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Friday, November 02, 2007


Adrian Monck

Please. Pullman is public about his atheism, but he is a kids author!

As a thorough-going atheist I hardly approve of CS Lewis's theology (another facile Oxonian, perhaps?), but his books are on my daughter's shelves. She doesn't like Pullman, but then she isn't keen on the Wind in the Willows either (perhaps it's the facile classical allusions in Piper at the Gates of Dawn).

My children sing hymns, attend services, and receive religious instruction. I'd rather they got more maths classes, but there you go.

Atheism is not a faith, or a church. Its adherents have no Nicean Creed. Godlessness has been appropriated by communists and nihilists, Buddhists and classical thinkers.

In a hundred years or so we'll both find out who was right! Except, as an atheist, I don't get to look smug.

Stephen Sparrow

"Atheism is not a faith"??
Come now Adrian - so Atheism is science? Atheism is capable of being proved? I number among my friends only two authentic atheists. Both are academics and both admit their viewpoint is a faith. I think you should reclassify yourself as an agnostic.

"In a hundred years or so we'll both find out who was right! Except, as an atheist, I don't get to look smug."

That statement reeks of smugness but I suppose from your point of view Adrian, it's better to be smug now than nothing later.

Carl Olson

Please. Pullman is public about his atheism, but he is a kids author!

Then why is Pullman constantly asked to give talks and interviews that touch heavily on his atheism and his dislike for "organized Christianity"? It's like saying, "Hey, Stalin was just a politician!" or "Carl Sagan was just an astronomer!" Not good enough. Besides, does anyone really think that Pullman would be the darling of the cultural elites if he was overly Christian and was as damning of atheism as he is of theism?

Tom Gilson

The Scholastic publishing company is partnering with New Line Cinema and promoting "The Compass," and the books, heavily in public schools. Even though the books are strongly anti-God and anti-church, they're getting a strong push in schools as curriculum resources. There is more information here. No matter how you view the use of free speech, this seems inappropriate for schools, and I strongly suggest you encourage your local schools not to use this material.

MMajor Fan

While Tolkien was not heavy handed in the deep theology or Catholic analogies in his trilogy, many people do not know what he wrote about how the "happy ending" was not so long lasting. He said that soon after Aragorn dies teenagers start to develop cults and even worship Sauron. I continue to marvel at Tolkien's prescience and understanding of human nature and this is the little known example I often think about. I mention this because there is such a parallel with the current trendy atheist cultism. Not long after a father's generation dies for religious freedom the "liberated youth" seem to define freedom as being rampant disbelief, in the opposite direction from the ancestors. It's almost like today those who most appreciate religion are those who had it denied to them for so long (Communist USSR, China, Vietnam) and who now have a flowering of appreciation for religion after having atheism forced down their throats for so long. The restoration of the Church in Russia, China and Vietnam are vivid examples that the pendulum swings back to faith after a long time of deprivation. They understand real atheism and what it's like because they had to live within the near total destruction of their faith. Today's parlor atheists in general do not know what it is like to actual live within decades of state enforced spiritual aridity. I wonder how they would feel if they lived in a true atheist society where they could not even discuss what parts of the theoretical existence of God they disagree with. It's an aridity that is unnatural to humanity that none but those who actually lived within it can understand. I think that is one reason sci-fi and fantasy have such a pull for atheists because they create a new stage where they would not feel the pain that one feels in reality in genuine real life enforced 100% atheism where there is a total aridity of God.


---"parlor atheists"---

Great expression MMajor Fan. I hope you don't mind if I borrow it on occasion. It has a certain something, like "limousine liberals."


I read Pullman's trilogy a number of years ago, when my youngest son was still in grade school. Sandra Miesel's adjective--"Repulsive!"--is right on. My sensations were deepening disgust from book one to book three. I told my son not to read the books; now that he is an adult, it would be his choice, but I didn't want him to read them when he was so young and impressionable. And OF COURSE the public schools would be pushing them!--any stick is good enough to beat religion with, even though those books contain aspects that would normally be off limits.


While I agree in principle with Donahue, I really think he's taking the wrong tack here. He sounds as irascible and oppressive and the books would have children believe we (Catholics) are.

I was at a lecture once given by St. Vincent's College professor Jason King, who suggested essentially that in responding to Pullman's stories we should point out the inherently catholic themes of the novel (the self-sacrificial act of love that is at the center of the story), and by doing so "bless those who curse you".

I don't know that I totally buy his argument, but I think (especially since we're talking about stories here) that there must be a better approach than Donahues reactionary words.

