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Christian Science

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Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)

Estimated 106,000 in the United States in 1990; 400,000 worldwide in 2008, according to the church.

"Basic teachings", Church of Christ, Scientist

What is christian science

Christian Science is a set of personal beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movements (and has no connection with "science"). It was developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy, who argued in her book Science and Health (1875) that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. The book became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible, and by 2001 had sold over nine million copies.


Eddy and 26 followers were granted a charter in 1879 to found the Church of Christ, Scientist, and in 1894 the Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was built in Boston, Massachusetts. Christian Science became the fastest growing religion in the United States, with nearly 270,000 members by 1936, a figure that had declined by 1990 to just over 100,000. The church is known for its newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, which won seven Pulitzer Prizes between 1950 and 2002, and for its Reading Rooms, which are open to the public in around 1,200 cities.

Eddy described Christian Science as a return to "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." There are key differences between Christian Science theology and that of other branches of Christianity. In particular, adherents subscribe to a radical form of idealism, believing reality is purely spiritual and the material world an illusion. This includes the view that disease is a mental error rather than physical disorder, and that the sick should be treated not by medicine, but by a form of prayer that seeks to correct the beliefs responsible for the illusion of ill health.

The church does not require that Christian Scientists avoid all medical care (adherents use dentists, optometrists, obstetricians, physicians for broken bones, and vaccination when required by law), but maintains that Christian-Science prayer is most effective when not combined with medicine. Between the 1880s and 1990s the avoidance of medical treatment led to the deaths of several adherents and their children. Parents and others were prosecuted for, and in a few cases convicted of, manslaughter or neglect.

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Metaphysical family

Several periods of Protestant Christian revival nurtured a proliferation of new religious movements in the United States. In the latter half of the 19th century these included what came to be known as the metaphysical family: groups such as Christian Science, Divine Science, the Unity School of Christianity and (later) the United Church of Religious Science. From the 1890s the liberal section of the movement became known as New Thought, in part to distinguish it from the more authoritarian Christian Science.

The term metaphysical referred to the movement's philosophical idealism, a belief in the primacy of the mental world. Adherents believed that material phenomena were the result of mental states, a view expressed as "life is consciousness" and "God is mind." The supreme cause was referred to as Divine Mind, Truth, God, Love, Life, Spirit, Principle or Father–Mother, reflecting elements of Plato, Hinduism, Berkeley, Hegel, Swedenborg and transcendentalism.

The metaphysical groups became known as the mind-cure movement because of their strong focus on healing. Medical practice was in its infancy, and patients regularly fared better without it. This provided fertile soil for the mind-cure groups, who argued that sickness was an absence of "right thinking" or failure to connect to Divine Mind. The movement traced its roots in the United States to Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802–1866), a New England clockmaker turned mental healer, whose motto was "the truth is the cure." Mary Baker Eddy had been a patient of his, leading to debate about how much of Christian Science was based on his ideas.

New Thought and Christian Science differed in that Eddy saw her views as a unique and final revelation. Eddy's idea of malicious animal magnetism marked another distinction (that people can be harmed by the bad thoughts of others), introducing an element of fear that was absent from the New Thought literature. Most significantly, she dismissed the material world as an illusion, rather than as merely subordinate to Mind, leading her to reject the use of medicine, or materia medica, and making Christian Science the most controversial of the metaphysical groups. Reality for Eddy was purely spiritual.

Christian Science theology

Christian Science leaders place their religion within mainstream Christian teaching, according to J. Gordon Melton, and reject any identification with the New Thought movement. Eddy was strongly influenced by her Congregationalist upbringing. In founding the Church of Christ, Scientist, in April 1879, she wrote that she wanted it to "reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." Later she suggested that Christian Science was a kind of second coming and that Science and Health was an inspired text. In 1895, in the Manual of the Mother Church, she ordained the Bible and Science and Health as "Pastor over the Mother Church."

According to the church's tenets, adherents accept "the inspired Word of the Bible as [their] sufficient guide to eternal Life ... acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite God ... [and] acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the Holy Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God's image and likeness."

Christian Science theology differs in several respects from that of traditional Christianity. Eddy's Science and Health reinterprets key Christian concepts, including the Trinity, divinity of Jesus, atonement and resurrection; from the 1883 edition she included a glossary that redefined the Christian vocabulary, and added with a Key to the Scriptures to the title. At the core of Eddy's theology is the view that the spiritual world is the only reality and is entirely good, and that the material world, with its evil, sickness and death, is an illusion. Eddy saw humanity as an "idea of Mind" that is "perfect, eternal, unlimited, and reflects the divine," according to Bryan Wilson; what she called "mortal man" is simply humanity's distorted view of itself. Despite her view of the non-existence of evil, an important element of Christian Science theology is that evil thought, in the form of malicious animal magnetism, can cause harm, even if the harm is only apparent.

Eddy viewed God not as a person, but as "All-in-all." Although she often described God as if discussing personhood – she used the term "Father–Mother God" (as did Ann Lee, the founder of Shakerism), and in the third edition of Science and Health referred to God as "she" – God is mostly represented in Christian Science by the synonyms "Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love." The Holy Ghost is Christian Science, and heaven and hell are states of mind.

There is no supplication in Christian Science prayer. The process involves the Scientist engaging in a silent argument to affirm to herself the unreality of matter, something Christian Science practitioners will do for a fee, including in absentia, to address ill health or other problems. Wilson writes that Christian Science healing is "not curative ... on its own premises, but rather preventative of ill health, accident and misfortune, since it claims to lead to a state of consciousness where these things do not exist. What heals is the realization that there is nothing really to heal." It is a closed system of thought, viewed as infallible if performed correctly; healing confirms the power of Truth, but its absence derives from the failure, specifically the bad thoughts, of individuals.

Eddy accepted as true the creation narrative in the Book of Genesis up to chapter 2, verse 6 – that God created man in his image and likeness – but rejected the rest "as the story of the false and the material," according to Wilson. Her theology is nontrinitarian; she viewed the Trinity as suggestive of polytheism. She saw Jesus as a Christian Scientist, a "Way-shower" between humanity and God, and distinguished between Jesus the man and the concept of Christ, the latter a synonym for Truth and Jesus the first person fully to manifest it. The crucifixion was not a divine sacrifice for the sins of humanity, the atonement (the forgiveness of sin through Jesus's suffering) "not the bribing of God by offerings," writes Wilson, but an "at-one-ment" with God.

Her views on life after death were vague and, according to Wilson, "there is no doctrine of the soul" in Christian Science: "[A]fter death, the individual continues his probationary state until he has worked out his own salvation by proving the truths of Christian Science." Eddy did not believe that the dead and living could communicate.

