In an attempt to highlight the many, many different branches that have grown from the tree of Christianity by way of human interpretation, I have decided to start a little mini series spotlighting some of the most interesting ones. I wanted to start with Christian Science since it happens to be one of the most interesting I have come across in quite a while.
What it’s all about:
The Christian Science religion was founded in 1879 by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy. She was sickly most of her life and after suffering a fall that inflicted internal injuries in 1875 she turned to the Bible for answers about her healing. It is at that time she claimed to have come to a working understanding of pain, sickness and injury through reading the scriptures which lead to her speedy 3-day recovery. She wrote a book describing her experiences and revelations, started preaching and putting to practice her new-found healing methodologies and the church was built 4 years later.
The basic premise of Christian Science is that the immortal, material world is an illusion in which we fall victim to suffering and illness. Matter is not real; only the spiritual world is real and can be accessed through prayer. They believe that “sickness and death are illusions caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine.” (Source)
These beliefs, as you can imagine, are incredibly controversial and potentially very dangerous. In fact, “between the 1880s and 1990s the avoidance of medical care and vaccination led to the deaths of a number of adherents and their children; several parents and others were prosecuted for manslaughter or neglect, and in a few cases convicted.” (Source) The modern Christian Science church takes a different stance on healthcare today in which they do not advocate for the complete non-use of medical treatment, but instead advises its followers to pray about what option they should take and make a decision that best fits their family’s needs (which almost always leads to a decision not to utilize modern medicinal treatment).
Christian Science churches do not have pastors or reverends as typical Christian churches do. Actually, Mary Baker Eddy ordained the Bible and her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, as the pastor of the church. There is one main church located in Boston (called the Mother Church since it was the first location) and many branches throughout the world. Each week, every church studies the exact same lesson from the Bible. They meet on Wednesdays to discuss with each other how the lesson has affected their lives and to share stories about how the lesson has healed them in some way. Then, they meet on Sundays for a church service in which that particular lesson is read aloud; there is no personal sermon given by any leader.
Ultimately, the followers of this religion believe that Jesus was able to heal people and even bring them back to life because of his closeness with and un-wavering trust in God. They believe that if they pray and develop a closeness with God as well, that they will then be able to heal themselves and others. While they know that they will never achieve the kind of closeness Jesus had to God, they believe that they can certainly approach it.
Why it’s harmful to society:
This religion requires complete trust in god to heal and prevent all illnesses which can and have lead to more than a few very avoidable deaths and/or complications. Many children suffer the consequences of not being vaccinated or actively treated for their illnesses in the appropriate ways causing their otherwise well-meaning parents to be accused of (and rightfully so) neglect.
This is one of those religions in which someone had an idea about the Bible and wrote their own supplementary text with the intention that they be read together. These authors, while most vehemently deny any parallels or comparisons between themselves and god, almost always believe that their writing is just as important as that of the Bible. I find it strange that someone with the capacity to believe the Bible to be a divine text with all of the answers one will ever need in it could also believe that some random person has the ability to write a guidebook or a partner book that describes the correct interpretation and how you should live your life accordingly.
A lot can be said for the healing powers of the mind. Many studies are being published about the affects one’s mindset can have on that person’s ability to heal and many cancer patients can attest to these seemingly miraculous cures. We already know that things like pain can be attributed almost entirely to that particular person’s idea of it which explains why some people enjoy hanging from the ceiling with hooks stuck through the skin on their backs and others can be completely crippled by a stubbed toe. However, to attribute these natural brain phenomenons to a divine deity is incredibly ignorant and dangerous. For minor illnesses and injuries I believe it is perfectly acceptable to resort to any type of treatment one feels is best for either themselves or their family, whether natural, homeopathic, divine, medicinal, etc. However, for life-threatening illnesses and injuries I believe, especially in the case of children who are unable to make medical decisions on their own, the power of healing through one’s mind (or prayer as the Christian Scientist will believe) should be used in conjunction with any and all modern remedies and solutions available; anything less is just plain irresponsible.