Philip Pullman speaks for himself

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I’ve come across some other very interesting sites regarding Philip Pullman since I first wrote this entry and I would love to share them with you. While this does not change my opinion as a parent, it does bring a sense of urgency to my spirit as a believer. Here are a few interesting tidbits from some of his interviews. These are really petitions to pray him, as are all evidences of Satan’s confusion and corruption. I feel a great burden for souls of this nature because their conflicts are valid in light of the darkness in which they unknowingly reside. My father may very well answer questions of this nature in the very same way, so my compassion is inevitable. The interview can be read in full here.

What were the values that were instilled into you?

 

The conventional middle-class ones of the time. My grandfather was a clergyman and so every Sunday I went to Sunday school and church. I was confirmed, I was a member of the choir, all that sort of stuff.

 

We still had the Authorised Version of the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern – all those old forms of worship that had given comfort and joy to generations were still there for me to enjoy. Nowadays it’s all been swept away, and if ever I go into a church and look at the dreadful, barren language that disfigures the forms of service they have now, I am very thankful that I grew up at a time when it was possible for me to go to Matins and sing the Psalms in the old versions.

A lot of Christians are nonplussed by the picture you present of the church in His Dark Materials, which is unrelievedly cruel and oppressive. It doesn’t sound like the church you grew up in.

 

No. Grandpa was a very kind man – though a man of his own age, mind you: he was a Victorian, born in 1890 or so in a little Devon village, the sixth son and 13th child of a poor farmer, and unquestioningly both conservative and Conservative. His values were already beginning to look a bit dated by the middle of the century. For example, as the chaplain of Norwich prison it was his job from time to time to attend executions, to be with the condemned man for the last hour of his life and give him Holy Communion and go to the scaffold with him. It caused him a great deal of anguish, but he didn’t question it or rebel against it.

 

But he was a very good man who was full of love for me and my brother. He was a wonderful teller of stories, from the Bible and from his own experience – here, I’ll give you an example.

 

When the First World War came, he joined his local regiment, along with a friend from the village called Fred Austin, a big, powerful man and a wonderful horseman. Fred Austin didn’t have any leave for 18 months or so, and when eventually he came home his little daughter didn’t know who this frightening man was and she fled from him. But he was very gentle with her and he didn’t force the issue, he just spoke quietly; and after a few days the little girl came to him and let him pick her up.

 

And Grandpa used to say that this was like God. We’re frightened of God at first, but God is gentle with us and he loves us and wants us to come to him, so he doesn’t force himself on us but he waits until we’re ready to come to him. And that was the sort of values Grandpa would try to put across.

You’re not really giving us any clues to the source of the extreme antipathy to the Church in your books.

 

Well, all right, it comes from history. It comes from the record of the Inquisition, persecuting heretics and torturing Jews and all that sort of stuff; and it comes from the other side, too, from the Protestants burning the Catholics. It comes from the insensate pursuit of innocent and crazy old women, and from the Puritans in America burning and hanging the witches – and it comes not only from the Christian church but also from the Taliban.

 

Every single religion that has a monotheistic god ends up by persecuting other people and killing them because they don’t accept him. Wherever you look in history, you find that. It’s still going on.

 

I was going to say that its logical conclusion seems to be nihilism.

 

Can I elucidate my own position as far as atheism is concerned? I don’t know whether I’m an atheist or an agnostic. I’m both, depending on where the standpoint is.

 

The totality of what I know is no more than the tiniest pinprick of light in an enormous encircling darkness of all the things I don’t know – which includes the number of atoms in the Atlantic Ocean, the thoughts going through the mind of my next-door neighbour at this moment and what is happening two miles above the surface of the planet Mars. In this illimitable darkness there may be God and I don’t know, because I don’t know.

 

But if we look at this pinprick of light and come closer to it, like a camera zooming in, so that it gradually expands until here we are, sitting in this room, surrounded by all the things we do know – such as what the time is and how to drive to London and all the other things that we know, what we’ve read about history and what we can find out about science – nowhere in this knowledge that’s available to me do I see the slightest evidence for God.

 

So, within this tiny circle of light I’m a convinced atheist; but when I step back I can see that the totality of what I know is very small compared to the totality of what I don’t know. So, that’s my position.

 

Throughout His Dark Materials there’s a strong sense of ‘ought’. All the most attractive characters – Lyra and Will, Lee Scoresby, Iorek Byrnison, Mary Malone – are driven in the end by a sense of duty, at least to their loved ones if not to the world. Where in a world without God does that sense of ‘ought’ come from?

 

I’m amazed by the gall of Christians. You think that nobody can possibly be decent unless they’ve got the idea from God or something. Absolute bloody rubbish! Isn’t it your experience that there are plenty of people in the world who don’t believe who are very good, decent people?

Yes. I’m just curious to know where it comes from.

 

For goodness’ sake! It comes from ordinary human decency. It comes from accumulated human wisdom – which includes the wisdom of such figures as Jesus Christ. Jesus, like many of the founders of great religions, was a moral genius, and he set out a number of things very clearly in the Gospels which if we all lived by them we’d all do much better. What a pity the Church doesn’t listen to him!

 

And you can find more here.

 


 * poiccard – 04:06pm Jan 22, 2002 GMT (9.) Do you believe in God?


n PhilipPullman – 01:44pm Feb 18, 2002 GMT (9.1) I see no evidence for his existence, but of course that’s not to say that he doesn’t exist; I simply haven come across any yet. Furthermore, in my view, belief in God seems to be a very good excuse, on the part of those who claim to believe, for doing many wicked things that they wouldn’t feel justified in doing without such a belief.

 

[deleted user] – 09:41pm Jan 23, 2002 GMT (27.) I work in a bookshop and constantly recommend your books to children. I try to explain why I enjoy the books, but that’s not always adequate. If you were recommending your books to a child, what would you tell him or her ?

 


n PhilipPullman – 01:55pm Feb 18, 2002 GMT (27.1) I’d say: “You are forbidden to read these books. They’re too old for you, and they’re full of things you shouldn’t experience yet, like sex and violence and dangerous ideas about religion. I’m putting them up here, on this shelf, and I’m going out for an hour or so. You’re not to touch them.”

And his official website.

 

His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?

 

I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

 

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.

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