To the more conservative of the Protestant clergy, Eddy's view of Science and Health as divinely inspired was a challenge to the Bible's authority. "Eddyism" was viewed as a cult; one of the first uses of the modern sense of the word was in A. H. Barrington's Anti-Christian Cults (1898), a book about Spiritualism, Theosophy and Christian Science. In a few cases Christian Scientists were expelled from Christian congregations, but ministers also worried that their parishioners were choosing to leave. In May 1885 the London Times' Boston correspondent wrote about the "Boston mind-cure craze": "Scores of the most valued Church members are joining the Christian Scientist branch of the metaphysical organization, and it has thus far been impossible to check the defection." In 1907 Mark Twain described the appeal of the new religion:

Mary Baker Eddy

Born Mary Morse Baker on a farm in Bow, New Hampshire, Eddy was the youngest of six children in a family of Protestant Congregationalists. Her father, Mark Baker, was a deeply religious man, although, according to one account, "Christianity to him was warfare against sin, not a religion of human brotherhood." In common with most women at the time Eddy was given little formal education, but said she had read widely at home. From childhood she lived with protracted ill health, complaining of chronic indigestion and spinal inflammation, and according to biographers experiencing fainting spells. The literary critic Harold Bloom described her as "a kind of anthology of nineteenth-century nervous ailments."

Eddy's first husband died just before her 23rd birthday, six months after they married and three months before their son was born, leaving her penniless; as a result of her poor health she lost custody of the boy when he was four, although sources differ as to whether she could have prevented this. Her second husband left her after 13 years of marriage; Eddy said that he had promised to become her child's legal guardian, but it is unclear whether he did, and Eddy lost contact with her son until he was in his thirties. (Per the legal doctrine of coverture, women in the United States could not then be their own children's guardians.)

Her third husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, died five years after they married; she believed he had been killed by malicious animal magnetism. Six years later, when she was 67 and apparently in need of loyalty and affection, she legally adopted a 41-year-old homeopath as her second son.

Eddy was by all accounts charismatic and able to inspire great loyalty, although Gillian Gill writes that she could also be irrational and unkind. According to Bryan Wilson, she exemplified the female charismatic leader, and was viewed as the head of the Christian Science church even after her death; he wrote in 1961 that her name – Christian Scientists call her Mrs. Eddy or "our beloved Leader" – was still included in all articles published in the Christian Science journals.

It was in part because of her unusual personality that Christian Science flourished, despite the numerous disputes she initiated among her followers. "She was like a patch of colour in those gray communities," McClure's wrote, "She never laid aside her regal air; never entered a room or left it like other people." Mark Twain, a prominent critic of hers, described her in 1907 as "vain, untruthful [and] jealous," but "[i]n several ways ... the most interesting woman that ever lived, and the most extraordinary."

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Eddy tried every remedy for her ill health, including a three-month stay at the Vail's Hydropathic Institute in Hill, New Hampshire. She told the Boston Post in 1883 that, for the seven years prior to 1862 (most of her second marriage), she had been effectively confined to her bed or room.

In 1861 Eddy heard of a healing method developed by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a former clockmaker in Portland, Maine. Self-styled Dr. P. P. Quimby, a practitioner of the "Science of Health," Quimby had become interested in healing after recovering suddenly from a condition he believed was consumption (tuberculosis). After attending a lecture in Maine in 1837 by the French mesmerist Charles Poyen, Quimby began to practise mesmerism himself. Mesmerism was named after Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), a German physician who argued for the existence of a fluid through which bodies could influence each other, a force he called animal magnetism. Quimby and an assistant, Lucius Burkmar, traveled around Maine and New Brunswick giving demonstrations; Burkmar, in a trance, would offer mind readings and suggestions for cures.

Quimby abandoned mesmerism around 1847 when he realized that it was suggestion that was effecting the apparent cures. He came to the view that disease was a mental state. When Jesus healed a paralysed arm he had known, Quimby wrote, "that the arm was not the cause but the effect, and he addressed Himself to the intelligence, and applied His wisdom to the cause." In so doing Jesus had relied upon Christ, a synonym for Truth, Science and God, a power that Quimby believed all human beings could access. Quimby referred to this idea, in February 1863, as "Christian science," a phrase he used only once in writing. He wrote:

By 1856 Quimby had 500 patients a year. He would sit next to them and explain that the disease was something their minds could control; sometimes he would wet his hands and rub their heads, but it was the talking that helped them, he said, not the manipulation. Quimby began to write his thoughts down around 1859 – his work was published posthumously as The Quimby Manuscripts in 1921 – and was generous in allowing his patients to copy one of his essays, "Questions and Answers." This became an issue, from 1883 onwards, when Eddy was accused of having based Christian Science on his work.

Eddy as Quimby's patient

When Eddy first met Quimby in Portland in October 1862, she had to be helped up the stairs to his consulting rooms. She spoke highly of him the following month in a letter to the Portland Evening Courier: "This truth which he opposes to the error of giving intelligence to matter and placing pain where it never placed itself ... changes the currents of the system to their normal action ..." In a second letter she offered to supply quotations from Quimby's "theory of Christ (not Jesus)." Between then and May 1864, Eddy returned to see Quimby several times, staying for weeks in Portland and visiting him daily. She wrote to him regularly, and composed a sonnet for him, "Mid light of science sits the sage profound."

Eddy first used mental healing on a patient in March 1864, when one of Quimby's patients in Portland, Mary Ann Jarvis, suffered a relapse when she returned home to Warren, Maine. Eddy stayed with her for two months, giving Jarvis mental healing to ease a breathing problem, and writing to Quimby six times for absent treatment for herself. She called the latter "angel visits"; in one of her letters to Quimby, she said that she had seen him in her room. In April she gave a public lecture in Warren, contrasting mental healing with Spiritualism, entitled: "P. P. Quimby's Spiritual Science healing disease, as opposed to Deism or Rochester Rapping Spiritualism."

Fall in Lynn

Quimby died on January 16, 1866, three months after Eddy's father. Eddy wrote a poem on January 22, "Lines on the Death of Dr. P. P. Quimby, Who Healed with the Truth that Christ Taught, in Contradistinction to All Isms," which was published in a local newspaper. Two weeks later, on February 1, she slipped on ice in Lynn, Massachusetts, injuring her head and neck:

Christian Scientists call this "the fall in Lynn," and see it as the birth of their religion. Decades later Eddy wrote that, on the third day after the fall, she had been helped by reading a certain Bible passage. In several editions of Science and Health she identified it as Mark 3, but later said that it had been Matthew 9:2-8, a passage about Jesus healing the paralytic at Capernaum: "As I read, the healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I rose, dressed myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed." The physician who treated her at the time, Alvin M. Cushing, swore in an affidavit in 1907 that the injury had not been a serious one, and that Eddy had responded to morphine and a homeopathic remedy; she had not said anything to him about a miraculous healing.

