What do you think of Hulga's conviction that intelligence and education are incompatible with religious faith?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The question refers to the character of Joy-Hulga from Flannery O'Connor's short story "Good Country People." The question is one with which O'Connor herself must have struggled because she was a highly educated person, but at the same time a person with an active Christian faith.

In the short story, Joy-Hulga is also a highly educated person, but, unlike O'Connor, Joy-Hulga has a negative view of the Christian faith. This manifests itself in the contempt with which she holds the Bible salesman (Manley Pointer), who arrives at her house.

Joy-Hulga's attitude that intelligence and education are incompatible with religious faith, namely the Christian religious tradition, is a fairly common view. The Christian faith requires a belief in concepts such as virgin birth, a divine being walking the earth in human form, and resurrection from the dead. These are miracles that people of intelligence and education have a difficult time rationalizing.

Thus, it is not surprising that Joy-Hulga, as a college-educated person, holds such a view. For a woman in the southern part of the United States in the 1950s, when "Good Country People" was written, to hold such a view strikes me as quite rare for that time. As more and more people experience a liberal arts education, though, we will find such an attitude more and more common.

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