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Pullman uses the paraphernalia of fantasy to send a message radically different from the Inklings. He sees religion as a force for coercion and oppression, and organised religion as a bondage from which the human race must be liberated. Thus the “Magisterium” and “the Church” play the role of the villain in his work and the Christian God is singled out for oblivion. It seems appropriate then to see him, as Cathy Young and Peter Hitchens have done, as a kind of anti-Lewis: using fantasy and even allegory to communicate a message very different from Lewis’s. He is generally anti-Inklings, even if he depends on them in his use of fantasy as a method to discuss important issues. He is not only anti-religion but specifically anti-Christian and, we may even say, anti-Christ. In his novel The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Pullman retells the story of the Gospels by inventing Jesus and Christ as twins who have quite different agendas. His “Jesus” is a sort of liberal Protestant whose sayings and doings bring him a wide following.  “Christ”, on the other hand, is the frustrated, deluded, impressionable and immoral twin who is being manipulated to believe he is the “the word of God”. Behind this lies the notion, common in the West, that while the human Jesus can be admired as a “good man”, his claims about himself and the Church’s teaching about him are to be dismissed as ancient superstition.

Pullman’s interest in Milton has led him to a certain Promethean view of Satan. It is true that Satan seems an heroic figure in parts of Paradise Lost: he is daring, courageous, resourceful and eloquent. This may be why Pullman has described himself as “of the Devil’s party”. What he appears not to notice is the moral decay in Milton’s Satan after the Fall; the corruption of a spirit because of pride, envy and delusions of grandeur: “Back to the Thicket slunk the guiltie Serpent”.

William Blake is another hero of Pullman’s. He also criticises organised religion for preventing human beings from expressing their sensual nature. The Church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage comes in for especial polemics as promoting joylessness. Although it seems that Blake modified his views in later life, there doesn’t appear to be a similar appreciation in Pullman about the importance of family, social and spiritual influence in the development of our moral selves.

It is simply not enough to oppose authority to freedom. The question today is not so much about freedom from organised religion or cultural mores, but what freedom is for, how it expresses our essential nature and the lawfulness which is embedded in it, even when we neglect or deny it. In any view of moral development which might be seen as adequate, heteronomy leads to autonomy which, in turn, should lead to interdependence, respect for persons and the willingness to sacrifice our individual interests for another person, the family or the Common Good.

All civilisation has been built on the delaying or even the denial of gratification. The Church’s teaching, in this respect, is not to be a killjoy but to promote respect for persons rather than their use merely for our own sexual, economic or cultural gratification. In spite of numerous disasters, the “free love” movement seems not to have learnt the value of self-restraint. The removal of all inhibition will not lead to happy communes of the imagination but to hurt individuals, broken families and bewildered children. The delaying of the gratification of primary appetites, on the other hand, can contribute to greater literary, artistic or scientific achievement, even it it is not a sine qua non for these.
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AnonymousAlicia Sinclair-Portland
April 11th, 2018
5:04 PM
I don`t need to bother with Pullman except to remark that he`s clearly a succesful, good writer who will have truths in what he says. His notion of the Jesus as opposed to the Christian "Christ" deserves deeper study, and has many points I`m sure. But I am reminded of Jesus mocking the blind guides and proselytes who will go a long way to make a convert, at no end of inconvenience. Pullman is without excuse by now, let Jesus judge him. Nazir Ali is a hero to many of us, and really should be targeting his Islamic spikings of popular culture-who knows. Pullman might agree with us on that? At Easter, we go to the Cross and return to the empty tomb. After that-and after we`ve got all that that means to us-we are free in Gods love, in Jesus example and our faith in Him to do as we will-as opposed to what "thou wilt".

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