The fall in Lynn in 1866 was one of several experiences Eddy associated with the development of mental healing. In the first edition of Science and Health (1875), she wrote that she had "made our first discovery that science mentally applied would heal the sick" in 1864, while she was seeing Quimby, and in 1883 told the Boston Post that she had "laid the foundations of mental healing" in 1853, when she was practising homeopathy. Elsewhere in the first edition of Science and Health she attributed the discovery to her difficulties with chronic indigestion as a child. In other editions she attributes the same difficulties to someone else. Eddy first linked the fall in Lynn to Christian Science in 1871, in a letter to a prospective student:

Whether Eddy considered herself healed at the time is unclear. Two weeks after the fall she requested treatment from another patient of Quimby's, Julius Dresser. In June that year the Mayor of Lynn told the city Eddy had sent them a letter "in which she states that owing to the unsafe condition of [the streets] ... she slipped and fell, causing serious personal injuries, from which she has little prospect of recovering, and asking for pecuniary recompense for the injuries received." In February 1867 Eddy and her husband, Daniel Patterson, a dentist, filed a lawsuit against the city to recover damages.

Teaching Sally Wentworth

In March 1866, a month after the fall, Eddy and her husband (then married for 13 years) moved into an unfurnished room in Lynn. At some point her husband left and Eddy was evicted, unable to pay the $1.50 weekly rent. He appears to have returned briefly – they moved to a boarding house in July, and in August he paid Dr. Cushing's bill from the fall – but the marriage was over. He sent her $200 a year for a time, and they divorced in 1873.

Her first student was Hiram Crafts, a shoe worker in whose house she stayed, who advertised for patients himself in May 1867, offering a cure for "Consumption, Catarrh, Scrofula, Dyspepsia and Rheumatism." Eddy asked Crafts to set up a practice with her, but the plan came to nothing. In addition to teaching, Eddy had started to write; toward the end of 1866 she began work on an allegorical interpretation of Genesis, intended as the first volume of a book (never published), The Bible in its Spiritual Meaning.

In the summer of 1868, while lodging with Spiritualist Sarah Bagley in Amesbury, Eddy advertised for students in a Spiritualist magazine, the Banner of Light, as Mary B. Glover (her first husband's surname). The ad promised a "principle of science" that would heal with "[n]o medicine, electricity, physiology or hygiene required for unparalleled success in the most difficult cases." Sally Wentworth, another Spiritualist, offered Eddy $300-worth of bed and board in Stoughton if Eddy would treat her daughter's lung condition and teach Wentworth the healing method. Eddy stayed there for two years, from 1868 to 1870, teaching Wentworth with Quimby's unpublished essay, "Questions and Answers." She acknowledged that the manuscript was Quimby's, and spoke often of how she had promised to teach his healing method, which at the time she called Moral Science.

Eddy was asked to leave the Wentworths' in early 1870. They fell out over several issues, including her request that they pay a printer $600 to publish her Genesis manuscript, which apparently ran to over 100,000 words.

She returned to Amesbury to stay with Sally Bagley, where she resumed contact with Richard Kennedy. Kennedy had been a fellow lodger two years earlier when he was working in a box factory, and had become one of her earliest students. She now asked him to join her in opening a Moral Science practice in Lynn; he would see patients and she would teach. He agreed to pay her $1,000 for the previous two years' tuition. Kennedy rented rooms in Lynn in June 1870, and placed a sign in the yard, "Dr. Kennedy"; he was 21 and Eddy 49. The practice became popular. McClure's wrote that people would say: "Go to Dr. Kennedy. He can't hurt you, even if he doesn't help you."

Lynn was a center of the shoe industry and most of Eddy's students were factory workers or artisans. She charged $100, raised a few weeks later to $300, for a three-week course of 12 lessons (reduced in 1888 to seven). Eddy based the lessons on a revised version of Quimby's "Questions and Answers" manuscript, now called "The Science of Man, by which the sick are healed, Embracing Questions and Answers in Moral Science," and on three shorter manuscripts, "The Soul's Inquiry of Man," "Spiritualism" and "Individuality," which she had written for her classes. "Questions and Answers" began: "What is God?" The answer: "Principle, wisdom, love, and truth." Two books on mental healing appeared around that time that may have influenced Eddy's thinking: The Mental Cure (1869) and Mental Medicine (1872), both by Warren Felt Evans, another former patient of Quimby's.

Eddy allowed her students to make copies of the manuscripts, but they were forbidden, under a $3,000 bond, from showing them to anyone. The students agreed to pay Eddy 10 percent annually of income derived from her work, and $1,000 if they failed to practice or teach it. She at first taught them to rub patients' heads, to "lay [their] hands where the belief is to rub it out forever"; Kennedy would manipulate each student's head and solar plexus before class in preparation. The head rubbing was abandoned when the women complained about having to take their hair down, and the stomach rubbing held no appeal for them either. Eventually Eddy told them to ignore that part of the manuscript, and from then on Christian Science healing did not involve touching patients.

In 1879 Eddy sued two of the students (unsuccessfully) for royalties from their practices. They testified that she had claimed she no longer needed to eat and had seen the dead raised. Eddy told the judge she meant she had "seen the dead in understanding raised."

Mary B. Glover's Christian Scientists' Home

Kennedy decided toward the end of 1871 to end his business partnership with Eddy. She had accused him in front of others of cheating at cards; it was one of several scenes she had caused between them and he walked out on her. There was a temporary reconciliation, but he was unhappy about the abandonment of head rubbing, and after a dispute between Eddy and a student over a refund was played out in the local press, he decided to go his own way.

Once Kennedy and Eddy had settled their financial affairs in May 1872, she was left with $6,000. Peel writes that at this point she had already written 60 pages of Science and Health. She was renting rooms in Lynn at 9 Broad Street, when 8 Broad Street came on the market. In March 1875 she purchased it for $5,650, taking in students to pay the mortgage. It was in the attic room of this house that she completed Science and Health.

Shortly after moving in, Eddy became close to another student, Daniel Spofford. He was 33 years old and married when he joined her class; he later left his wife in the hope that he might marry Eddy, but his feelings were not reciprocated. Spofford and seven other students agreed to form an association that would pay Eddy a certain amount a week if she would preach to them every Sunday. They called themselves the Christian Scientists' Association.

Eddy placed a sign on 8 Broad Street, Mary B. Glover's Christian Scientists' Home. According to McClure's, there was a regular turnover of tenants and domestic staff, whom Eddy accused of stealing from the house; she blamed Richard Kennedy for using mesmerism to turn people against her. According to Peel, there was gossip about the attractive woman, the men who came and went, and whether she was engaged in witchcraft. She was hurt, he wrote, but made light of it: "Of course I believe in free love; I love everyone."


Eddy copyrighted her book, then called The Science of Life, in July 1874. Three of her students, George Barry, Elizabeth Newhall and Daniel Spofford, paid a Boston printer, W. F. Brown and Company, $2,200 to produce the first edition. The printer began work in September 1874, but stopped whenever the advance payment ran out, so progress was slow. The book – Science and Health by Mary Baker Glover, with eight chapters and 456 pages – finally appeared on October 30, 1875, published in the name of the Christian Science Publishing Company.

The book was positively received by Amos Bronson Alcott, who in 1876 wrote to Eddy that she had "reaffirm[ed] in modern phrase the Christian revelations," and that he was pleased it had been written by a woman. The printer's proofreading had been poor. Martin Gardner called the first edition a "chaotic patchwork of repetitious, poorly paragraphed topics," with spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes.

