Straighten out your thinking!

By Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.


I had severe untreated burns on the top of my foot when I was nine. My cousin spilled a pan of boiling hot jelly right on my foot. I got no help at all with it—no antibacterial cream, bandaging, nothing. I was told to just ignore it and ‘know that you cannot be burned.’

I was sent to school with socks on. The blisters broke and drained all over, and the teacher tried to dress it and put something on it. I, of course, refused to allow anything to be put on it. Because it was never treated in any way, it got horribly infected and was all full of pus and rot, and was extremely painful to the point that I couldn’t put any weight on it.

The incident I remember most clearly from that time is my mother going shopping and bringing me along, and I was hopping on one foot behind her and she was oblivious to my pain. The only attention my mother gave me with that or any illness was to tell me to ‘straighten out my thinking,’ or at best she would call the practitioner.

I am extremely lucky I didn’t get blood poisoning because I was only nine and I didn’t even know to try and keep it clean. When I had my own children, I just could not figure out how a mother could treat her child that way.

God was expected to provide

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

A lot of us were indoctrinated into Christian Science basically from the point of birth. I often wonder why my mother fell in with it, though. She was in her thirties when she became a Christian Scientist. In the end, the only thing I can think of is that she enjoyed the feeling of exclusivity, the knowing something that few other people know. And, like in most cults, she genuinely believed that it was giving her mastery over something few other people had mastery over. Back in the day, I would have said she was an intelligent woman, but on reflection I really don’t know if I still think that. She certainly thought she was intelligent, as they all do. I’m not sure that’s the same thing.

My mother and her Christian Scientist friends—one of whom was a Christian Science practitioner— hoped that I would become a practitioner as well, and there seemed to be some preliminary discussions as to where the funds would come from for me to leave the UK to go to Boston to ‘train’. These discussions didn’t last very long, as naturally God was expected to provide the funds when needed. I’m glad I wasn’t relying on these people to fund me through real university.

Throughout my adolescence, there was a vast amount of cognitive bias forced on me to justify their perception that I would be a great Christian Science healer, which left me very confused for years and was actually terribly difficult to deal with when I had to face up to the fact that I did not have these latent abilities and never had. Later in my childhood, at about 12 years old, I was treated with frustration for my laziness in not ‘achieving more’ with Christian Science.

Coming to terms with our Christian Scientist parents is difficult. Sometimes my mother was loving, thoughtful and great. At a lot of other times, she was a massive Christian Science d*ckhead and I won’t ever really be able to understand her actions. I could understand it if she had been a stupid woman, but the truth was quite the opposite, as is generally the case for Christian Scientists. Ironically.

“The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”

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

My parents thought I was perfect.

It wasn’t just me. My parents thought everyone was perfect. They were Christian Scientists, and they believed that all people are God’s perfect children, and that God’s perfect children are literally flawless in every way. They raised me to believe this. They also raised me to believe that people are continually deceived by dreamlike illusions, such as pain, suffering, and death. Eventually, this began to feel like a contradiction to me. One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”

The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”

For three months after that, I poked at this question as if I were prodding a sore tooth. It was disturbing. Instead of finding answers, I came up with more and more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery, why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?

After many hours of lying awake in bed, I eventually realized that Christian Science no longer made sense to me. I don’t remember how I told my parents that I wanted to stop going to church. I know that they were disappointed, but they agreed to let me stay home on Sundays and Wednesdays. I think maybe they thought this was just a phase I was going through.

It wasn’t a phase. I’m not a Christian Scientist any more. I haven’t set foot in a Christian Science church in almost fifteen years.

At first, I worried that my relationship with my parents would be damaged, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried. My parents still love me, and I still love them. The only thing that’s changed is that we no longer talk about religion with each other–and honestly, that’s a relief.

No. I want God to do it.

