Paradise Denied: The Anti-Christian Fantasy of Philip Pullman

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Paradise Denied
Philip Pullman & the Uses
& Abuses of Enchantment

by Leonie Caldecott

Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, his analysis of the role
of fairy tales in nourishing a child's search for meaning, described
their importance thus: "More can be learned from them about the inner
problems of human beings, and of the right solutions to their
predicaments in any society, than from any other type of story within
a child's comprehension. Since the child at every moment of his life
is exposed to the society in which he lives, he will certainly learn
to cope with its conditions, provided his inner resources permit him
to do so." The child, he wrote a little further on, needs ideas on how
to bring his inner house into order, and on that basis be able to
create order in his life. He needs--and this hardly requires emphasis
at this moment in our history--a moral education which subtly, and by
implication only, conveys to him the advantages of moral behaviour,
not through abstract ethical concepts but through that which seems
tangibly right and therefore meaningful to him.

Children find "this kind of meaning through fairy tales. Like many
other modern psychological insights, this was anticipated long ago by
poets. The German poet Schiller wrote: 'Deeper meaning resides in the
fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is
taught by life.'"

The Anti-Inkling

A case can be made for measuring the fantasy novels of this last
decade against those of half a century earlier, produced by a group of
writers close to me both geographically (I live near Oxford) and
imaginatively. For Oxford is the home of the Inklings, that group of
writers whose fictional output during the first half of the twentieth
century created a standard for fantasy writing against which every new
effort in the field can arguably be measured.

C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams--and behind them the
great George MacDonald--all sought to enchant the imagination with new
fairy tales built firmly on the foundations of the old stories. But
now, curiously, Oxford has also become the home of the first
Anti-Inkling.

In January 2002, it was announced that Philip Pullman had won the
Whitbread Book of the Year Award, one of the most important of English
book awards, for The Amber Spyglass. The third novel in the fantasy
trilogy, His Dark Materials, it was the first "children's novel" to
win the award outright.

Previously Pullman had been awarded the prize in the children's
section of the Whitbread, but no children's novel, under the rules
governing the award, had ever been able to win the overall prize among
the categories competing. For Pullman, the rules were bent, or broken,
and the great accolade was, for the first time in the history of the
prize, awarded to a piece of fiction marketed as being for children
(though Pullman has recently started to claim that he did not write it
as children's fiction at all).

The novels in the Dark Materials trilogy have enjoyed a popularity
second only to that of the Harry Potter series, selling in the
hundreds of thousands both in England and the United States, not to
mention in countries such as Germany, where they have enjoyed
particular success. However, it happens that the novel which has
proved such a "first" in the process of taking children's literature
seriously as a genre, contains one of the most distorted and ignorant
depictions of Christianity in the history of literature.

For this reason alone, Pullman's work merits closer examination,
particularly by Christian parents and by those who are involved in the
education of children and young people. (I can only note here that one
of the few things about Pullman's own background that I have been able
to ascertain is that his father died when he was very young. He also
had a grandfather who was an Anglican cleric. The mysterious thing is
that Pullman professes in interviews to have loved and respected his
grandfather, and never ascribes to him the vicious extremities with
which he endows his fictional churchmen.)

The Trilogy

Northern Lights, the first book in the trilogy, was published in 1995
(published in America as The Golden Compass) and tells the story of
Lyra, a seemingly orphaned girl living in a curious echo of an
Oxbridge establishment, Jordan College. She sets off on a quest to
rescue her best friend, Roger, from the hands of the sinister
"gobblers" who have kidnapped him. A number of other children in
various parts of her country, a kind of alternative England in what
Pullman tells us is an alternative universe, have suffered the same
fate.

It turns out that the entity responsible for abducting these children
is something called the Church. In describing the Church, Pullman uses
a host of specifically Catholic terminology: It has a pope, a
magisterium, cardinals, oratories, intercessors, etc.

The "gobblers" of the story are in fact the "General Oblation Board,"
a terrifying organization within the Church set up by the mysterious
and evil Mrs. Coulter. This insatiable maw of G.O.B. ("gob" is
old-fashioned English slang for mouth) is, with the sanction of the
Church, conducting experiments on children by separating them from
their very souls, embodied in Lyra's world as animal familiars called
daemons. The process is designed to somehow prevent them from
accumulating the "dust" (equivalent to original sin) that pertains to
puberty and adult sexuality. This barbaric procedure, known as
"intercision," leaves the victims little more than zombies.

At the end of Northern Lights Lyra finds Roger, only to watch him die
horribly at the hands of her own father, the rebel Lord Asriel, who is
entirely focused on opening up the gaps between his world and another
one, for purposes that have yet to be revealed, but that have
something to do with this "dust." Before he sets out, Asriel reads to
Lyra out of scriptures that echo (yet distort) the Book of Genesis:

And the woman said unto the serpent, we may eat of the fruit of the
trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree which is in the
midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither
shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God
doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be
opened, and your daemons shall assume their true forms, and ye shall
be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it
was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to reveal the true
form of one's daemon, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they saw the true form of
their daemons, and spoke with them.
But when the man and the woman knew their own daemons, they knew that
a great change had come upon them, for until that moment it had seemed
that they were at one with all the creatures of the earth and the air,
and there was no difference between them.

And they saw the difference, and they knew good and evil; and they
were ashamed and they sewed fig leaves together to cover their
nakedness. . . .
Elsewhere, Pullman has insisted that Eve, as portrayed in the actual
Genesis, was the first scientist, rejecting obedience for the sake of
curiosity and freedom of inquiry.

A Thickening Plot

In the second novel of the series, The Subtle Knife, the plot
thickens. Cardinals torture witches, who in this world are a force for
good, by hurting their daemons. The sinister agent of the magisterium,
Mrs. Coulter, who also happens to be Lyra's mother (though she has
never taken any interest in the child until the point where she could
use her for her own purposes), now engages in increasingly foul
tactics, seducing, betraying, murdering at will--all in the name of
the "Authority" she serves: that is, the Church and its dubious
godhead.

By the end of the book, it has been explained to Lyra's friend Will, a
boy from our own world who has strayed into hers, that this Authority
must be overthrown if humanity is ever to thrive.

"There is a war coming, boy. The greatest war there ever was.
Something like it happened before, and this time the right side must
win. . . . We've had nothing but lies and propaganda and cruelty and
deceit for all the thousands of years of human history. It's time we
started again, but properly this time. . . ."

It emerges that Lord Asriel, for all his unscrupulous actions, is
actually the leader of the anti-heavenly host, which intends to rebel
once again, in a definitive strike against God himself.

I finished reading The Subtle Knife in the autumn of 1999, just as a
number of parents in America were expressing concern over the Harry
Potter books. In common with my daughters, I had found Rowling's books
cheering and entertaining. What is more, we all thought that, when
push came to shove, Rowling was batting for the right side. But across
the Atlantic it seemed that the themes of wizardry and witchery, which
provide the canvas for the Harry Potter series, were causing extreme
unease, with the specific anxiety that they would encourage interest
in the occult.

It was close to Guy Fawkes night, when English children tend to have
bonfire parties and let off fireworks, so I joked in a regular column
I write for the Catholic Herald that any book-burners out there could
find many other stories far more "worthy of the bonfire" than Harry
Potter. I went on to use Pullman's books as an example of something
that was far more likely to harm a child's capacity for faith. After
describing the plots of the first two books, I pointed out that, in
these books, everything we normally associate with safety and
security--parents, priests, and even God himself--is evil, is indeed
"the stuff of nightmares." That is to say, they affect a child's
consciousness at its most vulnerable point.

This is not something that J. K. Rowling is ever guilty of, for all
her vivid portrayal of evil. There are wicked adults in the Harry
Potter series, but they are not the actual parents of the protagonist,
nor indeed the ultimate figures of authority in his school.
In the most recent book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,
Harry does learn that his father and his godfather were far from
perfect at his own age of fifteen, and he has to bear a long and
inexplicable silence from his usual mentor, Dumbledore. But none of
this adds up to a reversal of the order in which certain people can be
trusted and depended on: It just adds to the story a realistic
perspective about complex situations and people's failures and
weaknesses. This perspective is essential for the maturing of Harry's
personality and his ability to know and counter evil effectively.

Axe-Grinding Novels

The third and final part of Philip Pullman's trilogy, The Amber
Spyglass, which came out in November 2000, offers no such balance, but
rather an intensification of the axe-grinding that distinguishes the
first two novels. The press pack that accompanied review copies of the
book included, among the enthusiastic quotes from reviewers, the
words:

"Far more worthy of the bonfire than Harry [Potter] . . . a million
times more sinister . . . Truly the stuff of nightmares. Catholic
Herald."

On April 1, 2001, I attended a Pullman talk and signing-session at the
Oxford Union with my daughter and some of her friends. The ubiquitous
Catholic Herald story was right up there at the top of his agenda. "I
hope that writer is praying for me," quipped Pullman. "Isn't that what
they're supposed to do?" (I was, and I am.) The microphone was passed
around the audience for questions. "Why are you so nasty about the
Church?" asked a child sitting several rows down from us.

