Thursday, August 23, 2007

Opening a Little Wider

Last weekend my entire family went to a wedding out West. We stayed with some relatives who are extremely intellectual, and a generation ahead of us. It was great fun for someone like me--every night (and during the days if we were together) we discussed the church, politics, or general philosophy. We got into an extended debate of theodicy, which one of them was struggling with. I freely defended my own ideas, although not by explicitly saying, "God doesn't exist." I merely pointed out that if God does exist, God doesn't go meddling in people's affairs--otherwise God is clearly capricious and possibly sadistic. (Check out God's "rejoicing in suffering" in Deut. 28!) It was great fun and left me mentally exhausted.

Unfortunately, they are perceptive people, so they could tell my positions on fundamental doctrines are, shall we say, unorthodox. They immediately had a phone call into my parents, who confirmed the same. So, now I've become an object of pity in two more people's eyes. Future conversations will almost certainly be more polemic, as they strive to "defend the Church" or "save me from myself." I sure hope not, but that's the way it's gone with others--they used to talk freely about their gripes about Church, but now it's all "true and living" all the time. It's an unfortunate wall they choose (subconciously, I'm sure) to erect.

It's made me think about how some believers regularly accuse me of thinking I am smarter than they are. I try to point out that I can (as can they) disagree with someone whom I consider a peer or even a superior intellect. Factual disputes are not contests of intellect in my mind. I discovered what I did because of a fair amount of lucky timing--meeting the right people at the right times, or reading the right articles at the right times. On the other hand, as I usually do not point out it response, they now consider themselves morally superior to me. Even if I do "good works," I am an apostate and bound for much suffering. People can't be morally "different but equal" in any type of moral reasoning that I understand. So now that I've played out some of the steps expected of an apostate, I am clearly morally inferior. It's a little depressing to have yet two more family members feel that way about me.


Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

I don't know but maybe you should be giving people who are "extremely intellectual, and a generation ahead of us" the benefit of the doubt. Being as advanced in their thinking as you say they are, I have difficulty seeing them being shallow enough to assume they are morally superior to someone who just doesn't happen to believe as they do.

Now, I agree that you might not be able to share the same kind of conversations with them in the future as you one enjoyed. This isn't because of some kind of moral superiority complex though. They happen to believe in the Church and the existence of God, so they are going to feel obligated now to defend the Church in your presence. Just because they are always going to hold back some hope that some day you may come back around and they don't want to say anything now that might delay that, or reinforce your current thinking. I'm sure they also feel they should do this out of a sense of loyalty to your parents as well.

I have an uncle who I would define as "extremely intellectual" He happens to be an atheist, and I have had many discussions with him about the Church, God, BoM, etc. I don't think of him as being morally inferior to me though. He believes differently, and I think we both enjoy taking stabs at one another's belief system. It's good mental excercise for us both.

I personally am not that impressed by intellectualism. I ran into many so-called intellectuals on my mission. In most cases I found them to be concieted and too easily impressed with their own opinions. I heard an excellent quote once, but can't remember who said it. It might have been President Hinkley.

"An intellectual is just someone who's been educated beyond their own ability to learn"

Not verbatim but you get the idea.

By the way. You are so impressed wtih your relatives advanced thinking, maybe you should consider that these people who are a generation ahead of us still accept the Gospel and the existence of God.

August 27, 2007 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

I will hold out hope; however, I have seen this play out with others who are equally intelligent and wise. Moral superiority comes by virtue of the fact that apostatizing is an intrinsic sin. Thus, if I were to formally resign, but continue to read the BoM, pray, serve in the community, donate 10% of my income to charity, teetotal, etc., I would be in a morally depraved state. Surely you would not posit that such an individual is bound for exaltation?

Please define intellectualism. Then contrast it with "so-called intellectualism." I need to know what you mean by these terms to better understand why you find intellectualism offensive. Maybe I smell a new post coming on.

As for my relatives' advanced thinking and its effect as an example of believing intellectuals, I am aware of many, many more great minds that have rejected Mormonism (or theism) than have accepted it. Most of those people aren't my relatives, but I strive not to be biased into thinking that people related to me are intrinsically "more right" than those who are strangers. The church's own anti-intellectual stance clearly shows that people who think a lot aren't generally considered good members. (But we may have a different idea of what intellectual means.)

August 28, 2007 at 5:47 PM  

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