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

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rdb919 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Flannery O'Connor's story "Good Country People," Hulga has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is an atheist. She believes that her education gives her a better understanding of the world, including the tenets of religion. Her choice of being an atheist and her resistance to the Bible could be seen as aspects of her elitist attitude and are indicative of her rejection of the possibility of a spiritual life. She thinks that smart people know better than to believe in God. A higher education and a strong religious belief are not incompatible in the real world; however, to Hulga, they are. She views religion from a practical stance and discounts the spiritual aspect of it.

Moreover, she is a person without hope and prefers it that way. Hulga prefers to stay grounded in reality because she is afraid she will be disillusioned or disappointed. In the end, when she is with Manley, Hulga lets down her guard and is open and hopeful, but then he cons her and the deceit brings her right back to a cynical, closed-off place. For Hulga, safety lies in books and her education. There is no place in her world for religion because, to her mind, it is not to be trusted.

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Good Country People

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