Pullman then launched into a diatribe against the Church as being
responsible for all the horrors of history: wars, heresy hunts,
burning of witches, etc. When he finished, a fairly large proportion
of the audience burst into applause. Later we were told that the girl
who had asked the question was devastated. Several in our party were
preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation. The point of
receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, notably fortitude and right
judgment, was demonstrated graphically to them on that day. I
meanwhile began to wonder whether I should start popping out of
wardrobes in a set of cardinal's robes, as in the famous Monty Python
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" sketch.

In my article, not knowing much about Pullman, I had said that perhaps
he was going to turn the plot around in the third book and take a
different line on the Church in our own (real) world from the one
taken on the institution in Lyra's universe. It seemed to me that
Pullman could still pull off a metaphysical tour de force and reach a
genuinely surprising conclusion. After all, in The Subtle Knife, Lyra
and Will had compared notes about the meaning of the same words in
their two different worlds, and realized that some things meant the
exact inverse of their normal meaning in the other one's universe.

Yet this is one of the plot threads that Pullman completely drops in
The Amber Spyglass. In fact, the most notable thing about the last
volume of His Dark Materials is the way in which the author, judged
from a purely literary perspective, woefully overreaches himself,
losing coherence and continuity and lapsing into the worst excesses of
didactic writing. This is the cardinal sin of fiction, whereby an
author, instead of embedding the moral of his story in the text as a
whole, contents himself with putting it on the lips of a protagonist.
And yet it is for this most flawed volume that the literary
establishment decided to decorate Philip Pullman.

Throttling Authority

The Amber Spyglass hurtles towards an increasingly forceful
conclusion: No matter which world you are in, there is no loving,
unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, fatherly God. There is no
incarnate, magisterial, suffering, and redeeming Son, and no Holy
Spirit to inspire and defend the Church against the horrors of hell.
Religion with its comforts is a hoax.

Pullman's heroes are the fallen angels and the witches fighting for
liberation from the throttling grip of the fraudulent "Authority": the
Ancient of Days who is so old and infirm that he can be usurped by his
chief spirit, the "Metatron." This fearsomely powerful archangel, a
kind of satire on St. Michael, turns out to have an interesting
Achilles' heel: He longs for nothing more than to have flesh and
blood, so that he can enjoy the sensual delights denied to a being
unfortunate enough to be composed of spirit, not matter. This
obsession is sufficient to allow him to be dispatched into the
abyss--by none other than that femme fatale, Mrs. Coulter, working in
one last hideous moment of union with her estranged husband, Asriel.

In The Amber Spyglass, it is revealed that there is no heaven, just an
infernal limbo into which the gullible faithful have been corralled,
until Lyra liberates them into their true condition: impersonal
particles in a strictly material universe. And a physicist named Mary
(who like Will is from our world), turns out to be not so much the new
Eve as the new tempter. She appears to save not just one, but all the
worlds from destruction by merely pointing the children towards their
burgeoning sexuality, something she discovered belatedly herself,
after leaving the religious order to which she once belonged. It is
she who provides the bulk of the anti-Christian rhetoric at the end of
the novel.

Meanwhile, a priest sent from the see of Pope John Calvin (the worst
of all worlds here!) to eliminate the children before they can effect
their rite of passage, has been accorded advance absolution for his
intended act of magisterial murder. In case this point is not
sufficiently clear, the term "Pre-emptive Absolution" heads up the
chapter in which this plot line is initiated. Never mind that the
Church--far less God himself, who cannot warp his own gift of free
will for man--can under no circumstances offer forgiveness for sins
not yet committed. Neither can she offer absolution for sins that are
not sincerely repented.

Since winning the Whitbread Prize, Pullman has declared himself,
adopting Blake's judgment of Milton (both are major influences on the
Dark Materials trilogy), as being "of the Devil's party." Leaving
aside the accuracy of Blake's take on Milton (let alone Pullman's on
each of them), it is certain that Pullman has not progressed from
Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. We have to ask ourselves, what
really lies behind Pullman's creation? Where is he coming from? What
is it in this modern fantasy that attracts so many readers--not just
children, but also, and maybe most influentially, adults, particularly
those who populate the media, and who staff schools and libraries?

Philip Pullman appears to be basing himself on an age-old piece of
metaphysics called dualism. Whether under its ancient Manichean form,
among the medieval sects, or indeed in its modern, New-Age guise, this
heresy stems from the incapacity to hold spirit and matter in the
right balance.

In response to the difficulties thrown up by the paradox of
Christianity, the dualist cannot believe that spirit could be
incarnate, that matter could be sanctified, or that sacraments could
be more real and effective than any amount of physical force or
psychological coercion. While for most dualists of the ancient and
medieval world, only the spiritual world is worth inhabiting, for a
twentieth-century sentimental rationalist like Pullman, the material
world is superior, and anyone who emphasizes the spiritual is a
dangerous, life-denying death-worshiper.

Hating Narnia

This view of Pullman's has been strikingly illuminated by his recent
comments about C. S. Lewis. At a "Christian-Atheist Dialogue" held at
an Anglican church in Oxford in the spring of 2002, Pullman was asked
about his dislike of Lewis. He cited two moments in the Narnia books
that he hated.

One was the passage in The Last Battle in which Susan is described as
no longer being a friend of Narnia, having been distracted by "nylons
and lipstick and invitations." She had always been, as Jill puts it,
"a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up." Hence, she is not with the
others in Narnia/Heaven. The other was the passage at the end of The
Magician's Nephew in which Digory wrestles with the temptation to
steal an apple from the tree of life in order to heal his dying
mother.

Taking the second instance first, it was with noticeable anger that
Pullman described the double-bind in which he sees Lewis putting the
boy (he used the word "obscene" to describe it): If you are not good
and obedient, your mother will die, but if you are good and obedient
she may die anyway. Either way, it is going to be your fault. It seems
that Lewis's treatment of death and morality has triggered a very
strong reaction in Pullman, whose own father died when he was very
young.

What Pullman cannot seem to abide in Lewis is the hopeful picture of
what happens after death: That is to say, the Christian take on life,
which, while valuing its beauty and power, nonetheless places it
firmly in the context of the next life, the life after death, which is
viewed as fuller, more perfect, and thus more important in the final
order of things. For Pullman, this is an empty promise--a monumental
hoax, almost. For him, death is the end of conscious life.

And yet the fact of mortality is almost an obsession with Pullman, and
death plays a prominent role in his books. He kills off a number of
important characters in his books (and not only in this trilogy),
including Lyra's friend and protector Lee Scoresby and Will's father
in The Subtle Knife, and both of Lyra's parents in The Amber Spyglass.
Finally, he fulfils the Nietzschean dream by killing off God, a senile
deity who makes a brief appearance before being blown away on a puff
of wind when his protective crystal chamber is breached.

This God, incidentally, is not the creator of the world, but merely
the first angel, who deceived the others into thinking he was the
origin of their being. The beneficent and all-powerful deity of the
Judeo-Christian tradition is yet another hoax.

Similarly, Pullman separates Lyra and Will in perpetuity at the end of
The Amber Spyglass. Here is how Lyra bids her companion goodbye.

"I'll be looking for you Will, every moment, every single moment. And
when we do find each other again, we'll cling together so tight that
nothing and no one'll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every
atom of you. . . . We'll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and
pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see
floating in sunbeams. And when they use our atoms to make new lives,
they won't just be able to take one, they'll have to take two, one of
you and one of me, we'll be joined so tight. . . ."

Pullman interprets the dismissal of Susan at the end of the Narnia
stories as demonstrating Lewis's refusal to accept the process of
"growing up." For Pullman, the aim is to leave "innocence" behind and
acquire the far more valuable gifts of "wisdom" and "experience."
Whatever else Pullman believes (and he has recently insisted that he
does in fact believe in God, though not the God presented by the
Church), he does not seem to have the Christian concept of childhood
as a time that has its own integrity, its own wisdom--that quality
praised and validated by our Lord when he informed us that unless we
become like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

His Dark Materials

In any case, Pullman rejects the very notion of a Kingdom of Heaven,
ending the trilogy with Lyra's call to build "the republic of heaven."
Presumably that is a heaven in which God can be voted out of power, if
he fails to please the incumbents. Perhaps now we begin to see why,
like Blake, Pullman feels that in Milton's portrayal of heaven and
hell, the denizens of the latter are the most interesting. "Into this
wild abyss," runs the quote from Book II of Paradise Lost at the
beginning of His Dark Materials,

The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the almighty maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds,
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage. . . .

Pullman has identified organized religion, and the Church in
particular, with a hatred of the created world, a hatred of the body,
a hatred of physical pleasure and happiness. He sees his books as
asserting the worth of this world, the here and now existence. Beyond
that, there may not be anything else. Why deny a girl lipstick and
nylons--not to mention invitations--if there is no heaven to forgo
them for, nothing, in fact, beyond the stable of this world with its
admittedly rotten apples, but some pretty enjoyable things too?

If it is not possible to live a material existence without being
corrupted, runs the dualist argument, then average people might as
well do whatever they feel like doing, and be reconciled with the one,
true, spiritual world only on their deathbed. Pullman's vision, in
common with many of his contemporaries, just flips that coin over. The
superior reality is material; therefore, the ultimate release is to
cease to exist and thereby donate one's particles back to the material
universe. Before that, you can do what you want, so long as you are
kind, hardworking, etc.

