Five Questions – Principia Edition – M’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences. 


1) Why did you attend Principia?

[Principia College] gave me a good scholarship and the place felt very comfortable. It had a homey atmosphere. Visiting weekend was fun, and I felt better attending a school I had actually seen. I had plenty of qualms about the school, but it was affordable and nice.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

Yes. I was a devout Christian Scientist throughout and in the years following Prin. I attributed my disagreements with the numerous people there and the institution itself to a misinterpretation of Christian Science, which I considered a personal religion. I didn’t think it could be regulated in the way the school tried to do. I felt as though it was an intolerant, harmful, and in some cases illegal means of practicing the religion, and I had a hard time reconciling how so many Christian Scientists, who were supposedly praying to God for guidance, could get the wrong answer from God so many times. I also struggled with what I felt to be true and what I thought should be true according to Christian Science.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

I don’t think I’d redo my time there because I learned so much about the way the world works. It was a microcosm of bureaucracy and mundane evil. Counterintuitively, I might be more naive if I had gone to a more “worldly” college. I met a few great people who are still good friends. We went through a lot together. Maybe I would have had a more ordinary and “better” experience elsewhere, but I’m trying to accept that my weird background is part of who I am. And I do think I got a good education there. I really liked my professors and the place was beautiful with nice facilities.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

This is a hard question. I don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone. It is not a healthy place. A few years ago I might have said yes. There are some amazing opportunities, and many people treasured their time there. But I’m no longer a Christian Scientist and I’ve seen its dark side and seclusion from the world.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

There are so many of both. One of my best experiences [at the College] was an abroad program to England. It, as well as a field study program to the Southern United States, was magical.

Perhaps my most memorable bad experience was when I tried to report a student for harassment and the school proceeded to make everyone involved, except the perpetrator, feel guilty. Many institutions deal abominably with this sort of thing, and in this case there was a special Christian Science brand of victim blaming.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – H’s answers


Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

“Good” grants and scholarship combinations made it appear affordable (which it was not, in either case). The small, quiet campus was a promising break from an overcrowded high school experience and I didn’t want to face thousands of new faces who were likely to be drinking or otherwise more rowdy than I wanted to handle.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

Yes – knowing that a lot of students who attended Prin left CS after, I thought it was a shame that Prin turned so many people off of the religion. In hindsight, their draconian policies were probably helpful in highlighting the absurdity of the religion as a whole. One regret was that while I felt like a “bad” CS at Prin, I got more into CS after leaving. I did gradually ease away from the religion a few years after leaving Prin, though.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

Yes – I would take it less seriously, but the friends and the campus made it worthwhile: I would have gone under at a larger school and Prin was a comfortable size.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

No – a similar experience can probably be found elsewhere with less baggage.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive…………………..

Negative – total lack of confidentiality when dealing with RCs; nosy RCs who would shame single students for not having a boyfriend but would hound students who were dating, assuring them that if anything was amiss/a violation of the code, they’d be caught.

Positive – maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, but some of the friendships forged there have been remarkable.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – C’s answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

I had several reasons for attending Principia College. My grandmother took me to Summer Session twice during my high school years and I fell in love with the campus. I was still fighting hard to understand and believe Christian Science at that point in my life because my family expected it of me. I thought being surrounded by a community of practicing Christian Scientists would help me understand. The largest reason was that I wanted to get away from my emotionally abusive father.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

They did, to some extent. I was initially surprised at the strong pressure from the young men there to be sexually involved. I guess I had somehow thought CS guys would be above that. I was blissfully unaware of some of the hypocritical things that went on around campus, but just knowing that so many of my peers were not living up to the “moral standards” changed my views a bit.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

This is so hard to answer. I regret sinking myself so far into debt for undergrad school. I regret being in a department (art history) that had so little concentration on helping students be ready for employment or grad school. I do not regret getting away from home. I love so many of the friends I made at Prin. I was fortunate to miss any serious medical events like a measles epidemic (although I was there for the flood of ’93). I can’t go back and change my decision, and it’s really hard to imagine choosing anything different. Going to Summer Session made me want to be there. I didn’t even apply to any other colleges. I would like to change that part, but I loved being at Prin most of the time, so overall, I don’t regret it.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

Only if they can do it without going deep into debt. I generally would recommend a less expensive school for undergrad. I would also warn them not to expect a bunch of perfect Christian Scientists.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive experience: I made some wonderful friends during my time at Principia, some of whom are still close. I learned a lot about dealing with different personality types, too.

Negative experience: I got pregnant the first time I ever had sex, but I had no idea. My first time happened on the last day of my freshman year at Principia College. My boyfriend and I had been skirting the edges of intercourse for some time, and we both wanted to have sex before we parted for the summer. We didn’t use any form of birth control. Unlike some CS parents, mine had allowed me to attend health and science classes all through my years in public schools, so I wasn’t entirely ignorant on these matters, but I had a vague belief that my case of chicken pox at the age of 16 had rendered me infertile. I have no idea what his reasoning was; we didn’t discuss it. I was embarrassed enough without trying to ask him if he had a condom.

