This is another in an occasional series of posts dealing with contradictions within the practice and/or culture of Christian Science. For other posts, check out the topic ‘Contradictions‘.
Among my ex-Christian Scientist friends, I’ve seen discussion of the “No True Scotsman” informal fallacy as it relates to Christian Science, Christian Scientists, and of interest to me–ex-Christian Scientists. This discussion also applies to former Christians (of any other Christian denomination) as well, and you can read an excellent discussion of that here.
I’m here to tell you, that (if you ask a Christian Scientist) no former Christian Scientist was ever a True Christian Scientist. For the benefit of those of you who may not know what the “No True Scotsman” informal fallacy is, here’s a rendition of it (see the Wikipedia article for more information):
Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
Person B: “I am Scottish, and I put sugar on my porridge.”
Person A: “Well, no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
(from the Wikipedia article)
Here’s one of my adapted renditions, I’ll call it the No True Christian Scientist – Part I fallacy:
Person A: “No Christian Scientist suffers or dies from disease.”
Person B: “My Class taught (friend/relative) had cancer and died from it–he prayed, read Science and Health, the Bible, and lots of Christian Science literature, and worked diligently with a Christian Science practitioner.”
Person A: “Well, no true Christian Scientist suffers or dies from disease; his ‘understanding’ must not have been right.”
After my Dad died, a well-meaning Christian Scientist friend of the family admonished me not to see his death as a failure of Christian Science. He didn’t say any more than that, but behind that was what I see now to be a fallacious logic that Christian Science could not have failed my Dad, it was something else that failed. Like the No True Scotsman logical fallacy, a Christian Scientist’s logical reasoning in the face of the failure of Christian Science runs in a circle. They do not want to accept the reality that Christian Science fails, so they jump to the conclusion that the person for whom Christian Science failed must not have been doing something right, or they suffered from the ill effects of malicious animal magnetism (MAM) or some other force, likely put upon them by some dastardly non-Christian Scientist who suggested that “something might be wrong, perhaps you should get that checked out”. They’ll name off many things that could have derailed the failed “healing”. Never will they accept the very logical conclusion that Christian Science simply did not work.
Likewise, I’ve seen Christian Scientists (myself included when I was still in the faith) apply a version of this fallacious logic when talking about those who’ve left the faith, as I’m certain some have now done in my case. Here’s my version of how this might go. Let’s call it No True Christian Scientist – Part II:
Person A: “No true Christian Scientist would ever leave Christian Science.”
Person B: “But they realized that Christian Science makes no sense, it’s completely incomprehensible!”
Person A: “Their ‘understanding’ wasn’t complete, and they were under the influence of mortal mind; no true Christian Scientist with a complete understanding would leave.”
After all, nobody could leave Christian Science because they realize it is completely fallacious bullshit. No, the person was not a True Christian Scientist. The phrase I often heard, and invoked myself many times, was some version of, “their ‘understanding’ wasn’t right/was incomplete,” or “they were/are under the ‘influence’ of ‘mortal mind’.” In some ways, maybe that argument is right; after all, Christian Science is so utterly esoteric and incomprehensible, that I don’t think anyone could really completely understand it. I’m not even sure Mary Baker Eddy herself fully understood it. At most, in my many years in the faith, I only ever caught glimpses of what I thought was an understanding of it. I also don’t believe I’m under the influence of something called “mortal mind”, since it’s something I don’t believe in anyway–like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.
So, is there such a thing as a True Christian Scientist? Like Christian Science itself, this logical or informal fallacy runs in a circle and goes nowhere. I don’t think there really is such a thing as a True Christian Scientist…unless you also believe unicorns and hobbits really exist too. Those who think they are are likely just deeply deluded, like I was at one time. After all, when I was a kid, I too believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.