Philip Pullman — the extended e-mail interview

Philip Pullman — the extended e-mail interview November 28, 2007

However much I might disagree with Philip Pullman’s beliefs and his characterization of Christianity in the His Dark Materials trilogy, it must be said that Pullman very graciously agreed to exchange several e-mails with me back in September, for my article on The Golden Compass that appears in the current issue of Christianity Today.

Only a fraction of this “interview” ended up in the article itself, but a lot of what he said was quite interesting, so I figured I’d post a longer, and slightly edited, version of it here. (“Slightly edited” here means that I have moved a few bits around, and inserted one or two follow-up questions and answers into the middle of a previous answer; plus I have deleted the usual “hi how are you” sort of pleasantries.)

As you can see, I had no idea how quickly he would respond, or how much opportunity there would be for follow-up questions, so I tended to bunch the questions up somewhat — and there wasn’t time for some of the follow-up questions that I might have wanted to ask. Maybe one day we’ll have a voice-to-voice conversation, but for now, this will do!

– – –

PTC: First, the obvious hook for this story is the upcoming movie version of The Golden Compass, and there has been some talk in the entertainment media of late about the movie “toning down” the perceived anti-religious elements. Nicole Kidman, for example, was quoted as saying that she would never have signed on to the trilogy if she had thought there was anything “anti-Catholic” about the movies; and Chris Weitz has said the focus of the trilogy will be on “Authority” rather than “God”, per se. From your perspective, is this an acceptable adjustment? Or has an important element of the book been lost? How do you anticipate the sequels, which in book form were more explicit about the religious-mythical elements than the first part of the trilogy, will deal with this? Can they be purged in a way that keeps the story’s narrative and thematic integrity? And how would you respond to, say, Kidman’s characterization of the trilogy?

PP: There are two ways to make a film: one is to spend several hundred million dollars, and the other is to spend about twenty thousand. Each imposes its own constraints. In the case of an expensive film, the people who put up the money obviously deserve to have their concerns taken into consideration. So do the stars. I know that Nicole Kidman, for example, was persuaded to take the part because she knew that the whole arc of the story of her character Mrs Coulter (and I hope I’m not giving away anything for people who haven’t read the story, but I can’t make this point without doing so) included not only great wickedness but also a great redemption, brought about by the growing love she helplessly feels for her daughter. That is only one of the moral turns and complexities that make this story very far from the simple “Pullman says that evil is good” nonsense put about by some stupid and tendentious journalism. As for the “Authority” business, I’ve always made it clear that theocracy – the political exercise of religious authority, which is what the Magisterium in the story embodies – is a special example of the regrettable tendency of humankind to believe in “one size fits all” answers: to cling to the extreme of dogmatic fundamentalism whether religious or not. In fact (and I’ve pointed this out too many times to go through it all again) the purest example of theocracy in the twentieth century was Soviet Russia. So I have no problem with the way the film has put the emphasis; it could hardly have done otherwise. Finally, as for the second and third films, no decision has yet been made to go ahead with them. It will depend on the box office returns, as everyone always knew.

PTC: How would you characterize your own beliefs? Atheistic, agnostic, materialist, etc.? A friend of mine who is both an atheist and a committed materialist told me she didn’t understand why His Dark Materials was being touted as an “atheist” trilogy, because the Dust seemed very “spiritual” and “mystical” and unnecessary to her. Tony Watkins has also written that the Dust makes the books more “dualist” than materialist. Do you think there is something “spiritual” about your books, and does this coincide with anything “spiritual” in your own outlook, or are people perhaps reading too much into a handy and very effective plot device? If your own views are more at the materialistic end of things, why do you think your books have pointed in a seemingly opposite direction?

PP: Deep waters here. Those who are committed materialists (as I claim to be myself) have to account for the existence of consciousness, or else, like the behaviourists such as Watson and Skinner, deny that it exists at all. There are various ways of explaining consciousness, many of which seem to take the line that it’s an emergent phenomenon that only begins to exist when a sufficient degree of complexity is achieved. Another way of dealing with the question is to assume that consciousness, like mass, is a normal and universal property of matter (this is known as panpsychism), so that human beings, dogs, carrots, stones, and atoms are all conscious, though in different degrees. This is the line I take myself, in the company of poets such as Wordsworth and Blake.

