My thoughts on Father’s Day…

This originally appeared on Emerging Gently, and is re-published here–with some edits, with permission.


A few years ago on Father’s Day, I shared a picture of my Dad on my Facebook timeline. Unlike many other pictures that people share of their fathers on Father’s Day, I don’t share the camera space with him in this picture: my cousin does. It was taken during a visit she and her husband had with him the summer before he died. It is also the last known picture that was ever taken of Dad. He died later that same year on Christmas Day. I’ve looked at this picture often. Even now, nearly seven years after his death, it still brings a tear to my eye.

I look at his face and remember how it felt to hug him. I hear his voice, a kind voice that carried so much wisdom. Yes, I miss him, I always will. The grieving has long passed, and I go on with my life without him and Mom, but I never stop missing them. I’ve been told you never do, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It keeps them alive in your heart.

My thoughts turn to a conversation I had last week with a friend as we were driving back home from a camping trip. It was a long drive, so we dived deep into a lot of topics, and the discussion eventually turned to religion. We’re both what you’d call ‘spiritual, not religious’. We both attend First Nations/Native American ceremonies and follow that spirituality. I told him the whole story about my parents’ deaths–he knew some of the story, but not the Christian Science back-story–I haven’t shared that very much with my current circle of friends. It came out through the conversation that I have moved into a stage with my whole process of dealing with my parents’ deaths of very deep anger. I hate what Christian Science made my parents do to themselves in their latter years. No, they didn’t die young (Mom was 81, Dad was 79), but it was the fact that they suffered needless physical pain (in Mom’s case it was extreme), and discomfort (Dad lived for around seven years with untreated heart failure).

Each and every day, they prayed for a healing in Christian Science. They paid hundreds of dollars to Christian Science practitioners, and in Mom’s latter days, thousands of dollars to a Christian Science nursing facility where she languished in the most unimaginable pain. Yes, I seethe with anger over how their last days were thanks to their unwavering adherence to Christian Science. It promised them healing, it gave them painful deaths. They chased the elusive healing like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow–it was always ‘just around the corner’; but, they never could get around that corner.

I see, through the stories told in the ex-Christian Scientist Facebook groups I’m in, of horrific ways lives have been damaged thanks to Christian Science. People who, as children, were scolded simply for being sick, for instance. Or, in a more extreme example, my friend Liz Heywood, who ultimately lost a leg due to a bone infection that was “treated” with a Christian Science “treatment”. This condition could have been routinely treated with antibiotics if her parents had simply taken her to the doctor, and the disease would have just been a footnote in her childhood memories. My anger is also kindled at the recent news that someone I knew from my college days at Principia died at the ripe old age of 43. Now, I don’t know if this person was still an actively practicing Christian Scientist, but there have been many deaths of Principia graduates far before their time.

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”
~Christopher Hitchens

Yes, I hate Christian Science, and I hate what it’s done to my family, and so many others. It promises everything, and delivers little to nothing. It’s nothing more than an opiate for desperate minds. Christian Science asserts that it can heal anything, yet offers little credible evidence that it can; so, to follow on Mr. Hitchens’s thought, it can also be summarily dismissed. However, I can trot out plenty of irrefutable evidence that it absolutely cannot heal anything, and it causes people to suffer needlessly and in many cases die far too young. It is one of the most refined forms of delusional thinking there is. So, I do not dismiss it without evidence. Quite the opposite–I have seen plenty of evidence that Christian Science can’t heal anything.

Why would anyone join? My Father’s Story

Originally published on kindism.org, reprinted with permission in honor of Father’s Day.


A little while back I ran my piece on the five questions I’m commonly asked by people when they find out I was raised in Christian Science. I wanted to go back and elaborate on question four:  

Why would anyone join?

Christian Science promises amazing results. Committee on Publications bloggers regularly run articles about healthcare and quantum physics that make Christian Science appear to be a viable alternative to modern medicine and scientific.

The Committee on Publication did not always have bloggers; in previous years they’ve relied heavily on the Church’s publishing house to churn out vast quantities of literature: The Sentinel, The JournalThe HeraldThe Christian Science Monitor (formerly a well-respected daily newspaper), and other various pamphlets that was regularly distributed wherever free literature could be left, hairdressers, laundromats, airports, waiting rooms, etc. Branch churches had ‘literature distribution committees’ where little old ladies would dole out piles of lit to people to spread the word.

Most Christian Scientists are white, educated, middle-class  Americans. Christian Science appeals to a pseudo-intellectualism: Christian Scientists are smart enough to read and understand Ms. Eddy’s works. Christian Scientists understand the True nature of God and the Universe. The weekly Bible lessons contain topics such as Is the Universe and Man Evolved from Atomic Force?

