Thursday, November 1, 2007

Athiest Novels - Oh My!

You might have already received an email warning about a new movie coming out, based on Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass. It goes something like this:

There will be a new Children's movie out in December called THE GOLDEN COMPASS. It is written by Phillip Pullman, a proud athiest who belongs to secular humanist societies. He hates C. S. Lewis's Chronical's of Narnia and has written a trilogy to show the other side. The movie has been dumbed down to fool kids and their parents in the hope that they will buy his trilogy where in the end the children kill God and everyone can do as they please.

Now, my wife and I read the trilogy a few years ago, and the description of it as anti-religion is pretty accurate... sort of. Pullman is clearly not a fan of religion, and he has characters make broad statements like "Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling." Well, if that was true, then I'd be anti-church too.

However, it's a strawman argument in novel form, because the church the heroes oppose is a power-hungry, secretive, controlling, murderous political organization, nothing like the Church I'm a part of. The "God" they kill at the end of the third book is a withered, ancient invalid who can't speak or even sit up... nothing like the God of the Bible. Aside from the name (I think he was called Yahweh in the book?), there was nothing God-ish about him. I don't think people of faith need to worry too much about either the book or the movie... unless they belong to a secretive, murderous organization that worships a dusty, impotent creator. In that case, they'd better look out!

(and as my wife pointed out, if your kids see the movie or read the books, it would be a good opportunity to have a discussion about novels and novelists, about coercive religion compared with your faith, etc...)


Gabe said...

It'd also be good to have a discussion about fiction and reality. I've read the first book and am greatly enjoying the second. They're awesome! I really don't know why so many "christian" organizations have to be the gate keepers for what the rest of christiandom should deem acceptable and what should not. Who cares if it is written by an aetheist? Escpecially if its fiction. That doesn't mean it's worthless. Wisdom and Goodness and Enjoyment can be found anywhere. It's not confined to "christians" only. And can't we as christians determine what is good on our own and accept the good and reject the bad? Just saying.

Rhet said...

Just because it's fiction doesn't make it good. Dan, you seem to believe that anything written on paper has value and is good in and of itself. It's not that it's written by an atheist that's the's that it's written with the express purpose of propagating a certain atheist meme. That immediately puts it at odds with Christendom. The withered ancient invalid of a god in the book IS your god. That's the author's interpretation of your god and what he wants other people to think about your god. You said there was nothing God-ish about him...that's exactly the point. And many, many people who go to see the movie and/or read the book will think exactly that. You and your emergent friends may be enlightened enough to have a wonderful dialogue with your kids about the story and not to worry, our god isn't really dead dear, but many others won't. Especially us dumb-as-bricks non-emergent, unenlightened evangelicals (*shudder*) who apparently worship a dusty, impotent creator. These books appear to be just one of the many of recent works all pushing the same meme...god is dead, there is no god. (Yes, I've read several of these books) The authors writing these books, the media that glamorizes and pushes them, and the entertainment industry are all acting in concert to push this meme. Believing that it's just a fun fictional story is naive. It may be a fun, fictional story, but that's not all it is. Parts of your Bible are a fun, fictional story too. But that's not all they are.

The Dan Ward said...

Hiya Rhet - my apologies if any of my comments about this emergent thing came across as an accusation of Evangelicalism being braindead... that's certainly not my intent. I'm just trying to figure this thing out.

As for the books, yeah, I do enjoy just about everything I read (but I also don't finish reading a book I don't enjoy). And I think it's sort of funny that people get all worked up about a book that "kills God," when the thing that dies looks nothing like God.

It's a classic strawman - almost literally! Pullman says "See, your God is weak, immobile, etc. Look how easily he dies." To which I can only reply, "Huh?"

Please. He can criticize the ocean for being salty, but not for being dry. If he writes a book about how dry the ocean is, he's not really writing about the ocean, is he? He's writing about the desert. Or as GK Chesterton puts it, if he declares himself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, he is no longer free to draw a giraffe.

So my assessment is not that all books are good. My assessment is that Pullman's book fails to kill God. I think he *completely* fails to describe & spread the "God is Dead" meme, if for no other reason than that he completely fails to represent a God that looks anything like the God of the Bible.

Yes, you're better off reading CS Lewis, GK Chesterton or George MacDonald, but I'm not worried about Pullman's books.

Kim said...

I had vaguely heard of these books before. Now I really want to read them!

Gabe said...

Here's an odd seems christian folks come out of the woodwork to severely criticize books like Pullman's and J.K. Rowling mainly because they think the world view of the authors is seeping into the story and will some how pollute the reader. But I never seem to see or hear the same level of outcry for shows like "Desperate Housewives", or other stories that portray very questionable content. In the end, these science fiction stories have one common theme: Good versus evil. How about Star Wars? It seems just about every person identifies with this story and finds a way to mold the story to their own world view. Even though I would suggest George Lucas has a very non-christian worldview. Yet, no one seems to take offense to this. "The principles still ring true", folks say. Well, so do those same principles in Pullman's and Rowling's books. That's all I need to know. And I think most people, including christians, can filter this knowledge just as well.