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

There’s a blog I really like called ‘You Are Not So Smart’. It’s also a book and there is a really interesting chapter called ‘Why Your Memories Are Mostly False’. I think the phenomenon it describes accounts for many of the Christian Science ‘healings’. Even when you leave it and no longer believe, you still harbour the memories you created from when you were inside.

This particular memory of a ‘healing’ bothered me for a long while. I was about six or seven years old and playing in the garden with a foldable metal deck chair. The chair snapped shut, with one of the sharp metal struts slicing into my thumb. The pain, and surprise, was horrible. I could not free myself at all and blood started pouring from the wound. As you might imagine I screamed my head off, the kind of scream that I now recognise as a parent means ‘drop everything and run to your kid NOW’ and that would make me practically plough through brick wall if one were in the way, without even thinking.


I vividly remember watching in disbelief as my mother slowly slowly strolled out of the house to the end of the garden where I was, while I screamed all the louder, begging her to come and free me from the chair. I was not able to understand at all why she was strolling like it was a day in the park. Of course with hindsight, I realize she was busy ‘knowing the Truth’. I was eventually freed and taken inside where my grandmother, a non-Christian Scientist, who was fairly meek and tried to avoid clashing with my mother over Christian Science, said I should see a doctor. The thumb was bleeding a fair bit around the first knuckle where the cut was, but in my memory, the pain was mostly gone now I was out of the trap.

Even at that early age, I realised my mother would want to see evidence of a Christian Science healing. That’s what happened to all the kids in the Sentinels I had read about in things like this, so I thought I would try and deliver one for her. I balled my little hand into a fist, banged the table and said, ‘No. I want God to do it.’ The bleeding stopped, the blood was washed off and there was pronounced to be no evidence of the wound at all. My grandmother was amazed (or told that she was) and ceased to try and protest about doctors. My mother put a bandage over the area anyway so as I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it and maybe reverse the healing with doubt.

This went down as Christian Science lore in my small family, the incontrovertible truth of Christian Science’s efficacy. My mother recounted it in church as a testimony, and there was much rejoicing. Over time the severity of the injury was increased; I don’t remember seeing anything other than blood but I am sure it had been ‘cut to the bone’ a few months later and doubtless ‘half hanging off’ by the time I hit adolescence.

Nevertheless, what a marvellous healing; even if Christian Science never worked again it did that time. My mother’s slow walk and my insistence on God as a physician as an innocent child all worked. Right?

Maybe, but if so why do red warning lights go off in my brain, even now, whenever I have to touch anything with a folding mechanism? Why do I still feel angry when I replay that slow walk while my hand was shut in the chair, and why did I notice for the first time last year a small livid scar near the bony part of my knuckle, exactly where I remember getting my hand trapped more than thirty years ago? An area which is pretty small on an adult but which would have bled a lot on a child though not hurt much, and then probably healed quite fast, especially if it were covered up?

As much as we want to believe otherwise, psych studies have shown that human episodic memory is incredibly inaccurate. There is no correlation at all between how vividly you remember something and how accurate that recollection is. If anything, the mind will render episodic memories so that they agree with semantic ones. Most of us grew up thinking we were Christian Science wunderkinds and were referred back to these ‘healings’ often. Especially when wavering. So it makes sense that we have memories that agree with that axiom.

Christian Science doesn’t work. But Christian Scientists are very good at creating the props to make it appear that it does. If you want to believe, the easiest person to fool is yourself.

The mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury.

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When I was five years old, I fell on my face onto concrete while running and destroyed my upper lip. My mom did a nice job of hiding her terror from me and calming herself and me down. There was lots and lots of blood which wouldn’t stop. My mouth and nose were cleaned with water and a washcloth, no dressings were used and I don’t know that anyone other than a medical professional would have been capable of dressing it.

I was told I would not be going to school for a few days, not because I had been injured, but because the mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury, and we had to protect the healing, which had already occurred, because in Divine Science, the injury never occurred. I never fell from God’s arms. We sang the hymn, “Everlasting arms of love, are beneath, around, above.” My face hurt a lot from my chin to my nose and eyes to my forehead and the top of my head.

