That look you get…

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Image source: Facebook.

I shared this meme on my Facebook timeline recently. It was shared by another friend who, like me, is not religious. Unlike me, he knows nothing about Christian Science. I envy him and so many of my other friends for that fact. For most of them, all that they know about Christian Science is what I’ve chosen to share with them about my own experience, unless they’ve done their own research–I always tell my friends to just Google it and read for themselves.

But, there’s also a greater ‘leaving’, if you will, that I’ve done. As my regular, long-term readers will know, I’ve not just left Christian Science, I’ve left Christianity in general. I’m not at all religious. I am ‘spiritual’ in a way (I largely follow Native American spirituality), but I am not at all religious, and I do not believe in God (in the sense that there’s some sort of sentient all-powerful entity that bestows our fate upon us)–I identify as agnostic when I’m asked. I’m also not entirely sure Jesus even existed. In some circles, when I say all of that, I do get that look–even sometimes among people who consider themselves non-religious. Many who consider themselves non-religious, unless they’re true-blue atheists, do seem to still believe in the existence of Jesus and/or God in some way, or they’re sometimes just reluctant to voice a disbelief.

Fortunately, in the part of Canada where I live, it’s not too often that I get ‘that look’. I feel fortunate to live in one of the most non-religious jurisdictions in North America (the largest single grouping identified in surveys of religiosity where I live identifies as ‘non-religious’)–even Canada as a whole is generally becoming quite secular, as many European countries are. We are far more secular than our neighbours to the south in the USA. Now, if I lived in the southern USA, I probably would not only get the ‘look’, I’d probably get verbally abused–maybe physically too. A favourite blog I follow, Godless In Dixie, tells of one man’s experience of being non-religious in Mississippi, of all places–a place that’s opposite to where I live in every way possible. Some of his stories and insights are interesting, to say the least.

Still, Christianity is a historically cultural religion here, and I do get odd reactions sometimes. I’ve had one or two friends try to get me to go to church with them, and another non-churchgoing Christian has argued at times in the past with me on the significance or existence of Jesus and his teachings. Don’t get me wrong, most of the teachings attributed to Jesus are wonderful, in my opinion, but are they the be-all and end-all? No. I also do not believe they are unique at all to Christianity. Many other religions teach brotherly love, do unto others as you would have them do unto you (think karma), forgiveness, and all of that, and in my opinion, some of them practice it much better than many Christians do.

Christianity is so entrenched and interwoven into our ‘western’ culture that it sometimes seems like you’re the odd one out so often if you’re not Christian, and many who follow other faiths suffer discrimination, physical violence, or otherwise–simply because they’re not Christian. The winner of the recent U.S. presidential election has even proposed a ban on travel to the USA for Muslims, despite the fact that more Americans are killed or hurt by other Americans (most of them Christian) than any non-Christian non-Americans. All too often, non-Christians are demonized not only by their neighbours, but by government officials. To be ‘different’ is all too often an invitation to be persecuted. Christians by and large, seem to have forgotten the early days of their faith. However, Muslims have just as much, if not more, to answer for given the sins committed in the name of their faith in many Muslim-majority countries, and Muslims suffer greatly in Israel and Israeli-occupied territories.

My general feeling, and I’ve voiced this before, is that the world would generally be better off without organized religion. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and the like seem (to me) to exist largely to serve themselves. Yes, there are some churches and other such institutions in my community and others who do genuine community outreach, and I applaud and support them, but too many others look down their noses at everyone else, with a holier-than-thou sense of superiority. I truly hate that.

So yes, I may get ‘that look’ sometimes, but I’m happy and proud to say that I’m non-religious. For once, I can be honest and open about who I really am. I spent a long time trying to be something I wasn’t, and I’m glad to finally see the light.

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7 thoughts on “That look you get…

  1. Just wanted you to know that the experience of perusing your blog left me with a great feeling of sadness, mainly because, despite your impressive pedigree, you never “got” Christian Science. The simplest answer I can give to the various hardships you’ve gone through is that salvation is not in the flesh. I’m sorry for the negative interactions you’ve had with other Christian Scientists, and by the sound of it, they are not true Christian Scientists. The most important aspect of Christian Science is love, and if you haven’t experienced that, you’ve missed “the vital part, the heart and soul” of Christian Science. And finally, I’m also sorry that you even question the existence of Jesus Christ.

    You say that you are not religious, but I suggest that you are, and that your new religion is based on your disbelief in Christian Science, and Christianity in general. But I would urge you to focus not on what you DON’T believe in, but rather find what you DO believe in, and focus on that. (If you decide continue on the course of this blog, perhaps you should start a parallel blog and focus on the failures of the religion of medicine as well.)

    My background, which is remarkably similar to yours, could not have had a more different result. Christian Science has blessed me and my family immeasurably, and I don’t know where I would be without it.