The reason I didn’t know I was pregnant was that I had periods pretty much as normal during that summer. The pregnancy was probably abnormal—tubal, perhaps. My boyfriend and I both arrived back on campus early that fall. He was on his House Board and I was on a sports team. At our earliest opportunity, we had sex again. I went back to my dorm to clean up and noticed that I had started to bleed. I called him with my concern, but he simply said something reassuring—I don’t remember exactly what it was. That evening, he went to St. Louis for an event. I stayed alone in my dorm room.

I bled heavily and began to notice bits of solid material included in the blood. It didn’t occur to me at first that it was a miscarriage because I had been having my period. I think I briefly realized it later on as I continued to bleed into the night, but it didn’t sink in until a couple years later. Eventually, I passed out on my bed. I woke up to blood soaked through my clothes and into the mattress. I realized my roommates would ask questions if they saw it and flipped my mattress.

It never seemed like a real option to go to Cox Cottage. I was alone and scared, but didn’t dare ask for help because I knew I would face condemnation if someone figured out what had happened. I think I also realized that I was unlikely to get any real help at Cox Cottage. That night was one of the scariest of my life.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – B’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


Why did you attend Principia? 

I applied to Principia College because it was recommended by my brother (who had attended the Upper School) and other people in our local Christian Science community.

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science? 

I was a fully believing Christian Scientist when I started at Principia, and I was still a true believer when I finished. If I had attended a different college or university I probably would have become a more critical thinker and developed doubts about Christian Science.

If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? … 

No. Looking back, I realize that Principia did little to prepare me for life in the real world. Principia is a sheltered experience that is not helpful for developing maturity and independence.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist? 

Young Christian Scientists would do well to avoid Principia College (unless your intention is a career within the Christian Science community). If you are interested in science or engineering, be aware that physics at Principia is taught with a metaphysical slant that will not be regarded well by graduate programs. If you are interested in a career in wildlife management or ecology, be aware that Principia’s limited biology curriculum is weak in the areas of microbiology, biochemistry, and anything to do with pathologies (all of which are essential for a field biologist).

And by the way, you should know that Principia is puritanical on the matter of sex. Principia urges students to “strive for dominion over all claims of sensuality.” You can be expelled for premarital sexual activity.

Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college. 

Principia’s no-cut policy made it possible for me to play an intercollegiate sport, which I probably would not have been allowed to do at some other school. I was a mediocre player and spent most of the time on the bench, but it was nice to have the opportunity.

On the negative side, I was disciplined twice for free speech. One incident involved the campus newspaper, the Principia Pilot. We published a satirical issue and the administration was not amused. We were ordered to report to the Dean of Faculty, who reprimanded us and demanded that we recover and destroy all the copies we could find. Principia College has low tolerance for expression of diverse views.

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 a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I first heard a talk by a Christian Science woman when I was in high school. Various religions were represented by speakers at my local Congregnational Church youth group.  We youth talked about Christian Science for a long time–we were fascinated by the idea of what we thought was that, after death, people ‘turn into little Gods’.

I had brief various contacts as an adult–when I had a troubled marriage, I went to a reading room–twice; but could not understand anything I read, and the woman at the desk at the Reading Room was about as UN infomative, and UN-sociable as possible.

I met a guy, whom I later married, who was raised in Christian Science. His mother was very dedicated.  He was not active in Christian Science, but took me to a Sunday service. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the reader then was extremely good! He read with expression and understanding. He was a school principal by profession, so knew how to present himself like the teacher he was!  I was enthralled, understood every word! I fell in love with Christian Science.

I read the Science and Health chapter on Prayer, and loved the idea that I could be healed by ‘stopping sinning’. I thought I could stop sinning, and be a better person.  I leaned to think positively. I was raised in a very negative home (not Christian Scientist)

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I had a lot of physical healings. I healed my husband of stomach bloating and gas, instantly, on our honeymoon. I healed myself many times of stuff  – once of a migraine-like headache (have never had one before, nor since), once of the flu. I healed my cat of distemper–I know she was healed (somehow) by my prayers, because I’d had other cats with distemper, and I knew exactly what it looked like. Cats with distemper are hungry and thirsty, but can’t eat or drink. Their little heads gently fall down into their dish. They become partially paralyzed in their back legs. I talked to her, loved her, stroked her, and repeated the Scientific Statement of Being over and over.  A few hours later she started to eat, and the next day she was fine.

What made you decide to leave?

There were conditions I could not heal, such as a long bout of sinusitis, where I could not smell or taste anything for several years. Went to a doctor, got antibiotics, and that was all I needed to get well.

