After they got home from church, one by one, they all came to talk to me during that afternoon. I can't remember very many of the specifics of those brief but agonizingly awkward conversations--except one question that my oldest sister asked me: "Do you think we're stupid?"
I'd just told her that I didn't think the church was true anymore. And that was her response. I guess she was trying to gauge my level of disgust toward the church. I thought it was a weird question, and for a moment I kinda thought that my answer was yes, but I assured her that I didn't think any of them was stupid...I simply disagreed with them.
But that's a question that I keep coming back to, even though it was asked of me four and a half years ago. And my current answer keeps switching back and forth with pretty reliable regularity. It's like a pendulum. Or an oscillating fan. Or maybe a Newton's Cradle. Back and forth. Back and forth.
My family is a pretty smart family. It's obvious to most people within a few minutes of meeting any member of my family that, at the very least, he or she is not stupid. Between the five of them, they have nine college degrees. Their language and comprehension skills strike me as being decidedly above average. Mathematics came easily to most of us. My dad in particular has a methodical, logical mind and I think his children inherited that. So sometimes, when I think about my sister's question, my reaction is, "Of course not. None of you is stupid."
But...you'd think all that extra education and all the problem-solving and reasoning skills they've acquired would make them better equipped than most people to see through the appealing facade of Mormonism and into the rotten core. You'd think that the logical fallacies and doctrinal contradictions would almost jump off the pages of the Book of Mormon and smack them in the face. You'd think that their intelligence would make them less prone to the deception and the brainwashing. But they're all still locked into their LDS lifestyles. Maybe having a better-than-average ability to understand things and not utilizing that ability to examine your religion is stupid. "Unto whom much is given, much is required." I'd expect better from people of their mental caliber. And sometimes, when I think about my sister's question, my reaction is, "Of course I think you're stupid. How can you, of all people, not see how false the church is?"
Back and forth. Back and forth.
My family likes to tell me that I'm the smartest of them. I got the best scores on the ACTs and the SATs. They frequently express astonishment at my capacity to remember things (although they don't seem to realize that this ability is pretty much good for movie quotes and nothing else). I don't know how true their claims are that I'm the brightest of the bunch, but if any of them still think that this is the case, I wonder how that colors their impressions of my current lack of religious belief.
Yeah, yeah, I know...to be learned is good if you hearken unto the counsels of God. When men are learned, they think they are wise, blah blah blah. Maybe they still think I'm smarter than they are--but I got cocky and started thinking I was smarter than God. I don't know. But I do find it ironic that the supposed smartest guy in the family is the only one (or, hopefully, the first one) to leave the church. Though, to be honest, and maybe to be fair to my "stupid" family, I don't think leaving the church is necessarily just about being smart enough to see through the bull. There's some courage involved. It takes a lot to face the doubt head-on.
People talk a lot about the "shelf"--that when you come across something that doesn't make sense and makes you doubt the church, you push it aside and set it on a shelf in your mind. Then, eventually, the shelf gets too full, it collapses and you leave the church. I think different people's shelves have different capacities. And some people get tired of putting stuff there earlier than others. It takes a lot of guts to, after avoiding the things that make you all hot, bothered, uncomfortable and doubt-y for so long, to walk up to the shelf, stare at it directly, take things down, and examine them one by one. Directly confronting your doubts can be an excruciating experience--but I think it's excruciating in the same way that setting a broken limb is excruciating.
So I guess maybe I shouldn't be too hard on my family for their beliefs. I shouldn't consider them stupid--just cowardly. No, wait, that's not right either.
I know they're smart people. And because of that, it can be difficult to continue to respect them as they continue to attend the temple and pay their tithing. But I guess I'll figure something out. Because, as much as I do think they're stupid sometimes, that's not exactly a healthy way to view your own family--especially when they're not dumb to begin with.
Ugh. Back and forth.