There is also the added layer of mystical spiritualism and Biblical prophecy, which appeals to those seeking Higher Truths and Deeper Meaning. In his work, Christian Science, Mark Twain quotes one of Ms. Eddy’s students explaining this:

“We consciously declare that Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, was foretold, as well as its author, Mary Baker Eddy, in Revelation x. She is the ‘mighty angel,’ or God’s highest thought to this age (verse 1), giving us the spiritual interpretation of the Bible in the ‘little book open’ (verse 2). Thus we prove that Christian Science is the second coming of Christ-Truth-Spirit.”—Lecture by Dr. George Tomkins, D.D. C.S.

These methods, appealing to higher intellect, promising higher truths, deeper meaning, secret knowledge, are marketing and mind control techniques (for more on that see Dr. Linda Kramer’ YouTube talk).

So why would anyone join?

I can not answer that, but I can relate the story of  my father’s conversion, as I have pieced it together from stories he told me from his childhood and adventurous past.

My father was born in the 1930s and grew up in the deep south. He had well off middle class parents, and although they were not Catholic, he and his younger brother were educated in private Catholic Schools. My father never really mentioned religion playing a role in his childhood, from what I’ve gathered they were generically protestant, if church played any role it was likely for social gatherings.

In college, my father joined the ROTC and, shortly there after, the Army in Officer Training. World War 2 was coming to an end and the Cold and Korean Wars were getting started. My father ended up on the front of the Cold War in Europe. There was quite a lot of stress and uncertainty, I think it was around this time heavy drinking and smoking became part of his regular routine.

After a stint in the army, my father moved back to the south, joined the Freemasons, seeking, in part fraternity, answers to the larger mysteries of the Universe, and self-betterment. He began a high stress and physically demanding career. After a few years, he moved into a management desk-job and the stress (and heavy drinking and smoking) continued.

It was around this time my father started having vague health issues, sleeping poorly, feeling generally unwell, hearing random telephones ringing in the middle of the road (in the days before cell phones everywhere), etc. As he told the story, he visited his doctor who found “nothing wrong” (it was the mid-1960s) and recommended he “talk to his priest” because clearly he was spiritually troubled. My father’s priest was no more helpful than his doctor.

With the priest and doctor both pointing the finger at the other and neither being able to assist with his ailments, my father decided there had to be another solution. I don’t know the exact time line, but I know my father attended some Dale Carnegie courses, read widely (he was quite inspired by Pierre Lecomte du NoüyRichard Bach, and various others) and actively sought ways to better himself and explain the questions of the universe. Somewhere along the way he came across Christian Science.

I don’t know how my father came across a copy of Science and Health, but apparently he was reading it on a trans-Atlantic flight (while having a stiff drink), and he put down his drink and “never had a drink again” — I know that’s not true, he did have the occasional something every now and then, but never to the excess of his pre-Christian Science days.

From that day in the late 1960s onward, my father became a Christian Scientist. With his nasty (and expensive) habits of drinking and smoking behind him, his health improved. He went through Class Instruction in 1970. He was an active church member, teaching Sunday School, heading up the Christian Science Org at the local university, bringing people into the fold, and providing mentoring and guidance.

My father’s drinking was replaced by a different habit: every year he (and my mother) would fly to the East Coast for his Christian Science Association. Regardless of how tight money was, or how busy their children’s lives were, everything would stop and they would go for the weekend. My sister and I used to go with them, but as we got older (and “school started earlier”) we were foisted off on friends for the weekend, until we were finally old enough to be trusted to be home alone. More than one trip to association was a “demonstration of supply” as airline miles, credit card points, and great hotel deals unfolded.

On the more practical front, he’d needed glasses since his high school days (possibly sooner), so he continued with his regular eye appointments. Routine dental work was also something he continued with — he had several bothersome teeth, but visiting doctors ceased to be something he did.

Perhaps the memories of 1930s medicine kept him away, or the doctor’s inability to figure out what was wrong with him, but doctors were no longer part of his life, to my father’s credit he never ranted about or disparaged them the way my mother did. When he was checked into the hospital after his first stroke and congestive heart failure (in his early 70s), he made it quite clear he’d been “in Christian Science longer than [they] had been alive!” — 30+ years, and as long as you have good health (or are totally ignorant of underlying problems), Christian Science works great.

There are many reasons people join religious movements. Why did my father join Christian Science? I don’t know for sure, perhaps it was the intellectual self-betterment angle, the promise of deeper knowledge, or the failures of his priest and doctor to tell him to stop drinking and smoking and get his life together.

I did tell my father I had left Christian Science; we were sitting in the car one evening, and I explained I was not going to raise the children in Christian Science. Partially paralyzed by stokes, my father teared up, squeezed my hand and told me “you got to do what you got to do, goddamn it.” My father wanted to better his life, he saw Christian Science as a way to do that. I see my path away from Christian Science as a way of doing that as well. I think he understood.

My mother is still waiting for us to come back to church…

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.


My family was introduced to Christian Science when my mom’s uncle was in the hospital and was not expected to live—I’m not sure from what. Someone said they should try Christian Science. He got better and lived a long life. There were about twelve siblings in the family and there may only be one or two of the descendants that are still Christian Scientists. One of them is my mom.