As for ‘spirit’, ‘spiritual’, ‘spirituality’ – these are words I never use, because I can see nothing real that seems to correspond with them: they have no meaning. I would never begin to talk of a person’s spiritual life, or refer to someone’s profound spirituality, or anything of that sort, because it doesn’t make sense to me. When other people talk about spirituality I can see nothing in it, in reality, except a sense of vague uplift combined at one end with genuine goodness and modesty, and at the other with self-righteousness and pride. That’s what they’re displaying. That’s what seems to be on offer when they interact with the world. And to my mind it’s easier, clearer, and more truthful just to talk about the goodness and modesty, or about the self-righteousness and pride, without going into the other stuff at all. So the good qualities that the word ‘spiritual’ implies can be perfectly well covered, and more honestly covered, it seems to me, by other positive words, and we don’t need ‘spiritual’ at all.

But in fact my reaction to the word ‘spiritual’ is even a little more strongly felt than that; I even feel a slight revulsion. I’m thinking of those portraits of saints and martyrs by painters of the Baroque period and the Counter-Reformation: horrible grubby-looking old men with rotten teeth wearing dark dusty robes and gazing upwards with an expression of fanatical fervour, or beautiful young women in sumptuous clothes with wide eyes and parted lips gazing upwards with an expression of fanatical fervour, or martyrs having the flesh ripped from their bones as they gaze upwards with an expression of fanatical fervour – gazing at the Virgin Mary, or a vision of the Cross, or something else that’s hovering in the air just above them. And you know that what they’re seeing isn’t really there; that if you were there in front of them, you wouldn’t see the Virgin sitting on a little cloud six feet above the floor; all you’d see would be the rotten teeth or the sumptuous clothes or the torn flesh and the expression of fanatical fervour. They’re seeing things. They’re deluded, in fact.

So the word ‘spiritual’, for me, has overtones that are entirely negative. It seems to me that whenever anyone uses the word, it’s a sign that either they’re deluding themselves, or they’re pulling the wool over the eyes of others. And when I hear it, or see it in print, my reaction is one of immediate scepticism.

Finally, back to Dust. And again I’m giving things away that might spoil the story, but Dust is my metaphor for all the things that your atheist materialist friend no doubt believes in as firmly as I do: human wisdom, science and art, all the accumulated and transmissible achievements of the human mind. This is both material (located in books, etc, and in living people who can talk about it) and, like consciousness, seemingly non-material. But without matter, it wouldn’t be there at all. Everything that is Dust is the result of the amorous inclinations of matter (Blake: “Eternity is in love with the productions of Time”).

PTC: Your trilogy does an amazing job of interpreting certain aspects of the Old Testament (and the legends surrounding it) quite literally (e.g. Enoch), and it touches on Church history too — but if memory serves, there is no mention of Jesus as a character in this cosmology. To some readers, this has been a curious gap. Where does he fit into your mythos? Given that the depiction of everything that came before and after Jesus — God, Enoch, the Church, etc. — is pretty negative, would Jesus himself have been “bad” somehow? Or, as a “good” person, did he not fit in?

PP: His omission from HDM was deliberate; I’m going to get around to Jesus in the next book. I have plenty to say about him.

PTC: I look forward to reading this. Any word on when it might be out?

PP: No, but not yet, I’m afraid. I spend too much time answering questions and doing that sort of thing.

PTC: What sort of response to your books have you been perceiving from Christians? Compared to, say, the Harry Potter ruckus. Have you been surprised by any criticisms? Surprised by a lack of criticism? Have Christian responses to your books been thoughtful, reactionary, etc.? Have you perceived any differences between England and North America in terms of the reception your books have had among Christian readers?

