Growing Up in the Christian Bubble

28 Jul 2016

Christianity has always been a part of my life. My father’s a pastor, and I became a christian at the age of 3. I don’t remember it. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I started to make my own decisions about my beliefs and found atheism.

The world I lived in told me I was wrong because my beliefs were antithetical to my parent’s beliefs and how I was raised. When you grow up as a pastor’s kid, you grow up with a whole congregation of people judging how you live. In an unspoken way, you’re the example of what a christian family is supposed to be. Questioning your beliefs is not just blasphemous, it’s disrespectful to your family. Exploring your beliefs is dismissed as a “phase” you’re going through.

Christianity didn’t make sense to me; not due to lack of knowledge about it, but due to a curiosity about the world in general. I wanted to understand why contradictions in the bible existed. Why would god be so mean, unaware, or uninvolved if everything was so “broken” on earth. Asking uncomfortable questions is discouraged in the christian bubble. It gets labeled as a lack of faith. My beliefs, or lack thereof, became my own inner conflict. I’m not the type of person to lash out outwardly. Instead, I lashed out internally. I hated myself and christianity, and the christian school I went to. I knew these contradictions made christianity wrong, but I didn’t have the words to articulate it. What do you do when openly questioning the beliefs you were taught means being ostracized by the only community you know?

I see now that this inner conflict was one part of why I became so interested in computers at a young age. The world I lived in was judgmental, a place where beliefs contradictory to christianity were not just unacceptable, but evil. I lived in a bubble of christianity filled with arbitrary rules, and the pure logic of computers gave me an escape.

This also resulted in deep seated social anxiety. I was scared of confrontation or standing up for my beliefs after spending most of my early years being disparaged for having differences. I was put on anti-depressants in high school and was put in christian counseling at our family’s church. Rather than acknowledge and process this fear, I was taught to stuff it down and suppress it. That “tough it out” approach just masks insecurities instead of resolving them. I retreated into myself, endlessly analyzing the world around me. Trying to identify potential judgment before it happened, to protect myself from being attacked. It turned into defensiveness. I was so far into my head, it took me out of the present. It manifested as social anxiety. The future became a source of anxiety.

My christian high school was strict. Uniforms and hair length rules, no full frontal hugs between girls and boys. I got in trouble a few times for having shoes that were too orange. Most of that didn’t matter once I left and got out of the bubble. What stands out about that experience to me is how deep the delusion had to go to keep the whole bubble from popping. I was taught evolution is a lie propagated by communism. The world is 5000 years old. Humans and dinosaurs lived together. Carbon dating is fake. Tolerance of gay people is a sin as bad as being gay and being gay is a sin as bad as committing rape. Natural disasters happen because of sin. Anyone who would tell you otherwise is an agent of satan, tempting you away from the lord using logic and science.

When you grow up as a pastor’s kid, you see your parents for the normal human beings they are. You also see them working at their job every week, telling people how to live in order to get to heaven. You see their faults and insecurities. Then you see them put on a smiling face for Sunday and pass the collection plate. The christian bubble pressures people to act like human faults are not ok to talk about. Doubt in god or fear in daily life gets misinterpreted as being a weak christian. And the christian bubble pressures you to not be open about those kinds of vulnerabilities. Some things are ok to be open about, like taking pride in admitting how terrible of a sinner you are. It becomes masochistic. No self respecting christian would say they are without sin, so to say the reverse is a protection from judgment. Admitting you’re a horrible sinner makes you sound aware of yourself so other people can’t point out your sins. It just becomes self-flagellation.

Christianity hinges on a faulty assumption that ancient religious texts will ever be compatible with the present world. When I think of christianity, I think of the fragility of a belief that requires its own special schools in order to indoctrinate people into believing it. I think of people who talk a lot about love and compassion, but in reality just cut off anyone not like them. I think of people so fearful of the judgement of those in their bubble, they become experts at judging everyone else around them.

I’m happy to say, that most of this is hindsight now. I’ve spent a lot of time working on the ways I treat myself internally, I’ve found ways of practicing getting out of my head through improv, and staying present. Slowly opening myself more and more to the world around me through therapy. I don’t think I’ll ever have a favorable view of christianity, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I am atheist-agnostic, which means there could be a god, but we don’t, and may never know, if one exists or if they even care about us. I’m happy admitting I don’t know for sure. The universe and everything in it is open for exploration. It means that I do not have absolute truth, but I also do not live in willful ignorance.