• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Christian Science

Third in an ongoing series of dispatches from the pew (Week 1–Mormon Church, Week 2–Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Part 1 is a catalog of my live tweets from a Christian Science sermon titled “Reality”.

Part 2 details my impressions of a brief conversation with two Scientists (!) about the church’s finances and evidence for its claims.

Part 1

Part 2

After the sermon I was approached by several Scientists (although none bothered to show me credentials–I’m beginning to think that they weren’t actually scientists…).

C. introduced herself and invited me to take as much literature as I wanted (I didn’t really want any). She played tag team with J. as I asked them a few questions.

“What kind of evidence supports the claims of your church?” I asked.

C. indicated that the healing power of Mary Baker Eddy’s Biblical exegesis has influenced the lives of many (Mary Baker Eddy is the sect’s founder and was reasonably certifiable in my opinion–read her book “Science and Health” and you’ll see why).

“Influenced the lives of many? How?” I inquired.

J. answered, “I grew up in the church and returned after a long period of inactivity because I was depressed. Christian Science helped me get over my depression and I’ve been healed of a skin condition, broken bones, and some burns.” Unimpressive, J., most unimpressive.

“Is there any other kind of evidence?” I pressed.

“Look, I went to college and I wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t work,” answered J (because no one with a college degree as ever been fooled or defrauded before). “Work for me,” he qualified.

“OK. Let’s switch gears,” I continued. “What about finances? What does it cost to join your church?”

C. answered that donations were voluntary and that there was no tithe or mandatory fees or anything.

“Is that how you pay for all of this free material?” I asked.

“We do have a Mother Church in Boston,” J. answered.

“Can you look at the financial records to see where the money goes?” I asked.

“Well, all the money at local levels is distributed according to majority rule,” J replied. He didn’t seem to know anything about finances at the highest levels of Christian Science. That’s OK–oversight is for skeptics.

The more I probed the less I learned so I thanked them for their time and generosity and finally split like the better half of a bad date.

Until next time, dear reader. Stay rational!

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15 thoughts on “• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Christian Science

  1. I love your “experiment”. I find it impossible to sit thru even 10 minutes of religious mucky muck at funerals or weddings. I don’t know how you survive hours of the crap slinging.
    I will be back for more.

    • I’m so glad that this is resonating with/entertaining some people–I’m actually really enjoying it myself. It helps that I’m a masochist! Thank you for your feedback, Laura. Cheers!

    • Kullervo–on the church congregation’s website it was called a sermon but in reality it was more of a reading as you describe.

  2. I bought myself a copy of “Science and Health…” when I was a mormon/moron missionary. I tried reading it and it was, shall we say, “OUT THERE”. I recently found the book in my huge pile o’ unread material, and I tried it again, without my mormon blinders on. It was still out there. But I’ll agree, from the one CS meeting I’ve attended, they certainly can sing.

    • Like I said, Christian Singers. It’s interesting that you would purchase a copy while a Mormon missionary–during my experience as a missionary all other reading was forbidden. Was your experience different or were you a black sheep? Thanks for your feedback, Matter Unorganized!

  3. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Seventh Day Adventist | DIYThinking

  4. Reblogged this on kindism and commented:
    An atheist live-tweets the Sunday Service based on the Weekly Bible Lesson “Reality.” He lucked out and got a congregation that could sing and had a good accompanist, I speak from experience when I say not everyone is so lucky.

  5. As far as finances, I doubt there is gross misappropriation of funds like you might find in some of the larger evangelical movements. My parents worked for the Mother Church, as do many friends and acquaintances, having grown up in the religion myself. People that work for the Mother Church are paid a reasonable comfortable salary, in the early 90s my parents made around $35,000, which was enough to pay the mortgage and taxes in a fairly wealthy suburban town in MA, although we didn’t have any luxuries to speak of. And today, my friends with entry level jobs there make more than what most people starting out in this economy make, basically what someone with a college degree would have made before the recession. Considering the church membership is ever dwindling and the Mother Church does not believe in proselytizing, I doubt anyone is raking in loads of cash, and they do spend a lot on periodicals. I don’t know how much those subscriptions are, or how much the Science and Healths and Bibles go for though. There is actually a yearly membership fee – $1, which is the same as when the church was founded. Of course in the 1800s that was a lot more than today. I am suspicious of the kind of profits Mary Baker Eddy made, and the way she made them, but since then, working for the Mother Church at any level will provide you with a stable career and a decent salary, which is certainly rare these days, but you probably won’t be making the big bucks, even at the highest levels. Some higher-ups are probably wealthy, but a lot of Christian Scientists come from old money families.

    Your reactions were pretty similar to mine whenever I go to church with my family (like for Christmas or whatever), and I was raised in it! Certainly some pretty wacky things in that book, and a lot of circular logic 🙂

    • I think you may be right about the question of misappropriation of funds with respect to Christian Science–at least in contemporary times. Thank you very much for sharing your experience/knowledge. In any case, CS has more to answer for anymore in terms of violations of medical ethics etc.

      Wacky indeed! Thanks again for your very informed perspective. Cheers!

      • True. And Some Christian Science communities that are more isolated and not related to the Mother Church or official activities also have the kind of problems typically associated with fundamentalist christianity, like homophobia and sexism (even though the religion was founded by a woman, really blows my mind how religion can still be used to justify that in this case!!).

  6. Okay, I am cracking up here. Thank you! 🙂 This was refreshing. I’m glad the whole experience was mostly painless for you. I think you are very brave to just throw yourself into these alien situations. I admire your pluck, and willingness to check out the way other people look at the world. Kudos to you! Mass kudos!
    Karen the Madcap Christian Scientist

  7. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Roman Catholic | DIYThinking

  8. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Church-That-Must-Not-Be-Named | DIYThinking

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