PP: The Christians at the fundamentalist or evangelical end of the spectrum have been so preoccupied with denouncing the wickedness of Harry Potter that they’ve hardly noticed me at all. There are one or two exceptions – a couple of Christian journalists have made it their business to attack me, but their readings of the book have been so comically inadequate that no-one has taken any notice of them; and at a public meeting I was once denounced by a Christian headmistress for advocating under-age sex, and it took no more than a couple of questions from me to establish that she had never actually read the passage she was complaining about. So if that’s the best – or the worst – that that sort of Christian can do, I have little to worry about.

Christians at the other end, what you might call the thoughtful liberal end of the spectrum, have on the contrary been very welcoming. Many of my most interesting letters have been from, many of my most interesting conversations have been with Christians both Protestant and Catholic. They can see that I take these big questions seriously, and that the morality – the values that the book as a whole upholds and champions – is something on which we can all fully agree.

PTC: There has been a lot of attention lately given to atheist books by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (both of whom are British like yourself — coincidence? something in the culture?). Do you think the broader cultural discussion raised by these books might help pave the way, in a sense, for The Golden Compass and its sequels? Is there a sense in which maybe His Dark Materials was ahead of the curve?

PP: The success of Dawkins and Hitchens – and Daniel Dennett for that matter – is a sign, to me, that the broad culture is much more questioning and open-minded than many people assume. But the things those three write are different from a novel like HDM, and HDM is different from polemic and argument like ‘The God Delusion’. I am a storyteller. I revel in the ambiguities and shadows and suggestions of metaphor. Dawkins too, in his science books, is a storyteller – a great one – and his use of metaphor there is masterly. If I have a criticism of ‘The God Delusion’, it is that he seems to over-simplify, to insist on one single literal meaning for the word ‘faith’, and that he doesn’t acknowledge that God is a metaphor – just as Dust is.

PTC: Hmmm, could you tease this out a bit more? I can understand Dust as a metaphor within a work of literature, but in what sense is God a metaphor? (I assume both you and Dawkins are referring to God as he is perceived in the real world and not in a work of fiction — and certainly the people Dawkins takes issue with would see God as more than metaphorical.)

PP: I don’t expect Christians to see God as a metaphor, but that’s what he is. Perhaps it might be clearer to call him a character in fiction, and a very interesting one too: one of the greatest and most complex villains of all – savage, petty, boastful and jealous, and yet capable of moments of tenderness and extremes of arbitrary affection – for David, for example. But he’s not real, any more than Hamlet or Mr Pickwick are real. They are real in the context of their stories, but you won’t find them in the phone book.

PTC: Your trilogy is frequently compared to the writings of Lewis and Tolkien, and it coincided with the rise of Harry Potter. Were you consciously “responding” in some way to, say, the Narnia books when you wrote His Dark Materials, or were you writing out of a more general desire to express a viewpoint that happens to disagree with Lewis’s in some profound ways? I am also curious as to what you make of J.K. Rowling’s series, now that it is finished; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows quotes the New Testament approvingly, and is very much concerned with the continuation and integrity of the soul after death; indeed, one sign of Voldemort’s evil is that he has divided his soul in the horcruxes. This seems at odds with the thrust of your own trilogy, where the continuation of the soul or personality beyond the grave is something to be escaped, and the spirits of the dead are happy to be dis-integrated. What is your take on the Harry Potter books and movies? Are they too “Christian”? Or, perhaps, do they share with your books a distrust of “Authority” and a decentralized, “Republican” view of Heaven? (As some people have noted, there is an afterlife in Rowling’s books but no direct role for God.)

PP: I have only read the second of the Harry Potter books, and I can’t say very much about them.

PTC: The second but not the first? Interesting! Any particular reason?

PP: Simply that I was asked to judge the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, and it was on the shortlist.

As for Narnia – I’ve expressed my detestation for that series on several occasions and at length, so I won’t say very much about it here, except to note something that some commentators miss when lumping Lewis and Tolkien together, which is this: that Tolkien was a Catholic, for whom the basic issues of life were not in question, because the Church had all the answers. So nowhere in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is there a moment’s doubt about those big questions. No-one is in any doubt about what’s good or bad; everyone knows where the good is, and what to do about the bad. Enormous as it is, TLOTR is consequently trivial. Narnia, on the other hand, is the work of a Protestant – and an Ulster Protestant at that, for whom the individual interaction with the Bible and with God was a matter of daily struggle and endless moral questioning. That’s the Protestant tradition. So in Narnia the big questions are urgent and compelling and vital: is there a God? Who is it? How can I recognise him? What must I do to be good? I profoundly disagree with the answers that Lewis offers – in fact, as I say, I detest them – but Narnia is a work of serious religious engagement in a way that TLOTR could never be.

