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 Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science

The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, by Willa Cather.The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, Willa Cather

 


This book is a compilation of a series of articles that appeared in McClure’s magazine between January, 1907 through June, 1908 with Georgine Milmine listed as the sole author. It is now known that author Willa Cather had extensive involvement in the writing and editing of these articles.

– Jeremy


The authors traveled New England interviewing people who had actually known Mary Baker Eddy from childhood through her adult life and the growth of her movement. McClure’s [magazine], where the articles originally appeared, was one of the foremost journals of investigative journalism of its day, and the series was damaging to the aura of Eddy and the respectable image of Christian Science that The Mother Church had tried to cultivate. I remember from my class at Principia College on the History of the CS Movement that the book was ‘nothing more than baseless yellow journalism.’ But after reading it, it’s clearly credible journalism that must be taken seriously.

– Bruce


Mary Baker Eddy was her own worst enemy, as much of the damning material from this book is in her own words. Highly recommended.

– Anonymous


I had been relieved of my Christian Science beliefs for about seven years when I read this book. I knew by then that the system simply didn’t work, and that many who tried to follow it had suffered greatly, but I had not been aware of the truly misanthropic nature of its founder. Of course the work was condemned as lies by followers of Mary Baker Eddy. Denial of facts is at the heart of Christian Science.

– Marion

Christian Science (Twain)

Christian Science / Twain

Christian Science, Mark Twain


From Mark Twain’s book Christian Science, 1907 edition, pp. 208-209
[Mary Baker Eddy is] grasping, sordid, penurious, famishing for everything she sees—money, power, glory—vain, untruthful, jealous, despotic, arrogant, insolent, pitiless where thinkers and hypnotists are concerned, illiterate, shallow, incapable of reasoning outside of commercial lines, immeasurably selfish—
[But] to her followers she is this: patient, gentle, loving, compassionate, noble hearted, unselfish, sinless, widely cultured, splendidly equipped mentally, a profound thinker, an able writer, a divine personage, an inspired messenger whose acts are dictated from the Throne, and whose every utterance is the Voice of God.

HILARIOUS.

– Madeleine


I was an enthusiastic believer until age 20, when I picked up Mark Twain’s book Christian Science in a book store. I read two pages, and it felt like a glass dome around me shattered. I bought the book but hated it for what it had done to my perfect illusion. The transformation I experienced while reading it felt involuntary, like someone had tapped me rudely on the shoulder and disturbed my reverie.

– Elizabeth


Priceless. I was rolling on the floor.

– Katie J.

Mary Baker Eddy (Gill)

MBE Gill

Mary Baker Eddy, Gillian Gill.


The criticism of this book is that it pulls punches, and, some readers find it dry. Personally, however, I found this biography to be riveting and of an extremely high quality. Its gentler approach allowed me to form my own suspicions instead of reacting against criticism of Mary Baker Eddy that I wasn’t ready for. It matched my comfort level at the time because it is approved by The Mother Church, but it still led me down the rabbit hole, and my ensuing curiosity led me to the ex-CS community as well, which has been invaluable.

– Elizabeth


Gillian Gill is unaffiliated with Christian Science, but strives to make Mary Baker Eddy’s voice heard. It is an extremely informative and detailed biography and it is interesting to read about the problems the author encountered with The Mother Church leadership in accessing historical documents.

– Katharine

 

Mrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind

Mrs. Eddy / DakinMrs. Eddy: The Biography of a Virginal Mind, Edwin Franden Dakin

 


I just finished reading the Dakin book, which I highly recommend. I learned that one of the big things in the early Christian Science movement was the ability to ‘demonstrate supply.’ The New York church had a special borrowing room so that people who had not yet ‘demonstrated supply’ could borrow things and appear to have done so. I came away with the impression Mary Baker Eddy didn’t want to hurt anyone, she just wanted to be Someone Important.


Dakin’s biography of Mary Baker Eddy is based on contemporaneous sources, and is absolutely jaw-dropping! Does a great job of showing how Christian Science was a money making operation for Eddy, and how dishonest and manipulative she was. I now understand why The Mother Church launched a campaign of intimidation against publishers and booksellers to suppress it.

– Bruce


Dakin’s biography is well-sourced, and refreshingly insightful especially into Mary Baker Eddy’s early life, experiences, and mental-health issues, many of which, as I look at it all in its totality, largely frame her so-called ‘discovery’ of Christian Science, and how and why it developed as it did. Historical figures in the movement who previously were portrayed as villains in the ‘authorized’ history I used to read as a Christian Scientist, are presented here in a different, more balanced light. Eddy was a capricious woman who quickly wore out friendships and welcomes throughout her life, and those who no longer suited her were summarily vilified, as was anyone who dared to stand up to her.

– Jeremy


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, by Martin Gardner.

The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy: The Rise and Fall of Christian Science, Martin Gardner

 


In this light-hearted book, you will learn things that you never knew about the history of the Christian Science church (such as the memorial pyramid that used to mark MBE’s birthplace). Gardner summarizes the various plagiarism charges and devotes a chapter each to Dickey and Twain, etc. At the end, Gardner explains how CS fits into the context of other New Thought movements.