    I thought I would share two experiences with you. The first occurred about three or for years ago, when I fell off a ladder and broke my wrist. (This was very distressing to me, because I am an avid tennis player, and not only could I not do the most basic things with my hand, such as brushing my teeth, comb my hair, open a door, turn the key in the ignition, etc., but also I feared that I would never play tennis again.) The fear and pain were extreme, and I decided immediately to seek medical care.

    The doctor soon recommended surgery, but by that time through my prayers and the help of a CS practitioner, I had mastered my fear, and decided against it. However, I continued regular visits with the doctor and began rehab.

    I want to emphasize here something that you surely know, which is that in Christian Science there is nothing prohibiting its adherents from going to a doctor if they feel the need for it. And when I made my decision, I got nothing but love and support from the Christian Scientists around me. There wasn’t a trace of the “vindictiveness” that you refer you, which is NOT Christian Science!

    Anyway, my recovery went well, and in about six months I was playing tennis again, and today I am back to — or even better than — my former level! By the way, before my recovery was complete, I went to a Principia reunion, and although I didn’t think I would be able to play tennis, at the last moment I decided to go for it, and managed, among other things, to hit two aces! And I attributed my ability to do that to the supportive atmosphere I felt there. (And I hope you haven’t given up on Principia. Although you’ve decided to leave Christian Science, you are still a cherished part of the Principia family!)

    My last comment about this experience with my wrist is that the doctor was very impressed with how things worked out, and he acknowledged that I could not have expected a better result if I had opted for the surgery.

    The second experience occurred on a recent Sunday morning. While getting out of the shower and reached down to dry one of my feet, something moved in my back, and I couldn’t straighten up without extreme pain. The most immediate thing that came to mind was to affirm that God had made man upright!

    I had a commitment that morning to read at church, and with the prayerful support of the second reader, I was able to get through it. That afternoon I marked the next week’s Bible Lesson and then read it. My need was so great that I was hanging on every syllable in both the Bible and Science & Health, and it almost seemed as if the Lesson was put together specifically for me!

    That night was very difficult; I hardly slept and couldn’t move without great pain. In the morning I read the Lesson again and clung to the idea of my spiritual perfection. It occurred to me that I had been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, with too many responsibilities, etc., and that I should let go of that burden and affirm that God was in charge. I also realized that I had become aware of various people around me who had back trouble, and I had blandly accepted their condition as “oh well, too bad.” It was not helping me — or them — to think of them in that way.

    Well, at one point later that day, I was healed! I didn’t even feel anything move in my back; the pain just vanished. I almost couldn’t believe that suddenly I could walk and go up and down stairs without pain. I attribute this healing “100%” to Christian Science.

    My family and I have experienced many other healings in Christian Science, and your lack of healings is another source of sadness for me. I just hope that you’re not discounting the thousands upon thousands of healings that have appeared in the Christian Science periodicals, as well as the countess more that have not been published. Christian Science has brought immense blessings to this world, and I hope, as a Principia professor used to say, that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

    I think I’ve rambled along enough here. Please believe me that I am not judging you, but supporting you and wishing you all the best in your journey.

    • While I appreciate your professed sympathy for me (albeit expressed in a backhandedly insulting way), and what I’ve experienced, believe me, I’m perfectly fine, and happier now with my life than I’ve ever been. Sure I’m angry about what happened to my family, but you know what? I feel the freedom to experience that very natural emotion, and actually deal with it constructively–something Christian Science never taught me to do. Anger is not some illusion to be denied. It, as well as sadness, grief, and all the other ‘bad’ ones are a part of life.

      If my blog makes you sad, and you don’t like being sad, don’t read it. Really, I won’t mind. As for me not ‘getting’ Christian Science, I in fact, did ‘get it’ insofar as something that is as convoluted and incomprehensible as Christian Science is can be understood. Your argument in this respect is old, tired, and I’ve seen it many times, and used to use it myself back in the day. It’s a spurious argument. I will ask you what I ask everyone else who tosses this useless argument at me: what do I and many others who’ve left Christian Science NOT ‘get’? Please explain specifically the big secret that was NOT revealed to me in 20 years of Sunday School, Class Instruction, and over 10 follow-up Association meetings. Please explain.

      And no, I am most definitely not religious in any way, shape, or form. To be religious requires that I follow some system of belief. I do not. I do not ‘believe’ Christian Science and Christianity to be fallacious. I know that they are. It’s been proven irrefutably to me by observation and research. As for whether or not Jesus existed, I don’t believe either way. I look for evidence. There isn’t much, other than the Gospels, and those were not first-hand accounts. Many aspects of the Jesus story have parallels in the myths and legends of other cultures of the area, which leads me to think that this is in that category. My opinion will be swayed by evidence alone. Many of the Bible stories have similar parallels. What makes the Bible true and all other cultural stories false? What’s so special about Christianity that it, is the One True Religion, and the thousands of others are wrong? Everyone thinks their religion is the one and only path. Either one is right and thousands are wrong, or they’re all wrong. The Bible is the mythology of a particular tribal culture. Nothing more, nothing less. It contains some good moral lessons, along with a lot of misogyny, racism, and genocide.