I was not supposed to look in the mirror because that would reinforce the material picture, and I was praised repeatedly for not looking in the mirror. Meanwhile I was sneaking into the bathroom to stare at myself every chance I got, because holy crap the top of my mouth was missing! I was absolutely transfixed at my horrible appearance. It was thrilling. Not the injury, but the looking; the possessing of the information regarding my injury, illicitly. I think in that climate where injury was not properly acknowledged, it became an absolute high to observe and acknowledge my own damage.

For a long time I had this experience filed under a legitimate Christian Science healing. My mother and I wrote a joint testimony about it which was published in the Christian Science Sentinel, and this made quite an impression on me. But in retrospect, the evidence contrary to a Christian Science healing is much stronger:

  • It took a normal amount of time to heal. It’s indisputable that my lip and mouth needed stitches and it sure is nice that things healed up as well as they did.
  • My upper lip changes appearance in childhood photos after this incident. Luckily it works for me and my upper lip is still cute in a different way.
  • The frenulum of the upper gum was ripped and did not repair. Mine just hangs there and my upper lip is not connected to my gums. It’s the thin connector way up top above and in front of your front teeth; you can find it with your tongue easily.

This incident is at the root of my personal version of the ‘I’m a fraud’ worries all humans have to varying degrees. And possibly the beginning of my doubts about Christian Science, but I suppressed them deeply.

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


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was really born into it.  My mother converted when I was just an infant so I don’t remember anything else. I was probably 6 months old or so because I know she had me baptized in the Presbyterian church. I never went to any other church.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

Probably a couple of reasons:  (1) My mother’s control and (2)  my own desire for it to be true and work for me.

What made you decide to leave?

Leaving was a gradual thing for me. I continued to attend church into my adulthood, send my children to Sunday School, and try my best to make Christian Science work. But, I did take my kids to the doctor and to get their vaccinations. I could not abide having them ill. Every illness they had caused me to experience unreasonable fear. I was scared to death something terrible would happen to them and scared to death that my own thinking about it would cause it.

Why would anyone join?

I have no idea at this point, maybe out of a sense of desperation because of an illness, maybe because they are generational Christian Scientists. I joined when I was 12 years old so I could usher because I thought it was ‘cool’.

Did you really believe? 

I think I did believe as a young child. But I had an experience with a broken leg as a young teenager that made me realize that I was really afraid to depend on Christian Science. The leg was set using what they called back then an ‘Open set’ which means the doctor actually did an incision for both bones that were broken and set them. Back then suing a doctor was unheard of and they seemed not to be afraid of saying if they screwed up because no one did anything to them. This doctor reached in to set my tibia and used too much force, tearing all the muscle, the ligaments, the nerves and the blood vessels to the area. The result was that I had an open wound and exposed bone for over a year. It developed gangrene. Now, I just have scar on bone. This gave my mother the opportunity to say, “see what materea medica does to you?” and she asked me if I would quit going to the doctor to treat my leg and rely just on Christian Science.  I remember I told her that I was afraid to do that because I was afraid I would lose my leg. Surprisingly, she didn’t make me quit and continued to take me over to the doctor and have my dressings changed.

So, I guess at that point I began to question Christian Science, but it was many years before I actually left.


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

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


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into it. My mother was born and raised in Christian Science, and my father converted to Christian Science when he married my mother.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I didn’t actually stay for very long. I left at age 16, which is fairly young for a child to renounce his parents’ religion.

What made you decide to leave?

My parents and Sunday School teachers raised me to believe that the universe was literally perfect. They told me that there was no such thing as pain, suffering, or death–there were only dreamlike illusions of pain, suffering, and death. They told me that if we could only stop being fooled by these illusions, they would melt away like a bad dream.

