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AN ANALYSIS OF
RELIGIOUS SCIENCE

Part One

By Pat Knapp

My purpose in writing this two-part article is to present an analysis and evaluation of Religious Science. Particular emphasis will be on the Mile High Church of Religious Science (MHCRS) located in Denver, CO. I will evaluate their teachings and practices from the standpoint of historic Christianity.

An examination of MHCRS is important in light of the 3000+ people currently in attendance. Its influence is spread to a great extent through its local, weekly television program "New Design for Living" which has been running since March 1987. Religious Science has many churches in the USA, Canada, India and the Philippines.

An Interesting Encounter

A friend and I had been to the Mile High Church twice earlier. Both times were to a Sunday morning "worship service." Later we attended an evening orientation meeting. It was promoted as an introduction to Religious Science and was open to anyone desiring to lean the basic principles of Religious Science.

The meeting was scheduled to last from 7:00-10:00 P.M.. We had many questions and were eager to learn more concretely what the people believed and why.

300-400 people assembled in the auditorium as the meeting started at 7:00 P.M.. Dr. Fred, as he is know by those who attend regularly, sat alone on a chair leaning against the podium.

He began with eyes closed and hands held as in praying, saying a "meditation":
We have come to this place for some good purpose ... to meditate on something useful.... I affirm that we are here to blend our minds, hearts and feelings together to get a better grasp on our lives ... let wisdom be our teacher.... I declare that to be so, amen.

He continued with the admonishment that those who had come were "not expected to park their brains in the parking lot." He gave his testimony as to how he came to believe in Religious Science through several personal "circumstances."

He was very charismatic (in the personality sense). He spoke slowly, softly, and rhythmically. The combination of this speech pattern and his striking gray hair imparted to him the qualities of the kindly, benign grandfather. Using humor and wit he proceeded to describe the basic belief system of "Mind Science."

He spent considerable time criticizing traditional beliefs about God. Particular ridicule was leveled at the "Catholic's dogma" and the "Protestant's senseless begging" to a God who was "evidently non-hearing." In place of this concept of God he spoke of the "absolute law of cause and effect" and how everything we do is determined by it.

He explained this "law" is "impersonal and doesn't know nor care about us." By getting more control over our thinking, he stated, our lives would automatically become more fulfilled. Fulfillment of life was clearly presented as the end objective.

This goal is also clearly expressed in their literature:
Do you want more friends? Do you want to get through the year without sickness? Do you want enough money to buy that new dress or sport coat you just saw? Do you want to be happier than you have ever been before? Do you want all things to come easily? You may have all of these things through spiritual mind treatment (Creed, p.2).

Dr. Fred described "spiritual mind treatment" as being a five step mental process whereby you spend time in meditation recognizing your "oneness with the universe" and getting that "feeling" you are god. Then you must realize or "make your affirmations" of what you desire by "describing the end results you want."

Next, you should give thanksgiving and "nail it down." Lastly, you would have "release" within you mind about the subject. He commented, "thoughts are things" and "you are all there is."

He continued, "Faith is the key; the work is internal.... There is no power greater than you. Everything is god and you can have anything only if you believe and affirm it to be so."

For two hours Dr. Fred continued speaking, with a brief break in the middle of the session. At 9:00 P.M. he invited questions from the audience. The first question came from the back of the auditorium, "How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ fit into your beliefs?"

He hesitated for a moment and went into a ten minute discourse saying it was very questionable if the Jesus of the Bible really died, or if He did, whether He really rose from the dead.

Dr, Fed made some vague statements such as: "There were many stories of people raising from the dead, and many Jesus-type stories throughout history. A Jewish historian, Josephus, made a passing comment or two about a Jesus that he believed may have risen from the dead."

He said his church didn't believe in the resurrection of Jesus but he was quick to add, "If you need to believe it's true, then that's ok too." Meanwhile, about half a dozen people left the auditorium.

He then quickly cut off further questions at 9:10 p.m. saying simply, "That will be all for tonight." No offer of dialogue was given to the man who asked the question and people began to file out of the auditorium.

I was surprised and dismayed. I had sat for two hours listening; now I was not given a chance to ask the many questions I had prepared. My hope was that at least some of my questions would be addressed. Fortunately, I had sat in the front, as close to the podium as I could get. Even at that, I was third in line to speak to him.

The two individuals ahead of me applauded his presentation. As I look back, they reminded me of "groupies" who flock around a teen-age rock star with worship in their eyes and few if any thoughts of reason of objective inquiry.