It is ironic that Pullman, in reacting to Lewis's Christian
polemicism, should so clearly display the same fault as he tries to
ram his own message home. Certainly, many scenes in The Amber Spyglass
fail miserably to measure up to Bettelheim's stricture that the fairy
tale "subtly, and by implication only, convey . . . the advantages of
moral behaviour" (my emphasis).

I think that the reference to Susan in The Last Battle actually does
show up Lewis at his least edifying. It may be a throwaway line, but
it reveals this most humane and broadly Christian of writers to be
still somewhat the product of his puritanical Ulster background. And
this is not the only place where Lewis demonstrates a certain lack of
breadth. Re-reading the Narnia stories as an adult, I have felt on
more than one occasion that Lewis could have foregone the sermonizing
tone in favor of the method he uses to such great effect elsewhere in
the narrative, and which marks out every great fantasy writer:
symbolic embeddedness.

The first example which springs to mind of a fantasy writer
successfully embedding the necessary symbolism into his text is, of
course, J. R. R. Tolkien. To give but one example from The Lord of the
Rings, consider the spiritual combat affecting Gollum in the second
book (a scene included in the second movie), in which the unfortunate
creature conducts a fascinating dialogue between the angelically and
the demonically influenced sides of his soul.

In this dialogue, Tolkien presents--embeds--truths about the moral
life and struggles of the soul, in a way that is not a sermon stuck
into the story but an event that makes sense within the story. By
showing through the story the choices Gollum faces, the reasons for
choosing either, and the fruits of his final choice, Tolkien subtly
implies the advantages of moral behavior.

And does so effectively. I know a number of teenagers, contemporaries
of my oldest daughter, who have no religious background at all, and
yet who are completely caught up in the mythos of Middle-earth.
Through this mythos, symbolically embedded in the story, young people
are unconsciously absorbing any number of spiritual nutrients which
may serve them well in later life. They will have learned to see the
world in a certain way, as it is seen by Christianity.

Potter's Purification

Similarly, there is a great deal more matter of interest to Christians
embedded in the Harry Potter books than J. K. Rowling's Christian
detractors may realize. Harry's trials follow a classic pattern of
spiritual purification--drawing, in The Sorcerer's Stone, for
instance, on the ascending faculties of the soul in Aristotle's De
Anima (I am indebted to John Granger and his The Hidden Key to Harry
Potter for this insight). Much of the imagery--unicorns, griffins, and
so on--involves traditional symbols deeply entwined with Christian
culture.

The central message, if such there is, that only love will overcome
the power of death--embodied in the arch-villain whose name says it
all, Voldemort (will to death)--is as Christian a moral as you could
wish for. Indeed, the name of the protagonist himself, Potter, may be
taken to have Christian connotations, given the scriptural references
to God as the potter who moulds the souls of men. Rowling is careful
not to pronounce on any institutional or cultural form of
Christianity--or indeed any other religion, come to that, in the real
world.

While Rowling is obviously not constructing a piece of propaganda for
Christianity, neither is she very obviously attacking our faith, as
Pullman is. That said, it is true that we live in a culture obsessed
with the occult, preferring its dark mysteries to those of
Christianity, which has come to be equated with bland, superficial
moralism, a lack of symbolic resonance, and a consequently gutted
liturgy. This is not something that any of us can afford to be
complacent about. My impression of Rowling, however, is that the
peddlers of the occult exploit her books, rather than the other way
around.

In any case, since there are still two books to appear in the series,
the jury can fairly be said to be out on Harry Potter. Yet my reading
of the fifth novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix, has, if anything, confirmed my view of Rowling's wholesome
take on the complexity of adolescence, and her gentle but firm grasp
of the moral imperatives this time of life should lead one to
discover.

Much has been made by Rowling's detractors of Harry's reliance on
fib-telling in the early books. It is true that, whatever his virtues,
Harry is economical with the truth when it suits him. Yet in the fifth
novel this fault is confronted head-on: It is Harry's own
deceptiveness which contributes to the culminating tragedy of the
novel, in which he is led to endanger the life of someone he loves
precisely because he has not admitted to those who could help him that
he himself is receiving information from Voldemort.

Rowling, however, also reminds her readers of the counter-productive
effect of the type of judgment passed by a certain kind of
agenda-obsessed moralizer, in this case the truly appalling Dolores
Umbridge, an official of the Ministry of Magic who comes to Harry's
school, Hogwarts, to take over, and who enforces the official belief
that Voldemort will not return. In an excruciating scene, for several
hours each evening, she makes Harry write in his own blood (the words
appear etched on the back of his own agonized hand as he writes each
line on paper): "I must not tell lies."

The specific accusation she is making against him--that he has lied
about the return of Voldemort--is of course untrue, and the punishment
sadistic and unjust. What it certainly does not achieve is a
conversion (or corruption) of its victim on the crucial issue: his
faith that the Truth will set him free. Harry will not be tortured
into lying.

As most of the adults, both good and less good, fail to come to grips
with Harry's problems at this stage in his life, he becomes
increasingly alienated from all who would have provided him with good
counsel and protection. Thus, Harry is exposed to the influence of
evil: a classic developmental scenario. Yet even in the darkest
moments, Rowling succeeds in keeping a balance between our sympathy
with Harry and the objective moral universe he must learn to
negotiate. Not an easy thing to achieve in writing for this age range,
and thus surely something to be respected, even by her critics.

The Manth

Another contemporary English writer may provide an instructive
contrast with those already mentioned. This is William Nicholson, who
wrote Shadowlands and the screenplay for Gladiator. His children's
fantasy trilogy, entitled The Wind on Fire, centers on a family that
belongs to a race of people called the Manth. They, as the first
volume opens, are living in a culture that has lost its bearings and
become fixated on something that will be only too familiar to anyone
with teenage children: continuous and wearying academic assessment
(think examinations each year, every year, for life . . .).
In the first volume, The Wind Singer, the twins Kestrel and Bowman
flee the city of Aramanth in order to find, in the wilderness outside,
a solution to the spiritual disease that grips their people.
Underlying the plots of all three novels is a tension between the
Morah, a force that inspires aggression, competition, and the
imposition of human will, and the Singer People, who represent the
opposite tendencies. All the action is played out between these two
poles.

In the second volume, Slaves of the Mastery, the city of the Manth,
whose people have been cured of their over-rigid meritocracy but have
not balanced that change with prudence and vision, is destroyed by a
far stronger, warrior people, and the Manth are led into slavery. Once
again the twins, along with their friend Mumpo, a boy who represents
the ultimate strength of the despised and dispossessed, bring about
the fall of the Mastery that holds their own and other people in
thrall.

There follows an exodus in the third volume, Firesong. The twins'
parents lead what remains of the Manth people to a homeland prophesied
by their father, as the forces of the Morah and the Singers prepare to
enact an age-old cycle of conflagration and realignment.

Nicholson deals with all the same themes as Pullman: the journey, both
geographical and biographical; the turning point between childhood and
adolescence; the values that should inform our behavior towards one
another; the powers and principalities that affect the world; why we
are here in the first place. The Wind on Fire books pull no punches
about human vulnerability, violence, and death. There are some
terrible scenes of cruelty in Slaves of the Mastery, for example, and
yet you do not get the feeling that the author is revelling in them.
Certainly they leave a different taste in the mouth from the violent
scenes in Pullman's trilogy.

Nicholson, who is a self-confessed lapsed Catholic with an interest in
comparative religion equal to Pullman's, draws among other things on
Judeo-Christian imagery, notably the imagery of Exodus, and the
imagery of ancient Rome to great effect. Yet his treatment of puberty,
love, marriage, and the family is more in the earthy but reverent mold
of the Old Testament or of classical civilization than in the
politically correct tone of the late twentieth century.

In the final novel, Firesong, the denouement, when the girls of the
Manth are captured to be forced into marriage by a renegade tribe, is
terrible, but just. There is even a redemptive plot twist in the midst
of the violence, with a one-time betrayer giving his life to save the
Manth and effect their escape. Kestrel's clarity and presence of mind
throughout the ordeal hangs entirely on her witnessing of a true
marriage--that between her parents, whose mutual respect and loyalty
to each other is in such stark contrast to the brutish alternative, or
even to the politically contrived arrangements of the second novel,
Slaves of the Mastery, with its strong overtones of the Roman Empire.

Most notably of all, Nicholson allows his surviving characters to come
to rest in peace and happiness. Heroes and heroines end up marrying
and having children. The Manth people have a future in their promised
land. Those who are sacrificed along the way are not forgotten;
indeed, in the case of the twins, a permanent spiritual bond persists
throughout. The vision is infinitely kinder, while no less
pluralistic, from a religious and anthropological point of view, than
Pullman's.

A Tragic Affair

It is undeniable that for the most part (when he is not muddying his
own pool in trying to seize the fish), Pullman's His Dark Materials is
brilliantly written, full of compelling creations and ideas. For me
the whole Pullman affair is tragic precisely because of this. A great
talent, a formidable intelligence, has been used to send a message of
despair.

He explores themes many of us find fascinating: the existence of
parallel universes, the nature of the soul, the relationship between
spirit and matter, and that between human beings and animals and
angels, etc. And he sometimes explores them with great insight. There
is a powerful scene in The Amber Spyglass in which Lyra tries to
re-motivate the souls wandering aimlessly in the ghastly Limbo, in
which they are trapped after death, by telling them true stories about
her own life. Even the harpies that had tormented these lost souls now
pause to listen in, and one of them, No-Name, explains why: "Because
she spoke the truth. Because it was nourishing. Because it was feeding
us. Because we couldn't help it. Because it was true. Because we had
no idea there was anything but wickedness."