One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”
The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”
That was the moment when Christian Science stopped making sense to me. Over the next three months, I struggled to maintain a coherent theology, but instead, I just kept coming up with more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain, if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery (as they say), why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Christian Science is self-contradictory, and that even if you take out the contradictory parts, everything that’s left is still demonstrably false.
Why would anyone join?
I ask myself sometimes why my father converted to Christian Science. I don’t think that he did it just to marry my mother. I know that my father’s mother (my grandmother) died when my father was still a boy, after wasting away in a hospital, and I suspect that this gave my father a lifelong unconscious resentment of doctors and medicine. Christian Science is a welcoming environment for someone who doesn’t like doctors.
Another reason why someone might join Christian Science is that they’ve been reading books by Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, or Rhonda Byrne, and they’ve come to believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world. Christian Scientists also believe that their thoughts can directly affect the world, so a person who holds this belief might see a Christian Science church as a community of like-minded individuals. (They might be in for a surprise, though, when they learn about Christian Scientists’ other beliefs!)
Did you really believe? 

Yes. All throughout my childhood, I believed that I was perfect, and that I could make bad things go away if I concentrated on disbelieving them. In hindsight, I can see that my efforts had no effect, but at the time, I never doubted that Christian Science was true. If the ailment that I was praying about happened to resolve on its own, I would see that as a confirmation of Christian Science. If the ailment didn’t resolve, I wouldn’t attribute the failure to Christian Science, I would just assume that I wasn’t praying hard enough. That’s called confirmation bias, and it’s an insidious force.


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

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


How did you get into Christian Science?
My mother, who was always looking for ‘the answer’, went to a Wednesday evening service at TMC (The Mother Church), and never looked back. I was about ten years old, and my younger sister was born into Christian Science.
Why did you stay in it for so long?
When you’re raised in it, it’s just part of life and you don’t generally question it until you’re older. I didn’t start having doubts until my late 30’s/early 40’s! As an adult I began to have doubts, but would always push them away, figuring it was either ‘personal sense, ‘animal magnetism’, or ‘human will’.
What made you decide to leave?

The decision happened in an instant. I was 45 years old, and I was sitting in The Mother Church on a Sunday morning next to my mother, who was very sick, listening to the first reader drone on and on, and then looking at my mother, (who was) shaking all over, and I just knew that I was done. Done watching her suffer, and done being in this cruel mental prison. After the service, I left and never looked back. I went home, threw all my books, class notes, diaries–all of it, in the garbage…in the rain.

Why would anyone join?

The same reason anyone joins any religion or cult; to feel like you have some sense of control over life or have ‘the answers’.

Did you really believe? 
Absolutely! When I wasn’t doubting it! Most of the time I believed it completely and that it was the answer that would change the world. I was part of of something revolutionary that had ‘the answers’. I never told any of my friends that I was a Christian Scientist though; I don’t know if I was afraid I’d be judged or that on some level I was embarrassed or ashamed.

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

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


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was born into a Christian Scientist family (on my mother’s side). My sibling and cousins and I made the fourth generation. The fourth generation has now all escaped from Christian Science. Hallelujah!

Why did you stay in it for so long?

By the time I was ready to leave home for college, I had doubts. My mother told me that as soon as I finished high school, I could decide if I wanted to continue in Sunday School. I think she thought I would keep going, but the Sunday before I graduated was the last time I ever attended. So, that whole summer before I left for college, I slept late on Sunday mornings with no guilt. But four years later, after I married and moved across the state, I began, for the first time, to have health issues that didn’t go away quickly. I still didn’t want to attend church, but my husband and I sometimes went to Wednesday evening services. I struggled. I was half in and half out. Christian Science treatment wasn’t helping me, but I had no experience whatsoever with medical services, and I was away from home and family. I had no idea what to do. Radical reliance in Christian Science had been the only option I had ever had, but now I was an adult and I realized I could make choices.

What made you decide to leave?

I left for good in my late twenties with my first-ever doctor’s visit. Thankfully, that was in time for my first childbirth, in which a C-section and the NICU and modern medicine saved my baby’s and my life. I can’t stand to think about what would have been had I remained, doggedly, in Christian Science, trying to demonstrate my and my children’s way to perfection. Shudder.

