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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Third place (tie) — High school essay contest: Jana Kelly

Jana Kelly

Each of us is an almighty force of nature

FFRF awarded Jana $2,500 for her essay.

By Jana Kelly

I was raised by a father who was a byproduct of mental illness and child neglect. He was born to a 72-year-old man who’d already had a first batch of children, and all he would tell me about the grandfather I’d never met was this: “The only time he paid me attention was to make sure I went to church.” Naturally, this led my father to raise me as an agnostic. I grew up without the influence of any holy book, and while I respect the right of those who worship, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I were leaning on a deity.

Because my childhood was devoid of a mystical guiding figure, I learned to guide myself. I learned the capabilities of my own mind, and I learned self-reliance. You see, as beautiful as it is to believe in something, religion can distract you from true celebration. I see people saying they got into Harvard because of God, or they got this great new job because of him. While faith is security, it is also a disavowal of self-reward. You got into Harvard because you worked hard for that 4.0. You got that job because you are smart and qualified. Without the obligation of having to chalk my successes up to Someone or Something, I’ve learned to worship myself above all. I’ve learned to see myself as the purest, most powerful force of nature.

I am unabashedly agnostic because the world is full of inevitability. We are but specks in this infinite universe — who are we to assign meaning to how we came to be? It’s incredibly freeing to live without requirements or covenants. Life is so short, and in a vacuum of potentially unlimited knowledge, I’d suggest we spend it wisely. Not everything has to be a sign from the heavens. You get what you pay for and you earn what you work for. We don’t need to justify our existences with the creation of some almighty power. We, on our own, are almighty. 

Jana, 18, is from Davie, Fla., and will be attending Brown University, with plans to major in English. She hopes to become an English professor (and win a Pulitzer!). She lives with her brother and mother, who was born in Thailand, where they visit every summer. During high school, she was a speech and debate competitor, classical guitar student and the president of her school’s Dead Poets Society.