Precisely because he seems so determined to execute a total inversion
of Judeo-Christian metaphysics, Pullman betrays this insight, that
true stories truly nourish. By lunging at the Christianity of Lewis
and Tolkien (of whom he has also spoken dismissively), Pullman limits
and spoils his own work. His senile Authority has nothing to do with
the living God, whose wise and experienced love brings us to a life
that does not merely fizzle out in a damp squib of disintegrating
atoms. As both Rowling and Nicholson demonstrate, and Tolkien did
before them, you can be free in your exploration of these fundamental
themes without mindlessly pulping the truth of a religion that in
itself contains all the marvels and wonders you could possibly want.
But anyone who based his view of Christianity only on Pullman's
best-selling books would never come to know this. He would be
predisposed not to know this. Contrast the rather bleak ending of His
Dark Materials with what Tolkien says about fairy-stories in "On Fairy
Stories":

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more
correctly of the good catastrophe [which earlier Tolkien has called
the eucatastrophe], the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end
to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which
fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially
"escapist", nor "fugitive". In its fairy-tale--or otherworld--setting,
it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.
It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and
failure; the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of
deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will)
universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting
glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

Sadly, Philip Pullman, in his desire to resist the temptation to be
escapist (which is how he classes, and dismisses, both Lewis and
Tolkien), and to promulgate a rigidly modern type of spiritual
"realism," ends up by denying that turn which characterizes the true
fairy story, and leaving his readers with a call to build a Republic
of Heaven (and presumably leaves them with the guilt if they fail) and
the thought that whatever they do in this life, they will dissolve
into atoms when they die. He uses his own imaginative skills to offer
his young readers a world without the possibility of eucatastrophe,
the joyous turn that delivers us from what seems to be our inevitable,
universal, and final defeat.

Meanwhile those moviegoers who know nothing about the faith that
inspired Tolkien but who shed tears while watching the films of his
books, also need to know that there is a source of goodness and hope
that makes even Gandalf's loss and Boromir's death bearable. Does it
really serve the cause of realism and truth to condemn young people to
spend the rest of their lives thinking that the life-giving God is no
better than the Dark Lord Sauron or the evil wizard Voldemort? Young
people, of all faiths and none, who contemplated the fragility of life
after September 11th, require all possible spiritual resources to face
the future.

A Remodelled Universe

Pullman may be a spellbinding magician painting an awe-inspiring
scenario of hugely ambitious scope, but I suspect that in His Dark
Materials he is trying to remodel the universe to his own taste. It is
a kind of Luciferian enterprise to try to do in his story what Sauron
tries to do in The Lord of the Rings. Or indeed to believe one can
co-opt this power for good, as those whom the Ring has tempted, like
Boromir, or even Frodo at the end of his quest, try to do.

Yet if the true meaning of Genesis has to do with the flight from God
rather than the acquisition of "liberating" knowledge, those who seek
to immure themselves in Pullman's world, not to mention attempting to
teach a whole generation that this is the world as it really is, will
ultimately face the anti-creative cul-de-sac of Mordor. For, as we are
told in The Lord of the Rings, the Ring serves only one master.

Leonie Caldecott lives near Oxford, England, with her husband
Stratford, with whom she edits a bi-annual journal, Second Spring. A
columnist for The Catholic Herald, she works for the European branch
of the Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture
(www.secondspring.co.uk), and is currently preparing a conference on
fantasy and children's literature to be held in 2004. The Caldecotts
have three teenage daughters.

http://www.touchstonemag.com/docs/issues/16.8docs/16-8pg42.html

raven1

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 5:44:24 AM10/2/04
to
On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:

>It was close to Guy Fawkes night, when English children tend to have
>bonfire parties and let off fireworks, so I joked in a regular column
>I write for the Catholic Herald that any book-burners out there could
>find many other stories far more "worthy of the bonfire" than Harry
>Potter. I went on to use Pullman's books as an example of something
>that was far more likely to harm a child's capacity for faith.

You say that like it's a bad thing...

raven1

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 5:47:02 AM10/2/04
to
On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:

>The Amber Spyglass hurtles towards an increasingly forceful
>conclusion: No matter which world you are in, there is no loving,
>unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, fatherly God. There is no
>incarnate, magisterial, suffering, and redeeming Son, and no Holy
>Spirit to inspire and defend the Church against the horrors of hell.
>Religion with its comforts is a hoax.

Pullman doesn't just deserve a literary prize for this, he should be
knighted for it.

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 6:06:27 AM10/2/04
to
In article <0iusl0dso8irvp2pn...@4ax.com>, raven1
<quotht...@nevermore.com> wrote:

• For those who are in the salvation business, this is undoubtedly a bad thing.

--
€ R.L.Measures, 805-386-3734, www.somis.org
remove _ from e-mail adr

kathryn

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 6:28:34 AM10/2/04
to
Yep typical christian behaviour, ignore the fact that the triology is
brilliant and focus on the vaguely anti religious theme.

Robert Whelan

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 9:12:16 AM10/2/04
to

Not really. Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
replaces
them with fictional comforts of power and brutality, and the worship
of strong, but non-spiritual father figures. In other words, he exists
in the same emotional void that Stalins, Hitlers, and demagogues of
all sorts love to fill, enslaving their followers to earthly "gods"
as opposed to the "imaginary" ones. His protagonist has not God to
comfort her, but she has a vicious bear, and admires a thuglike
male authority figure. Say what you want against religion, but
leaders who wish to manipulate by it have to pretend to worship
as well, and allow their subjects to worship. That impulse to
worship directed utterly towards a political figure is terrifying in
the power it gives that leader. Remember, convincing people there is
no loving god doesn't automatically translate to "And now I
am completely secure and self sufficient". If people need a
God, and the religious one is cast away, they'll give that
power to some guy, who if he takes on that role, will likely
be up to no good in short order.

I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
power fantasies.
--
Air America Radio - Real One Audio Stream
http://play.rbn.com/?url=airam/airam/live/live.rm&proto=rtsp

Radio Stations & Satellite Stations.
http://www.airamericaradio.com/pub/resStations.htm

Copy this .sig. Spread the word.

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 9:36:19 AM10/2/04
to
On Sat, 2 Oct 2004 09:12:16 -0400, Robert Whelan
<rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org> wrote:

>I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
>irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
>leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
>power fantasies.

Good thing anti-theist is your stupid strawman then.

Paul Ilechko

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 9:42:35 AM10/2/04
to

"Business" being the operative word ...

However, I almost prefer the fraudulent hypocrisy of the pandering
denizens of the current White House to the drooling stupidity of the
true believers.

Mark K. Bilbo

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 10:36:27 AM10/2/04
to
On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 09:12:16 -0400 in episode
<Pine.GSO.4.53.04...@amanda.dorsai.org> we saw our hero
Robert Whelan <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org>:


YAWN.

--
Mark K. Bilbo - a.a. #1423
EAC Department of Linguistic Subversion
Alt-atheism website at: http://www.alt-atheism.org
-----------------------------------------------------------
"Being surprised at the fact that the universe
is fine tuned for life is akin to a puddle being
surprised at how well it fits its hole"
-- Douglas Adams

Francis A. Miniter

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:00:24 AM10/2/04
to
Those who seek profit in prophets.


Francis A. Miniter

Francis A. Miniter

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:03:24 AM10/2/04
to
Robert Whelan wrote:

><snip>

> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
> irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
> leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
> power fantasies.
> --
>

Does "humanism" have meaning for you?


Francis A. Miniter

Fatman

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:15:14 AM10/2/04
to
R.L.Measures wrote:

The salvation business is a scam, a fraud, selling an unobtainable
product. Not all businesses are noble.

Fatman

--
"Once again decent citizens will be able to enter this house of
worship, kneel down in front of a nearly-naked man hanging from a
wooden apparatus by a series of gruesome body piercings, and engage in
their bizarre practices of ritualized blood-drinking and cannibalism
without being assaulted by graphic images of attractive young women
with bare breasts."-- A. Whitney Brown, "The Daily Show"

"The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."--Delos B.
McKown, PhD, US professor, philosopher, author, former clergyman

Fatman

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:25:07 AM10/2/04
to
Robert Whelan wrote:

> Not really. Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
> replaces
> them with fictional comforts of power and brutality, and the worship
> of strong, but non-spiritual father figures. In other words, he exists
> in the same emotional void that Stalins, Hitlers, and demagogues of
> all sorts love to fill, enslaving their followers to earthly "gods"
> as opposed to the "imaginary" ones. His protagonist has not God to
> comfort her, but she has a vicious bear, and admires a thuglike
> male authority figure. Say what you want against religion, but
> leaders who wish to manipulate by it have to pretend to worship
> as well, and allow their subjects to worship. That impulse to
> worship directed utterly towards a political figure is terrifying in
> the power it gives that leader. Remember, convincing people there is
> no loving god doesn't automatically translate to "And now I
> am completely secure and self sufficient". If people need a
> God, and the religious one is cast away, they'll give that
> power to some guy, who if he takes on that role, will likely
> be up to no good in short order.
>
> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
> irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
> leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
> power fantasies.


