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Christian Science has several definitions. The term relates to the theories inspiring the religion, developed by Mary Baker Eddy in her 1875 book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Eddy's book is a philosophical and spiritual interpretation of Christianity based on the King James Bible. Many who believe in Eddy's theories belong to the Church of Christ, Scientist, and Christian Science may thus refer to adherents of this Christian denomination. In other words the term can stand for both Eddy's theories and the church that arose from them.
Eddy’s theories of Christian Science are complex but especially relate to the way in which the Christian Scientist views the issues of medical technology, and the world in general. According to Eddy, all things, including death are potentially curable through prayer. Not only medical illnesses, but also any type of sin can be cured through prayer according to Eddy.
Eddy believed that the universe created by God was a perfect one. Since it was perfect, one only needed to understand one’s interconnectedness to God and to the perfect whole of the Universe. In recognizing this unity of self to God and God’s perfect creation, all things are healed. Illness and sin are seen as lack of harmony or perception of the perfection and unity with God. Therefore, prayer to God can help heal this breech, promote unity and thus promote healing.
Many who identify with Christian Science do not use conventional healing methods, though they are not forbidden to only heal by prayer. A Christian Scientist can certainly use conventional medicine if he or she chooses to, but many use prayer as their only form of healing. As such, parents who practice Christian Science may not immunize their children or provide antibiotics for infections, since these are viewed as the actual disharmony with God, not illnesses. In the US, separation of church and state protects this viewpoint, though many physicians find it personally distasteful.
Other viewpoints held in Christian Science are that matter and perception are merely illusion. All things are connected and are part of God, and spiritual reality is understanding this connection and God’s perfection. To those practicing Christian Science, the things we value in others are not based on matter. For example thinking of a person as a good person or a holy person cannot be a matter-based judgment. The concepts of good or holy are not physical or tangible but can only be felt. These are the real things, while physical bodies are illusory. Focus on the physical restrains us from our spiritual and highest selves.
Christian Science is not based on fundamental biblical interpretation. Concepts like evolution are not rejected because they are relatively unimportant, focusing on the physical world rather than the spiritual one. Anything to do with the sciences essentially focuses on the impermanent illusory world, and thus it is not objectionable to learn it in schools.
Many people often misunderstand Christian Science, connecting it to more fundamental churches that also believe in spiritual healing. Christian Science differs from more fundamental forms of Christianity by not being solely bible based and not insisting on literal interpretations of the bible. Spiritual biblical interpretation is more important.
Today about 400,000 Christians are adherents to Christian Science. The religion has approximately 2300 congregations in the US and numerous other countries. The Christian Science religion also publishes The Christian Science Monitor, often a liberal newspaper that is read by a much larger population than that made up by Christian Science adherents. The Monitor has received several Pulitzer Prizes and has been recognized by Project Censored for publishing articles that are left uncovered by larger news organizations.