      I find my salvation not in the flesh or in a supernatural being, but in facts and evidence. Far from bringing me sadness, it brings me greater peace of mind than I’ve ever had in my entire life. Knowledge is power, and it is salvation.

      And lastly, while you say you’re not judging me, you are. I have seen your passive-aggressive judgementalism sprinkled throughout your comment. I don’t mind if you do judge me, that’s your choice. However, please don’t say you aren’t when you are. If you have to say you’re not judging someone, you probably are, my friend.

  2. Tibbs@juno.com: Your answer was very typical of Christian Scientists. I am also an ex Christian Scientist. I was a fourth generation Scientist, I attended Sunday School, the A/U camps and Principia College. I went through class instruction and served as Second Reader at our branch church where my husband served as organist. So yes, I “got” CS.
    I left aftwr the measles outbreak at the college. Not so much directly because of it, but because the administration tried to hide the deaths that occurred from the alumni in their letter to us. But it had been coming. This wad just the last straw.
    Please don’t try to tell me I just don’t understand CS–with my background, I most certainly do. I just see that it does not heal as it claims and causes too much psychological damage. Who is credited if you think you have been healed? Mary Baker Eddy. Who is at fault if you are not healed? You.
    As for your testimony, I have read and heard hundreds (or more) testimonies in my 33 years in CS. Really? You hurt your wrist, you went to the doctor and chose physical therapy over surgery and it worked. I am glad your wrist healed. But this is an average medical story. That’s all.

  3. Tibbs@juno.com: Your answer was very typical of Christian Scientists. I am also an ex Christian Scientist. I was a fourth generation Scientist, I attended Sunday School, the A/U camps and Principia College. I went through class instruction and served as Second Reader at our branch church where my husband served as organist. So yes, I “got” CS.
    I left after the measles outbreak at the college. Not so much directly because of it, but because the administration tried to hide the deaths that occurred from the alumni in their letter to us. But it had been coming. This was just the last straw.
    Please don’t try to tell me I just don’t understand CS–with my background, I most certainly do. I just see that it does not heal as it claims and causes too much psychological damage. Who is credited if you think you have been healed? Mary Baker Eddy. Who is at fault if you are not healed? You.
    As for your testimony, I have read and heard hundreds (or more) testimonies in my 33 years in CS. Really? You hurt your wrist, you went to the doctor and chose physical therapy over surgery and it worked. I am glad your wrist healed. But this is an average medical story. That’s all.

  4. Emerging Gently, your writing, as usual, resonates with me on a profound philosophical level. I feel deeply connected to your truth and share your spirituality. Also born into Christian Science, my 4th generation pedigree included Christian Science practitioners and nurses. In fact, my mother was a CS nurse. While I was the first to find courage to leave, most of my family and friends have followed me over the years. If, as Tibbs suggests above, Christian Science is based on love, I wonder why my life is so much more loving, happier, healthier and more fulfilled without the Christian Science cultish dogma? I would never go back and truly resent being told someone feels sad for me because I choose not to believe in magical thinking. How condescending and self righteous!
    Tibbs, you are fundamentally wrong and real science can refute your beliefs many times over. I was once told that Christian Science is a “Science” because it can be proven. If the religion is evenly loosely based on this premise it is important to point out that science can NEVER be,proven. That is an inherent scientific fact.
    Our wonderful bodies have built in mechanisms to restore themselves to homeostasis. Bodies eventually heal themselves when no disease is present to complicate this process. While it may take longer and be more painful without the help of medicine, bones, back spasms,cuts, scrapes and bruises will, more often than not, heal on their own. It depends on the nature of the injury. Christian Scientists claim success at finding keys, healing personal relationships and mild to severe time limited illnesses that would also heal without prayerful intervention. Reading the lesson is simply a way to pass the time while the body itself takes care of the healing business.
    If an organism is unreal in the first place, how can it get sick or injured? It sounds like a dangerous and faulty construct to me. Nonsensical. And yes, I most certainly DO understand Christian Science. I understand it so well that my very intelligent human mind calls “bunk”.
    I’m not afraid to use my name to identify myself. I stand behind my beliefs in the real world and welcome debate on this openly.

  5. Thank you to those who have responded. The passion in your words is evident, and I’m sorry for your hardships. I guess we just have to agree to disagree. But repudiating Christian Science is the same as repudiating Jesus Christ, and that seems to be a big step.

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