Eddy changed printers for the second edition, which was also poorly proofread, and for the third edition in 1881 switched again, this time to John Wilson & Sons, University Press, Cambridge, MA. John Wilson and his successor, William Dana Orcutt, continued to print the book until after Eddy's death. To the 6th edition in 1883, Eddy added with a Key to the Scriptures (later retitled with Key to the Scriptures), a 20-page glossary containing her definitions of biblical terms. The book sold 15,000 copies between 1875 and 1885.

In August 1885, on the advice of John Wilson, she hired one of his proofreaders, the Rev. James Henry Wiggin, as an editor and literary adviser. The issue of how much Wiggin contributed to Science and Health is controversial. A former Unitarian clergyman, he was the book's editor from the 16th edition in 1886 until the 50th in 1891 – 22 editions appeared between 1886 and 1888 alone – and according to his literary executor, speaking after Wiggin's death, said he had rewritten it. Robert Peel wrote that Wiggin had "toned up" Eddy's style, but had not affected her thinking. In a letter to Wiggin in July 1886, Eddy wrote: "Never change my meaning, only bring it out."

Eddy continued to revise the book until her death in 1910. In 1902 she added a chapter, "Fruitage," recounting healing testimonies from the Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel. There were over 400 editions (the final ran to 18 chapters and 600 pages), seven of them major revisions, according to Gottschalk, and members were encouraged to buy them all. Other income derived from the sale of rings and brooches, pictures of Eddy, and in 1889 the Mary Baker Eddy souvenir spoon; Eddy asked every Christian Scientist to buy at least one, or a dozen if they could afford to. When the copyright on Science and Health expired in 1971, the church persuaded Congress to extend it to 2046. The bill was supported by two of President Richard Nixon's aides, Christian Scientists H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. The law was overturned as unconstitutional in 1987, after a challenge by United Christian Scientists, an independent group. By 2001 Science and Health had sold over nine million copies.

Sickness as error

Science and Health expanded on Eddy's view that sickness was a mental error. People said that simply reading Science and Health had healed them; cures were claimed for everything from cancer to blindness. Eddy wrote in the New York Sun in December 1898, in an article called "To the Christian World," that she had personally healed tuberculosis, diphtheria and "at one visit a cancer that had eaten the flesh of the neck and exposed the jugular vein so that it stood out like a cord. I have physically restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and have made the lame walk." Eddy wrote that her views had derived, in part, from having witnessed the apparent recovery of patients she had treated with homeopathic remedies so diluted they were drinking plain water. She concluded that Divine Mind was the healer:

She argued that even naming and reading about disease could turn thoughts into physical symptoms, and that the recording of ages might reduce the human lifespan. To explain how individuals could be harmed by poison without holding beliefs about it, she referred to the power of majority opinion. Eddy allowed exceptions from Christian Science prayer, including for dentistry, optometry and broken limbs; she said she had healed broken bones using "mental surgery," but that this skill would be the last to be learned. But for the most part (then and now), Christian Scientists believe that medicine and Christian Science are incompatible. Medicine asserts that something needs to be fixed, while Christian Science asserts that spiritual reality is perfect and beliefs to the contrary need to be corrected.

In the 1890s Richard Cabot of Harvard Medical School studied the healing testimonies published by the Christian Science Journal, which Eddy founded in 1883, for his senior thesis. He wrote in McClure's in 1908 that the claims were based on self-diagnosis or secondhand reports from doctors, and attributed them to the placebo effect. In 1900 medical lecturer William Purrington called the beneficiaries "hysterical patients ... the victims of obscure nervous ailments."

Rodney Stark writes that a key to Christian Science's appeal at the time was that its success rate compared favorably with that of physicians, particularly when it came to women's health. Most doctors had not been to medical school, there were no antibiotics, and surgical practices were poor. By comparison the placebo effect (being treated at all, no matter what the treatment was) worked well. Stark argues that the "very elaborate and intensely psychological Christian Science 'treatments' maximize such effects, while having the advantage of not causing further harm."

Malicious animal magnetism

In January 1877 Eddy spurned an approach from Daniel Spofford, and to everyone's surprise married another of her students, Asa Gilbert Eddy. Eddy already believed that her former student and business partner Richard Kennedy was plotting against her. Weeks after the wedding Spofford was suspected too. She had hinted in October 1876 that he might be a successor, but instead he was expelled from the Christian Scientists' Association for "immorality" after quarrelling with her over money. She filed lawsuits against him and others for royalties or unpaid tuition fees. McClure's wrote that Eddy required "absolute and unquestioning conformity" from her students.

The conviction that she was at the center of plots and counter-plots became a feature of Eddy's life. She believed that several students were using what she called "malicious animal magnetism," or evil thought, against her. (She also referred to it as An. Mag., Mes., M.A.M., m.a.m., mesmerism, malicious mesmerism, animal magnetism, mental malpractice, malicious malpractice, and mental influence.)

Wilson writes that the concept of malicious animal magnetism was an important one in Christian Science. In 1881 Eddy added a 46-page chapter on it, "Demonology," to Science and Health. From the 16th edition in 1886, when James Henry Wiggin became the book's editor, the chapter was reduced and renamed, and in the final edition is a seven-page chapter called "Animal Magnetism Unmasked". Eddy spoke openly about it, including to the press. When her husband died in 1882 she told the Boston Globe that malicious animal magnetism had killed him.

While Eddy argued that reality was entirely spiritual (and therefore entirely good), it remained true that human beings were affected by their belief in evil, which meant it had power, even if the power was an illusion. Evil was "like a bankrupt to whom credit is still granted," writes Wilson. To defend herself against it, Eddy organized "watches," during which students (known as mental or metaphysical workers) would give "adverse treatment" to her enemies. This was called "taking up the enemy in thought." According to former students, Eddy would tell them to say (often with Richard Kennedy in mind): "You are affected as you wish to affect me. Your evil thought reacts upon you," then call Kennedy bilious, consumptive or poisoned by arsenic.

Eddy set up what she called a secret society of her students (known as the P. M., or private meeting) to deal with malicious animal magnetism, but said that the group only met twice. In her later years, Wilson writes, Eddy concluded that individuals ought not to be "taken up in thought," and came to see animal magnetism as an impersonal force. From 1890 she felt that her students were focusing on it too much, and thereafter public discussion of malicious animal magnetism declined, although Gottschalk adds that it continued to play an important role in the teaching of Christian Science. Adam H. Dickey, Eddy's private secretary for the last three years of her life, wrote that hour-long watches were held in her home three times a day to protect her against it. The Manual of the Mother Church forbids members from practising it, and requires that Christian Science teachers instruct students "how to defend themselves against mental malpractice, and never to return evil for evil."

