Unashamed ExCS

By m.rose, submitted via email. m.rose is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


I am a former student of Principia. I was raised in Christian Science my whole life, and my mom is one of the most respected CS nurses in New England. My father attended Principia College, but later left Christian Science. At the time I was graduating high school, he had lost his job, and told me Prin was the only affordable option because of the scholarships I received. After moving around and attending 4 different highs schools, part of me was relieved that I would be with people I knew–so I was obedient.

Early on in my freshman year, I went through an experience that would now be labeled as date-rape. I swept it under the rug until several people urged me to come forward. I waited until school ended that year, because I didn’t want negative visibility for me or the gentlemen involved.

That summer I attempted to process what had occurred, but after struggling from depression off and on throughout my life, I quickly fell into a dark place. The guy I had accused said many hurtful things to me, but when he called me a cunt, it completely broke my heart.

I started seeing a therapist and taking prescription anti-depressants. I was not planning on returning to Prin, but at the time it was my only option. The dean of students treated me like a heroine addict, and took my medication away from me. For a while, the resident counselor (with absolutely no medical background) was doling the pills out to me at night. Eventually the school told me I needed to stop taking them or leave.

Soon I fell into the adverse effects of withdrawal, far worse than anything I have ever experienced. The mental anguish was as painful as being stabbed. The dean of students told me I needed to go on medical leave, but it was a contentious time in my family and I felt I had nowhere to go. Eventually I tried to overdose on the sleeping pills I hid from the school. My roommate found me unconscious and called the school nurse. Luckily, after hours, I woke up. No one had called an ambulance, and no medical attention was given. It frightens me to think of how easily I things could’ve gone the other way—and I wonder why I wasn’t worth a 911 call.

I left at the end of the semester after the dean of students met with me and my father and told us that I could come back the next semester, without needing to reapply, and that my scholarship would still be in place.

I did as she said, but I was never admitted back into Prin, and was told I wasn’t allowed on campus. No reason was provided.

I remember the dean of students (at Principia) asking me to be more realistic when I said I might want to apply to a school like Boston College or Northeastern. I currently attend Northeastern University and work full-time in marketing. I am up for a second promotion, despite not having my bachelors yet.

Recently I met up with that same roommate, in NYC, when we were both visiting family, and we got into the topic of the school now allowing students to take medication. I became upset and said “well, where’s my apology”?! She told me it was my fault for attending the school, and that I just blame everyone else for my problems. It is this kind of ignorance and judgement of those who take medication, that make it really hard for me to be around Christian Scientists. What happened at Prin was deeply painful, but I suspect me not being CS made me unworthy of compassion.

I returned to work that Monday, feeling totally defeated, only to find I had been promoted to a full time employee “for far exceeding the expectations for an intern, and for an incredible work ethic.” Interesting that they left out my characteristic lack of accountability.

I don’t drink or do drugs, but I take medication every day for allergies, Birth control, etc. I don’t identify with any theology, but I am passionately vegan and advocate compassion for all living beings. In the eyes of Christian Science and Principia, I am morally inferior. In the eyes of everyone else, I am someone deserving of respect.

You know, it’s funny that I eventually got a heartfelt apology from the guy who assaulted me, but I never got a word of remorse from the school that almost killed me.

Rachel’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

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


I was a fifth generation Christian Scientist. Having grown up in a family involved with Christian Science for multiple generations, I can see patterns now, passed down through family stories; patterns from the very first family members to join Christian Science. The things that happened to me in my childhood were probably going to happen to me regardless. But the incidents would not have been handled in the manner that they were if not for the fact that our family were Christian Scientists.

I was sick so much as a kid with diseases I was not vaccinated against. I had every kind of measles that you can have, and the mumps. The ear infections were horrible and one of my most prominent memories of childhood. I don’t think my mom knew what an ear infection was. My dad did insist that I have the polio vaccine—I’m so grateful for that. And no one ever made me feel guilty for being sick, or berated me. Christian Science taught me how to do that all by myself. Continue reading “Rachel’s Story”

“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.

The Church of the Pancake & other paths away from Christian Science

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science Group about religious choices after Christian Science.

I had the pleasure of attending an atheist church on Sunday. I was dying of curiosity, so I went. It turned out to be really fun, interesting, and full of normal people, not cult-y weirdos as I’d feared. It’s called ‘Sunday Assembly’. Here was the highlight for me. I think it will resonate with this ex-Christian Scientist group. One of the speakers was a former Mormon, and he told this story: having recently left the LDS church, one morning he couldn’t start his truck. Immediately his well-trained brain starts its usual convoluted path: “Why is this happening? What did I do to make this happen? What is God trying to show me with this? What lesson am I meant to learn from this?” etc etc etc. And then he realized all he really had to do was call a mechanic!

