Christian Science was founded by an American woman named Mary Baker Eddy in 1879. Eddy established the religion after experiencing a miracle healing upon reading Matthew 9:2. She had been terminally ill, though once she read this Biblical passage, she supposedly was relieved of her symptoms. Eddy published her first theological work entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875, and she stated that this book was the final revelation of God and that she had been inspired by the divine spirit. She asserted that her beliefs and messages in the book were firmly associated with scientific evidence, rather than speculation. In 1879, the Church of Christ, Scientist, was formally established in Boston by Eddy and a group of her followers. The Church elected to fund itself by offering a series of twelve metaphysical healing lessons, for the sum of $300. This is one of the reasons that the Mother Church in Boston is among the most extravagant of all religious buildings. The Church was reorganized in 1892 and the Manual of the Mother Church was written that indicated the bylaws and the governmental structure. The Mother Church was also built in 1894. The present-day government structure is the Christian Science Board of Directors, a five person panel that oversees the church. Individual churches retain much of the power and are allowed some freedom, though they are mandated to follow the Mother Church’s regulations.
The Church of Christ, Scientist has a doctrine that is very distinct from mainstream Christianity. Christian Science followers believe that God is everything in this world; Jesus is the wayshower; heaven and hell do not exist; everything in life is simply an illusion; all pain is an illusion; evil does not exist, it is only the belief in evil; and nothing truly exists other than God. Since Christian Science followers believe pain is an illusion, they do not use medicine nor do they visit doctors, they believe that pain can be “healed” through prayer.
A list of Christian Science practioners is regularly published in the Christian Science Journal, though church members are forbidden from participating in any other census. The only way to be recognized by the church is through this, though there are many unofficial practioners who simply follow the Christian Science beliefs. For this reason, it’s not possible to know the precise figures of followers, as many are not accounted for, however it is thought that numbers are declining.