Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Philip Pullman--Author of Hallowed Secularism?

11/21/2007--Now that the movie, The Golden Compass will soon be appearing in theaters, it is time to ask just what is the theology of author Philip Pullman, famous for his atheism and attempts to kill God in his work. Upon closer examination, Pullman is quite religiously oriented. In fact he may be the first author of Hallowed Secularism since E. L. Doctorow.

Here is how Pullman is described in a December 2007 Atlantic article by Hanna Rosin (herself the author of God’s Harvard, so she knows a thing or two about all this):

“Pullman’s own books are full of the mysticism and grandeur often associated with religion, which is no doubt part of their appeal. ‘We need joy, we need a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives, we need a connection with the universe, we need all the things the Kingdom of Heaven used to promise us but failed to deliver,’ he said in a 2000 speech.

When pressed, Pullman grants that he’s not really trying to kill God, but rather the outdated idea of God as an old guy with a beard in the sky. In his novels, he replaces the idea of God with ‘Dust,’ made up of invisible particles that begin to cluster around people when they hit puberty. The Church believes Dust to be the physical evidence of original sin and hopes to eradicate it. But over the course of the series, Pullman reveals it to be the opposite: evidence of human consciousness, a kind of godlike energy that surrounds everyone. People accumulate Dust by ‘thinking and feeling and reflecting, by gaining wisdom and passing it on’. It starts to build up around puberty because, for Pullman, sexual awakening triggers the beginning of self-knowledge and intellectual curiosity. To him, the loss of sexual innocence is not a tragedy; it’s the springboard to a productive and virtuous adulthood.”

So there is a power in the universe in which human beings can participate and which is associated with certain normative standards of conduct. Participation in this power changes things in the world and the power is not created nor controlled by humans.

Sure sounds like Hallowed Secularism.

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