-Hilary


It has taken me a long time to get where I am, and that is someone who prays twice a day but also went to the Mayo Clinic for surgery a few years ago, with the support of my formerly Christian Scientist family. My cousin is the son of a dead Christian Science practitioner and is now in the Episcopal Clergy. He believes in both.

– Katie J.


Churches are great. I love the history, community, music, preaching. I love the work that they can get done serving the poor and creating community. So I have loads of respect for that. But I haven’t joined any. They all come with uncomfortable baggage I don’t feel like dealing with at the end of the day.

I want more than anything to be reunited with loved ones after death, and for there to be some kind of greater justice for all of the suffering in the world. My volunteer work with asylum seekers makes me wish this so deeply sometimes. But to me, God seems unlikely. The fact that I can’t comprehend the size of the universe is more likely an expression of my limited perspective than proof of a deity.

– Jenny


When I began to go to the Episcopal church I was amazed at the tolerance within the congregation. I asked the priest if the church would have problems with a former Christian Scientist within its ranks, because most people there regard Christian Science as a cult. He said he didn’t think so, that my views would just add a richness to the discussion. Later I realized that eighty percent of the churchgoers were from other Christian religions—Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. No one looks down on anyone. They all just support each other and don’t judge whether one is ‘good Episcopalian’ or not. They expect people not to be perfect, hence they cut them some slack.

The priest told me that the general attitude of the religion is that followers probably should do the elements of the faith like confession and communion and that that many will do them but that no body must do anything. It seemed to me more of a cafeteria than an all-or-nothing approach, and at present that suits me better. Do I understand all the theology? Nope. Do I worry about it? Nope. I enjoy the community, the general caring of the people toward each other, and the tremendous outreach they have in the community. There seems to be something for everybody at the church. So I guess I’m feeling my way. Attending has been an eye opener.

– Anonymous

I decided it was a totally toxic, dangerous mindset

By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.


I was born into a Christian Science home, but I began to have serious doubts after my mother died of untreated cancer when I was in my teens. I went to Principia College after that, and was further disturbed by the lack of empathy and negligence of the Principia administration in handling injury and illness on campus. By my senior year, I knew I hated Christian Science.

I spent a few years trying to be open-minded, and telling myself, “Maybe it is true, but I just don’t care. I don’t want the stress. I am cool with being mortal.” Then, after I had a big struggle convincing my Christian Science husband to get medical care for a serious illness, I decided it was a totally toxic, dangerous mindset. That was about ten years ago, but I’m still trying to get rid of the weird Christian Science stuff from my brain and work through how I feel about my parents’ well-meaning neglect. I think that is going to take a while.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

I felt God’s hand was in everything that unfolded for me. I couldn’t take a step without praying about it, and all right decisions, activity, or relationships would have the appearance that fit perfectly with the moral, spiritual, and generally white-bread codes dictated by Christian Science.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them as heading in the wrong direction or being wrong. ’Reality’ in the human material world had to fall within the Christian Science parameters or it wasn’t real or wouldn’t contribute to spiritual progress in the Scientific plane of existence. When you are born into a cult like this it is not your fault. But it is hard to think differently. Christian Science programs thought at such a primal level.

I was hardcore for about forty-five to fifty years. My greatest sadness now, is that I brought my children up in Christian Science. My kids wised up before I did. My husband is not a Christian Scientist and has been very patient for over thirty years. But I had such a strong family influence growing up—third generation on both sides. And I didn’t really feel free to decide for myself until after my mother’s death. Now, I feel like I was let out of my cage. But daily, I have to give myself permission to think whatever I like.

So many Christian Scientists mimic each other. It really is a cult, as dangerous as the Jim Jones thing. I believe there is mind control going on. I never realized it before but that has to be how practitioners work. They kind of mentally rearrange your furniture upstairs.

I can just sit here and think it all better

By Heidi, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I just spent eleven days alone in the remotest parts of Big Bend National Park on a research project, and in my down time, I was reading ‘Fingerprints of God’ because while I am agnostic, I think there’s an awful lot of coincidence out there. It has been an interesting read.

I am really struggling at the moment. Prayer used to be a quiet, normal thing, a few conversations a day in my head, where I neatly tucked my fears and doubts and then went on to face the world with confidence. I really can’t quite talk to my husband about Christian Science. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to be raised in Christian Science; he was raised Baptist. So while he has ditched religion entirely, and he can pick apart a sermon with the best of them, it’s MY religion that he doesn’t know, but is picking at.

On top of a 200 foot mesa, with little more than a day pack, water, park radio (incoming stuff heard, outgoing calls apparently not going through) and a little GPS spot unit to save my ass in case of emergency, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh, cry, pray, curse, be comforted, or just say f*ck it and let park staff come find me. I am in over my head, I am surviving and learning, but I no longer have the convenient Christian Science ‘logic’ to compartmentalize my otherwise rational fears. ‘Chemicalization of thought,’ my ass.

