I was born and raised in a devoutly Christian household. My mother was raised a Jehovah's Witness, my father a Presbyterian. Both my brother and I were baptized into the Christian faith before we’d even spoken our first words. Both of us were prescribed to a family of believers before we’d even managed to take our first steps.
I attended Sunday School from the tender age of three, all the way up until I was twelve. I was instructed to stay away from books like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings because they contained tellings of "witchcraft" and it was instilled that I would become possessed by the devil upon pulling back on one of the fragile covers. I was taught of the wonders and miracles of god; some supernatural, all powerful being that hadn't shown himself in thousands of years, but loved each of us unconditionally.
As a child, I'd always been very skeptical, curious, and eager to pull at the logic and lack thereof in almost every situation I came across. Church had many rules, designating what I could wear, who I could associate myself with, and what I should be as a woman or person as a whole. I didn't like that. I wanted to be me. It was as if the group that I had become associated with was making me afraid to think, and that had never sat well with me. In fact, I hated it.
I remember specifically the first act of rebellion I took. It was a church sleepover; ten girls and ten boys, the two genders separated by stairs and a long corridor. The night consisted of cheap pizza from the place down the street and Christian karaoke music, along with plenty of prayer and reflection on all of the good that god does for each of us. The night was drawing to a close and we were preparing to go to bed. A couple of us girls were staying downstairs in the rec. room painting our nails. The female youth director called us upstairs and we changed into our pjs, being instructed to lay down on our floor mattresses after our final prayer and keep Jesus in our heart throughout the night.
I was laying awake on top of my purple blanket, staring at the bleach white chapel ceiling and wondering what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Why was I just laying here? It was eight-thirty, and I was far from tired. So I stood up, softly moving my feet down on top of the wood and making my way towards the end of the hallway that would lead me to the stairs.
Another girl had seen me and was staring at me curiously from on top of her mattress.
"You're not supposed to be going down there. That's where the boys sleep.We have to stay separated. It's what Jesus would want. You could get lost in the dark down there."
I remember staring at her for the longest time, trying to make some kind of sense of her words. Though I tried over and over to comprehend how she'd put the idea that Jesus, not the church, wanted boys and girls separated, I couldn't come up with any kind of logic for it. How could someone who'd been dead for thousands of years know anything about the modern world? How could anyone believe that something so ancient as his beliefs could still have some kind of relevance in the moments of today?
So I grinned at her and said "I'm just going to get some water. I'll be fine without Jesus I think." and tip-toed down the stairs instead.
It was here that I remember allowing myself the permission to start thinking. I pondered every question, wrote down my thoughts in a notebook, and studied my own questions until a fathomed an answer. God was becoming smaller and smaller in my life; my basis for answering falling to science and the principals of logic and proof.
I'd only accepted the fact that I was an Atheist about a year ago. It had always been a dirty word in my household, my mother saying she'd rather have me practice any religion on the planet as oppose to "believing in nothing and lacking all faith." I know what he intensions are, to keep me connected to some kind of group, but I don't think she realizes that the world is changing. With every second that passes, there is a new discovery to be made, a new rock to overturn. The world does not stop spinning and time does not stop either...
So why are we still reading a book written thousands of years ago by man, and trying to practically apply it to the modern men of today?
I have never had a problem with the concept of religion. If you are inclined to practice, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Pastafarianism, and everything in between, do it with the full extent of your heart. I am not a master of humans. I recognize that my mind is not the same as yours, just as yours is not the same as your neighbors. We as people have every right to make our own choices about what we want to believe in.
Where do I stand amongst all of this nowadays? Given that it's been eight years since that first act of confined rebellion, I believe that I now know why all of the thinking and pacing and pondering about whether or not I was doing the right thing has led me to realize.
I know nothing.
I fully recognize that I know nothing. I know nothing about the universe besides the research I collect and the data that is presented. I am a slave to observation and sight and because of this, I know only what I am shown, which is in some cases, nothing at all.
I have also realized that in just the same way, it is okay to know nothing. The journey we take can be led without a religion or with it. You can take your first steps as a Jew and your last as a Hindu, but in the end, you are just a human, experiencing life.
All I know that I really know is that our time on this Earth is far too short to let a religion control every aspect of your being. Do not be afraid to be who you are, label, cross, star, or otherwise. The words of your faith are not everything about you, just as if you lack a faith you are not defined by that same amount of nothing.
I know nothing because I accept that we are all something.
I know nothing because I am okay with walking down the stairs and exploring the darkness with my own light and on my own terms, not a deities.
And that is the something I'm learning to be okay with.
Poulson is a contributor for The Millennial Times.