Please allow me to introduce my self, I am a man with wealth and
taste...

I worship nothing...zip...nada...not even your straw-man arguments. I
do not worship things that do exist, and especially things that do not
exist (Like the god of your choice). I am a-political, atheistic, and
non-materialistic. I also have no addictions.

Poof, your argument and your god just disappeared.

Religions are for people who need them.

Steuard Jensen

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:38:51 AM10/2/04
to
Quoth "kathryn" <b...@bob.com> in article
<cjlvsi$2l9$1...@hercules.btinternet.com>:

> Yep typical christian behaviour, ignore the fact that the triology
> is brilliant and focus on the vaguely anti religious theme.

Er, that _is_ the theme, or at least it's in the top three. I very
much enjoy Pullman's trilogy, mind you, but parts of it bother me in
much the same way that parts of Lewis's Narnia series do: for me, it
goes too far in directly advocating its authors beliefs. Just as I
tire quickly of the "Aslan=Christ=Good" propaganda in Lewis, I find
myself frustrated by the universal "Christian=Bad" propaganda in
Pullman. I can't shake the thought that his message would have gotten
across more successfully if he'd included even one or two halfway
decent Christians (or Christian priests in particular) in his story.

That still doesn't make me happy with the outright fury of many
Christians who have commented on "His Dark Materials", though. The
fact is, reading Pullman can't be that much harder on Christians than
reading Lewis is on those of us who aren't. And I feel that anyone
who can't see that Pullman's message contains joy and hope of its own
has missed the point. Life has just as much meaning in Pullman's
imagined world as it does in the Christian worldview. Far too often,
Christian commentators apparently fail to understand that
non-Christians can live moral lives, too. Despite its flaws,
Pullman's series can introduce its readers to that idea. And if that
makes them more tolerant of others or deepens their exploration of
their own faith and values, then I think he's succeeded.

Steuard Jensen

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 11:58:36 AM10/2/04
to
In article <cjlvsi$2l9$1...@hercules.btinternet.com>, "kathryn" <b...@bob.com>
wrote:

>Yep typical christian behaviour, ignore the fact that the triology is
>brilliant and focus on the vaguely anti religious theme.

• No one likes to admit that the religious inculcation that they received
during their childhoods was less than 100% wonderful.

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 12:02:02 PM10/2/04
to
In article <2s7pibF...@uni-berlin.de>, Paul Ilechko
<noSPaM_pile...@patmedia.net> wrote:

>•R.L.Measures wrote:
>> In article <0iusl0dso8irvp2pn...@4ax.com>, raven1
>> <quotht...@nevermore.com> wrote:
>>
>>
>>>On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>>>It was close to Guy Fawkes night, when English children tend to have
>>>>bonfire parties and let off fireworks, so I joked in a regular column
>>>>I write for the Catholic Herald that any book-burners out there could
>>>>find many other stories far more "worthy of the bonfire" than Harry
>>>>Potter. I went on to use Pullman's books as an example of something
>>>>that was far more likely to harm a child's capacity for faith.
>>>
>>>You say that like it's a bad thing...
>>
>>
>> • For those who are in the salvation business, this is undoubtedly a
bad thing.
>>
>
>"Business" being the operative word ...
>

• amen

>However, I almost prefer the fraudulent hypocrisy of the pandering
>denizens of the current White House to the drooling stupidity of the
>true believers.

• The current White House has the best of both, and the odds are that we
are going to get another 4-yrs of the same.

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 12:03:00 PM10/2/04
to

• chortle

raven1

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 12:18:23 PM10/2/04
to
On Sat, 2 Oct 2004 09:12:16 -0400, Robert Whelan
<rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org> wrote:

>On Sat, 2 Oct 2004, raven1 wrote:
>
>> On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:
>>
>> >The Amber Spyglass hurtles towards an increasingly forceful
>> >conclusion: No matter which world you are in, there is no loving,
>> >unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, fatherly God. There is no
>> >incarnate, magisterial, suffering, and redeeming Son, and no Holy
>> >Spirit to inspire and defend the Church against the horrors of hell.
>> >Religion with its comforts is a hoax.
>>
>> Pullman doesn't just deserve a literary prize for this, he should be
>> knighted for it.
>
>Not really. Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
>replaces
>them with fictional comforts of power and brutality,


The irony of the above is almost unbelievable; given the fictional
nature of religion, and the "power and brutality" demonstrated by the
OT God in particular.

>and the worship
>of strong, but non-spiritual father figures. In other words, he exists
>in the same emotional void that Stalins, Hitlers, and demagogues of
>all sorts love to fill, enslaving their followers to earthly "gods"
>as opposed to the "imaginary" ones.

This is really a stretch...

> His protagonist has not God to
>comfort her, but she has a vicious bear,

The bear in question, Iorek, is actually a thoughtful and temperate
character overall. He uses violence as a last resort, and is very
protective of Lyra.

> and admires a thuglike
>male authority figure.

Which character are you referring to?

>Say what you want against religion, but
>leaders who wish to manipulate by it have to pretend to worship
>as well, and allow their subjects to worship. That impulse to
>worship directed utterly towards a political figure is terrifying in
>the power it gives that leader.

I agree completely, but I'd say (along with Pullman, I'd wager), that
the problem lies in the nature of religion itself. Why worship anyone
or anything? One of the classic Christian metaphors that I've always
found ironically accurate is of the Church, the stand-in for Christ,
being a shepherd, and the laity being sheep. This seems alright on the
surface, with the idea that the Church safeguards the flock from the
wolves, but when one goes a bit deeper, one realizes that the primary
purpose of a shepherd as regards his flock is to fleece them, and
eventually to eat them.

>Remember, convincing people there is
>no loving god doesn't automatically translate to "And now I
>am completely secure and self sufficient".

No one is "completely secure and self-sufficient", but that's
irrelevant to whether or not there's a "loving god" or not.

> If people need a
>God, and the religious one is cast away, they'll give that
>power to some guy, who if he takes on that role, will likely
>be up to no good in short order.

You have a very dim view of humanity, obviously, but please bear in
mind that it's the religious mindset that causes people to grant their
fellow humans such a role in the first place. Again, why worship
anyone or anything?


>I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
>irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
>leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
>power fantasies.

I can't say I claim to know what you mean by a "committed
anti-theist", but I can assure you that I don't worship anything, with
the possible exception of the sashimi at Sakagura in NYC.

Flame of the West

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 1:02:34 PM10/2/04
to
Steuard Jensen wrote:

> Er, that _is_ the theme, or at least it's in the top three. I very
> much enjoy Pullman's trilogy, mind you, but parts of it bother me in
> much the same way that parts of Lewis's Narnia series do: for me, it
> goes too far in directly advocating its authors beliefs. Just as I
> tire quickly of the "Aslan=Christ=Good" propaganda in Lewis, I find
> myself frustrated by the universal "Christian=Bad" propaganda in
> Pullman.

I agree about the Narnia books, even though I am a Christian.
I find open propaganda of that sort to be tiresome. That's
why I so prefer Tolkien.

> I can't shake the thought that his message would have gotten
> across more successfully if he'd included even one or two halfway
> decent Christians (or Christian priests in particular) in his story.

Probably not so long as God is depicted as He is.
That's also part of the in-your-face assault.

> That still doesn't make me happy with the outright fury of many
> Christians who have commented on "His Dark Materials", though. The
> fact is, reading Pullman can't be that much harder on Christians than
> reading Lewis is on those of us who aren't.

It's hard for me to see it from a neutral POV, but it
seems to me that Pullman is in a full frontal attack
mode toward Christianity, whereas CSL isn't nearly so
nasty in the Narnia books toward unbelievers and
agostics. CSL is promoting his POV rather than
attacking POVs. That would explain why Christians get
more riled by Pullman than most unbelievers do by Lewis.

Probably Pullman would have elicited less fury had he
simply promoted a materialistic POV (as many fantasy
writers do) without going out of his way to attack
Christianity. That would be more analogous to what
CSL did in Narnia.

> And I feel that anyone
> who can't see that Pullman's message contains joy and hope of its own
> has missed the point. Life has just as much meaning in Pullman's
> imagined world as it does in the Christian worldview. Far too often,
> Christian commentators apparently fail to understand that
> non-Christians can live moral lives, too. Despite its flaws,
> Pullman's series can introduce its readers to that idea. And if that
> makes them more tolerant of others or deepens their exploration of
> their own faith and values, then I think he's succeeded.

I really don't get the impression that Pullman's point
is one of joy and hope. It may be in there, but it's
hard to see it through the rage and hatred toward
Christianity. I think the latter is his primary message,
and any joy in materialism is secondary.


-- FotW

Reality is for those who cannot cope with Middle-earth.

[Crossposted from alt.fan.tolkien]

Brian E. Clark

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 3:39:32 PM10/2/04
to
Steuard Jensen <sbje...@midway.uchicago.edu> wrote:

> I very much enjoy Pullman's trilogy, mind you, but parts of
> it bother me in much the same way that parts of Lewis's Narnia
> series do: for me, it goes too far in directly advocating its
> authors beliefs.

