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.