His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I accidentally posted this while making some edits the other day. Since the post still had the date of when I originally started working on it, it kind of got lost in my archives. I’ve moved it up a bit. Warning: a lot of people will not agree with my ideas in this post, but please do not take offense, these are just my thoughts and ideas, not something I impose on others.

This weekend I finished reading The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I read the first two books (The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife) months ago. I had never heard of this trilogy or the religious controversy surrounding it until the movie based on the first book came out late last year. That peaked my interest.

I enjoyed the entire trilogy and did not necessarily find any of the content of the books – obvious or implied – to be offensive to my beliefs. But then again, my beliefs are not conventional. I was raised as a Lutheran, however we were not strict church-goers. My siblings and I attended more Sunday school than actual church worship sessions. I enjoyed Sunday school, I attended church when my parents did, I did not have any misgivings about what I was being taught, however I did not feel any strong convictions towards believing in what I was taught either.

Then I entered college where I took courses on philosophy, mythology, etc. I found the teaching during these courses to be more on par with questions I had had about the Christian teachings I was raised with. There seemed to lie answers in these teachings that Christianity did not give me. So I revised what I believed.

I rarely talk about my religious beliefs (or lack of) because most people where I live would be outraged – how could I believe anything other than in the Christian God and Holy Trinity?! Yet, I do. I will not go into specifically what I do believe in this post, but just wanted to mention I don’t have the same reaction as many do to the religious aspects of Philip Pullman’s trilogy. I am sure there are many people out there that also do not have an “all that writing is anti-religion, let it be condemned” reaction, however most of the media has concentrated on this type of reaction.

I had heard of the movie based on the first book, but did not know much about it. I started looking into it more and more after hearing a little girl in the book section of a local store say to her father, “I am not going to read that book – the author wants to kill God!” She pointed to The Golden Compass. This made me interested. What did the little girl mean by that statement? How did she know the author wanted to “kill God?”

I did not do any research on the books until after I completed reading all three. I wanted to read them without media-induced preconceived notions. I had heard little bits and pieces here and there, but mostly did not pay much attention and entered Pullman’s writing with an open mind. And I liked what I read. True these are books written for children (Amazom.com gives an age range of “young adult” which would probably mean preteen to teenagers?), however some of the themes in the books are quite advanced for young minds.

As I did begin to read more online about Philip Pullman and his books, I began to identify somewhat with his ideas. In an email interview with Pullman posted on FilmChat Pullman compares the Magisterium in the books as an example of how humans will use “one size fits all” answers. That struck me because in essence, that is how I view Christianity.

Pullman goes on to state he is a materialist. I have never really defined myself as an “ist” or “ism” because I my belief system is still evolving, but I find the idea of panpsychism (a word I had never heard before) interesting. Pullman also states that he doesn’t refer to spiritual because spiritual or spiritualism does not make sense to him – on his views in this regard I also agree with him. However, let me qualify this with the statement that I do not begrudge anyone their beliefs. I am perfectly content that each person in this world can have their own belief system that works for their life and it is not my mission or goal to make anyone convert their beliefs to conform with my own.

Pullman also says in the interview that he did not get around to mentioning Jesus in this trilogy, but that he will in his next book and that he has a lot to say. I have a personal view of Jesus. I believe he was a real man who lived and walked on this earth. I believe he was a great speaker and inspired people. But do I believe he was the son of God and performed miracles? I do not.

The Harry Potter series comes up in the interview was well since many people have spoken out about how un-Christian those books are. Again, another series I much enjoyed, although I don’t think J.K. Rowlings series evoked quite as much hoopla as “The author is trying to kill God.” Or maybe I just didn’t hear about it…

I like the way Pullman’s books tell an interesting story, but at the same time they make me think about what I believe in and why I hold those beliefs. I was also browsing Pullman’s official website and in his FAQ about himself I especially liked his answers to “What books did you like when you were young,” “What inspires you,” and “Who do you write for – children or adults.” His answers to these questions feel very honest and I can see some of myself within them.

This turned into a long, probably unpopular post, but reading is one of the thing I love in this life and I do plan to post about what I am reading, what I liked, disliked, and how what the reading made me think about.


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