Monday, May 21, 2012

Christian Science: Making other religions squirm since 1879

Excellent post by ex-Christian Scientist blogger MT_SPACE last week. He was raised Catholic, became a "Scientist" as an adult and spent many years heavily invested in the church before declaring himself a "born again atheist."

He discusses how he switched "brands" of religion before rejecting the whole category. It made me consider the appeal of Christian Science as an intellectual belief system with a metaphysical, ultra-modern New Age gloss--at least at first glance.

I grew up immersed in it. I had a minimum of immunizations. A practitioner prayed when I caught chicken pox and German measles. Our church was austere, our services serious and quiet.

By comparison, other churches were ridiculous. When I was seven I visited a friend's Methodist Sunday school. We played games. We had snacks. I was appalled. Sunday school was supposed to be an endless hour sitting still at a table reading from the King James version of the bible and of course, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. No carrot sticks or crackers. No juice. No coffee hour for the adults. No games, except racing to find certain books of the bible, which we begged to play. It was the only break from taking turns reading aloud, stumbling over words and trying to wrap our brains around the concepts.

What is the god of a mortal, but a mortal magnified? This indicates the distance between the theological and ritualistic religion of the ages and the truth preached by Jesus. More than profession is requisite for Christian demonstration. Few understand or adhere to Jesus' divine precepts for living and healing. Why? Because his precepts require the disciple to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye,--that is, to set aside even the most cherished beliefs and practices, to leave all for Christ.

Pluck out your eye? Gross. We got in trouble for giggling. We had to lift our thoughts above mortal life: it was unreal. We had to keep God's perfect creation in mind. Then we would only know harmony. Sure. It was familiar, weird but normal. If it was all you had when you were sick, it could seem comforting. 

Other religious believers shout that Christian Science is not the least bit Christian. But serious "Scientists" are the most devout followers you'll ever meet. They don't smoke or drink, they pray constantly and try to do good. Evidence of their healing is anecdotal at best. Nevertheless, hard-core members stake their lives on so-called Divine Science. Sometimes they survive; often they don't. But they believe in their faith enough to willingly suffer ex-cruci-ation. They have enough faith to put their children's lives on the line.

And other religions hate this. Stop taking that healing thing so seriously!! 

But hey--if prayer works at all, why not depend on it? Is it just posturing? If some prayer is good, a lot is better, right? Is prayer practical or not? If too much faith in a god is bad, maybe even fatal, what does that say about the premise of prayer?

I've been out of Christian Science almost twenty years . I've rejected the whole category of religion and I vehemently reject any church's substitution of prayer for a child's medical care. But I remember the very first year I was in therapy when I felt the power of religion leave me. Those rules that had defined my life slid away like a tide going out. It left me with the expanse of reality. I'd given my mind and body to Christian Science and it had broken me. I wasn't about to hand over my faith to some lesser church. Those amateurs.

Yes: Christian Science takes the premise of prayer to a potentially horrifying extreme. It shocks all but the most devout believers. It's immoderate. But that's the ultimate dimension of religious belief: My faith is real despite the evidence around me. I know a different reality. It's a slippery slope.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Liz, I remember when I was in kindergarten and our sunday school teacher tried to bring in arts and crafts to help illustrate bible stories. We were all so excited only to have our joy dashed the next Sunday when the teacher had to inform us that it wasn't allowed. The teacher was not happy but tried to be diplomatic. Even at five it didn't make sense to me. I also recall my parents discussing how ridiculous it was to be at church playing games, etc. I also didn't agree with that opinion. I am a born-again atheist but do agree that CS should be consider Christian even though the religion takes the prayer thing way too far especially as far as children are concerned!!

  2. I think we have to out-law i.e. un-legalize the religion-based medical neglect so that it becomes socially abhorrent.

    When I was a kid my mother sometimes worked in the nursery during Wed testimony meetings. I loved to hang out there & play with the toys! Must have be a shock for toddlers to leave that sanctuary for Sunday school...I don't remember.

  3. In my town, we had Sunday School at 9 and church at 10 so that the Sunday school teachers and older students could go to the service. Until the age of about 8 or 9 we got to stay in the nursery after Sunday school. It was quite a shock to leave all the toys and sit through that boring one hour service!!! All religion-based medical neglect definitely needs to be against the law and become socially abhorrent!!

    Eventually SS and church had to be held at the same time since there weren't enough students to make the separate services worthwhile but that wasn't until I had moved away.

    1. My mother used to make or bribe us into going to Wednesday evening testimony meetings. They were so boring I used to save my fingernails to bite them. :-)

  4. I vividly remember one Sunday--I was at least 10 years old--slapping my hand on the table and saying something to the effect of, "well, this table is pretty real--it hurts when I do that!" I don't remember what the teacher's reply was. I don't think he saw that one coming. Yeah, that was the beginning of the end for me. For some reason, it took another 30 or so years for the questions to get too loud to ignore.

    1. It's amazing how engrained the belief system can be--though it's wildly ineffective, the whole Matrix-approach of CS makes you doubt even your own skepticism of iy...Crazy-making.