Christian Science

American new religious movement / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices which are associated with members of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Adherents are commonly known as Christian Scientists or students of Christian Science, and the church is sometimes informally known as the Christian Science church. It was founded in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote the 1875 book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which outlined the theology of Christian Science.[n 2] The book became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible, and by 2001 had sold over nine million copies.[5]

Quick facts: Founder, Texts, Members, Beliefs, Website...
Christian Science
Aerial photograph of a triangular lot between roads and their sidewalks. The lot contains a small, Romanesque church filling the front point to the sidewalks, connected to a much larger and impressive domed, Neoclassical building behind it, filling the lot to the sidewalks to the left and right.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist at the Christian Science Center in Boston with the original Mother Church (1894) in the foreground and the Mother Church Extension (1906) behind it.[1]
FounderMary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)
TextsScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible
MembersEstimated 106,000 in the United States in 1990[2] and under 50,000 in 2009;[3] according to the church, 400,000 worldwide in 2008.[n 1]
Beliefs"Basic teachings", Church of Christ, Scientist

Eddy and 26 followers were granted a charter by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1879 to found the "Church of Christ (Scientist)"; the church would be reorganized under the name "Church of Christ, Scientist" in 1892.[6] The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was built in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1894.[7] Christian Science became the fastest growing religion in the United States, with nearly 270,000 members there by 1936, a figure that had declined to just over 100,000 by 1990[8] and reportedly to under 50,000 by 2009.[3] The church is known for its newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, which won seven Pulitzer Prizes between 1950 and 2002, and for its public Reading Rooms around the world.[n 3]

Eddy described Christian Science as a return to "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing".[10] There are key differences between Christian Science theology and that of traditional Christianity.[11] In particular, adherents subscribe to a radical form of philosophical idealism, believing that reality is purely spiritual and the material world an illusion.[12] 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.[13][14]

The church does not require that Christian Scientists avoid 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.[15][16] Most controversially, the reliance on prayer and avoidance of medical treatment has been blamed for the deaths of several adherents and their children. Between the 1880s and 1990s, parents and others were prosecuted for, and in a few cases convicted of, manslaughter or neglect.[17]