I had struggled and attempted to ‘work out a problem’ in Christian Science for several years with the help of various practitioners. One visit to a family practice doctor who prescribed medication and lifestyle suggestions finally cured the problem once and for all. That was enough for me. During this period, I watched my practitioner mother treat her malignant melanoma through radical reliance on Christian Science…and die. To watch this happen, to know what was coming, to attempt to care for her without causing her to believe that my unbelief was hindering her healing, was pure torture. By the time she died, after lying six days in a coma in her home with just her immediate family caring for her (after a Christian Science nurse disappeared without a word), I hated Christian Science with a white-hot passion. Every remaining family member still in Christian Science had seen enough at that point. My mother, the strongest Christian Scientist in the family, had not been able to ‘prove’ that matter was unreal, or that there was no sensation in matter, or that pain and sickness were illusions. Every supposed healing we had had in our family up until that point was easily explained as natural bodily healing…because the body really is quite as remarkable as it is REAL. And there were many other healings that had never come at all. We all stopped pretending and faced life. We embraced humanity. And my sibling and I were traumatized and would face years of undoing the damage Christian Science had done in our lives.

Why would anyone join?

I don’t know why both of my mother’s grandmothers joined Christian Science. I can imagine the appeal back then though, in the early days of the movement, more than I can understand it now. In the nineteenth century, there was much that could not be understood about the human body and the process of illness, and much that could not be fixed medically. Today, I suppose people are attracted to the promise of goodness and light and freedom from pain and suffering. Christian Science is an illusion though. All is not perfect or good, and practitioners cannot metaphysically obliterate the very real disease processes or other ills of humanity. When mortals are confronted with unpleasant reality and turn to it for relief, Christian Science does not deliver in any way.

Did you really believe? 

I think I really believed in the lessons I was taught in Sunday School and at home when I was very young. But by the time I was in middle school, I could easily see that not all of the testimonies my mother told in church on Wednesday evenings were accurate. It wasn’t hard to see either, that my supposedly ‘healed’ stomach virus lasted the same 24 hours as my best friend’s and caused the same symptoms. It wasn’t hard to see that my non-Christian Scientist friend got relief from her sore throats and headaches by turning to her pediatrician and her medicine cabinet, and I just suffered until my body healed itself. By the time I was in my late teens, I could also see that, despite my usually happy childhood, I suffered way more from health-related anxiety and phobias than my friends; and I do to this day.


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

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


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was raised in Christian Science. My dad’s mother converted around the time he was born, from what I understand. My mom’s maternal grandmother was the convert on that side. My parents met at their Association.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I stayed until I was about 24. I felt a lot of pressure from my family, especially my maternal grandmother, to be in Christian Science. She took me to Summer Session at Principia College a couple of times while I was in high school. I fell in love with the campus and didn’t apply anywhere else. I met my first husband when he came to visit a roommate of mine at Prin. He and I made the decision together to leave Christian Science a couple of years after I graduated, when we mutually realized we were just going through the motions of attending church.

What made you decide to leave?

My then-husband and I decided that the fact that we were dragging ourselves to services and falling asleep during the readings meant that we really didn’t want to be there. After that, we had a few discussions about our developing understandings of spirituality, but went in different directions. I slowly came to realize that I had never really had faith in Christian Science or God, but I had viewed it as an intellectual challenge. I thought that it was a method to empirically understand God. Once I realized this was false, I became atheist.

Why would anyone join?

I honestly never understood this. I was so mystified by Christian Science theology, even while I was in it, I never saw what would attract someone to it.

Did you really believe? 

I believed that there must be something to it because everyone at church was so sincere and intelligent. I believed that I just hadn’t figured it out yet, that my Sunday School teachers knew something I didn’t. I didn’t see any healings or have any other experiences that made me have faith in Christian Science.


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