Reading the Narnia books always put me in mind of attending church-
sponsored youth activities: no matter how much fun you were having, you
knew that at some point some stuffy old do-gooder was going to stop the
entertainments and preach about Jesus. :)

-----------
Brian E. Clark

Lisbeth Andersson

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Oct 2, 2004, 3:47:39 PM10/2/04
to
weil...@hotmail.com wrote in message news:<8ac4498e.0410...@posting.google.com>...

<...>

>
> The Trilogy
>
> Northern Lights, the first book in the trilogy, was published in 1995
> (published in America as The Golden Compass) and tells the story of
>

<...>


> In the second novel of the series, The Subtle Knife, the plot

<...>


>
> The third and final part of Philip Pullman's trilogy, The Amber
> Spyglass, which came out in November 2000, offers no such balance, but

<...>


>
> "Far more worthy of the bonfire than Harry [Potter] . . . a million
> times more sinister . . . Truly the stuff of nightmares. Catholic
> Herald."

<...>

Thank you for bringing this authour to my attention. I shall put the books
on my "to read"-list. I do hope it can live up to the reviews, "worthy of
the bonfire" does raise the expectations a lot and I suspect that the
author cannot really deliver books that deserves that accolade. It will be
fun finding out though.

Lisbeth.

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 2, 2004, 4:00:57 PM10/2/04
to

I never realised that the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was
actually based on the Jesus myths, until somebody (a college lecturer)
told me many years after I'd read it. But then I was never Christian
so I didn't recognise it. When my kid sister got given the series, I
found the second one boring, and the remainder just plain weird.

This probably has an unexpected effect - if somebody reads it as a
magic fantasy before they come across the Jesus stories, what are they
going to make of them?

the other Lewis I had read was "Out of the silent Planet" which I'd
liked, but I hadn't liked the other two "Voyage to Venus"(?) and
Perelandra, which got very weird and metaphysical, with "good" doing
some pretty evil things.

I was an adult before I realised that he was better known as a writer
of Christian stuff for Christians.

Milan

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Oct 2, 2004, 4:08:53 PM10/2/04
to

"Robert Whelan" <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.4.53.04...@amanda.dorsai.org...

> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
> irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
> leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
> power fantasies.

LOL. You omitted to mention that they are going to burn in hell for all
eternity and suffer horribly for having rejected the infinite love of your
god.

regards
Milan


Mark K. Bilbo

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Oct 2, 2004, 6:33:06 PM10/2/04
to
On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 09:12:16 -0400 in episode
<Pine.GSO.4.53.04...@amanda.dorsai.org> we saw our hero
Robert Whelan <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org>:

> On Sat, 2 Oct 2004, raven1 wrote:


>
>> On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:
>>
>> >The Amber Spyglass hurtles towards an increasingly forceful conclusion:
>> >No matter which world you are in, there is no loving, unchanging,
>> >all-powerful, all-knowing, fatherly God. There is no incarnate,
>> >magisterial, suffering, and redeeming Son, and no Holy Spirit to
>> >inspire and defend the Church against the horrors of hell. Religion
>> >with its comforts is a hoax.
>>
>> Pullman doesn't just deserve a literary prize for this, he should be
>> knighted for it.
>
> Not really. Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
> replaces
> them with fictional comforts of power and brutality

Interestingly enough, these "intangibles" of religion have, throughout
history, involved a lot of power and brutality...

Doc Smartass

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Oct 2, 2004, 7:10:05 PM10/2/04
to
"Mark K. Bilbo" <alt-a...@org.webmaster> wrote in
news:wOqdnVfWcfo...@megapath.net:

> On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 09:12:16 -0400 in episode
> <Pine.GSO.4.53.04...@amanda.dorsai.org> we saw our hero
> Robert Whelan <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org>:
>
>> On Sat, 2 Oct 2004, raven1 wrote:
>>
>>> On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:
>>>
>>> >The Amber Spyglass hurtles towards an increasingly forceful
>>> >conclusion: No matter which world you are in, there is no loving,
>>> >unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, fatherly God. There is no
>>> >incarnate, magisterial, suffering, and redeeming Son, and no Holy
>>> >Spirit to inspire and defend the Church against the horrors of
>>> >hell. Religion with its comforts is a hoax.
>>>
>>> Pullman doesn't just deserve a literary prize for this, he should be
>>> knighted for it.
>>
>> Not really. Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
>> replaces
>> them with fictional comforts of power and brutality
>
> Interestingly enough, these "intangibles" of religion have, throughout
> history, involved a lot of power and brutality...
>

Well...since the church is whining about it (whilst trying to pretend it's
done nothing illegal in harboring sex-abusers), I'll be giving the entire
series a read.

--
Dr. Smartass -- BAAWA Knight of Heckling -- a.a. #1939

The Fundamentalist
== Knows no greater joy than the sound of his own voice.
== Knows no greater terror than the god he creates in his own image.
== Knows no greater evil than an unfettered mind.
== Knows no greater blasphemy than being told "NO."

Kater Moggin

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Oct 2, 2004, 8:59:22 PM10/2/04
to
Robert Whelan <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org>:

> Pullman attacks the intangible comforts of religion, and
> replaces them with fictional comforts of power and brutality, and
> the worship of strong, but non-spiritual father figures. In other
> words, he exists in the same emotional void that Stalins, Hitlers,
> and demagogues of all sorts love to fill, enslaving their followers
> to earthly "gods" as opposed to the "imaginary" ones. His protagonist

> has not God to comfort her, but she has a vicious bear...

Power, brutality, and a vicious bear? See 2 Kings 2:23-24:

While [Elisha] was going up on the way, some small boys
came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, 'Go
away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!' When he turned
around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the
LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled
forty-two of the boys.

-- Moggin

Steve Hayes

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Oct 2, 2004, 11:33:06 PM10/2/04
to

The first two are quite good, as children's fantasy literature goes.

The third degenerates into a religious rant, and ends up being contradictory.

--
Steve Hayes
E-mail: haye...@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.geocities.com/hayesstw/stevesig.htm
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7734/books.htm

Robert Whelan

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Oct 3, 2004, 2:01:37 AM10/3/04
to

Sure. People whose values were grown from religious sentiment,
believing that their values came purely from their own
enlightened minds. Dishonest in crediting the cradle of their
values, in other words.

Matt Hughes

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Oct 3, 2004, 2:28:01 AM10/3/04
to
Robert Whelan <rwh...@amanda.dorsai.org> wrote in message news:<Pine.GSO.4.53.04...@amanda.dorsai.org>...

> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and


> irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
> leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
> power fantasies.

Well, obviously, you haven't met me, a perfectly happy, agnostic/deist
(I prefer to believe in a deity rather than call the voice in my head
merely my own unconscious). After all, who am I hurting? And I
always have someone to talk to.

I think what you've got going there is a pronounced case of
projection: because you so strongly feel the need to worship, you
project that need onto the psyches of others; but, since they clearly
don't worship your theistic god, you have to assume that those
irreligious others must worship some substitute entity or concept.
But you know what? Many people feel no need to worship at all. That
part of you that is so essential to being who you are is not in fact
universal; millions of people get by without having to worship
anything at all. Instead, they respect, they reverence, they value,
they love, they appreciate, they take joy in, they are consumed by.

Here's a clue: when your guy said there were many mansions in the
house, he might have been trying to get you to recognize all of that
diversity. Or maybe he was just talking to himself. Obviously, he
wasn't getting through to you.

Matt Hughes

You can read the first chapter of Black Brillion at:
http://www.archonate.com/black-brillion

Or the first review at:
http://home.golden.net/~csp/cd/reviews/blackbrillion.htm

Crowfoot

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:24:56 AM10/3/04
to
> Far too often,
> Christian commentators apparently fail to understand that
> non-Christians can live moral lives, too.

They don't "fail to understand" this. They simply deny it outright
because it scares the shit out of them.
--
Crow

Crowfoot

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 3:29:26 AM10/3/04
to
> convincing people there is
> no loving god doesn't automatically translate to "And now I
> am completely secure and self sufficient". If people need a
> God, and the religious one is cast away, they'll give that
> power to some guy, who if he takes on that role, will likely
> be up to no good in short order.

A good point, along the lines of advice not to kick away the crutches of
the cripple until you are sure he really can stand on his own -- or
he'll just go find himself another set of crutches.

> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
> irrationally worship something else

Er -- want to talk? I am an anti-theist, and I don't worship anything.
I like ethics and ethical behavior, because they make life a bit better
for everyone.
--
Crow

Crowfoot

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:30:47 AM10/3/04
to
In article <kimmerian-BF02E...@news.verizon.net>, Kater
Moggin <kimm...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

You are kidding! I thought "and he did, and they did, and the bears
did" was a damned good joke, not actually in the Bible (only without the
humor of course).
--
Crow

Crowfoot

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:31:40 AM10/3/04
to
In article <2s8g41F...@uni-berlin.de>, "Milan" <mtk...@yahoo.com>
wrote:

Boy, are YOU going to be surprised. Enjoy it; it's good for you.
--
Crow

Crowfoot

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:33:12 AM10/3/04
to
In article <0iusl0dso8irvp2pn...@4ax.com>, raven1
<quotht...@nevermore.com> wrote:

> On 2 Oct 2004 02:18:52 -0700, weil...@hotmail.com wrote:
>

> >It was close to Guy Fawkes night, when English children tend to have
> >bonfire parties and let off fireworks, so I joked in a regular column
> >I write for the Catholic Herald that any book-burners out there could
> >find many other stories far more "worthy of the bonfire" than Harry
> >Potter. I went on to use Pullman's books as an example of something
> >that was far more likely to harm a child's capacity for faith.
>
> You say that like it's a bad thing...

