By Tessa, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Tessa is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.
I stayed with Christian Science out of family loyalty and guilt for decades, eventually living a dual life—the one I lived in front of my parents and the one I lived when I was apart. I lived that double life out of fear and a superstitious belief that maybe Christian Scientists were right all along and if I stopped believing in it I would be cursed. But most of all, I maintained appearances in order to please my parents. There were a bunch of us kids, and I always felt that being a Christian Scientist was a requirement for being approved of and loved. I had a nagging feeling that I was loved less because I wasn’t a good Christian Scientist.
I “came out” in bits and pieces over the years, but the incident in which I truly showed them that I was not a part of their religion was at the ripe age of 42 when I invited them for Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. I asked my boyfriend to bring wine and instead of either not drinking in front of my parents or sneaking drinks in the kitchen, I offered them ginger ale and then loudly asked my boyfriend to pour me a glass of red. It seems like an insignificant thing, and most people I know would never understand what it took for me to do it. It took a lot of courage. It felt fantastic enjoying wine with my meal without guilt. I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.
I once wrote an article for the local paper after a major brewery swooped in to buy our local cottage brewery. I wanted to show the difference between a local brew and one from a large corporate-run company and interviewed people in the community, including a brewer. I got everyone to take a taste test. My mother, always a fan of my writing, read the article and said, “oh, but you didn’t taste the beers of course!” She said it like it was fact, even though in the article I included my thoughts on the taste of both beers. Denial was ever present.
For all the problems I had with my parent’s beliefs, they were right there for me when I went into premature labour at 23 weeks gestation. They visited me in the hospital and did not bat an eye at the IV drip or the nurses or doctors. They were kind and accepting of my needs for the medical world. When my son was born a week later, 24 weeks and 520 grams, they came to visit him, donned gowns, scrubbed up, and sat by his incubator. Sure, they prayed in their CS way, but they also accepted my beliefs, including giving my son his inhaler treatments when they babysat him.
By Marie, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Marie is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.
I stepped away from Christian Science, as a test. I spent a week not worrying about animal magnetism, or daily prayers, or anything like that. I just thought whatever I wanted to think. I then left CS quite suddenly and found that to be extremely difficult. I still do sometimes, especially when things are tough and I don’t know what to turn to. Some people I know who left CS after always doubting didn’t feel like it was such a big deal. We all handle it in different ways.
Outsiders simplify the issues surrounding Christian Science, and that can feel dismissive. Like, ‘Hah! What a bunch of crazy, stupid kooks.’ I was one of those kooks, as are many intelligent people I love. Not to mention, in a way, it trivializes what I’ve gone through. The other day a friend asked why my roommate and I talked about our past so much. It was because it was important to us and shaped who we are. To him, it seemed something to remember and value or grieve but not to dwell on so much.
I still don’t feel ready to read God’s Perfect Child. I found it in a used book store and started reading it. I had to sit there for a few moments because I felt very overwhelmed. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. My parents often talked about the book, shaking their heads, especially since my dad taught the author in Sunday School. So of course he blamed himself.
I left because I realized that Christian Science and numerous other attitudes I held were killing me. In my case at the time, more mentally than physically. It just wasn’t worth it. I was more important, living life was more important. As for whether Christian Science is correct, I decided that the more important question was whether Christian Science was correct for me.
I would describe myself as an atheist now, but I also realize that literally no one knows for sure how the world works and what’s out there. It’s been a long and very difficult journey. I keep discovering new ways in which I’ve imbibed Christian Science ideology, occasionally for the better, usually for worse. I feel as though I have to construct a whole new identity and learn how to trust myself. Not practitioners, not God. Me.
I just went on an Amazon bender. I originally went on to find a paperback version of Carolyn Fraser’s book, ‘God’s Perfect Child’ for my husband, and stumbled on several books, only one of which I had previously heard of. In the last 24 hours, since the books began arriving, I have voraciously consumed both ‘father mother god’ by Lucia Greenhouse and ‘Perfect Peril’ by Linda S. Kramer. There is one more to arrive, a memoir called ‘Blue Windows.’ Are there any that I am missing that you guys could recommend? I really find this therapeutic, but also surprisingly upsetting. I’m glad the other one hasn’t arrived yet. I think I need a break. But I am ready to do more ‘knowing the truth.’ LOL. No, the real truth!
– Katie J.
Years after leaving the movement and residing in limbo about that, I read a fascinating biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the one by Gillian Gill. It’s not ‘authorized’ Christian Science literature and Gill is not a Christian Scientist. The author’s interests and motives seem to be placing MBE’s life events in context—her family story as well as historically/socially—and also analyzing her decisions, convictions, and actions within that same context.
Its primary effect was removing any remaining spell that Mary Baker Eddy herself still held on me; for example, now when I read a renowned passage of hers, I can hear that it’s an overwrought tangle of words that distract from the fact that she’s not saying anything of substance half the time. Additionally, I better understand the politics of the creation of the church. She was trying to stick a flag in these ideas flying around in that time period, and claim them for her own; to attempt to coalesce those thoughts into a solid creed that society would allow to compete with traditional Christianity.
In the five or so years since I read it, my life has been almost consistently tumultuous. As though some larger truth is trying insistently to make itself heard and seen. I spent a little time letting myself ponder a godless world, and now I feel myself moving back toward agnosticism, building my concepts of god and faith with very small pieces, one at a time. What a curious journey we’re all on.
I keep taking deep breaths like I have been crying when I have not. I think it is because my interior world keeps experiencing little explosions of anger, sadness, indignation, disbelief as I read.
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,
Founder & Editor in Chief
The Ex-Christian Scientist