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CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, in particular the healings attributed to him in the New Testament. Members of the Church of Christ, Scientist, founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy, believe that matter is unreal and that evil, sin, sickness, and death are erroneous beliefs that can be overcome by the power of God (Infinite Mind) through prayer and the "power of Truth." They follow a system that they believe is a scientific reconstruction of the system used in the healing miracles of Jesus Christ.

Because she believed sickness to be an illusion, unknown to God, who created a perfect human being in his image, Eddy rejected the use of drugs and medicines, insisting on the power of God—"Infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love"—to heal disease. Adherents of Christian Science may avail themselves of this power to counteract the mental error that has caused any illness or discordant condition. Healing is also carried on by registered practitioners, individuals who have been specially trained by authorised teachers of Christian Science principles.

Eddy was born in Bow, N.H., in 1821. In 1862 she visited Phineas P. Quimby, a mental healer in Portland, Maine, who may have influenced her ideas on healing. According to her testimony, however, she discovered the principles of Christian Science in 1866 while healing herself of injuries suffered in a fall on the ice. In the 1870s, while living in Lynn, Mass., she prepared the first edition of her textbook, Science and Health (1875; in later editions Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures). In 1881, two years after founding her church, she moved to Boston. Adherents joined fast enough for a substantial church building to be completed in 1885 and an even larger one adjacent to it in 1906. Meanwhile, Christian Science was spreading to other parts of the U.S. and the world. By 1911, the year after Eddy’s death, there were some 1190 churches and societies (units with insufficient members to achieve church status) in the U.S. and 72 in other, mostly Protestant, countries. Growth continued through the first quarter of the 20th century. After 1950, however, the movement seemed to decline, according to listings of churches and societies in the church periodicals. Church officials, however, issue no membership figures.

Eddy’s leadership was strong, even authoritarian. In 1892, the Boston church became known as The First Church of Christ, Scientist, or "The Mother Church." It is run by a self-perpetuating board of directors. The form of organisation is prescribed in the church Manual, written by Eddy, the final article of which still declares that no tenet or bylaw may be added, amended, or annulled without her written consent. Local churches are designated as branches of The Mother Church; and although each branch is self-governing, its mode of organisation and operation must be consonant with the Manual of The Mother Church.

Similarly, doctrines and worship may not deviate from the principles laid down by the founder. Although Science and Health was revised more than once by the author, the final edition (1906) remains the fixed standard of doctrine, the basic textbook of Christian Science. In 1895, the Bible and Science and Health were ordained to be "Pastor over The Mother Church." Public worship is therefore conducted, not by ministers with discretion as to the choice of sermon topics, but by two readers—frequently one male, the other female—one of whom reads passages from the Bible while the other reads related explanatory passages from Science and Health. Worship follows a prescribed order; identical lesson sermons are delivered each Sunday in all branches, according to a fixed rotation of prescribed subjects. Weekly testimonial meetings are also held, at which congregation members relate experiences of the healing power of the religion.

Other agencies of the Christian Science church include a Board of Lectureship, committees on publication, and the Christian Science Publishing Society, which issues The Christian Science Journal (a monthly magazine that includes directories of churches and practitioners), the Christian Science Sentinel (a weekly magazine), The Christian Science Monitor (a highly regarded international daily newspaper), and The Herald of Christian Science (a magazine issued both monthly and quarterly in a variety of languages and in English Braille).

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Christian Science is a religion emphasising divine healing as practised by Jesus Christ; its tenets were formulated by Mary Baker Eddy. In 1879, Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, with its headquarters in Boston. Today it has about 3,000 branch churches in more than 50 countries. While the branches are democratic in government, they all conform to the rules of the Manual of the Mother Church (1895) by Eddy.

Sunday services consist mainly of readings from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1906), the textbook of Christian Science written by Mary Baker Eddy. Wednesday meetings include testimonies of healing from the congregation. The church has no ordained clergy. Readers, both men and women, are elected from the membership to conduct the services. Practitioners, also both men and women, devote full time to the work of spiritual healing.

Christian Science teaches that God and his spiritual creation are the only realities. God is regarded as infinite Life, Truth, Spirit, Mind, Principle, Love, and Soul. The material world, with all its suffering, strife, and death, is considered to be a misconception or distorted view of the divine universe. Christian Science claims to prove through the healing of disease and other difficulties that the understanding of God and his spiritual creation is as effective now as it was in Jesus' time. Its adherents therefore rely on divine law in times of sickness instead of resorting to medical and other material means; the right of Christian Science parents to use spiritual treatment in lieu of medical treatment for their children has been challenged in court.

Publications of the Christian Science Publishing Society include the Christian Science Quarterly, containing Bible lessons for daily study; The Christian Science Journal, a monthly magazine; Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine; The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper; and The Herald of Christian Science in 12 languages and in braille. In the 1980s the group expanded into other media, producing both radio and television news programming. Their venture into cable-television operations was ended in 1992, and Christian Science Monitor Radio ceased broadcasting in 1997.

Bibliography: Melton, J. Gordon, ed., Christian Science (1990); Peel, R., Health and Medicine in the Christian Science Tradition (1988).

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