Then my turn came. I first asked for clarification, "It sounded like you were saying you, me, the podium, the chalkboard etc. are all god?" "Yes, that's true" he answered. "Then where does evil come from?" I asked. He replied, "From our minds, our misconceptions, our bad thoughts."

He went on a lengthy tangent. I brought him back, "Where did evil come from ultimately?" He went on again, not answering my question. I finally said, in a joking fashion, "If I were to punch you in the nose, flatten you on the floor, if indeed all is relative, what would be wrong about that?"

He answered, "Society would say that's wrong; they wouldn't care for it." I asked in reply, "How do you explain the Jewish holocaust then? Was it right?" He hesitated then said, "Well ... it was necessary for people to learn things ... I suppose." I asked, "Doesn't that seem a little contradictory?" He hesitated only briefly before saying, "Yes, but that's ok."

How Did the Church Originate?

The United Church of Religious Science, to which MHCRS belongs, claims Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) as its founder. Holmes was raised in a rural area in Maine and was one of nine sons. He dropped out of school at age 15. Later, in 1908, he returned to school to take classes in public speaking. He became a very dynamic and influential speaker.

Holmes was remembered for his sense of humor and his concern for people. He was a humble and gentle man. He described himself as a "seeker for truth." He became a great admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great Unitarian thinker. He was greatly influenced by Emerson and Gnostics like Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of Christian Science).

We had picked up a visitor's packet at the meeting. In it was several pieces of literature about MHCRS and it beliefs. One of these was a pamphlet titled, Philosophy and Science of Mind by Stephen Tornay.

Tornay states the philosophical roots of Religious Science are:
... closely affiliated with the great monistic tradition of the ages, with the ancient Vedic hymns, Hindu Brahmanism, Taoism, the mystics of all ages, and with the thinkers who taught either dynamic pantheism ... or substantial pantheism.... It is lined up with what Aldous Huxley (atheistic philosopher) once called the perennial philosophy (Tornay, p.4).

Tornay also states that those holding to Mind Science believe:
... Science of Mind originates from nineteenth-century German idealism via Coleridge and Carlyle who were the intermediaries of this importation to Emerson and to all who drew from Emerson: Phinaes P. Quimby (teacher of Mary Baker Eddy), Mary Baker Eddy, (founder of Christian Science) and others (Tornay, p.5).

In addition, Religious Scientists claim, "Among the ingredients in Science of Mind from the past, primary place should be given to the Christian belief and chiefly to Jesus' conception of faith" (Tornay, p.7).

MHCRS defines Religious Science as, "a correlation of the laws of science, the opinions of philosophy, and the revelations of religion applied to human needs and the needs and aspirations of man" (Holmes, quoted in Religious, p.2).

Beliefs and Criteria for Analysis

I intend to evaluate the following beliefs of Religious Science:

1) Monistic view of reality: All that is, is one. Any appearance of diversity of objects, events and persons is only illusion.

2) Pantheism: All is god. Everything (plants, rocks, people etc.) is part of the one divine essence.

3) Inherent goodness of human nature: Evil is ultimately illusion; good and evil actually derive from the same source. They are therefore really one and the same.

4) Syncretism: All religions/ beliefs are ultimately one.

5) Experience is the key to knowledge: Critical thinking is all but left out and replaced by "experience enlightenment."

These topics will be examined by asking:

1) Is it logical and non-contradictory?

2) Is it empirically adequate? (Is it based on observable facts?)

3) Is it existentially viable? (Is it livable?)

It might also be noted, these criteria, in part, are claimed by the MHCRS to be fulfilled in Religious Science, "So we find that Religious Science is something intelligent to think about, and something satisfying to believe in, as well as being practical to us" (Religious, p.5).

Monistic Assumption

As quoted above, Religious Science comes from the "great monistic traditions of the ages."

Tornay elaborates:
Science of Mind is based on the conviction that there is a divine Mind which is generative of all that is and expresses Itself in the smallest microscopic things as well as in the giant stars of the galaxies; in men and in all other conscious creatures which may live on other heavenly bodies (Tornay, p.4).

But is monism logical and empirical? I do not believe so. If indeed, as Dr. Fred indicated, we are all a part of one continuous reality with no boundaries, no ultimate divisions, how can any analysis of a belief system genuinely take place?

Genuine analysis (if one believes everything is not merely an illusion), requires there to be real differences among things, people etc. Otherwise, one is merely playing with something which is unreal. Comparison and words have no "real" meaning, so why should we bother? In monism, one must believe an illusion and act as though it is true.

