Isolating ourselves with stagnant ideas because they feel comfortable…

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

Christian Science’s system of denial is like an army tank that we can climb up and into and then roll through our lives crushing anyone and anything—illness, pain, personal failings, dysfunctional relationships—that makes us feel any unpleasant emotions.

Naturally, when someone contemplates leaving Christian Science, pretty much the first step is trying to climb down out of that powerful tank that’s been encasing them. And guess what’s waiting outside? A flood of unpleasant emotions which that tank of a belief structure has been keeping away: often suppressed symptoms of disease, fear and anxiety, regret, uncertainty (oh, that’s a huge one Christian Scientists don’t like). Someone who isn’t capable of breaking free from Christian Science yet, will view that heightened awareness as proof that Christian Science has legitimately been protecting them all along. In their perception, it’s ‘error’ they’re now feeling; mortal mind invading their consciousness.

But we’ve pushed through it, those of us in the ex-Christian Scientist community. We are embracing the uncertainty that the Christian Science tank was shielding us from. We have set ourselves to the tasks of responding to the emotional cues our loved ones send us, even if we feel unsure; asking for help from the medical field when we feel symptoms in our bodies which we do not understand; staying connected to the diverse people of the world and their best, newest ideas, even though life feels uncertain, rather than isolating ourselves with stagnant ideas because they feel comfortable.

How to help someone who is leaving or has left Christian Science

How can a non-Christian Scientist, or former-Christian Scientist help someone who is leaving or has left Christian Science? We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a few suggestions.

For starters, be empathetic.

Leaving Christian Science can feel like you’re going into exile. Kindness, concern, and “being there” for your friend can make all the difference. For tips on what it means to express empathy, watch Brené Brown on Empathy.

Educate yourself about Christian Science.

Read a memoir by a former Christian Scientist; or read God’s Perfect Child, by Caroline Fraser; or read one of the blogs by former Christian Scientists. Explore this site, and if you’re an ex-Christian Scientist, share your story. 

Be aware of issues we tend to have. The short list:

Feeling that we are the only ones who have ever left Christian Science or who failed at practicing it.

Nope and nope. Online communities and support groups of former Christian Scientists are available that can be very helpful. People have written memoirs about their experiences, there are blogs and this site! 

Feeling stupid, manipulated, and ashamed for having believed in or attempted to believe in Christian Science for so long.

Reassure your friend that there is no shame in having been influenced by group belief. To trust your own understanding and experience in a way that sets you apart from a group or family can be scary and challenging. This is especially true if you were raised as a Christian Scientist.  We are social creatures, we need each other, and we can’t always see that there are other avenues to take. Christian Science in particular is constructed to keep alternative thinking out of reach. 

Common destructive emotional attitudes

  • Inability to feel honest emotions
  • Inability to name basic emotions, needs & desires
  • Inability to identify pain or injury in the body
  • Feelings of guilt at being hurt or becoming ill
  • Dealing with the lack of parental responsibility and compassion

Loss of Relationships

People who leave Christian Science often suffer the loss of relationships and the disapproval of family and friends still in Christian Science.

Healthcare is a huge issue for those who leave Christian Science.

We were often raised with very limited knowledge of the human body, and we tend to be stoic ignorers of health problems. These issues tend to be interrelated

  • Fear/terror of doctors/dentists and all things related to it.  Recommend your doctor and dentist, or offer to help your friend find one. Share positive experiences you’ve had with people in the medical profession. Help calm their fears. 
  • Procrastinating on making appointments for routine visits. This is often related to not having a primary care physician in the first place and an underlying fear of the medical environment in general. Recommend that they schedule their next annual (or twice-yearly) appointment while they are at the office. (Some offices will send a reminder card or make a courtesy call a month or two out to schedule an appointment. Dental offices regularly schedule twice-yearly cleanings six months in advance.) 
  • Ignoring or downplaying symptoms. Ask how they’re doing, and if the answer seems a little evasive ask again and show your genuine concern. How long as the problem been going on? Are you being good to yourself? (Use your best judgment, don’t interrogate.) 
  • Putting off having problems checked out.  Offer to accompany or drive your friend to the doctor or dentist’s office. Encourage them to be forthcoming when asked questions about their health history. 
  • Not knowing the basics of self-care. Christian Scientists are taught to guard their thoughts but ignore their body. Consequently, they often don’t know the basics of maintaining a healthy body, beyond simple hygiene. Feel free to direct them to resources that are available in book form or online, some specific to the needs of women or men. 
  • Discomfort and unfamiliarity with typical medical terminology. Asking simple questions about symptoms can evoke answers the CSist may not understand. Because they may feel many emotions about medical care, it may be hard for them to ask for more details about those answers. Be willing to explain (without laughter or judgement) simple medical terms the CSist might be unfamiliar with. Offer resources with definitions and examples.
  • Struggling to find the balance between the ‘hard science’ and ‘alternative’ options of non-Christian Science care. The Christian Scientist may gravitate toward fringe practices that may not have much science proving their effectiveness. They may find web sites or videos covering topics that are put forth by sources with limited credibility. This is honestly no different than non-Christian Scientist folks in our world. Be willing to discuss (again, without laughter and judgement) the theories and sources your Christian Scientist friend is considering. Help them learn what counts as a credible online source and what doesn’t. Help them learn how to research medical issues online, when they are likely incredibly overwhelmed by the process.

