Christian Science is a Cult

Originally published on kindism.org, reprinted with permission. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org and ExChristianScience.com


Christian Science is a cult, not occult1, a cult. Some of you will probably stop reading now, or will immediately start composing comments that Christian Science is NOT A CULT. Cool.

If you’re not ready to call Christian Science a cult, that’s okay too, I find “cult” really shuts down the conversation. When I first started questioning and leaving, the posts screaming that Christian Science was a cult (usually for Biblical reasons) were a huge turn off. If you’d like to explore the Biblical reasons2 that Christian Science is wrong, I’ll link some resources at the bottom of the post, that’s not my area of interest.

So if you’re not willing to read about Christian Science being a cult, perhaps you’ll read about Christian Science as form of mind control. Or you might stop reading now, I don’t know.

Former Christian Scientist, now Christian, Linda Kramer, has written a book clearly laying out how Christian Science is a form of mind control, it is called Perfect Peril: Christian Science and Mind Control, and it talks through mind control expert Robert Jay Liftons’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform.

Lifton wrote Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. I tried to read it a while back, but it is a dense book, and focused on brainwashing of political prisoners. I didn’t really connect with it, as most Christian Scientists are born into it3, so it isn’t so much brainwashing as it is our reality from day one. I got about a third of the way into it, bogged down, and I think it ended up at the local library book sale (this was pre-COVID19).

So what are Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform? As listed in, and heavily paraphrased from, Perfect Peril p. 55-57, they are as follows:

  1. Milieu Control – information management – you should only read authorized material, and goodness knows what untruths Eddy’s contemporaries might have written about her!
  2. Mystical Manipulationleader claims divine authority — Eddy’s case some people claimed she was the Woman in Revelation
  3. Demand for Purity – strive to achieve the unattainable, nothing like failing to make a “demonstration
  4. Cult of Confession – over emphasis on confession
  5. Sacred Science – beliefs and teachings are considered sacred, it says on the cover, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and the Weekly Lesson is “divinely authorized.” Logically all enlightened thought must eventually work its way back to CS.
  6. Loading Language – group has its own jargon, so much jargon. Don’t worry, you’ll learn about Aggressive Mental Suggestion during Class Instruction. Or not.
  7. Doctrine over Person – experiences contradicting doctrine must be ignored – you didn’t have a healing, you must have been doing it wrong, please don’t share it with us.
  8. Dispensing of Existence – elitist attitude often results in shunning of members who chose to leave. This is fairly self explanatory.

I found Kramer’s book much more relatable and far easier to read. It is a slim volume, under two hundred pages, with the last forty or so devoted to Kramer’s personal journey out of Christian Science, and Biblical arguments. Kramer works through Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform one at a time, pointing out how Christian Science fits each one, and uses authorized Christian Science sources. I now await comments about how the Devil can quote scripture for his own uses.

For those of us who were (or are) entrenched in Christian Science, stepping back and critically examine Christian Science in relation to these eight points is not always easy. Devil quoting scripture or not, Kramer lays out very solid, often relatable examples of each of the eight criteria. As a former Christian Scientist herself, she also acknowledges that these don’t necessarily feel like a problem when we are actively involved in Christian Science. It feels normal.

I was initially hesitant to read Perfect Peril as I knew Kramer had taken a different spiritual path away from Christian Science than I had, and I did not want to be given yet another list of Biblical arguments against it. I was pleasantly surprised that Lifton’s Eight Criteria were the main focus. I did read the Biblical critiques, but they did not resonate with me the same way Lifton’s criteria did.

If you’ve read this far, you’ll probably find Perfect Peril at least interesting, possibly enlightening, and maybe life changing. I found it validating as Kramer identifies, labels, and provides clear examples for each of the eight criteria. Kramer also gives background on Christian Science and Eddy from Church-Approved Sources, and sources from Eddy’s time.