Witchcraft trial, conspiracy charge

In May 1878 Eddy brought a case against Daniel Spofford, in Salem, Massachusetts, for practicing mesmerism. It came to be known as the second Salem witchcraft trial. The case was filed in the name of one of Spofford's patients, Lucretia Brown, who said that he had bewitched her, though Eddy appeared in court on Brown's behalf. In preparation for the hearing, Eddy organized a 24-hour watch at 8 Broad Street, during which she asked 12 students to think about Spofford for two hours each and block malicious mesmerism from him. She arrived at the court with 20 supporters, including Amos Bronson Alcott (a "cloud of witnesses," according to the Boston Globe), but Judge Horace Gray dismissed the case.

The attempt to have Spofford tried was not the end of the dispute. In October 1878 Eddy's husband and another student, Edward Arens, were charged with conspiring to murder Spofford. A barman said they had offered him $500 to do it; after a complex series of claims and counter-claims, the charges were dropped when a witness retracted his statement. Eddy attributed the allegation to a plot by former students to undermine sales of the second edition of Science and Health, just published. Her lawyer had to apply for an attachment order against her house to collect his fee.

Establishing the church, move to Boston

On August 23, 1879, 26 members of the Christian Scientists' Association were granted a charter to form the Church of Christ (Scientist). Services were held in people's homes in Lynn and later in Hawthorne Hall, Boston. On January 31, 1881, Eddy was granted a charter to form the Massachusetts Metaphysical College to teach "pathology, ontology, therapeutics, moral science, metaphysics, and their application to the treatment of disease." The college lived wherever Eddy did; a new sign appeared on 8 Broad Street.

In October 1881 there was a revolt. Eight church members resigned, signing a document complaining of Eddy's "frequent ebullitions of temper, love of money, and the appearance of hypocrisy." Only a few students remained, including Calvin Frye, who became Eddy's most loyal personal assistant. They appointed Eddy pastor of the church in November 1881, and drew up a resolution in February 1882 that she was "the chosen messenger of God to the nations."

Despite the support, the resignations ended Eddy's time in Lynn. The church was struggling and her reputation had been damaged by the disputes. By now 61 years old, she decided to move to Boston, and in early 1882 rented a house at 569 Columbus Avenue, a silver plaque announcing the arrival of the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. The college's prospectus, published in 1884, offered three diplomas: Christian Scientist (C.S.) for Christian Scientists' Association members; Christian Metaphysician (C.M.) for Eddy's 12-lesson course and three years' practice; and Doctor of Christian Science (D.C.S.) for C.M.s whose "life and character conform to Divine science." Students could study metaphysics, science of the scriptures, mental healing and obstetrics, using two textbooks, Science and Health and the Bible. Between 1881 and October 1889, when Eddy closed the college, 4,000 students took the course at $300 per person or married couple, making her a rich woman. Mark Twain wrote that she had turned a sawdust mine (possibly Quimby's) into a Klondike.

Death of Asa Gilbert Eddy

Eddy's husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy, died of heart disease on June 4, 1882, shortly after the move to Boston. She invited the Boston Globe to her home on the day of his death to allege that he had been killed by malicious animal magnetism, courtesy of "certain parties here in Boston, who had sworn to injure them." The Globe wrote:

A doctor performed an autopsy and showed Eddy her husband's diseased heart, but she responded by giving more interviews about mesmerism. Fraser wrote that the articles made Eddy a household name, a real-life version of the charismatic and beautiful Verena Tarrant in Henry James's The Bostonians (1885–1886), with her interest in spiritualism, women's rights and the mind cure. Shortly after the death, Eddy moved next door to 571 Columbus Avenue with several students. The following year, 1883, she founded the Journal of Christian Science (later called the Christian Science Journal), which spread news of her ideas across the United States.

Tremont Temple, first church building

In 1885 Eddy was accused of promoting Spiritualism and pantheism by the Reverend Adoniram J. Gordon, in a letter read out by Joseph Cook during one of his popular Monday lectures at Tremont Temple in Boston. She demanded a right of reply, and on March 16, 1885, she told the congregation that she was not a Spiritualist, and that she believed in God as the Supreme Being and in the atonement. She described Christian Science healing as "Christ come to destroy the power of the flesh." Stephen Gottschalk wrote that the occasion marked the "emergence of Christian Science into American religious life."

The first church building was erected in 1886 in Oconto, Wisconsin, by local women who believed Christian Science had helped them. For a down payment of $2,000 and a mortgage of $8,763, the church purchased land in Falmouth Street, Boston, for the erection of a building. Eddy asked Augusta Stetson, a prominent Scientist, to establish a church in New York. By the end of 1886 Christian Science teaching institutes had sprung up around the United States.

In December 1887 Eddy moved to a $40,000, 20-room house at 385 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. She had been teaching four to six classes a year, and by 1889 had probably made at least $100,000 (equivalent to $2,666,000 in 2016). By 1890 the Church of Christ (Scientist) had 8,724 members in the United States, having started 11 years earlier with just 26.

Eddy's debt to Quimby

Eddy's debt to Phineas Parkhurst Quimby became the "single most controversial issue" of her life, according to Gillian Gill. Quimby was not the only source Eddy stood accused of having copied; Ernest Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore, Bryan Wilson, Charles S. Braden and Martin Gardner identified several texts she had used without attribution. For example, an open letter from Eddy to the church, dated September 1895 and published in Eddy's Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 (1897), is almost identical to Hugh Blair's essay "The Man of Integrity," published in Lindley Murray's The English Reader (1799). Eddy acknowledged Quimby's influence in her early years. When a prospective student asked in 1871 whether her methods had been used before, she replied:

Later she drew a distinction between their methods, arguing that Quimby's involved one mind healing another, while hers depended on a connection with Divine Mind. In February 1883 Julius Dresser, a former patient of Quimby's, accused Eddy in letters to the Boston Post of teaching Quimby's work as her own. In response Eddy disparaged Quimby as a mesmerist and said she had experimented with mental healing in or around 1853, nine years before she met him. She wrote later: "We caught some of his thoughts, and he caught some of ours; and both of us were pleased to say this to each other."

The issue went to court in September 1883, when Eddy complained that her student Edward Arens had copied parts of Science and Health in a pamphlet, and Arens counter-claimed that Eddy had copied it from Quimby in the first place. Quimby's son was so unwilling to produce his father's manuscripts that he sent them out of the country (perhaps fearing litigation with Eddy or that someone would tamper with them), and Eddy won the case. Things were stirred up further by Eddy's pamphlet Historical Sketch of Metaphysical Healing (1885), in which she again called Quimby a mesmerist, and by the publication of Julius Dresser's The True History of Mental Healing (1887).

The charge that Christian Science came from Quimby, not divine revelation, stemmed in part from Eddy's use of Quimby's manuscript (right) when teaching Sally Wentworth and others in 1868–1870. Eddy said she had helped to fix Quimby's unpublished work, and now stood accused of having copied her own corrections. Against this, Lyman P. Powell, one of Eddy's biographers, wrote in 1907 that Quimby's son held an almost identical copy, in Quimby's wife's handwriting, of the Quimby manuscript that Eddy had used when teaching Sally Wentworth. It was dated February 1862, eight months before Eddy met Quimby.