One day I threw all of my Christian Science notes, books and reference materials into the trash.

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I doubted early in my life but didn’t act on it. It would not have been tolerated by my family. I went through Christian Science class instruction to please my dad, but my heart was never really in it. It was in my thirties after my dad died that I was able to begin stepping away from Christian Science.

One day, I threw all of my Christian Science notes, books and reference materials into the trash and it was extremely therapeutic. I could have sent the notes back to my teacher because he is still active, but throwing them away felt better to me. The only thing I kept was the small set of Bible and Science & Health books that my dad gave me when I was very young. I couldn’t throw those away, yet.

I haven’t been to a Christian Science church service for twenty years now. My attendance had been waxing and waning (mostly waning) for five years before that, and then it became too depressing to go anymore. At that point, I took a stand and decided to never attend again, for my own sanity. It was also about that time that I read God’s Perfect Child by Caroline Frasier, which completed my deprogramming.

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]

“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.

Christian Science Is Not Comfort

By Ashley, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was a third generation Christian Scientist. I was all-believing and never could imagine not being a devout student. I served as Second Reader, substitute First Reader, was a Sunday School teacher, lecture committee Chair, secretary for the Board meetings, and more.

My profound challenge came at around the age of thirty. If it had been physical in nature, I have no doubt that I would have ridden it out with Christian Science treatment only, no matter what the consequences. But it wasn’t anything with physical symptoms. It was severe depression and anxiety to a level of anguish that I cannot describe. When the pain is physical, there’s only so far that can go, it has a lid on it at some point. When the anguish is mental there is no top-out level. There is no ‘thus far and no farther’ point. The suffering seemed to expand to wordless brand-new depths with each day. This mental anguish, on and on with no relief, I could not endure indefinitely. Thus began my halting and very gradual realization and wake-up call away from Christian Science.

Ten years later and after lots of help, intervention and treatments from medical psychiatry, I am able to live as a member of society again. My first big realization about Christian Science after entering the world of psychiatry and therapeutic care was how extremely cruel its basic tenets are, such as: no matter to what extent one may be suffering, one can only blame oneself. And, if you would just ‘get your thoughts right’ then you would stop suffering. Christian Science teaches that suffering is self-imposed and basically that ‘it’s your own fault,’ when you really take it down to the bottom line. The absolute opposite of ‘comfort’, though it calls itself ‘The Comforter’.

Christian Science is not comfort, it is something that is disturbingly austere, remote and unfeeling. It must be unfeeling in order to maintain the unreality of human suffering. Christian Science is among the coldest, most inhumane, compassionless, unhealthy approaches to life that has ever been foisted upon humanity. It took me much time and suffering to be able to distill that fact out and separate it from the teachings of my whole life. I hope I still have much progress to make, because I know Christian Science did damage that I will be working for the rest of my life to undo.

Why I’m doing this

It was two days before my thirteenth birthday when the first of my grandparents died spectacularly and unnecessarily, traumatizing the whole family. The story includes the classic Christian Science elements of not even his spouse knowing until… then not even his sons knowing until… not getting him to the hospital until… and he’s yelling Christian Science BS at his sons and wife while they’re trying to save him. I loved him most in the world, and the feeling was mutual, but in Christian Science culture it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for me to know what was going on.

When I found out he was dead, I also found out that he had been dying horribly and mysteriously for the past two days, one state away. I will never forget the crushing, screaming grief I felt; not because I’m stuck there, but because I have never felt any emotion approaching its strength since. It amazes me that I felt something so keenly once. It was felt for no one’s benefit, alone in my room, sobbing endlessly, endlessly. Because I should have been able to cry on his face in the hospital, at least. I don’t think anyone cried on his face, while he was dying.

Two years later, my other grandfather, just as beloved, had a massive stroke in the middle of the night after a year of warning signs. His practitioner had advised him to take a break from work but not to see a doctor. His family had pled with him in every way they could think of. Still, I cannot get my mind around my grandmother’s phone call to the local Christian Science nursing facility instead of 911, with her husband convulsing and speechless on the floor, his last words having been, “Something’s wrong.”

After refusing all medical treatment before and after the stroke, all that happened anyway was he kept having strokes until his son defied his father’s will to get him medical treatment. By then, all the damage had been done and my grandfather spent another decade trapped on earth taking all the pills he had been so afraid of and never getting his speech back and never walking at more than a slow crawl again, and it was a giant failure in the middle of our family. I didn’t visit him enough. At all. It is a great regret. I numbed myself to him even though he was a consistently dedicated, gentle, loving, witty, patient, formative mentor to me until the moment the stroke erased his personality.

I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t help my family.  I was too young, I couldn’t see through the CS fog.

Maybe I can help someone now.

Elizabeth

Content Editor & Community Coordinator
The Ex-Christian Scientist

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.