrendous demise, my dad would ask if I wanted to go to church with him, just sort of tossing it out there as if that’s really what I’d been waiting for all along to get right with the world. He finally gave up on that and would lob some Christian Science-isms at me from time to time like he would like to see me “make a better demonstration of supply.” It really annoyed me, not that I guess I rated as a pauper, but that he knew good and well that no one in their right mind goes around talking in code like that, so it seemed a means to try to keep manipulating things back around to Christian Science. My general response, usually after suppressing a chortle, would be simply to tell him that I didn’t know anything about that and I hadn’t for a long time now.

“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.

“The people here are so nice.”

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When my mother went into what turned out to be a diabetic coma I called 911, even though she made me promise never to call a doctor or take her to a hospital. The nurse there said her blood sugar was 800, the highest that had ever registered on her meter, and I asked, “Is that good?” The nurse looked at me oddly, told me that my mother was a diabetic, and asked me what planet I had been living on—and I realized how lacking my education had been. I was fifty years old then, and have been catching up ever since.

The first thing my mother said when she woke up in intensive care was, “The people here are so nice.” Then I said, since she had always told me she would die of fright just going over the threshold of a hospital, “Mom, you’re okay with this, right? You were dying and I didn’t want to lose you.” And she said, “It’s okay. This is a ‘suffer it to be so now’ situation. I’m not going to beat myself up because I didn’t have enough understanding. I’ll continue to study.”

And so she did—while testing her blood sugar six times a day and taking insulin on a sliding scale three times a day. She regularly kept her host of doctors appointments and even had a cornea transplant and a cataract removed to improve her eyesight, which she had mostly lost due to diabetes. I think she was okay with the doctor because she didn’t make the decision herself. In her mind she could blame it on me, and because she loved me so, and I could never do wrong, and she trusted me, she was fine.

What I learned from it was, when your parents get old, sometimes you have to jump in and make the hard choices. My mother was eighty-three. She didn’t want to do the thinking anymore. So I did it. The folks in the emergency room told me she would have died within the hour, but my call to 911 extended her life six years. That experience was one of the keystones on my way out of Christian Science.