Is It Anti-Intellectual To Believe in God?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Do you believe in God? That's a question that bothers some people. Even when they actually love God. They worry that other people will think they're intellectually naive because they believe in God.

What sorted this out for me was the simple, humbling fact - realized incrementally over the years - that God is where intelligence comes from in the first place. So how could trusting in God, the one universal Mind that comprehends everything (because He/She made everything), possibly be anti-intellectual? How could it do anything but sharpen your analytic, creative, and practical skills? And do this more effectively than anything else.

Now, maybe you're saying, "Hey, wait a minute. That last statement is too big a leap. You're expecting me to throw out - just like that - all the stunning technological advances of the 1990s, the so-called 'Decade of the Brain'! After all, scientists can now monitor almost every imaginable brain function. And some of them have concluded that intelligence is completely centered in the brain. It's all preprogrammed by genes!"

True, a lot of people say that. But other people - like social scientist Tom Wolfe - say something different. They beg us to consider the chilling implications of believing that all our thoughts are programmed by genes. If we accept that idea, Mr. Wolfe says, we'll end up believing that human individuality itself is irrelevant! And that "the soul, that last refuge of values, is dead, because educated people no longer believe it exists" (Tom Wolfe, "Sorry, but your soul just died," The Independent [London], February 2, 1997).

If the extermination of the human "soul" - of people's inherent spirituality - is unacceptable, then there's only one way to go. There's only one thing to say. And that's "No." "No" to the determinism of matter - and "Yes" to God, the great Soul of the universe. It's God alone, Wolfe believes, who will rescue humankind from drowning in the "primordial ooze" of matter.

In my own academic work, and in that of hundreds of students I taught in high school and college, this kind of divine "rescue" happened more times than I could count. The first time was with Gwen, a tenth-grader.

Gwen was new at the school. She sat in the back row and acted bored most of the time. Her first report card was a disaster, and corresponded with her low IQ scores. At faculty meetings, the consensus was that Gwen would fail and have to leave the school by the end of the year.

After I got to know her better, it became clear that even she didn't think she could make it in her new school. So she decided not to try. When I realized this, something within me said "No" to the idea of her having to go. I told her I believed she could - and would - succeed at our school.

This wasn't just positive thinking. Privately, I asked God to help me teach Gwen well - to help her understand how perfectly connected she was to His never-failing intelligence, His infinite intellect. She was, after all, His daughter, His beloved one.

Over the year that we worked together, Gwen improved in all her subjects. She did better on her next aptitude test, too. And two years later, she graduated as a member of the National Honor Society.

If intelligence were dependent on material genes, successes like Gwen's wouldn't happen. But the fact is, they do happen. They happen when someone says "No" to failure. When someone denies that matter determines intellect. When someone looks to God as the source of all intelligence.

Mary Baker Eddy courageously denied that divine Mind, the infinite intelligence governing all thought and action, could ever be in matter. "This denial," she explained, "enlarges the human intellect by removing its evidence from sense to Soul, and from finiteness into infinity. It honors conscious human individuality by showing God as its source" ("Unity of Good," Pg. 25).

And there's nothing anti-intellectual about that!

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