In July 1904 the New York Times obtained a copy of the Quimby manuscript from Sally Wentworth's son, and juxtaposed passages with Science and Health to highlight the similarities. It also published Eddy's handwritten notes on Quimby's manuscript to show what the newspaper alleged was the transition from his words to hers. Quimby's manuscripts were published in 1921. Eddy's biographers continued to disagree about his influence on Eddy. Bates and Dittemore, the latter a former director of the Christian Science church, argued in 1932 that "as far as the thought is concerned, Science and Health is practically all Quimby," except for malicious animal mesmerism. Robert Peel, who also worked for the church, wrote in 1966 that Eddy may have influenced Quimby as much as he influenced her. Gardner argued in 1993 that Eddy had taken "huge chunks" from Quimby, and Gill in 1998 that there were only general similarities.

First prosecutions

In 1887 Eddy started teaching a "metaphysical obstetrics" course, two one-week classes. She had started calling herself "Professor of Obstetrics" in 1882; McClure's wrote: "Hundreds of Mrs. Eddy's students were then practising who knew no more about obstetrics than the babes they helped into this world." The first prosecutions took place that year, when practitioners were charged with practicing medicine without a licence. All were acquitted during the trial, or convictions were overturned on appeal.

The first manslaughter charge was in March 1888, when Abby H. Corner, a practitioner in Medford, Massachusetts, attended to her daughter during childbirth; the daughter bled to death and the baby did not survive. The defense argued that they might have died even with medical attention, and Corner was acquitted. To the dismay of the Christian Scientists' Association (the secretary resigned), Eddy distanced herself from Corner, telling the Boston Globe that Corner had only attended the college for one term and had never entered the obstetrics class.

From then until the 1990s around 50 parents and practitioners were prosecuted, and often acquitted, after adults and children died without medical care; charges ranged from neglect to second-degree murder. The American Medical Association (AMA) declared war on Christian Scientists; in 1895 its journal called Christian Science and similar ideas "molochs to infants, and pestilential perils to communities in spreading contagious diseases." Juries were nevertheless reluctant to convict when defendants believed they were helping the patient. There was also opposition to the AMA's effort to strengthen medical licensing laws. Historian Shawn Peters writes that, in the courts and public debate, Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses linked their healing claims to early Christianity to gain support from other Christians.

Vaccination was another battleground. A Christian Scientist in Wisconsin won a case in 1897 that allowed his son to attend public school despite not being vaccinated against smallpox. Others were arrested in 1899 for avoiding vaccination during a smallpox epidemic in Georgia. In 1900 Eddy advised adherents to obey the law, "and then appeal to the gospel to save ...[themselves] from any bad results." In October 1902, after seven-year-old Esther Quimby, the daughter of Christian Scientists, died of diphtheria in White Plains, New York (she had received no medical care and had not been quarantined), the authorities pursued manslaughter charges. The controversy prompted Eddy to declare that "until public thought becomes better acquainted with Christian Science, the Christian Scientists shall decline to doctor infectious or contagious diseases," and from that time the church required Christian Scientists to report contagious diseases to health boards.

Building the Mother Church

In 1888 Eddy became close to another of her students, Ebenezer Johnson Foster, a homeopath and graduate of the Hahnemann Medical College. He was 41 and she was 67, but apparently in need of affection and loyalty she adopted him legally in November that year, and he changed his name to Ebenezer Johnson Foster Eddy.

A year later, in October 1889, Eddy closed the Massachusetts Metaphysical College; according to Bates and Dittemore, the state attorney was investigating colleges that were fraudulently graduating medical students. She also foreclosed the mortgage on the land in Boston the church had purchased, then purchased it herself for $5,000 through a middle man, though it was worth considerably more. She told the church they could have the land for their building on condition they formally dissolve the church; this was apparently intended to quash internal rebellions that had been bothering her. The following year she dissolved the National Christian Science Association. Wilson writes that the dissolutions allowed her to create a central church controlled by a five-person board of directors that answered only to her, which gave the church a stability that helped it survive her death.

The cornerstone of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, containing the Bible, Eddy's writings and a list of directors and financial contributors, was laid in May 1894 in the Back Bay area of Boston. Church members raised funds for the construction, and the building was finished in December 1894 at a cost of $250,000. It contained a "Mother's Room" in the tower for Eddy's personal use, furnished with rare books, silks, tapestries, rugs, a dressing gown and slippers, though she spent only one night there and it was later turned into a storage room. The archway into the room was made of Italian marble, and the word Mother was engraved on the floor.

Within two years the Boston membership had exceeded the original church's capacity. By 1903 the block around the church had been purchased by Christian Scientists, and in 1906 the Mother Church Extension, accommodating 5,000 people, was completed at a cost of $2 million. This attracted the criticism that, whereas Christian Scientists spent money on a magnificent church, they maintained no hospitals, orphanages or missions in the slums.

Christian Science went on to become the fastest-growing American religion in the early 20th century. The federal religious census recorded 85,717 Christian Scientists in 1906; 30 years later it was 268,915. In 1890 there were seven Christian Science churches in the United States, a figure that had risen to 1,104 by 1910. Churches began to appear in other countries too: 58 in England, 38 in Canada and 28 elsewhere by 1910.

View of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was a prominent contemporaneous critic of Eddy's. His first article about Christian Science was published in Cosmopolitan in October 1899. Another three appeared in 1902–1903 in North American Review, then a book, Christian Science (1907). He also wrote "The Secret History of Eddypus, the World Empire" (1901–1902), in which Christian Science replaces Christianity and Eddy becomes the Pope.

Twain described Eddy as "[g]rasping, sordid, penurious, famishing for everything she sees – money, power, glory – vain, untruthful, jealous, despotic, arrogant, insolent, pitiless where thinkers and hypnotists are concerned, illiterate, shallow, incapable of reasoning outside of commercial lines, immeasurably selfish."

Science and Health he called "strange and frantic and incomprehensible and uninterpretable," and argued that Eddy had not written it herself. "There is nothing in Christian Science that is not explicable," he wrote, "for God is one, Time is one, Individuality is one, and may be one of a series, one of many, as an individual man, individual horse; whereas God is one, not one of a series, but one alone and without an equal." Eddy apart, Twain felt ambivalent toward mind-cure, arguing that "the thing back of it is wholly gracious and beautiful." His daughter Clara Clemens became a Christian Scientist and wrote a book about it, Awake to a Perfect Day (1956).

McClure's articles

The first history of Christian Science appeared in McClure's magazine in 14 installments from January 1907 to June 1908, preceded by an editorial in December 1906. The essence of the articles, which included court documents and affidavits from Eddy's associates, was that Eddy's chief concern was money, and that she had derived Christian Science from Quimby. The material was also published as a book, The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (1909). It became the key source for most non-church histories of the religion. The editor-in-chief assigned five writers to work on the series, including the novelist Willa Cather as the principal author. The book was kept out of print from early in its life by the Christian Science church, which bought the original manuscript. It was republished in 1971 by Baker Book House when its copyright expired, and again in 1993 by the University of Nebraska Press.

