It must be one of the most repeated phrases in the world. Because if we didn’t know, there would be something wrong with us. Right?
Certain parts of our culture demand that we know everything, or at least that we pretend to. Asking someone if they know something is often perceived as a challenge, and a response of “I don’t know” can be seen as weakness.
I think it’s okay to not know.
This subject was brought to my mind by some articles I’m reading on agnosticism. I was raised a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) and for the first twenty-some years of my life, I claimed to know. Know what, you say? That the Book of Mormon is true. That the Mormon church is true. That I know the Redeemer lives. That I know how man can be saved from damnation. It began as a child; the singing of hymns led to phrases like, “I lived in heaven a long time ago, it is true” being repeated enough times to make me actually believe that I did know. Sweet lyrics like, “I know my Father lives and loves me too”, “I know that my Redeemer lives”, and “I know that Jesus came to earth and died for me” shaped me as I grew up. They were someone else’s words, but when I sang them they became my words, and I believed them.
The trouble is that I didn’t know. I convinced myself that I knew, but I did not know. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.
I went through a period during my early-to-mid twenties where I realized that I didn’t know, and wanted to know, but didn’t want everyone else to know that I didn’t know. I read my scriptures and prayed fervently and begged the Holy Spirit to witness the truth of it all to me. I felt waves of emotion sweep over me, hair stood up on my neck and arms, my heartbeat quickened and warmth raced up and down my body. I wanted to much for that to be confirmation. I wanted so badly for those feelings to be undeniable proof. I told myself that it was the Holy Spirit and told myself that I knew.
I still didn’t know.
I’ve only been to church a few times in the past two years. When I walk into that building I don’t feel good. I feel fake. When I shake hands and smile and wink and engage in small talk, I feel like a phony. Why do they all know, and I don’t? What’s wrong with me? Do they really know? If they did truly know, wouldn’t they act differently? Can people have genuine knowledge and still act disingenuously?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I don’t feel comfortable at church. There are parts of it that I miss; the camaraderie mostly. The naivety of it all. But I don’t miss how fake everything felt, the culture of having to know everything, the pressure to conform.
I don’t know if it’s possible to know the truth about a higher power. I feel like I searched for it, earnestly, believing that I would receive it, and I didn’t. Does that make me agnostic?