– Beth


This book is worth picking up if for no other reason than to read the jaw-dropping chapter detailing the memoirs of Adam Dickey, who served as Mary Baker Eddy’s private secretary from 1908 until her death in 1910.

– Linda P.


Reviews from other ex-Christian Scientists on the internet

The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood

UnseenShoreThe Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood, Thomas Simmons

 


I gave a copy of The Unseen Shore to the senior pastor of our Presbyterian Church sometime in the early 90s. In our monthly newsletter this very erudite man stated his opinion that it was the best theological text of that year.

– Marion


This memoir was a bit too cerebral for me, but I’ve talked to others who liked it. Weaving poetry and philosophy throughout this pilgrimage, Simmons offers an intelligent, literate account of his personal ‘dark night of the soul.’ Ultimately, he acknowledges life and the material as real—despite imperfections—rather than as the illusory, spiritual manifestations of his Christian Science youth.

– Beth


This book was one of the first I read around the time of my mother’s death. I related to his childhood pain and was touched at his descriptions of relating to his child after leaving Christian Science. I identified with that; my children have been my reality, also. This is a very honest book. He writes about a journey which is not for the faint-hearted. One formerly CS friend of mine couldn’t finish it, as it raised many painful memories.

– Katharine


The Last Strawberry

last_strawberry_cover

The Last Strawberry, Rita Swan


Totally devastating. Brought me to my knees.

– Elizabeth


Powerful and revealing. How could people who love their children not get them medical care? This books shows how.

– Ashley


Short, well-written, very touching, but at the same time it was difficult to read because of its subject matter which hit a bit too close to home. It stirred memories of my own time in Christian Science, and dealing with Christian Science practitioners, a class of ‘professionals’, if you want to call them that, who often and routinely cross personal and professional boundaries, at least in my own experience, and the experience of the author of this memoir.

– Jeremy


I’m disgusted by the behavior of the practitioners before and after Matthew’s death and by their petty rivalries. Hardly an ounce of charity in the lot. I’m also disgusted by the church’s fraudulent claim that it had healed another case of meningitis, when in fact the other child had the more benign form of the disease and had been treated in a hospital.

– Steve


An utterly heartbreaking but beautiful tribute to Rita’s son Matthew, who died while under Christian Science ‘care.’ This little book packs a powerful punch and clearly illustrates the utter coldness, denial, and futility of Christian Science.

– Madeleine


fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science

FatherMotherGodfathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science, Lucia Greenhouse


I downloaded fathermothergod and read the whole thing today. I finished it a couple of hours ago and have been an emotional, blubbering mess since then. I was identifying with so much of what she said and feeling secure in my gut feeling that Christian Science isn’t the Truth.

– Laura


A moving, powerful, and beautifully written work. The author convincingly recreates the bizarre dynamics of a Christian Science household: the jargon with its euphemisms and absolutist declarations of Truth, the denial and suppression of facts and feelings, the secrecy, the mistrust directed toward non-CS family members. When her mother becomes gravely ill, Lucia is frustrated in every attempt she makes to break through the intransigence of CS belief. Tragic and infuriating.

– Bruce


fathermothergod is extremely readable for non-Christian Scientists as well. Three of my friends and my therapist read it at my request, and their sudden understanding and compassion for me has been unexpected and extremely welcome.

– Valerie


This book was the easiest to read and a great primer for the uninitiated. It was so easy and friendly, while describing the horrors we all shared. This book was the easiest to read and a great primer for the uninitiated. It was so easy and friendly, while describing the horrors we all shared. I loved it, but it was tough to take. My own mom used to lie in bed, writhing in pain and screaming out to God on a regular basis. Damn, scratch the surface and you get so many revelations about things you have yet to really deal with.

– Katie J.


I read fathermothergod over the weekend. It was difficult, but gripping. I cried more than once.

– Cara


fathermothergod was the first critical book about Christian Science that I read after leaving the faith. Its pages stirred echoes of my own experience — from her recounting of childhood memories to her experience with her mother’s illness and death. I read it in about two days; I found it hard to put it down.

– Jeremy

A Collision of Truths

Collision of TruthsA Collision of Truths, Robert Y. Ellis


A tragic story. The author was a staunch Christian Scientist and worked at the The Mother Church. A series of non-healings changed his attitude.

– Stacey


I loved this book! The author said it took him eight years to write. It comes from the heart.
– Ann


I love this one! I even reached out to the author last year and he emailed me back. I related so much to his story, and appreciated the fact that it didn’t bash Christian Science. It was just a heartfelt, honest retelling of his experience. It was difficult for me to read some of the stronger ex-CS stuff early in my departure and this was a great transition.

– Laura N.


I think it’s good to have such books written from the male perspective. I found Robert Ellis’s style very readable and when I contacted him, he was cordial and encouraging. He describes the impact on his thinking as he studied true science and read far more widely than Christian Science would allow. He describes in a sensitive way the effect of Christian Science on his family and his journey into new avenues of life.

– Katharine