Perfect Peril is quite an impactful book, I found it more easily approachable than God’s Perfect Child (which is excellent for a fuller picture of the Christian Science movement as a whole, but not an easy or quick read), and far less gut-wrenching than fathermothergod (which you will need to read with a box of kleenx near by). While all three belong on the bookshelf (or in the e-reader) of an former Christian Scientist, I think Perfect Peril will be my new go-to to loan out to the never-CS in my life who have questions about it.


  1. There are some Christian Scientists who dabble in Tarot, Astrology, Numerology, esoteric mysticism and hold some really weird views about the (coming any day now) Apocalypse, I’m not going to link to them. I’d like to think they’re a fringe group of extreme-CS, but there is more than one of them and those are just the ones sharing their views on the internet.
  2. The Fellowship of Former CS has Biblical Resources about why Christian Science is wrong — if you have issues with these, take them up with someone else, in case it wasn’t already very obvious, I have not taken a “Christian” path away from CS.
  3. The 2016 Survey by ExChristianScience.com shows 90% of Christian Scientists were born into it, and another approximately 5% are introduced to it by their parents before the age of 18. 5% of people were converts, and as this was a survey of former Christian Scientists, even the converts left. https://exchristianscience.com/tag/ex-cs-survey-2016/

The World Was Real All Along

By Michael, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Michael is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

I want to take a moment to talk about reality.

I was raised to believe that the world around me, the world that I perceive with my physical senses, is not real. I was told that I live my life swaddled in illusion, and that I should constantly struggle to break through that illusion. I was completely sold on this idea. I craved reality. As a teenager, I vowed to dedicate my life to breaking through the illusion. I didn’t expect to succeed in this lifetime, but hey, death was unreal, so there was no deadline. I planned to keep “adjusting my thought” until someday the illusion melted away and I could finally see the real world.

After I left Christian Science, I gradually came around to the idea that the world that I perceive with my senses IS the real world. It was shocking. It was unnerving. It was electrifying. All my life, I’d been struggling for access to reality, and suddenly I found that I had this access…  that I had always had this access.

By analogy, it was as if I’d been told all my life that I lived inside a shell, and that the “stars” were just dots painted on the inside of the shell — and then, one day, I discovered that there never was any shell, and the stars were actually gigantic distant balls of plasma, and I COULD SEE THEM JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM.

It blew my mind. It continues to blow my mind every day. All I have to do is stop and think to myself “I have direct access to reality!” and instantly I’m filled with joy. It’s like remembering that I have a superpower.

Does Quantum Physics Validate Christian Science?

quantum physics and christian science

This is the first of two posts critiquing a lecture at Principia College by Laurance Doyle, Ph.D., entitled, “The Metaphysics of Quantum Physics.” Doyle’s talk makes two basic claims: (1) quantum physics validates Christian Science; and (2) Mary Baker Eddy anticipated the findings of 20th century physics. This post tackles the first claim; I will address the second in a later post.


Fifteen years ago physicist and former Christian Scientist, Robert L. Miller, published an article in the journal Skeptic entitled, “Christian Science and the Perversion of Quantum Physics.” Laurance Doyle, an astrophysicist and Christian Scientist, had been proclaiming a metaphysical interpretation of quantum physics that was at odds with generally accepted interpretations and wrong on the physics to boot. Well, Doyle is still at it, perverting theory and experiment to evangelize lay Christian Scientists with the notion that quantum physics validates their religion and that Mary Baker Eddy had a prescient understanding of scientific reality.

In April 2014, Doyle gave a lecture at Principia College where he is director of the oxymoronic “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics”) on “The Metaphysics of Quantum Physics.” I suppose a talk of that flavor to a community of believers is to be expected, but it is clear from the expressionless faces in the audience that the physics he presented was far over-the-heads of most. I don’t believe anyone in Cox Auditorium that day had sufficient knowledge to question anything Doyle said. Indeed, I suspect the Christian Science community as a whole reveres Dr. Doyle as an unassailable authority on quantum physics.