The statistics show that approximately 1/3 of each generation stays in Christian Science. Looking at my family, and many of my Principia friends and their children, it is more like 1/4 or less that have stayed in the religion. Thank goodness, because it is difficult to deal with Christian Scientist relatives since you aren’t able to reason with them! On a related note, my mom didn’t allow my father’s brother and sister who were not Christian Scientists to come visit him while he was ill. They never got to see him again and say good-bye to him. To me, that is so cruel.

My mother is still waiting for my sister and me and all our children to come back to church. She thinks we will come to our senses eventually. I’d like to tell her we came to our senses when we left Christian Science. When I finally told my mom what I really thought about Christian Science, she was deeply hurt and upset by my rejection of my religious upbringing. She still tries to tell me about all our wonderful ‘healings’.

Our parents might not feel that it’s better for them to know how we feel, but it is definitively better for us. It’s not good for us to have to pretend that Christian Science is ‘the truth’ around them. It is healing to finally say what is really true in this human existence. In the end, being honest and seeking physical and mental help is a much better alternative to ‘CS BS’.

I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids through the same crap I went through

This is Part 2 of a series of posts by Sharon, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
Sharon's Story Header

People in our church with problems were condemned behind their backs as someone who ‘needed to straighten out their thinking.’ Ill members who disappeared out of their regular pews were ignored and never talked about again. One couple who let their daughter die of a ruptured appendix came to church the next Sunday as if nothing had happened and no one said a word about her.  It was as if she never existed.

My mother was never very sympathetic towards anyone’s illness or plain bad luck. She preached her great love, but her constant statement was ‘there certainly is something wrong with their thinking!’ Then she got old and had to use a walker, and I remember she wouldn’t go to church because of the walker.

I told her that there actually are churches where people would bring you a casserole when you had trouble like that, but of course, not the Christian Science church. To even look at someone who needed a walker or was infirm in some way was paying attention to Error; you were just to turn away and deny you saw anything. Continue reading “I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids through the same crap I went through”

Conversations can be very strained when we get together.

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Scientist collective about the impact Christian Science has had on relationships.

 

I definitely relate to the many families who have been torn apart by Christian Science. My sister and I lost our mother to this thing. She is slowly dying of an undiagnosed illness, but won’t get help, because of course an actual physical healing isn’t the real goal, right? It’s about achieving some kind of spiritual I-don’t-know-what! My older sister got the brunt of the care-taking, unfortunately. The selfishness is frustrating and so unfair. Everything has to stop to revolve around our mother’s incomprehensible devotion to this cult, which has destroyed our family and countless others. But my sister and I were recently able to speak to each other openly for the first time in our lives about how Christian Science affected our family and our feelings about it, and it was very—for lack of a better term—healing.

– Hilary


Three of my five siblings are still very deep into Christian Science, with the annual Association trips, being ‘class taught’, and all taking their turns as branch church Readers very seriously. Conversations can be very strained when we get together. I walk a thin line of not wanting to upset them and wanting to roll my eyes at their Christian Science-talk, and sometimes I have to get up and leave before I just blow up. I love them and want to shake them at the same time. I just cannot stand watching the lengths of their denial of reality.

– Anonymous



Within my family, just my parents and I were Christian Scientists. The aunts, uncles and cousins all thought we were nuts. I was in hard-core, including Class Instruction, until age 21. Then began the double life for eight or nine years during which time I was married and divorced. I took the opportunity of re-marriage and moving away to sever ties with Christian Science. That was twenty years ago. If it weren’t for my aging Christian Scientist parents, I wouldn’t even think about Christian Science anymore. But going through their health issues with them as their only child has brought all the anger and resentment to the surface. I’m glad to have this group who gets it.

– Abigail


I was spared a lot of Christian Science crazy growing up because my mother was quick to take us to the pediatrician if there was a problem, and I’m very grateful for that. However, my siblings did not respond in kind. When my mom died many years ago, I was the one that found her near death. She’d had a massive stroke, and I called 911—I didn’t know where to begin to deal with the horror. Later, at the hospital, she officially passed on, and my Christian Scientist brother told me, “Our mother might still be alive if you hadn’t called 911.” That’s the kind of BS I had to put up with to stay part of the family. When I started calling them on this insanity, that’s when I was officially and permanently shunned.

– Anne


My father got desperate with his asthma once, and tried Christian Science—mostly to save his marriage. A practitioner arrived and I could feel the tension: would Christian Science work? Not at all, despite repeated practitioner visits. And the practitioner was a really weird person who caused more division within the family. Horrid times.

I can also remember arriving at a testimony meeting with my mother, and as I sat down, I was surprised to see my father at the service. Both experiences made me feel like I was on the Christian Science side and he was trying to join ‘our world’. I felt awful that I could not be with him in his world. Years later, church members told my mother that my father had visited his local reading room, as though it was a good thing. In actuality, he ‘visited’ in order to return all the Christian Science books he had ever owned!

– Anonymous