Right now, I have a massive sinus infection which is going untreated other than cough syrup and a decongestant. I hope to change that tomorrow. I live in a place with zero cell service, so calling from home is out. I need to drive three miles to get a signal to call to make appointments. Bottom line, no wonder Christian Science is appealing: I don’t have to lift a finger, a phone, call a doctor or pharmacist. I can just sit here and think it all better. And if you trick yourself successfully, you’ll do it again next time. Odd epiphany, that.

A friend of mine pointed out that in lieu of prayer, I procrastinate. And then he pointed out that it is essentially the same thing: waiting for something, anything—’the right thing’—to happen. I was very upset by the conversation.

I don’t want to keep praying about something when a simple trip to the doctor will give things context. I don’t want to dismiss my own life’s experiences as unreal because this is the only life that I have. I am not willing to suffer years of discomfort because I was simply too afraid to go ask a professional whose life’s goal is to understand the human body. I’m done with fear. I’m OK with calculated risk. I will not endorse guilt due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control. We should each live our own lives according to our consciences and leave everyone else the hell out of it. Thus, I am never stepping foot into a Christian Science church ever again. It is a soulless, cold religion. A few gems of insight are not worth the whole package.

A Reflection of Perfection

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I was raised in Christian Science in Canada. We were a rare species! I was a fourth generation Christian Scientist. I recalled this morning, after 38 years, a Sunday school lesson when I was about four years old. In the lesson, the very old teacher explained to me that I was like the reflection from a diamond ring— a reflection of perfection, but not actually there. I feel like I understand the source of a lot of grief over the years now. What a thing to say to a preschooler.

The root cause of many of my problems is the brainwashing I received as a child, and that’s something that I have to remind myself of constantly. I was lucky that I never had to face any serious illnesses as a child. Consequently, I don’t think I really understood radical reliance, although I guess that is what it was. As an adult, it just increasingly became clear to me that I couldn’t measure up to the impossible standards set by the religion. Then I did get sick, and that was the end of it for me. But I think the legacy of constant failure in Christian Science was the thing that hurt me the most as a child. It continues to haunt me as an adult because I often feel that I’m not trying hard enough, not working hard enough–just not enough.

As I was thinking about leaving the religion, I had been living with undiagnosed adult onset asthma for about a year. I was blue for that entire year—I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs. Yet, I kept praying–waiting for my ‘thought to clear.’ My first puff of a rescue inhaler convinced me to leave Christian Science. The little blue inhaler that allowed me to function was a revelation, as was the fact that the doctor I saw was so matter-of-fact about it. It was the first time in my life that someone had acknowledged an ailment, and did not expect me to feel like I had brought it on myself for some unknown infraction.

The guilt that Christian Science requires children to live with is soul-destroying. Even without the physical effects, this guilt and fear becomes so often the defining feature of the person raised in Christian Science. And how to fight these things remains elusive to me. After a pretty trying week at work a couple of weeks ago, I told several people that I’d ‘given myself a migraine.’ I couldn’t just accept that it had been a particularly horrible week and that I was tired and stressed. Somehow, it had to be my own fault.

I’ve had many therapists over the years—my least favorite was the therapist who told me to wear an elastic band and just snap myself with it every time I felt bad about myself. I asked her if I could stop when the bone started to show. But the one I have now—wow. She just gets it. Christian Science is so weird that I think she has been intrigued and considers me a special challenge. She was the first person to make it clear to me that Christian Science and I weren’t the same thing. Also, she thinks Mary Baker Eddy was psychotic, and that consequently Christian Science attempts to replicate psychotic boundary-less thinking. But it has taken me a while to find someone like this.

I would encourage anyone who is comfortable with the process to talk to a therapist about Christian Science–and to keep looking until you find one who is willing and able to do the work to help you. A dispassionate listener who can see the damage, and help you to see it too, is unbelievably important; as is the understanding that the psychological mind games of Christian Science are, for many people, a form of religious abuse.

I’m a recovering Christian Scientist: Lilly’s Thoughts

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

I’m a recovering Christian Scientist. There are many layers to shed, and I am thankful it is finally taking place, but sometimes it is so easy to slip back to my C.S. way of thinking, which includes lots of guilt, fear, denial and shame.

Christian Science taught me to keep every problem, every negative thought or feeling or sickness, quiet and hidden. This has resulted in years of hidden shame, guilt and a bad case of perfectionism mixed with high anxiety. So I’m ready to move on and finally enter reality.

Having kids has definitely been a huge wake-up call for me. I want them to feel safe and listened to when they have fears or pain. I never, ever want them to feel ashamed for feeling a certain way. I’m so glad that they have a chance at deciding early on what they want to believe.