Next Friends suit, Eddy's death

In March 1907 several of Eddy's relatives filed an unsuccessful lawsuit, the "Next Friends suit," against members of Eddy's household, alleging that she was unable to manage her own affairs. Calvin Frye, her long-time personal assistant, was a particular target of the allegations. The New York World's front-page story in October 1906, headline "Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy Dying; Footman and Dummy Control Her," said that Eddy was housebound and dying of cancer, that her staff had taken control of her fortune, and that another woman was impersonating her in public.

The newspaper persuaded Eddy's family (or "next friends") to file a lawsuit. Several joined the action, including Eddy's biological son, George Glover, and adoptive son, Ebenezer J. Foster Eddy. Eddy was interviewed in her home in August 1907 by the judge and two psychiatrists, who concluded that she was mentally competent. In response to the McClure's and New York World stories, Eddy asked the church in July 1908 to found the Christian Science Monitor as a platform for responsible journalism. It appeared in November that year, with the motto "To injure no man, but to bless all mankind," and went on to win seven Pulitzer Prizes between 1950 and 2002.

Eddy died two years later, on the evening of Saturday, December 3, 1910, aged 89. The Mother Church announced at the end of the Sunday morning service that Eddy had "passed from our sight." It said that "the time will come when there will be no more death," but that Christian Scientists "do not look for [Mrs. Eddy's] return in this world." Her estate was valued at $1.5 million, most of which she left to the church.


A census at the height of the religion's popularity in 1936 counted c. 268,915 Christian Scientists in the United States (2,098 per million). The movement has been in decline since then. The church has sold buildings to free up funds. It closed 23 of its churches in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1995. In 2004 it sold the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Manhattan, to the Crenshaw Christian Center for $14 million. (The building was sold again in 2014 to be converted into condominiums.)

There were an estimated 106,000 Scientists in the United States in 1990 (427 per million), according to Rodney Stark. In 2009 the church said that for the first time more new members had been admitted from Africa than from the United States, although it offered no numbers.

The Manual of the Mother Church prohibits the church from publishing membership figures, but it does provide the names of Christian Science practitioners, Scientists trained to offer Christian Science prayer on behalf of others. In 1941 there were 11,200 practitioners in the United States, against 965 in 2015 (1,249 worldwide). Stark writes that clusters of practitioners listed in the Christian Science Journal in 1998 were living in the same retirement communities.

Stark attributes the rise of the movement in the late-19th and early-20th centuries to several factors, chiefly that medical practice was in its infancy. Because patients often fared better without medical treatment, Christian Science prayer was favorable in comparison. Other factors included that the church retained cultural continuity with Christianity by stressing that it was Christian and adopting its terms, despite the new content Eddy introduced. It was not puritanical. Members were expected not to drink or smoke, but could otherwise do as they pleased, and several exceptions to the avoidance of medicine were permitted.

In 1906 72 percent of Christian Scientists in the United States were female, against 49 percent of the population. The church was attractive to women because it offered professional opportunities when it was difficult for women to find work outside the home. As Christian Scientists they could become practitioners after just 12 lessons. Of the 14 practitioners listed in the first edition of the Christian Science Journal, 12 were women.

The increased efficacy of medicine around World War II heralded the religion's decline. Stark charts the use of sulfonamide to kill bacteria, the availability of penicillin in the 1940s and breakthroughs in immunology. Other factors were increased career opportunities for women, and that much of the membership was elderly. In 1998 30 percent of Christian Scientists were over 65. Eddy was in her sixties by the time the movement began to spread. Stark writes that the "characteristics of the earliest members of a movement will tend to be reproduced in subsequent converts." A significant percentage of Scientists remained single (Eddy placed little emphasis on marriage and family), or became Scientists when their children were adults and unlikely to be converted. Christian Science did not have missionaries, so it relied on internal growth, but the conversion rate within families was not high. In a study cited by Stark, of 80 people raised within Christian Science just 26 (33 percent) became Scientists themselves.

Christian Science prayer

Christian Scientists avoid almost all medical treatment, relying instead on Christian Science prayer. This consists of silently arguing with oneself; there are no appeals to a personal god, and no set words. Caroline Fraser wrote in 1999 that the practitioner might repeat: "the allness of God using Eddy's seven synonyms – Life, Truth, Love, Spirit, Soul, Principle and Mind," then that "Spirit, Substance, is the only Mind, and man is its image and likeness; that Mind is intelligence; that Spirit is substance; that Love is wholeness; that Life, Truth, and Love are the only reality." She might deny other religions, the existence of evil, mesmerism, astrology, numerology and the symptoms of whatever the illness is. She concludes, Fraser writes, by asserting that disease is a lie, that this is the word of God and that it has the power to heal.

Christian Science practitioners are certified by the Church of Christ, Scientist, to charge a fee for Christian Science prayer. There were 1,249 practitioners worldwide in 2015; in the United States in 2010 they charged $25–$50 for an e-mail, telephone or face-to-face consultation. Their training is a two-week, 12-lesson course called "primary class," based on the Recapitulation chapter of Science and Health. Practitioners wanting to teach primary class take a six-day "normal class," held in Boston once every three years, and become Christian Science teachers. There are also Christian Science nursing homes. They offer no medical services; the nurses are Christian Scientists who have completed a course of religious study and training in basic skills, such as feeding and bathing.

The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel publish anecdotal healing "testimonials," which must be accompanied by statements from three verifiers: "people who know [the testifier] well and have either witnessed the healing or can vouch for [the testifier's] integrity in sharing it." Philosopher Margaret P. Battin writes that the seriousness with which these are treated by Christian Scientists ignores factors such as false positives caused by self-limiting conditions. Because no negative accounts are published, the testimonials strengthen people's tendency to rely on anecdotes.

The church published 53,900 such accounts between 1900 and April 1989. A church study, published in 1989, examined 10,000 of them, 2,337 of which the church said involved conditions that had been medically diagnosed, and 623 of which were "medically confirmed by follow-up examinations." The report offered no evidence of the medical follow-up. The Massachusetts Committee for Children and Youth listed among the report's flaws that it had failed to compare the rates of successful and unsuccessful Christian Science treatment.

Religious exemptions

The main criticism Christian Scientists face is that their children are denied equal protection under the law. Sick and disabled children have been told the only thing wrong with them is "incorrect" thinking, and practitioners have told parents that the parents' thoughts can harm their children. The church maintains that members are free to choose medical care, but several have said they fear ostracism. The American Academy of Pediatrics regards failure to seek medical care for children as "child neglect, regardless of the motivation."

In the United States the Christian Science church has persuaded federal and local government to create and maintain religious-exemption statutes, using the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause (italicized) reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." Many of the exemptions say that in life-threatening situations children must have access to medical care, but without early access the seriousness of an illness may not be recognized, in part because Christian Scientists are encouraged not to educate themselves about physical ailments.

