How many of us have stuck too long with something because we thought, or were told and we believed, that it was the right thing? How long misplaced loyalty can draw on. In my case, with Christian Science, it dragged on for 40 years. I’m not sure if I necessarily became a slave to my beliefs (I always had my questions and doubts), but it certainly was a dysfunctional relationship of the worst kind.
I would say that Christian Science promised the moon, the stars, and everything else, and didn’t even give so much as a lump of coal (at least that keeps you warm in the winter). It promised healing, as Jesus supposedly healed, but I never saw or experienced a complete and/or instantaneous healing. I suffered in pain for several days with kidney stones, only to find relief when I sought a naturopathic healing solution; as a child I suffered for days on end with earaches–all the while being told that “God is love” and “there is no sensation in matter.” There was a shitload of sensation in matter–it felt like someone was sticking a spike into my ear! My mother suffered with excruciating pain in a Christian Science nursing facility with a massive abdominal tumour–all the while her and the rest of the family were being told by staff and her practitioner that she was “making progress”. My Dad suffered for years with an untreated heart condition that ultimately killed him. All the while, according to the practitioner, he was “making progress”. Fuck! My anger boils when I think about it now. Christian Science is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever encountered!
Belief can sometimes be a form of enslavement. I have read accounts of Christian Scientists who go to their graves in the most hideous of ways, all the while believing that a healing is just around the corner. It’s not only the patient in question who suffers; often their families do as well–especially if the family members do not share the patient’s belief in Christian Science, or once did share the belief, but no longer do. These family members are often shunned or ostracized because their non-belief in Christian Science presents a threat to the ever so fragile “healing in progress”, a form of “malicious animal magnetism” that threatens to unravel everything. A shroud of secrecy and exclusion surrounds the ill Christian Scientist, and non-believers are often kept away. Imagine a daughter being pushed away from her own mother by her dutiful Christian Scientist father!1
The enslavement of belief is not by any means limited to Christian Scientists. Additional examples of other, sometimes deeper extremes to which this enslavement goes, include the People’s Temple mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978; the Heaven’s Gate cult mass suicide in 1997 in San Diego, California; or the tragedy at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993. Current examples include the ongoing stories of Scientologists who work in their church’s Sea Org for next to no pay, onerous working hours, extreme mental and emotional abuse, and severe restrictions on their personal lives. They are pressured via threats of being cut off from family and friends if they don’t toe the line, and they sign a billion year contract that binds them in servitude to this organization.2 Religions and cults have enslaved, killed, and abused people for thousands of years and continue to do so. The genocide against Native North Americans and many other indigenous people around the world is largely motivated by religious belief, and lets not forget the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.
What it comes down to for me, is what the graphic at the top of this post says: don’t let loyalty [to belief] become slavery; and don’t compromise your self respect. Leaving Christian Science, and religion in general, was the best and first honest thing I’ve done for myself in many years. I stopped living a lie; I stopped living in hopes of “healing”; I stopped trying to make something work that was not working, and never could work. I stopped supporting, aiding and abetting something that I knew was doing very real harm to people. I finally left a dysfunctional relationship that took everything from me and gave me little in return. My deepest sympathies go out to those who are still enslaved, and especially to their families, who all too often are the innocent, tragic victims of the collateral damage that enslaved belief inflicts.
1 Greenhouse, Lucia. Fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science. New York, New York: Random House. 2011. Print.
2 Ortega, Tony. “Scientology’s Grip on the Mind: An Ex-Sea Org Member Explains it for Us.” The Village Voice Blogs. The Village Voice. 20 August 2012. Web. 2 November 2013. <http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/08/scientology_melissa_paris_cadet_org.php>