Our diocesan newpaper has had a history of being “progressive”, but has been getting better in recent days. But the most recent issue features a book titled “Killing the Imposter God” subtitled “Philip Pullman’s Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials”. (Donna Freitas/Jason King).
The Article states “Freitas and King work to find redeeming Christian values in Pullman’s trilogy”. (The Catholic Weekly-Jan 12-18, 2008.
i am probably going to get eaten alive for this…but…
i love the phillip pullman series and my thoughts are that, as long as you are a strong enough catholic, you can understand that these are fictional books and to be honest, are wonderful works of literature, they are so well written and have fantastic imaginative plots, i feel bad because i feel the same way about the harry potter series…
dont get me wrong, i am completly for the church’s stance on magic and all that kinda stuff, but to me, I LOVE BOOKS, Especially fiction ones which are what the phillip pullman series and the harry potter series fall into…
i dont think i am a bad catholic, i live my values and beliefs to the best of my ability and i am always striving to improve, but i cant seem to grasp this… they are just books, and they are great reads, as long as you dont take them literally i dont see why they cant be enjoyed for what they are, great works of fiction…
I would think that the author’s stated intent of the books carries a lot of weight here. Pullman had explicitly stated, on numerous occassions, that the point of the books was to discredit Christianity. That his intent hasn’t worked on you is a credit to your faith, but there are many others who either (1) are swayed towards atheist tendencies due to the seeds laid down from these books, or (2) find that the books are problematic from a story perspective, as writing with a subversive agenda marrs storytelling.
Harry Potter, in contrast, is far more acceptable (tho not perfect), since there was a faith-building framework from J.K. Rowling’s perspective, made most evident in Book 7.
Donna Freitas, who co-wrote the book reviewed by the Catholic Weekly, also wrote a column for the Boston Globe, back in November when the controversy over the movie was heating up.
Here is the gist of why she defended the books and the movie:
The British author, Philip Pullman, has said openly that he is an atheist, and Donohue charges that his books are designed to eradicate faith among children.
But this is a sad misreading of the trilogy. These books are deeply theological, and deeply Christian in their theology. The universe of “His Dark Materials” is permeated by a God in love with creation, who watches out for the meekest of all beings - the poor, the marginalized, and the lost. It is a God who yearns to be loved through our respect for the body, the earth, and through our lives in the here and now. This is a rejection of the more classical notion of a detached, transcendent God, but I am a Catholic theologian, and reading this fantasy trilogy enhanced my sense of the divine, of virtue, of the soul, of my faith in God.
The book’s concept of God, in fact, is what makes Pullman’s work so threatening. His trilogy is not filled with attacks on Christianity, but with attacks on authorities who claim access to one true interpretation of a religion. Pullman’s work is filled with the feminist and liberation strands of Catholic theology that have sustained my own faith, and which threaten the power structure of the church. Pullman’s work is not anti-Christian, but anti-orthodox.
This emerging controversy, then, is deeply unusual. It features an artist who claims atheism, but whose work is unabashedly theistic. And it features a series of books that are at once charming and thrilling children’s literature, and a story that explores some of the most divisive and fascinating issues in Catholic theology today.