After the conviction for manslaughter in 1967 of the Christian Scientist mother of five-year-old Lisa Sheridan, who died without medical care in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the church lobbied the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to add a religious exemption to the Code of Federal Regulations. Added in 1974, this stated that parents who did not provide medical treatment for a child for religious reasons would not be considered negligent. States were thereafter obliged to include exemptions or lose funding; the wording of the exemptions made clear that they referred to Christian Science.

Largely as a result of lobbying by Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty, the government eliminated the HEW regulation in 1983, but 39 states, Guam and the District of Columbia still had religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse and neglect as of February 2015. Forty-eight US states allowed religious exemptions for compulsory vaccination as of June 2015. In Australia the church was the only group with a religious exemption for vaccination as of April 2015; the government said that it planned to remove it.

Child deaths, prosecutions

In over 50 cases between 1887 and the early 1990s, prosecutors charged Christian Scientists after adults and children died of treatable illnesses without medical care. The death in 1967 of five-year-old Lisa Sheridan of pneumonia, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was the first of several in the 20th century known within the church as the "child cases," according to Fraser. Her mother was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years' probation. It was after this prosecution that the church began lobbying for religious exemptions.

In 1977 16-month-old Matthew Swan died of bacterial meningitis in Detroit, Michigan, after his parents were persuaded not to seek timely medical care; they responded by founding Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty (CHILD) in 1983. Between 1980 and 1990 seven Christian Scientist parents in the United States were prosecuted; there were four convictions, two overturned. In 1988 12-year-old Ashley King died in Phoenix, Arizona, after living for months with a tumor on her leg that had a 41-inch (1,000 mm) circumference; her parents pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment. A prominent case in Massachusetts was Commonwealth v. Twitchell in 1990, which saw the parents of two-year-old Robyn Twitchell convicted of involuntary manslaughter after he died of peritonitis. The conviction was overturned; the appellate court ruled that the couple had "reasonably believed" they could rely on Christian Science prayer without being prosecuted.

The first time the church was held liable (overturned on appeal) was in 1993 after 11-year-old Ian Lundman died of hyperglycaemia in Minnesota in 1989. The church sent a Christian Science nurse to sit with him; doctors testified that he could have been saved by an insulin injection up to two hours before his death. The mother and stepfather were charged with manslaughter, but the charges were dismissed. The boy's father sued the mother, stepfather, practitioner, nurse, nursing home and church. He was awarded $5.2 million compensatory damages, later reduced to $1.5 million, and $9 million in punitive damages against the church. The Minnesota State Court of Appeals overturned the award against the church and nursing home in 1995, finding that a judgment that forced the church to "abandon teaching its central tenet" was unconstitutional, and that, while the individuals had a duty of care toward the boy, the church and nursing home did not.


In the hierarchy of the Church of Christ, Scientist, only the Mother Church in Boston, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, uses the definite article in its name. Otherwise the first Christian Science church in any city is called First Church of Christ, Scientist, then Second Church of Christ, Scientist, and so on, followed by the name of the city (for example, Third Church of Christ, Scientist, London). When a church closes, the others in that city are not renamed.

Founded in April 1879, the Church of Christ, Scientist is led by a president and five-person board of directors. There is a public-relations department, known as the Committee on Publication, with representatives around the world; this was set up by Eddy in 1898 to protect her own and the church's reputation. The church was accused in the 1990s of silencing internal criticism by firing staff, delisting practitioners and excommunicating members.

The church's administration is headquartered on Christian Science Center on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue, Boston. The 14.5-acre site includes the Mother Church (1894), Mother Church Extension (1906), the Christian Science Publishing Society building (1934) – which houses the Mary Baker Eddy Library and the church's administrative staff – the Sunday School building (1971), and the Church Colonnade building (1972). It also includes the 26-story Administration Building (1972), designed by Araldo Cossutta of I. M. Pei & Associates, which until 2008 housed the administrative staff from the church's 15 departments. There is also a children's fountain and a 690 x 100 ft (210 x 30 m) reflecting pool.

Manual of the Mother Church

Eddy's Manual of The Mother Church (first published 1895) lists the church's by-laws. Requirements for members include daily prayer and daily study of the Bible and Science and Health. Members must subscribe to church periodicals if they can afford to, and pay an annual tax to the church of not less than one dollar.

Prohibitions include engaging in mental malpractice; visiting a store that sells "obnoxious" books; joining other churches; publishing articles that are uncharitable toward religion, medicine, the courts or the law; and publishing the number of church members. The manual also prohibits engaging in public debate about Christian Science without board approval, and learning hypnotism. It includes "The Golden Rule": "A member of The Mother Church shall not haunt Mrs. Eddy's drive when she goes out, continually stroll by her house, or make a summer resort near her for such a purpose."


The Church of Christ, Scientist has no clergy, sermons or rituals, and performs no baptisms, marriages or burials. Its main religious texts are the Bible and Science and Health. Each church has two Readers, who read aloud from those texts during services, and select hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal. There are Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services. Members offer testimonials during the Wednesday meetings about any success they attribute to Christian Science, including recovery from ill health.

Notable members

Notable Scientists have included Directors of Central Intelligence William H. Webster and Admiral Stansfield M. Turner; Richard Nixon's chief of staff H. R. Haldeman; and Chief Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman. NASA astronaut Alan Shepard and the viscountess Nancy Astor were Christian Scientists, as was naval officer Charles Lightoller, who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

There used to be a concentration of Scientists in the film industry, including Joan Crawford, Carol Channing, Doris Day, Cecil B. DeMille, Horton Foote, George Hamilton, Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jean Stapleton and King Vidor. Robert Duvall and Val Kilmer are Christian Scientists.

Those raised by Christian Scientist parents include jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Robin Williams. Actor Anne Archer was also raised within Christian Science. She left the church when her son, Tommy Davis, was a child, and both became prominent in the Church of Scientology.

Christian Science Publishing Society

The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes several periodicals, including the Christian Science Monitor, winner of seven Pulitzer Prizes between 1950 and 2002. This had a daily circulation in 1970 of 220,000, which by 2008 had contracted to 52,000. In 2009 it moved to a largely online presence with a weekly print run. In the 1980s the church produced its own television programs, and in 1991 it founded a 24-hour news channel, which closed with heavy losses after 13 months.

The church also publishes the weekly Christian Science Sentinel, the monthly Christian Science Journal, and the Herald of Christian Science, a non-English publication. In April 2012 JSH-Online made back issues of the Journal, Sentinel and Herald available online to subscribers.

The church faced internal dissent in 1991 over its decision to publish The Destiny of The Mother Church. Written and privately printed in 1943 by Bliss Knapp, former president of the Mother Church, the book suggested that Eddy was the Woman of the Apocalypse of the New Testament. Knapp and his family bequeathed $98 million to the church on condition that it publish and authorize the book by 1993; otherwise the money would go to Stanford University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The church published and made the book available in Christian Science reading rooms. One senior employee was fired for failing to support the church's decision, and 18 of the 21 editorial staff of the religious journals resigned. In the end the other parties disputed that making the book available in Reading Rooms constituted authorization, and the bequest was split three ways.


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