Other–BIG–reasons were the Mother Church’s extreme support of fighter jets, war, and the military in general; that Katherine Fanning was fired (or run off) as editor of the Monitor, and then that a Christian Science person came to town to a huge gathering and told everyone not to talk about this, that the decision ‘came from God’. Other reasons were the indescribable ignorance, hypocrisy, and yeah, stupidity of people in my local branch church.

Why would anyone join?

Maybe logic? I do know that I’ve met several men who were converted while they were in prison: one man and his wife were very good friends. Christian Science has a big prison-outreach. Another was healed of alcoholism while in prison. He became very active in Christian Science. Maybe others, like I did, love the seven names (synonyms) of God. I love the plainness of the chapel–no images of a tortured Jesus, which I find unacceptable in other churches, really disgusting and amazing that any religion could be based on this horrible crime.

Did you really believe?

Yes.


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

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


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was raised in a deeply CS family–three of my grandparents were raised in it, and the fourth converted at marriage and became a life-long practitioner.  Most of the relatives I saw with any regularity had stayed with it, and many of my parents’ good friends were from church, so I was deep within the bubble in that respect.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I didn’t, really.  By age 15 I knew for certain that I was not a Christian Scientist.  Out of deference to my parents, I kept going to Sunday School until age 18, at which point I considered myself free of such filial obligation.

What made you decide to leave?

It had never made sense to me, and when I started taking chemistry classes in high school I was blown away by the consistent logic of real science, in stark contrast to CS.  I remember standing in the kitchen with a glass of water and thinking of the theories that I was learning that explained why the molecules behaved in the way that I observed, and it made so much sense.  I realized that I could apply the same analytical thought process to anything I wanted to understand, and I could recast all my doubts and questions about Christian Science.  Rather than personal failings, they were actual holes and contradictions in the doctrine, that if unexplained meant the theory was false.  I gave my parents and Sunday School teachers every chance I could to answer these questions, but it always came down to circular logic, blind faith, or blank stares.  It was so personally empowering to realize that rather than taking the word of intelligent people, who clearly could still be deeply mistaken, that I could figure out on my own what made sense and what didn’t.  That was all the nudge I needed; I was done.  And if somehow I had clung to it into adulthood, I’m sure the excruciating deaths of my grandmother and mother under medically preventable circumstances would have ripped me away.

Why would anyone join?

There seem to be two primary paths into Christian Science: 1) raised in it from a young age, or 2) adults looking for an alternative to either other religions or medicine.  The latter I think was much more prevalent and understandable in the time of MBE, when medicine was far less reliable and capable than it is now.  But these days I see church membership dwindling (in the US, at least), because most members were raised in it, and many of them are leaving as they see the harm it can do.  Despite our family’s strong CS lineage, only 1/3 of my generation has stuck with it so far, and we’re ready for the hold-outs whenever they want to say goodbye.

Did you really believe? 

No, but I tried really hard for a long time.  As a young child, there are lots of things that don’t make sense–credit cards, plumbing, rules of etiquette, Christian Science.  You quickly learn that even though you don’t understand these things, your parents do, and they do a pretty good job of taking care of you, so you trust that they know what they’re talking about.  Someday you’ll understand it all, if you try hard enough.  I think that’s most people’s pathway into lifelong belief, and it’s reinforced by doctrine that puts blame for failure on your own thoughts, and by social pressure.  (“I understand plumbing, credit cards, and rules of etiquette now, but not CS.  Oh no, I haven’t raised my thought high enough to align it with Christ!  I can’t let anyone see that I can’t see that I’m a perfect child of God!  Pray harder, believe, see the perfect spiritual reality!!!”)

Fortunately, for all their own faith, my parents were surprisingly open-minded and liberal about my exposure to other religions, philosophies, and modes of thought, so I had many external validations of my doubts even as a child.  They weren’t enough at that time to overcome my faith in my family’s faith–I remember vigorously defending CS doctrine to a precocious childhood friend, despite ultimately drawing a blank at his persistent questioning–but they made it easier a few years later for me to let go on my own.


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

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: N’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 N, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


How did you get into Christian Science?

I was raised in it.

Why did you stay in it for so long?

I was too scared to believe anything else. I thought it was logical, and that I had seen proof.

What made you decide to leave?

I felt that it was working against me. I couldn’t be part of a religion that made its adherents feel guilty about trying to seek help. I became increasingly depressed. So for one week, I decided to not pray at all, and to think whatever I wanted to. I felt that for the first time in my life, my thoughts weren’t controlled.

Why would anyone join?

The promise of cheaper and more immediate healthcare, it is promised to be a panacea. Not just for physical but also mental ailments. There’s something comforting about knowing that God is with you at all times and that all evil is an illusion.

Did you really believe? 

Yes.


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]