I leave it to others to say whether, or in what ways, HDM resembles or doesn’t resemble HP or Narnia or TLOTR.

PTC: A number of commentators have argued that, while your books are critical of Christianity etc., they nevertheless reflect Christian virtues such as love and self-sacrifice. Six years ago, Daniel Moloney wrote in First Things magazine that, “if the Christian myth actually is true, you would expect a gifted storyteller trying to tell a true story to arrive at many Christian conclusions about the nature of the world we see.” How do you respond to this sort of analysis — both as an evaluation of your work (does it carry within itself a latent Christianity?) and for what it says about Christian critics who have tried to engage with your books?

PP: My answer to that would be that I was brought up in the Church of England, and whereas I’m an atheist, I’m certainly a Church of England atheist, and for the matter of that a 1662 Book of Common Prayer atheist. The Church of England is so deeply embedded in my personality and my way of thinking that to remove it would take a surgical operation so radical that I would probably not survive it.

But that doesn’t prevent me from pointing out the arrogance that deforms some Christian commentary, and makes it a pleasure to beat it about the head. What on earth gives Christians to right to assume that love and self-sacrifice have to be called Christian virtues? They are virtues, full stop. If there is an exclusively religious sin (not exclusively Christian, but certainly clearly visible among some Christians) it is the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others. It is so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive, that it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door.

PTC: If I can move from the personal to the communal or societal, would you say that substituting a God-less “Republic of Heaven” for the “Kingdom of Heaven” might be a form of “radical surgery”? Does atheism benefit from the Christian heritage, and how can a society that turns to atheism survive without it? (As you noted, one of the worst regimes we have ever known was Soviet Russia — a system that, while theocratic in form perhaps, was certainly officially atheistic.)

PP: But the problem with Soviet Russia wasn’t the atheism, it was the totalitarianism. The totalitarianism is also the problem with Saudi Arabia, as it was with the Taliban’s Afghanistan, with Calvin’s Geneva, with the Inquisition’s Spain …

Does atheism benefit from the Christian heritage? Of course it can benefit from the best of it. I would hate to live in a world where all the Christian art, philosophy, literature, music, and architecture, not to mention the best of the ethical teaching, had been obliterated and forgotten. My own background, as I’ve said many times, is Christian to the core. Christianity has made me what I am, for better or worse. I just don’t believe in God.

PTC: Perhaps what made the virtues seem “Christian” in this case was the narrative form in which they were expressed; Moloney alludes to a parallel between your mythos and the Christian mythos in which the world is held hostage by an evil supernatural entity, and a messiah is needed to conquer the spirits of lust and domination with innocence and humility at great personal cost, etc. “Such a story is not subversive of Christianity, it is almost Christian, even if only implicitly and imperfectly,” he writes.

But moving beyond that, Tony Watkins, for one, has raised the point that true virtue doesn’t seem possible in a materialist world, because no one truly acts freely; instead, our actions are the end results of various deterministic (and, following quantum physics, random) forces — our genes and memes, basically. (My phrasing, not Tony’s.) It may be wrong to say that virtues belong to a particular religious sect — and I would agree — but without some sort of religious basis, there seems to be no particular motivation to be virtuous, nor does it seem possible.

Does looking at it from that angle make any more sense?

PP: Well, I think that’s a very bleak and limited view of human possibility. No motivation for virtue if you don’t believe in God? What about the joy you feel when a good action of yours brings a happy result for someone else? What about the basic empathy we feel even for creatures who aren’t human – a rabbit caught in a trap, a little bird inside the house trying to get out through a closed window, a polar bear drowning in a world where the ice is melting? That’s not due to religion: it’s due to the fact that we’re alive and conscious and able to imagine another’s suffering.

