Following up on my previous post, “Survey Says…“, here is my analysis of the responses to the last question: “Why did you leave Christian Science?” It was the only optional question, and I asked it as an essay question. Like I’ve seen recounted elsewhere, the experiences some of my respondents related about the effects of Christian Science in their lives are harrowing, painful, and disheartening.
While there were many “I discovered it didn’t work…” answers; others went into more detail (in some cases, a lot more detail). More than “It didn’t work,” some people shared why and how it didn’t work. That’s where it got tough to read sometimes, and I alternately wanted to cry for these people, and scream in anger over what Christian Science, and the things it makes people do, has done to them.
One respondent felt “abused and neglected physically and emotionally.” This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this kind of experience recounted, and it’s surprised me as I’ve gotten to know other former Christian Scientists. Another shared a close call with cancer that they felt fortunate to have had after they left Christian Science, sharing that if they’d still been in the faith, they would likely not have had it diagnosed and treated as early as they did (the outcome was good, by the way). I read other accounts of family tragedy, and personal mental illnesses and breakdowns due to the effects of Christian Science. Christian Science has deeply harmed and wrecked many lives by permanently maiming and disabling people, causing mental illness, and destroying families.
Now for some analysis. Please note that this question was optional, so not all survey respondents chose to answer, and people shared what they chose to share. Trends I saw in the written responses indicated four intersecting groupings of trends with the responses I received:
- Those who went to another form of Christianity.
- Those who rejected Christianity in all its forms and became atheist, agnostic, spiritual, or a non-Christian religion.
- Those who left Christian Science due to indicated or implied personal loss or trauma.
- Those who drifted away because they found Christian Science to be false in some way.
Other Forms of Christianity
With many respondents who departed Christian Science for other forms of Christianity–mostly other Protestant denominations, almost universally I saw them state that part or all of the reason that they left Christian Science was because they discovered it is a false teaching, and directly contradicts the Bible and Jesus’s teachings. Many Christians flat out feel that Christian Science is not Christian. I’ve seen this stated many times on Christian discussion boards. Some of them were also driven by personal loss or trauma, but they were a slight minority: of 28 people who went to another Christian denomination, 12 indicated or implied trauma or personal loss.
Non-Religious or Non-Christian Religion
The other big group of respondents was those who have gone in a non-religious or non-Christian direction. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll include in this grouping those who are atheist, agnostic, spiritual but non-religious, and other non-Christian faiths, as this was a block of respondents I saw emerge, with some common characteristics as compared to those who went to another Christian religion. A common theme I saw emerge was that a larger number of these people suffered or indicated some sort of personal trauma or loss in their lives, but it was roughly a 50/50 split with those who went this way with no implied loss or trauma. Of 43 people who went away from Christianity altogether, 21 indicated or implied some sort of personal loss or trauma. However, in a comparison of numbers of all respondents who suffered or implied personal loss or trauma, an overwhelming number of them went away from Christianity completely: 21 non-Christian vs. 12 Christian.
Trauma/Loss & Falsity and/or Failure of Christian Science
The other two categories of responses intersect with the two I’ve just discussed above. Where the above two categories deal with where people went faith-wise after they left Christian Science, these next two categories have to do with what drove people away from Christian Science:
- departure from Christian Science due to personal loss or trauma
- the discovery that Christian Science is false
Many respondents left Christian Science for varying combinations of both reasons:
- an experience of loss or trauma usually leads logically conclusion that Christian Science doesn’t work and that it’s false
- some left because they found Christian Science was false–not indicating a personal loss or trauma in their lives that also served to trigger their departure; a trend I saw was that a slight majority of those people went to another Christian religion
I would conclude from what I’ve seen in the responses to this survey that two main things drive people away from Christian Science:
- deep personal loss or trauma
- the discovery that Christian Science is false and doesn’t work
Some will leave just for the latter reason without experiencing the former, however almost all who suffer the former also come to the latter conclusion, obviously. When people leave Christian Science they gravitate into 2 – 3 main groups:
- Christians (of varying sorts, although none of my respondents went to Catholicism)
- agnostics or atheists*
- spiritual or other non-Abrahamic religions*
What drives one into another Christian denomination, or away from Christianity altogether seems to relate somewhat to the experience of loss or trauma, more people who suffer loss/trauma tend to leave Christianity, although I must emphasize that is not a strong trend that I saw, just a moderately noticeable pattern. Different questions could have narrowed it down one way or the other more accurately. If I could have asked one question, perhaps instead of the essay question I did ask, I’d ask a simple ‘yes’/’no’ question: “Did you experience a severe personal loss or traumatic experience that caused you to leave Christian Science?”
All in all, it’s been an interesting experience for me to look at the results of this survey, and to see the patterns that emerged. I am heartened by the resiliency of people who’ve been through some awful experiences, and at the same time deeply disheartened by what they’ve suffered. We’re all survivors, and in some cases walking wounded. Telling our story is good therapy, but I realize that for many that is a very difficult thing to do. Telling our stories is also the best counteractive for the message the Christian Scientists are putting all over the media and discussion boards whenever they have the opportunity. We need to do the same. We need to put our voices out there.
Thank you again to everyone who completed this survey and shared their stories!
* For some purposes of discussion earlier, I grouped the post-Christian Science faith direction of respondents into just two groups: Christians and non-Christians, because factors relating to why respondents left Christian Science tended to send them in either a Christian or non-Christian direction, and it was easier to discuss the results in that more “direction A or B” way.
Telling our story is healing. I began taking notes for myself until I could talk with a therapist. At age 72 I discovered, in spite of two marriages and five children I had always been attracted to women! I had mentally left CS long before and it wasn’t until I began exploring my life that I discovered the deep flaws of CS, but in the manuscript I’ve been writing over the last ten years, I haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water. As one reader has said I haven’t trashed CS. I do believe from some of my research and what I see expressed by family members that today’s members of the church are very different from the members forty or fifty years ago. Members of my family worked at the church center or the CS Monitor, I was active in the original and liberal Youth Forum. Hope this makes sense. I should be using computer as this tablet is super sensitive, a wrong note sends the writing into oblivion, making editing difficult at best. Keep up your good work.
Thank you! I’m so glad you’re living your life honestly! I too have kept some aspects of CS–it’s not all bad. In fact, I think much of the bad (at least 50% of it) is in how it’s practiced, and in the “culture”. It’s what the application of some of the theology of CS does to people and makes them do is what is truly horrifying to me. I witnessed that first-hand in my own family, and that’s what finally drove me away from CS for good.