In fact, however, Doyle is far out of the mainstream of physics consensus. Anyone who has attended a scientific conference knows how participants will challenge others’ hypotheses and interpretations of experimental results, all for the advancement of understanding–but this won’t happen at Principia College. If Doyle were to give this same presentation to a group of his peers at a physics symposium (even stripped of its references to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science) he would be interrupted and challenged on nearly every slide.

1. The experimenter is not separable from his experiment.

Doyle repeatedly misstates the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics promulgated by Niels Bohr by declaring that “the experimenter is not separable from the experiment” (referring to the famous double-slit experiment). Doyle believes that the experimenter’s mind affects quantum behavior: “What you can know about the experiment turns out to be what’s important.” But Bohr was explicit that it is the measuring apparatus (rather than the mind of the experimenter) that is inseparable from the behavior of the particles: The experiment “implies the impossibility of any sharp separation between the behaviour of atomic objects and the interaction with the measuring instruments which serve to define the conditions under which the phenomena appear.”1

Doyle is incorrect when he declares, “Particles do not exist until they are observed” (i.e., by a human experimenter). Science writer Eliot Hawkins explains his error:

This is where people sometimes get confused and misinterpretations occur. . . . To us regular folks, “observation” means looking at something, seeing something happen. That’s not even close to what it means to quantum physicists. To them, it means measuring. . . . These vastly different definitions left us regular joe’s thinking that reality is unresolved until we look at it and that quantum states didn’t resolve until the information had managed to filter through our human minds.2

2. An underlying immediate connectedness exists between all elementary particles that make up all things.

Doyle bases this assertion on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which particles of common origin and shared properties appear to be “aware” of each other’s states when separated (and theoretically the separation distance is unlimited). Although it defies our common sense, the phenomenon is reliably observable in experiments. Doyle believes that experiments to test Bell’s Theorem prove that entangled particles “communicate” their status via a mechanism that operates faster than the speed of light. But he faces a formidable hurdle with that inference because it conflicts with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which has been exhaustively validated experimentally. Most physicists reject the notion that superluminal communication is what’s happening in the Bell’s Inequality experiments, and recent experiments continue to demonstrate that faster-than-light transmission is impossible.

Entanglement can be produced in the laboratory, but it is a fragile condition that is instantly destroyed when particles are disturbed by interactions from outside their closed system. Consequently, the random and chaotic nature of the universe ensures that any sort of underlying entanglement or awareness among all particles in the cosmos is impossible.

3. “History” can be changed.

As strange as it seems, experiments with individual particles have shown that at the quantum level time can run backwards. Doyle suggests that this phenomenon raises the interesting possibility of reversing time at macroscopic levels (“changing history”).

Time, like position and momentum, is a probabilistic phenomenon. At the level of individual particles the probability of time going either direction can be high. But at scales greater than small numbers of particles the probability of time reversal increasingly approaches zero. Consequently, at the macroscopic scale in which we live time is an irreversible forward arrow hurtling in the direction of greater entropy, as the second law of thermodynamics requires. Zoran Pazameta explains:

In Einstein’s physics causality holds in all domains of the natural world, but quantum theory allows for violation of microcausality at the (microscopic) quantum level. In our macroscopic world, however, causality holds absolutely. This is one important reason why time travel is impossible; to go backwards in time means reversing every cause-and-effect event in the entire universe between then and now.3

Dr. Doyle’s central argument that modern physics validates Christian Science is a willful misinterpretation of the science. If physics actually validated his three assertions then we could plausibly believe that human thought determines what is real; that every particle of the universe is united under one mind; and that mental force can change the history of human experience (including, I suppose, raising the dead). But Doyle’s assertions are not validated by physics: they are all incorrect. No, Dr. Doyle, quantum physics does not validate Christian Science.