Another item in MHCRS's visitor's pack recommends that in order to recognize God a person should remember, "That God is the perfect Source of everything - perfect health, prosperity, happiness, harmony, intelligence, energy, and so forth. That God is a loving Presence and ever available, like a father" (Creed, p.3).

How can one attribute to a "Presence" the ability to love and ascribe to it fatherhood? A person can only do this by accepting it as necessary and yet untrue. We would be stuck using allegorical illusions to live out our lives.

Next in this pamphlet, we are told, "You begin to feel good, don't you, now that you have recognized God? Isn't it similar to the feeling you get when you recognize a friend?" (Creed, p.3). How does a "Presence" or the "impersonal law and effect" that Dr. Fred spoke of become a friend?

Religious Scientists are stuck using unreal allegories to attempt to describe reality. Can a rock be a friend? We do have "pet rocks" but I doubt this type of interaction is what they want to convey, though it certainly sounds like it. Monism is simply not logical or empirically sound.

How would you live with a monistic belief? If there is not genuine diversity of objects, events and persons, then how could you have any certainty of reality? The person next to me at work might just be an illusion in my mind. If I act out these uncertainties at work my paycheck is apt to take on an equal unreality.

Some time ago I recall seeing a cartoon which illustrated these problems clearly. On the corner of the first frame stood a man begging for money with a cup in hand. In the second frame he says to himself, "My ears hear evil things." He then covers his ears with bandages and continues begging.

In the third frame, he says to himself, "My eyes see evil things." He then covers his eyes with bandages and continues begging. Next he says, "My mouth speaks evil things." He then covers his mouth with bandages and continues begging.

In the last frame, he is sitting with a sign around his neck which reads, "Give to the pure." He continues his begging.

Diversity exists whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not. In denying diversity, one is left begging the question. People do sometimes live consistently with the thought the only "Real world" is in one's own mind. Does this lead to good mental health? I am not at all convinced.

Pantheism

MHCRS aligns itself with "Dynamic pantheism" and "substantial pantheism." Dr. Fred repeatedly declared, "We are all gods" and claimed everything is in essence God. "We are divine and the problem is we are not aware of it." This "problem" could be remedied by the spiritual mind treatments. These treatments you can give yourself or another person can give you a treatment.

But do these ideas fit the facts? Douglas Groothius points out:
If all is one, all is god, and we are god, we should expect that the enlightened ones of all the great religions - Jesus, Buddha, Lao-tse, Krishna and others - would have taught and experienced the same oneness. The externals of religions may differ, but the essence would be the same (Groothius, p.8).

The distinctiveness of Christ and Christianity would be destroyed. Jesus Christ would merely be one of many appearances or manifestations of God throughout all time. This attitude would replace the Christ of the Bible with the idea of "Christ-consciousness" (which is just another word for "cosmic-consciousness"). And this idea is indeed what Religious Science teaches.

But historic Christianity IS unique. It is the only religion that offers a relationship with a personal God who lived in time and history, in Jesus Christ. The only religion, the founder of which claimed to be the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). These facts, along with the truthfulness of Christianity in general can, despite Dr. Fred's doubts, be reasonably shown to be logically, empirically as well as historically validated.

Many Bible verses are believed by those holding to Religious Science to actually support their beliefs. Several chapters in Holmes most important work, The Science of Mind, are given to what Jesus said about faith and life.

However, the Scriptures are usually taken out of their historical and cultural settings. Moreover, they are often interpreted allegorically in order to be able fit them into Religious Science's preconceived beliefs. The verses are not interpreted literally and allowed to speak for themselves.

For example, the original Greek words used in the New Testament translated "Jesus Christ" are used strictly as a proper name and a title. They do not denote, as Religious Science would have you believe, a principle or concept of "Christ Consciousness." If the authors had intended to convey such a meaning, they would have used wording allowing for such a meaning. But the term, "Christ Consciousness" is never used; it is an invention of Religious Scientists imposed upon the Bible.

But what did Jesus Christ in fact teach about Himself? He told Thomas, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). He did not say he was "a way" but "the way." Jesus was absolute in stating His uniqueness.

Those holding to Religious Science believe Jesus was just another great teacher - but this is not what He said about Himself. Jesus claimed to have a unique relationship to God the Father. In John 10:30-33, the Jews clearly understood this claim for they took up stones to stone Him.

Part Two of this article will continue this discussion of Religious Science and the MHCRS.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Bibliography:
See the end of Part Two.

The above article was originally written as a class assignment at Denver Seminary in 1988.
It was posted on this Web site April 9, 1997.

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