Too true. Faith is SILLY. Why insist on believing something that
nobody can prove?
--
Crow

Crowfoot

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 3:34:13 AM10/3/04
to
In article <r_-021004...@192.168.1.101>, r...@somis.org
(•R.L.Measures) wrote:

Somebody-or-other help us, then.
--
Crow

Stewart Robert Hinsley

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:19:28 AM10/3/04
to
In article <394d822b.04100...@posting.google.com>, Matt
Hughes <mhu...@mars.ark.com> writes

>> I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
>> irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
>> leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
>> power fantasies.
>
>Well, obviously, you haven't met me, a perfectly happy, agnostic/deist
>(I prefer to believe in a deity rather than call the voice in my head
>merely my own unconscious). After all, who am I hurting? And I
>always have someone to talk to.
>
Assuming he was being careful with his language, rather than invoking a
straw man, neither deists nor the majority of atheists are anti-theists.
Committed is probably not an appropriate description for most atheists
either.
--
Stewart Robert Hinsley

•R.L.Measures

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Oct 3, 2004, 3:28:49 AM10/3/04
to

• Since the undecided Roman Catholic vote will determine who wins the
election, G. W. could very well win if Karl Rove tells him to make a
strong anti-aborition and anti stem-cell research statement on November 1.

raven1

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Oct 3, 2004, 5:32:53 AM10/3/04
to

I dreaded that possibility until Kerry demolished Bush in the first
debate on Bush's supposed strong point, Foreign Policy. We have a
horse race here again, folks, and the upcoming "Town Hall" style
debate, and a debate on Domestic Policy overwhelmingly favor Kerry on
both counts.

Jerry Brown

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Oct 3, 2004, 7:14:23 AM10/3/04
to
On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 20:00:57 GMT, Christopher A. Lee
<ca...@optonline.net> wrote:

<snip>

>the other Lewis I had read was "Out of the silent Planet" which I'd
>liked, but I hadn't liked the other two "Voyage to Venus"(?) and
>Perelandra, which got very weird and metaphysical, with "good" doing
>some pretty evil things.

'Voyage to Venus' and 'Perelandra' are variant titles for the same
book; the third book is 'That Hideous Strength'.


Jerry Brown
--
A cat may look at a king
(but probably won't bother)

<http://www.jwbrown.co.uk>

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 8:01:26 AM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 11:14:23 GMT, Jerry Brown
<je...@jwbrown.co.uk.RemoveThisBitToReply> wrote:

>On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 20:00:57 GMT, Christopher A. Lee
><ca...@optonline.net> wrote:
>
><snip>
>
>>the other Lewis I had read was "Out of the silent Planet" which I'd
>>liked, but I hadn't liked the other two "Voyage to Venus"(?) and
>>Perelandra, which got very weird and metaphysical, with "good" doing
>>some pretty evil things.
>
>'Voyage to Venus' and 'Perelandra' are variant titles for the same
>book; the third book is 'That Hideous Strength'.

That's the one. It was awful.

Miles Bader

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Oct 3, 2004, 8:25:27 AM10/3/04
to
Christopher A. Lee <ca...@optonline.net> writes:
>>'Voyage to Venus' and 'Perelandra' are variant titles for the same
>>book; the third book is 'That Hideous Strength'.
>
> That's the one. It was awful.

I thought Perelandra was a lot of fun ... "That Hideous Strength" was
pretty boring though (it's like C.S. Lewis suddenly remembered "Shit,
I'm supposed to be doing some proselytizing here!" and tried to cram it
all into the 3rd book...).

-Miles
--
We live, as we dream -- alone....

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 8:44:12 AM10/3/04
to

James Blish showed that you could do decent SF with a theological
bent.

>-Miles

Pete McCutchen

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Oct 3, 2004, 8:47:20 AM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 07:28:49 GMT, r...@somis.org (•R.L.Measures) wrote:

>• Since the undecided Roman Catholic vote will determine who wins the
>election, G. W. could very well win if Karl Rove tells him to make a
>strong anti-aborition and anti stem-cell research statement on November 1.

Because, of course, the people who care about that shit don't already
know W's position.
--

Pete McCutchen

Mark K. Bilbo

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Oct 3, 2004, 10:34:20 AM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 12:44:12 +0000 in episode
<50tvl05617mjqq0bh...@4ax.com> we saw our hero Christopher
A. Lee <ca...@optonline.net>:

But you *cannot do decent literature with a fundamentalist Christian bent.

Many years ago, I realized that good drama *requires "gray areas." The
"absolute" nature of fundamentalism allows for no such thing. Producing
some amazingly shallow story.

Now, you *can pull it off but it's a rare thing. Tolkien did it. Lucas
(with the early Star Wars) managed. But how many examples can you think of
successful, interesting stories in which the good guys are Good! and the
bad guys are Bad! and in which you know, from the first line, how the
conflict ends?

Not many eh?

Good drama requires gray areas. And, often, the best drama involves
conflict between characters that are actually, in some way, after the
*same *thing (one of the reasons we humans have been endlessly fascinated
by stories about "love triangles" <g>).

You just can't do good drama from a fundie mindset. I've at least one
example of a fundie who tried doing SF and, wow, what an awful book. I
could not get through it (skipped around because I was curious but
couldn't just *read it). Vacillated between being repulsed by the bile
being spewed and sheer *boredom by the cookie cutter characters and the
inevitability that the "good guys" were going to be "vindicated."

Theological bent maybe you can do good stories with. Fundamentalist bent?
No. Way.

(It's one reason I find C. S. Lewis to be a *hack)

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 10:38:23 AM10/3/04
to
In article <5qhvl0hm3bhu2sm6f...@4ax.com>, raven1
<quotht...@nevermore.com> wrote:

• True, however, the goddamned, pro baby-killer, Lib media was largely
responsible for the demolition because they unfairly showed a split-screen
so that viewers could see G. W.'s facial expressions during Kerry's
replies. During the JFK-Tricky Dick Nixon debate in 1960, people who
watched it on TV said that Kennedy won, but radio listeners said the
winner was Nixon.

>We have a
>horse race here again, folks, and the upcoming "Town Hall" style
>debate, and a debate on Domestic Policy overwhelmingly favor Kerry on
>both counts.

• A Town Hall-style debate probably scares the shit out of G. W.'s
wranglers. However, a red or orange terrorist threat level alert from
Tom Ridge on G. W.'s cell phone, ten or so minutes after the 90-minute
debate begins just might require that G. W. graciously bow out and spend
this critical time "doin' my job of protectin' the American people". This
would leave 80-minutes of 'oh my gosh' fill time for news anchors to
blather away and pump up the story. Meanwhile, back in Arabia, the Al
Qaida guys who have have been keenly watching the debate on TV are
shrugging their shoulders looking at each other saying "what attack is
Bush talking about?, I didn't hear nuttin' about no stinkin' attack."

I used to think that Thomas Jefferson pushed for putting too much
limitation on the power of the President, but the Nixon and the G. W. Bush
presidencies convinced that Tom and his pals got it right for damn sure.

cheers, R.

•R.L.Measures

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 10:46:10 AM10/3/04
to
In article <nrnul0d1c6atljvud...@4ax.com>, Pete McCutchen
<p.mcc...@worldnet.att.net> wrote:

• The hinge-pin is undecided voters. Loyal G. W. supporters would vote
for him even if he moons Kerry in the last debate.

cheers, Pete

Jeffrey C. Dege

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Oct 3, 2004, 11:02:43 AM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 14:46:10 GMT, •R.L.Measures <r...@somis.org> wrote:
>
>• The hinge-pin is undecided voters.

That's true enough.

But there are some hints, in the survey data, that there are more votes
to be gained among those who haven't decided between voting Republican
or not voting than there are among those who haven't decided between
Republican or Democrat.

Truth is that most of the "swing" voters already have a strong
predisposition one way or the other, no matter what they say to pollsters.

--
It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and
by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate
the habit of thinking about what we are doing. The precise opposite is the
case. Civilization advances by extending the numbers of important operations
which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are
like cavalry charges in battle -- they are strictly limited in number, they
require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.
- Alfred North Whitehead

TT Arvind

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Oct 3, 2004, 11:30:41 AM10/3/04
to
Wes ğu weil...@hotmail.com hal!
> the Ancient of Days who is so old and infirm that he can
> be usurped by his chief spirit, the "Metatron." This
> fearsomely powerful archangel, a kind of satire on
> St. Michael

This, of course, is utter balderdash - Metatron has nothing whatsoever to
do with St. Michael. In Jewish theology, Metatron is the governor of the
visible world and the captain of the hosts of God. Many authorities rate
him as being far superior to the other angels - there is a legend of two
Egyptian magicians who rose to heaven and bettered the efforts of
both Michael and Gabriel to expel them; Metatron, however, broke their
spells with ease and cast them out.