I look forward to your articles!

MMajor Fan

LJ :-)
Happy for you to use my spontaneously thought of expression!
So why do we never see Cadillac Catholics? hmmm.


How about using the His Dark Materials series as a jumping-off point for a discussion about the reputation, history, and depictions of Christianity and the Catholic Church? What if parents read this book alongside their children and used it as an opportunity to talk about these issues, rather than simply barring their children from these ideas entirely? Is that too dangerous?

Miss VA

I do think that reading the book alongside your kids gives them the wrong idea, that these books are noteworthy enough for mom to use as a teaching tool. There are many excellent books available to teach our kids the true history of the Catholic Church with all its high and low points without using Pullman's fictional version. As an adult reader of LOTR and TCON to my children and to myself, I judged Pullman's first novel as interesting fantasy, much better writing than Rowling, but gross in imagery and insulting in his abuse of the Catholic truths in which I deeply believe. His repeatedly negative use of the term "Magisterium" became hard to take. I was offended by the interactions of his daemons. There is so much excellent, beautiful literature for our children to read that is mind- and heart-lifting. Why even debate whether our children should read this stuff? Just Say No!


I agree with not allowing children to read this stuff. You don't have to drink sewer water to know that it's bad for you. This is just literary sewer water.

Joe Hepperle

Carl Olson, shame on you. Even though you may be a busy person don't you feel guilty by writing this long opinion piece about Pullman when you haven't even read the book(s)?

You know some people, who know some people, who have read the book and they thought it was horrible? So what? You have violated the first rule of giving reliable opinion. The rule that says you should know what you are talking about before you begin dispensing.

You sure put the embarrassment onto me. I was referred to your piece here by some of my non-church-going friends. These are the same friends to whom I have been prosyletyzing for the last year and a half.

I've been trying to encourage them to come to church with me. Their most frequent responses are that they aren't interested because they have heard bad things about the Church from other people.

So, like a fish I bite the hook. What have you heard? They respond that they have heard that the head of the Church worships Satan (or the alternate version--"IS").
NO! NO! NO! I answer.
They continue by saying they heard that the church worships statues.
NO! NO! NO! I respond.
They continue by saying they have heard that the Bible itself speaks badly of the Church-- That the Bible refers to the Church as the Great Whore of Babylon.
NO! NO! NO! I respond

I have been trying to tell them all along, that if they come to the Church with me they'll see that they have been mislead. I tell them that if they read the scriptures with me, they will see what the revelations are really about (certainly not anything bad about the Church!)

They have continually told me that what they heard, they heard from "reliable" people that they trust so they don't have to come to the Church to see. And neither do they want to study the scripture with me, for the same reason.

Now these friends of mine sent me an email with a link to your article here. They wrote in their email,

"See Joe! Even this guy from this church website says that we don't have to come to your church or read the Bible to get any more truth than we already have. All your talk about getting the truth straight from the source was a bunch of hooey Joe! We'll still be expecting you at the New Years Eve party but don't come spewing your "come to the church and see the truth" crap. We have the truth about your church -- we got it from people we trust and who are reliable."

The rest of the email rants on about their firmly held (mistaken) beliefs about statue worshipping, Satan, etc but I won't paste all that here.

Now what do I do? You've done here what I have told my friends not to do. The actual source is available to you but you've made a conscious decision to ignore the source. You've as much as declared that what your "reliable" friends whom you trust have said can be taken as truth. Wow. What a concept. I don't expect that you'll actually reply to this but if you do, frame it in the sense of what I can tell my non-church-going friends. This has really knocked me down. God will help me get back up, but I feel like I got sucker-punched in the gut.

Wesley Weber

I have not read Pullmans books so I offer no comment on the uses to which they may be put but I have read a goodly number of his interviews and tons of opinions. I agree that Pullman is being pursued by the Hound of Heaven and see him as just another one ofus immersed in a materialist culture with our longings for a more spiritual order. In this regard I have found the writings of Eric Voegelin, a political philosopher, very enlightening as to how we got into this trap and how our culture can work its way out. He is very difficult to read at least for a non-philosopher like me so I go to some of his interpreters which are easily found by googling his name.

Ater Infusco

your an idiot if you haven't read it don't say anything
don't beleive every essay you read it's just a goddamn book


I do not understand why Christianity and other religions get to push their religion on others but he cannot do the same with his beliefs? If you have such a problem, don't take your children to see the movie or purchase them the books. Everyone has a freedom of speech. This is America people.

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