My parents thought I was perfect.
It wasn’t just me. My parents thought everyone was perfect. They were Christian Scientists, and they believed that all people are God’s perfect children, and that God’s perfect children are literally flawless in every way. They raised me to believe this. They also raised me to believe that people are continually deceived by dreamlike illusions, such as pain, suffering, and death. Eventually, this began to feel like a contradiction to me. One summer, when I was sixteen years old, I raised my hand in Sunday School and asked “If I’m perfect, how can I be deceived by illusions?”
The teacher said, with no trace of irony, “You’re not. The idea that you’re deceived by illusions is itself an illusion.”
For three months after that, I poked at this question as if I were prodding a sore tooth. It was disturbing. Instead of finding answers, I came up with more and more unanswerable questions. Why do Christian Scientists go to car mechanics, but not doctors? Is there really any difference between real pain and illusory pain if they both hurt the same? If Christian Scientists are sitting on a great scientific discovery, why do they just talk about it in church instead of getting it peer-reviewed and published?
After many hours of lying awake in bed, I eventually realized that Christian Science no longer made sense to me. I don’t remember how I told my parents that I wanted to stop going to church. I know that they were disappointed, but they agreed to let me stay home on Sundays and Wednesdays. I think maybe they thought this was just a phase I was going through.
It wasn’t a phase. I’m not a Christian Scientist any more. I haven’t set foot in a Christian Science church in almost fifteen years.
At first, I worried that my relationship with my parents would be damaged, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried. My parents still love me, and I still love them. The only thing that’s changed is that we no longer talk about religion with each other–and honestly, that’s a relief.