What’s normal – about conditioning

Religion and social pressure are two sides of the same coin. Religion gives meaning to our lives, shapes our actions – which means that people who let their lives be shaped by other pressures than our own, are by definition strange. Hard to deal with. This comes out, in the USA, in people pretending they’re Christian when really they are not. This results in Christians feeling more people are ‘like them’ than is truly the case. Even children…

In the Netherlands, when I was growing up, being religious was taboo for educated people – pretty much the way NOT believing is taboo for many people world wide. So it was a shock to me, when I lived in Austin Texas for a year (I was 12) to overhear a boy in the corridor say to another kid about someone who did not believe in God: they had to be crazy. Things like that become very important to kids at a certain age. Especially in the insecurity of puberty, social rules get magnified. The social rule that boy had grown up with was: everybody believes in God. The social rule I had grown up with was: most people don’t believe in God. He associated believing in God with sanity. I associated NOT believing in God with intelligence.

I did not believe in God at that time – I still don’t in any conventional sense. But the shock didn’t only have to do with my beliefs being invalidated. It also had to do with the culture shock of my ‘what’s normal’ being denied.

Kids will create a sense about what’s normal out of anything. They will be conditioned to it even if the people around them are trying desperately to overcome conditioning. This is clear from reading the biography about Krishnamurti written by the girl he pretty much raised: Lives in the Shadow: with J. Krishnamurti by Radha Sloss. That biography is usually treated as a hard iron attack on Jiddu Krishnamurti. In fact, when I got it I could hardly read it at first. But more recently I did end up reading it and what impressed me most was precisely this: this woman grew up in the shadow of Krishnamurti’s fame. She knew him as a father, because her real father was absent a lot. She knew him as her mother’s lover. But when she grew up, her family broken up because Krishnamurti had broken with her father (his accountant and editor) and her parents had divorced. To top it off, when she came to see him at the end of his life, she hardly got in to see Krishnamurti because his entourage did not know who she was. And Krishnamurti, firmly impersonal in his public role, did not correct them.

That’s the main story in that book, but getting back to conditioning. Radha Sloss was raised by Krishnamurti and her mother to be adverse to dogma and creed. She had to overcome that in college when she had to learn about liberalism and socialism and all the other isms. Overcoming her conditionings to be able to listen to what people did actually believe and shocked at it. It’s one of the advantages of college that one gets to see society from a different perspective than what one grew up with, broaden the mind. But the point: we all have conditioning to overcome.

As that sad story about the Buddhist girl pretending to be Christian shows though: this conditioning stuff is a hard business.

1 thought on “What’s normal – about conditioning”

  1. Ah, so you have lived in the states so you know. My upbringing was Roman Catholic, I left that for a couple of years in my late teens and in my early twenties became a bible thumping fundamentalist. I was under no pressure to do this, but obviously the conditioning of my Roman upbringing prepared me for it. Once you are a fundamentalist then the pressure really sets in. Your whole world becomes enveloped by fundamentalism and to reject it is to be alone in the world. In fact, I am not a fundamentalist for eight years now, and I have just finished writing a book which I hope to have to a publisher by March for those who have walked away from Fundamentalist Christianity.
    There is still the pressure, here in America, to believe in God, and not only in God, but a particular god, the god of the Bible. If you do not share this belief people think you odd at the least, or evil at the worst. This is conditioning. One might have thought that in these days as more and more people are educated belief in literal religion and the god of the Bible would have declined, but it is on the upswing.
    The church I exited Christianity from was a “mega-church” and therein were the people pretending to be Christians that you speak of. The church was more of a networking and social club than anything else. I was totally out of place as the people that went there were mostly wealthy people, and having some struggles at that time, we were not in the “in crowd” so to speak. Our ten year old used Oldsmobile did not fit in the parking lot with all those shiny new SUVs. Finally, this church had more Masters and Phd educated people than any church in the city. Most of them had no clue what the teachings of Jesus were, much less followed them. However, I do want to come to the defense of other Christians in less affluent and smaller churches, who do study the teachings of Jesus and do actually try to live up to them, as misled as their fundamentalism might be, they are earnest in their undertaking. Those at the mega-church were not. We were invited there by people we though were friends supposedly because they had many programs for youth.
    I left Fundamentalism and ended up a theosophist. My daughter ended up an atheist, and I hold that church partially responsible for her turning against religion completely. It is a well known fact that Christ’s worst detractors are Christians.
    Thanks for the post, Katinka, Did not mean to get so long winded here. This is a topic in which I am fully invested, and have spent a lot of time trying to understand.

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