One less movie to see this Christmas season.

November 6, 2007

I remember talking with Emily of Augustine College/English Master (both in degree and genius) about The Harry Potter books. She said she couldn’t see why so many parents were up in arms about Harry Potter, where at least the distinction between good and evil is apparent, but there had never been a huge reaction to the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. (She said it much more eloquently, for the record)

Mind you when my Dad saw that I was reading the Dark Materials trilogy he looked into it and didn’t like what he saw. He told me as much, but did not censor me. Which, ironically, my parents did do with Harry Potter (their stance changed later, by that time though I was watching the movies and didn’t plan on spending the time necessary to get caught up on the books).

The Dark Materials trilogy is a beautiful and imaginative work. It is also written to proseltyze atheism, an agenda Phillip Pullman, the author had explicitly stated a number of times. (While also frequently taking the opportunity to bash C.S. Lewis). Though that bothered me I did love the books and was very excited to go see the movie. Until I read this.

I really don’t have a problem with writing from an agenda. I can’t stand most christian fiction not because there is an agenda but because the agenda is transparent and the writing sucks. What I really can’t stand is dishonesty, and Philip Pullman is now backing off from his stated agenda to try and help his movie sell. I know that without the guide provided by a supreme moral understanding it’s difficult for atheists like Philip Pullman to understand they are being dishonest (the reasons for that belong to a much longer and different post) but let me just say I agree wholeheartedly with John at Verum Serum. C.S. Lewis would never have masked his agenda.



  1. Boo! I’ve got stuck in the third book of the trilogy because the complete and utter lack of theological and biblical understand and depth disturbs. The “church” of Pullman’s universe knows nothing of Christ and Christian virtues, and no one knows anything about the God we encounter in the rest of Scripture except this bit about the battle in heaven. Sure, the books are based on Paradis Lost, but Paradis Lost is based on Scripture–Pullman is not very well acquainted with the original Source. Anyway, the propagandistic nature of the books also grates on me.

    But I feel like I should finish The Amber Spyglass because then I’d be living up to my own advice when I tell people to at least TRY the Bible or an orthodox Christian writer or two. But I’m not actually enjoying it as a piece of literature, and I already get the point.

  2. Atheism is this year’s bug-a-boo. What is there to fear? It’s whole appeal is based on something negative, the proof of something not existing. It is anti-philosophy. It is not an affirmation of life. It is a resignation to the idea that there is no meaning apart from whatever I say it is.
    I don’t believe the existence of God has to be proved, nor can it be in any absolute sense. That proof is ultimately arrived at by exposure to the character of believers’ lives of love. Anyone say that love is at the center of their lives. But when one person lays his or her life on the line for another, then that is sufficient proof in my mind that there is a God.
    Liam, I’ll pass on the movie and the books, and do a marathon Lord of Rings viewing instead.

  3. I get scared at all this “panic” over books …”Ooh, its not christian!” since when di being not christian be wrong? Why do Christians continually put themselves on this “holier than thou, smug pedestal”
    Feel free to believe what you want, but, guess what? You might just be wrong, and some people think you are wrong about the existence of God. It doesn’t make them bad people. I just feel coming out of a lot of these “God-fearing America” blogs, something akin to the Bible Belt Burning of Beatles records. Its just scary. The Christian zeal and the Islamic Zeal are very scary things people. I wrote something along these lines on a blog a week or so ago, and they didnt allow the comment…mmm.

  4. Kev,
    You must be reading a different post than what Liam has written. If you’ve read his blog then you’d know he’s never put himself on a “holier than thou, smug pedestal.” Appears to be an ad hominem attack based on Liam professing to be a Christian.

    Engage the argument. Pullman, an admitted and avowed atheist is trying to mask his identity in order to promote the movie coming out at Christmas. This issue is not his atheism – it is his ethics.

  5. Thanks, Lliam. You have educated me on a film that had sounded intriguiing from the marketing.

  6. Bill, fair point. I didnt mean it to appear that Liam himself was holier than thou, I was trying to indicate
    a particular number of Christians and indeed Muslims who do behave this way.
    If he’s masking the true nature if his book, perhaps we should be asking why he has to do that. Will the Christian majority boycott it unfairly? Perhaps he has good reason. I just dont like it when people get up in arms about this stuff. For example I love the C.S.Lewis books, an acknowledged God-botherer, but I dont care about his beliefs, I just love the stories. But thats how I see the Bible, interesting stories, I’m just not daft enough to be indoctrinated by either. Its all just my personal opinion, and I have no problems with people believing whatever they need to get through this increasingly bananas world. Peace!

  7. I’m with Matthew above – the lack of redemptive qualities in the story left me so bleak I just couldn’t finish. I read tons of juvenile fiction so that I can discuss it intelligently with the youth I work with and their parents. This just left me cold.

    I found the first book interesting enough to finish, but the second two were dreary.

    He truly isn’t engaging in a spiritual battle with any God or church I know. I will use this though to begin conversations that I think will be helpful.

    Thanks for your input!

  8. I found it interesting that when I asked my 12 year old son about the books (he read #1 and #3), he reply was: “Hey, they’re kinda interesting…but his ideas about God are really messed up, Mom.” We relented and let him read the whole Potter series after the last one came out…which he completed in one week!

    We already don’t go to many movies…and Ed, I’m with you for the annual holiday LOTR 12-hour marathon, instead! ;^)

  9. Hey All,
    Thanks for the comments.
    @ Kev
    My Dad said all I wanted to say. I can’t imagine why anyone would fear a boycott by christians. Boycotts seem to do little more than help publicize the movie these days. This post was about wanting honesty. If you have an agenda tell it like it is. It is the utmost stupidity to say one thing in an article you wrote, than contradict it only a few years later.
    In terms of comments, the only ones I delete are the spam. Conversation is more important than proving a point.
    @ Ed
    I agree, Atheism takes second place to apathy for me. The whole laissez-faire spirituality that so many professed Christians have in the West is a much bigger issue. Especially when compared to what believers are going through in countries like China, Turkey, and Iran.
    That being said, perhaps part of the reason the stories resonated with me is because that is the education I’ve had. All except two years of my education experience has come from the perspective of Scientific Atheism.
    @ Matthew and Heidi
    Straw men are the easiest to burn. I enjoyed the stories far more for the narrative than the spiritual content. I also haven’t read them for close to 6 years. Specifically to Matthew, I think I get what you’re saying about asking people to read Christian literature. For that though I would say books like the God Delusion are far more important than Pullman’s books in terms of meeting atheistic thought head on.
    @ Dan
    I’m far more excited about finally seeing Stardust over the Christmas break. Gaiman has a weird spirituality but approaches it far more creatively than a lot of the fantasy I’ve read.
    @ Peggy
    Lort of the Rings rules all, both the books and the movies, but especially the books.
    It’s upsetting to think that there will probably be a huge backlash to the Potter books now that Rowling has informed the world that Dumbeldore is gay.

    Thanks again everyone for your feeback. I really appreciate it.

  10. Dumbledore is gay? Why? It strikes me as pointless to make Dumbledore gay. There’d better not be any backlash, since I never noticed him being gay. In fact, the professors at Hogwarts all seemed rather unsexual, so I guess any of them could go in any direction…

  11. Apparently Catholic schools have been pulling Pullman’s books, and this would be the reason he’s backpedalling. But he’s still backpedalling. You’d think he’d have the integrity to stand by his art…

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