This is not the place to go into the rather complicated and contradictory
accounts of Metatron (or the various attempts by commentators to sort
them out). However, I should mention that Pullman was also clearly
influenced by Jewish mysticism in his portrayal of Metatron's power and
his being almost-God. Several texts refer to Metatron as a "Lesser
Yahweh" (a fact that caused much consternation to many commentators), and
some Jewish mystics even claimed to have seen Metatron and God sitting on
the same type of throne, indicating them to be coeval in power. This
went to the extent that the Babylonian Talmud actually considers and
attempts to explain Metatron's immense power and clearly distinguish him
from God.

--
Aravindhan

I doubt therefore I might be.

[posting from alt.fan.tolkien, followups set accordingly]

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 11:40:29 AM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 09:34:20 -0500, "Mark K. Bilbo"
<alt-a...@org.webmaster> wrote:

>On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 12:44:12 +0000 in episode
><50tvl05617mjqq0bh...@4ax.com> we saw our hero Christopher
>A. Lee <ca...@optonline.net>:
>
>> On Sun, 03 Oct 2004 21:25:27 +0900, Miles Bader <mi...@gnu.org> wrote:
>>
>>>Christopher A. Lee <ca...@optonline.net> writes:
>>>>>'Voyage to Venus' and 'Perelandra' are variant titles for the same
>>>>>book; the third book is 'That Hideous Strength'.
>>>>
>>>> That's the one. It was awful.
>>>
>>>I thought Perelandra was a lot of fun ... "That Hideous Strength" was
>>>pretty boring though (it's like C.S. Lewis suddenly remembered "Shit, I'm
>>>supposed to be doing some proselytizing here!" and tried to cram it all
>>>into the 3rd book...).
>>
>> James Blish showed that you could do decent SF with a theological bent.
>
>But you *cannot do decent literature with a fundamentalist Christian bent.

Lewis wasn't fundamentalist. He was typical of mainstream British
religious thinking maybe 50-70 years ago. 50 years ago it was already
in decline. Some people took it seriously but we never had anything
like US-style fundamentalism. A lot more went through the motions
because it was expected.

I don't know Blish's theology, but I suspect it is Catholic. Certainly
one of his heroes was a Jesuit. And one of Arthur Clark's short
stories has an expedition from Earth finding a nova that could have
been the star in the East, and the remains of an advanced civilisation
on a dead planet, and a minister/chaplain/whatever asking god if he
really needed to destroy them to gude the three kings.

>Many years ago, I realized that good drama *requires "gray areas." The
>"absolute" nature of fundamentalism allows for no such thing. Producing
>some amazingly shallow story.
>
>Now, you *can pull it off but it's a rare thing. Tolkien did it. Lucas
>(with the early Star Wars) managed. But how many examples can you think of
>successful, interesting stories in which the good guys are Good! and the
>bad guys are Bad! and in which you know, from the first line, how the
>conflict ends?

I haven't read any overtly fundy fiction. But too many movies treat it
as the norm. Eg the westerns where part of the hero's redemption
includes going to church with the love-interest. Or the end of the War
of the worlds where they're all praying.

As I said, I read the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe as a children's
fantasy book, and not being Christian never realised that it was an
allegory on the NT until I was told several years later.

TT Arvind

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 12:10:50 PM10/3/04
to
Wes ğu Christopher A. Lee hal!

> And one of Arthur Clark's short
> stories has an expedition from Earth finding a nova that could have
> been the star in the East, and the remains of an advanced civilisation
> on a dead planet, and a minister/chaplain/whatever asking god if he
> really needed to destroy them to gude the three kings.

Thank you! My father read that story out to me when I was a child (he
*always* read science fiction at bedtime), and I've been trying to find
it again since I was 15 or so. Would you happen to know the name of the
story?

At least I now know who it was by!

--
When you hit someone with an axe, always do it on purpose is my advice.
Then you won't have to stand sheepishly over the cloven corpse under the
blank stares of your companions until you can invent a suitable reason
why you went and did it.
- J.L. Beck on a.f.t.

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 12:14:26 PM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 3 Oct 2004 17:10:50 +0100, TT Arvind <ttar...@hotmail.com>
wrote:

>Wes đu Christopher A. Lee hal!


>> And one of Arthur Clark's short
>> stories has an expedition from Earth finding a nova that could have
>> been the star in the East, and the remains of an advanced civilisation
>> on a dead planet, and a minister/chaplain/whatever asking god if he
>> really needed to destroy them to gude the three kings.
>
>Thank you! My father read that story out to me when I was a child (he
>*always* read science fiction at bedtime), and I've been trying to find
>it again since I was 15 or so. Would you happen to know the name of the
>story?
>
>At least I now know who it was by!

Sorry, I can't help you. I'm pretty sure it was Clark though.

TT Arvind

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Oct 3, 2004, 12:35:37 PM10/3/04
to
Wes ğu Christopher A. Lee hal!
>
> Sorry, I can't help you. I'm pretty sure it was Clark though.

Got it! It seem knowing the author's name was the one additional bit of
information I needed to find it on Google (I've tried earlier without
success). If anyone else is interested, the story is called "The Star".
It appeared in "Infinity Science Fiction" in 1955, and again in Clarke's
collection "The Other Side of the Sky". Apparently, he wrote it for a
contest in a UK newspaper.

Thanks. :-)

regards,

Aravindhan

Francis A. Miniter

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 12:41:04 PM10/3/04
to
Robert Whelan wrote:

>On Sat, 2 Oct 2004, Francis A. Miniter wrote:
>
>
>>Robert Whelan wrote:
>>
>>
>>><snip>
>>>I haven't yet met a committed anti-theist who didn't blindly and
>>>irrationally worship something else, whether it was a political
>>>leader, or the immersion in some sort of addiction to fictional
>>>power fantasies.
>>>--
>>>
>>>
>>Does "humanism" have meaning for you?
>>
>>
>Sure. People whose values were grown from religious sentiment,
>believing that their values came purely from their own
>enlightened minds. Dishonest in crediting the cradle of their
>values, in other words.
>
>
>

That's rather warped. Sounds like you have made up your mind before
trying to describe it.

Humanism is the theory that human life is of sufficient value to humans
in general as to found upon that value a set of principles of ethical
behaviour that stands upon its own. No deity is necessary to validate
these princples. No power trip involved; no political leader; no
fanaticism. In fact, looking at the history of religions and religious
beliefs, including the extreme christian, hebrew and moslem beliefs of
the late 20th century, it is clear that religious belief is more likely
to be associated with power trips, political leaders and fanaticism to
the point of terrorism.


Francis A. Miniter

Christopher A. Lee

unread,
Oct 3, 2004, 12:43:00 PM10/3/04
to
On Sun, 3 Oct 2004 17:35:37 +0100, TT Arvind <ttar...@hotmail.com>
wrote:

>Wes đu Christopher A. Lee hal!

That's the story. As soon as you mentioned The Star" I remembered.

>Thanks. :-)
>
>regards,
>
>Aravindhan

Jens Kilian

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Oct 3, 2004, 12:47:04 PM10/3/04
to
"Mark K. Bilbo" <alt-a...@org.webmaster> writes:
> But you *cannot do decent literature with a fundamentalist Christian bent.
[...]

> Many years ago, I realized that good drama *requires "gray areas."
[...]
> Now, you *can pull it off [...]

Just a little off-topic remark - the emphasis-off key on your keyboard
seems to be broken...
--
mailto:j...@acm.org As the air to a bird, or the sea to a fish,
http://www.bawue.de/~jjk/ so is contempt to the contemptible. [Blake]

raven1

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Oct 3, 2004, 1:08:09 PM10/3/04
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LOL. *Damn* that commie pinko media!

> During the JFK-Tricky Dick Nixon debate in 1960, people who
>watched it on TV said that Kennedy won, but radio listeners said the
>winner was Nixon.

I somehow doubt that the same applies to this debate; the frequent
pauses and stumbles as Bush tried to gather his thoughts and remember
how to speak English were priceless.



>
>>We have a
>>horse race here again, folks, and the upcoming "Town Hall" style
>>debate, and a debate on Domestic Policy overwhelmingly favor Kerry on
>>both counts.
>
>• A Town Hall-style debate probably scares the shit out of G. W.'s
>wranglers. However, a red or orange terrorist threat level alert from
>Tom Ridge on G. W.'s cell phone, ten or so minutes after the 90-minute
>debate begins just might require that G. W. graciously bow out and spend
>this critical time "doin' my job of protectin' the American people".

Hey, if he can spend seven minutes reading "The Pet Goat" with a
classroom full of kids on 9/11, surely he can find the time to answer
a few more questions before he goes and acts Presidential. It's really
a question of priorities.

> This
>would leave 80-minutes of 'oh my gosh' fill time for news anchors to
>blather away and pump up the story. Meanwhile, back in Arabia, the Al
>Qaida guys who have have been keenly watching the debate on TV are
>shrugging their shoulders looking at each other saying "what attack is
>Bush talking about?, I didn't hear nuttin' about no stinkin' attack."
>
> I used to think that Thomas Jefferson pushed for putting too much
>limitation on the power of the President, but the Nixon and the G. W. Bush
>presidencies convinced that Tom and his pals got it right for damn sure.

IMO, one of the most admirable things about the US founding fathers
was that they didn't trust even themselves with unbridled power.

•R.L.Measures

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Oct 3, 2004, 1:45:26 PM10/3/04