In a recent MTV.com article, Jennifer Vineyard writes:
Thought Harry Potter was blasphemous? That was kids’ stuff compared to the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, in which God is an imposter, angels are sexually ambiguous and the Church kidnaps, tortures and assassinates to achieve its goals, one of which is stealing children’s souls.
I have been the recipient of numerous e-mails calling for a boycott of the movie, warning me against the evils of the book, and informing me that author Pullman is an atheist who’s goal is to turn children away from God.
In an effort to be fair, I spent the last week reading the trilogy and here is what I found.
- There are three books that are a part of the His Dark Materials series. “His Dark Materials” is from a line in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Pullman said he was inspired by Paradise Lost:
Paradise Lost is the great epic poem of the English language, a tale of immense drama and excitement, of rebellion and treachery, of innocence pitted against corruption, in which God and Satan fight a bitter battle for control of mankind’s destiny. The struggle ranges across heaven, hell, and earth, as Satan and his band of rebel angels conspire against God. At the center of the conflict are Adam and Eve, motivated by all too human temptations, but whose ultimate downfall is unyielding love. (description from Barnes and Noble)
The original quote from Paradise Lost (in context) is:
…Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in thir pregnant causes mix’t
Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look’d a while,
Pondering his Voyage…
- The books are based on the quantum theory that there exists a multitude of parallel universes. Some of those universes are similar to our own. For an in-depth look at the idea, check out a series by NOVA HERE, or read Michael Crichton’s book, Timeline (good book, lousy movie).
- Pullman has issues with organized religion – and it shows in his books, (much in th same way that Dan Brown went out of his way to denigrate “The Church” is his books, Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code).
- Pullman’s “God” is really no God at all (in fact, there is no God). This “god” is a liar – he came into being before anything and then said that he was the creator of everything. Therefore the original rebellion by the angels was a good thing and one of the main plot lines is the attempt to kill this so-called “Almighty” (referred to in the story as the Authority).
The books are definitely written for junior high and above. I think younger children would struggle with both the length and the vocabulary of the novels. The story is entertaining, just as Angels and Demons was entertaining. I just struggled with Pullman’s take on theology and organized religion – especially since his issue seemed to be primarily with Christianity in specific, not organized religion in general.
I have seen a lot of quotes about Phillip Pullman saying that he wants these books to be anti-Narnia and that he wants the stories to turn children from God. Unfortunately, try though I might, I could never find where the original quotes came from or their context. Now, I don’t doubt that Pullman is going to bring his world view into his writing – every author does. I just can’t speak to Pullman’s intentions. Did he write books that he hoped had a good story and happened to reflect his view on God and religion? Likely. Did he do all that with the intention of killing God in the hearts of children? Only God and Phillip Pullman knows the answer to that question.
What I did find was from Pullman himself on his website:
I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.
Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.
This is the typical response I would expect from someone who doesn’t really believe in God. However, I think it is good to remember that while a lot of good has been done in “the name of God,” a lot of bad, stupid things have been done in His name, too.
Later, when asked whether he writes for children or adults, Pullman says:
If the story I write turns out to be the sort of thing that children enjoy reading, then well and good. But I don’t write for children: I write books that children read. Some clever adults read them too.
Some suggest that we simply ignore the movie. But the problem with this option is that the box office is a ballot box. The only people whose votes are counted are those who buy tickets; if you stay home, you have thrown your vote away, and you do nothing to shape the Hollywood decision-making process regarding what movies will make it to the big screen…
But I’d like to offer another option.
On… opening weekend… you should go to the movies. Just go to another movie. That’s your way of casting your vote, the only vote Hollywood recognizes: The power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend.
Use your vote. Don’t throw it away. Vote for a movie other than [The Golden Compass]. If enough people do it, the powers that be will notice.
By the way… check out Barbara’s blog, Church of the Masses – it’s great!
What movie should you see? Well, if you ask me, you won’t find a more enchanting movie (pun intended) than Enchanted. It’s classic old-school Disney. In fact, as soon as you’re done reading this, go the the Enchanted web-site and watch the clips, “How Does She Know” and “The Happy Working Song.”
As for letting your kids read the books – that’s really up to you as a parent. Read the books and decide for yourself.
tags: The Golden Compass | Philip Pullman | His Dark Materials | John Milton | Paradise Lost | NOVA | Michael Crichton | Timeline | Dan Brown | Angels and Demons | The DaVinci Code | Barbara Nicolosi | Church of the Masses | othercott | Disney | Enchanted