It should be a matter of concern that Dr. Doyle misrepresents physical science to an audience of students in order to promote a metaphysical system. It is unfortunate that students at Principia College will not be exposed to other perspectives on the implications of modern physics, which are indeed fascinating. Principia College remains an intellectually closed community on matters that may challenge Christian Science theology. These students deserve better. Continue reading “Does Quantum Physics Validate Christian Science?”

Why God didn’t heal her vision problems?

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

A long time ago, a friend who was trying to convince me that leaving Christian Science was just animal magnetism told me about her ‘healing’ of an eye infection which had been exacerbated by contact lenses. She had terrible symptoms and finally went to an eye doctor who prescribed antibiotic eye drops. She used the drops, but prayed really hard too. Three weeks later she saw a different doctor who said her infection was gone. A Christian Science healing, she said!

I asked why God didn’t heal her vision problems, too? She said she was still working that part out. Years later, after leaving Christian Science, she went to an eye doctor who asked her, “Did you ever have an eye infection? I’m seeing lots of scar tissue in there.” In my experience, all so-called ‘healings’ are of this nature.

The church touts its ‘verified’ testimonies, but the verification process includes EITHER “I saw the healing,” or “I didn’t witness it but I know you are a good Christian Scientist.” That’s not verification. That’s what I call ‘none of us want to see anything other than a success,’ especially when you consider that no one in the church ever tells stories of Christian Science failing to work.

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.

“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.

Why I’m doing this

I started my journey away from Christian Science a little over six years ago. I had been struggling to make it work, and a series of pivotal, life-changing events finally forced me to acknowledge that Christian Science was not right for me.

Leaving Christian Science was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, and I don’t want anyone to feel they have to do it alone. I have been fortunate to have the support of my husband, and a group of close fellow-former-Christian Science friends, as I’ve made my journey way.

I’m launching the sort of support website for former Christian Scientists that I wanted when I started on my journey away from Christian Science. I don’t want to focus on the gut-wrenching horror stories many of us have in our pasts, I want to focus on helping people get the appropriate care and support they need.

I am not going to tell you which spiritual path you should take, I’m going to encourage you to find your own. I don’t want to save your soul, I want you to take care of your body so you can have a long and healthy life. I don’t want you to feel alone, or crazy, as you leave Christian Science, I want you to realize there are others out there who have left as well, and it is okay to question, doubt, and leave. I want to help direct you to resources you may find useful on your journey, support communities, articles on healthcare, books.

Peace be with you,

Kat

Founder & Editor in Chief
The Ex-Christian Scientist

Launching www.ExChristianScience.com

unnamed-2A group of former members of the Christian Science Church have launched a new website designed as a resource for people who have left or are considering leaving the Christian Science faith. Christian Science (not to be confused with Scientology) was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 19th century and is perhaps best known as a sect that rejects medical treatment, advocating prayer exclusively for healing.

The website, called The Ex-Christian Scientist (www.exchristianscience.com), is maintained by an informal group of about fifty former Christian Scientists “who strive to assist those questioning their commitment to Christian Science as well as those who have already left it.” Individual members of the group left Christian Science for varying reasons. Some are still religious, some are not. All, however, are united in their desire to help those who are questioning Christian Science to decide if there is a more appropriate path for themselves, and to provide an inclusive and understanding community for those who leave the faith.

Visitors to the website will find testimonials, including stories of childhoods adversely affected by Christian Science, stories of why and how folks left the faith, and first-time experiences with medical care. Visitors will also find reviews of books of particular interest to those who are questioning Christian Science as well as links to online resources. A future roll-out will include a guide to the basics of accessing medical care, which can be a confusing new world to someone who has spent a lifetime in a faith that rejects modern medicine.

The overarching goal of The Ex-Christian Scientist is to offer an inclusive, understanding, and supportive community for former Christian Scientists and those questioning Christian Science, regardless of the direction of their journey to a new faith or non-faith outlook. We are all refugees from a strange and obscure religion, and sometimes the best therapy is the company of those who understand the unique path we have walked.

 

Website: www.exchristianscience.com

Contact: [email protected]