Much has been made of Philip Pullman’s antipathy to Christianity and the film The Golden Compass based on his novels has been refered to as “Narnia for atheists.”
After seeing an ad for the film featuring a regal woman assisting the protagonists, Lil’ G turned to me and asked, “Hey Daddy, is Mary in that movie?”
Heh. I read The Golden Compass, and was conflicted about how he alternately has so much in it that’s religious, in the good way, and then at the same time goes blasting religion, right there in it.
I read his preface to Paradise Lost, and in it he discusses poetry, and how he learned to approach it. Yet when I read him on religion, he’s doing to it exactly what he accuses bad english teachers of doing to poetry: pulling it out of a jar of fermaldahide, pinning it to a card, opening it up, and saying, “Why isn’t this thing alive?”
It is a curious tension, isn’t it, Michael… I’ve started a post on a similar topic but never finished it–that is, most of my favorite music is deeply religious: Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, VNV Nation, Zeppelin, etc. but is often non- or anti-Christian (more properly, I’d say, anti-organized religion and Christianity happens to be the biggest organized one on the Western block).
It puzzles me how they can appropriate and utilize religious images and motifs then turn around and try and get rid of religion.
I suspect it has to do with the whole “organized” bit. That is, to do religion in general and Christianity in particular correctly you can’t do it 1) alone or 2) based on your whims. There are both teachings and communities that must be negotiated. Or, to borrow other language, the Dharma and the Sangha… (What? You mean it’s not just those Chrisitians?!)
I actually think Pullman is deeply religious and just doesn’t know it or rather doesn’t recognize that his smashing of images is itself an important part of a corrective impulse in faith. Atheism can in fact be more healthy when the alternative is certain forms of Christianity, like the severe Calvinism he grew up with.
Theologians can yammer on that “our God is not like this” but frankly there are far too many Christians whose god is precisely like the deity Pullman rejects in his books. I join him in rejecting that sort of deity even as I affirm “our God is not like this”.
It isn’t simply rejection of organized religion necessarily in my opinion but rejection of fallen human impulses that religion has a tendency to cover over as divine without internal self-correction, but our faith when healthy must have internal self-correction and critical functions. In our age, atheists are sometimes those that hold up a mirror to us.
Oh, Christopher. If I could be as charitable as you!
The only thing athiests do to me is try to drive me into the camp of the evangelical fundamentalists. When the brand me with them, and then show the truth in the fundamentalists claims that there’s a movement to oppress us, what else can I do?
Offer an alternative more robust Christian thinking and praising. That’s what I would do, but I will neither be driven to the evangelical fundamentalist camp because I grew up with that, nor will I allow atheists to have the last word on Christ. But I can recognize that some of the gods offered by Christians do not measure up to God revealed in Jesus Christ and in that will smash such inadequate images alongside the atheist. Besides, not all atheists, like all Christians are the same in thought or character, and I’ve known some far more kind and virtuous than most Christians.