As for the existence or otherwise of free will, that is so profound a question that philosophers and scientists have been plumbing it for centuries if not millennia and the answer is still as far off as ever. But the only way we can live, it seems to me, is to believe that our will is free. A sort of psychological confirmation of this (though, like everything else, it may be deceptive) is that good things, or the right things to do, involve more effort than bad things, or the wrong things. We have to struggle against ourselves sometimes, and thus we can ‘feel’ the existence of free will, even if we can’t demonstrate it logically or scientifically.

It’s always interesting to see things from another angle, and it’s important to be able to. But (a short lesson from film) there may be two or three good angles to shoot from, but there are dozens of bad ones: i.e. camera angles that are ‘expressive’ of nothing but the director’s wish to draw attention to himself rather than the story. The ‘best’ camera angles are those that show the subject most clearly so that the audience is not distracted from the story. Students and young directors, and bad directors, love the eccentric angles; great directors most of the time go for the plainest and simplest. The plainest and simplest description of the world, for me, and the truest, is that there is no God, but that human beings are capable of great goodness and great wickedness, and we don’t need priests or Popes or imams or rabbis to tell us which is which.

PTC: I finally got a copy of Killing the Imposter God yesterday — thanks again for the tip! — and while I have only had a chance to read bits of it so far, they draw parallels between your book and a movement among theologians during the mid-20th century that sought to do away with the “medieval” understanding of God and replace it with something more sophisticated. The authors of this book say they are reading the trilogy on its own terms, without looking at it through the grid of comments you have made in essays and interviews, and they say “we find some of the most eloquent testimony against Pullman-the-atheist in Pullman-the-writer”. They also write, “Even as Pullman is killing off his medieval imposter God, he raises up for his readers a divinity fit our age”. This then ties in to their reading of Dust. Their approach leads me to wonder … if, as you (quoting Blake) have said, Milton was of the devil’s party and didn’t know it, is it possible you are of God’s party and don’t know it?

PP: That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? But I think this question touches something that I answered in my previous email, namely the tendency among Christians (and no doubt other religions too) to think that anything they like in the work of an avowed atheist or agnostic is a sign that really the said a. or a. is deluding himself, and that he’s really Christian, only he doesn’t know it. But I resist that interpretation, as you’d expect me to. I’m not deluded: Christians are. There is no God.

PTC: If I can put it this way, do you think your stories are dangerous? Should they be dangerous? I know some Christians who brush the books aside because, well, they’re only fantasy. How would you respond to that? (I do not mean to imply, by the way, that “danger” is necessarily bad — you may recall that line in the Narnia books about Aslan being “good” but not “safe”. The best books, I think, are always a little “dangerous”.)

PP: I expect you’re right, but it would be a bad idea for a writer to think that if ‘good’ books are ‘dangerous’, then ‘dangerous’ books are necessarily ‘good’. Once you start measuring your success by the amount of fuss you cause, you’re measuring the wrong thing. In fact you shouldn’t either know or care what people think of your work. Much better to write as if no-one will read it at all.

PTC: One of the books I’ve read — Shedding Light on His Dark Materials by Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware — addresses the question of “authority” as it is treated in your trilogy, and they make a point or argument that had not occurred to me, at least not in so many words: That characters like Farder Coram and John Faa embody what authority — particularly of the paternal, fatherly type — should be like, and therefore the story speaks to a “hunger” for fathers and even for authority itself.

Given that opposition to authority and, indeed, to the Authority is a major theme in the trilogy, how would you respond? What place for authority might there be, if any, in a “republic of heaven”?

PP: Thanks for letting me know about this book. I’d never heard of it.

Briefly: yes, you could certainly read John Faa, Farder Coram, and even Iorek Byrnison as being images of benevolent paternal authority. It was important for Will, for instance, who knows his father for such a short time and yet whose search for him drives much of what he does, to see that it’s possible to be both powerful and good. To quote from the last chapter of The Amber Spyglass:

“For Will’s part, he admired the massive power of Lord Faa’s presence, power tempered by courtesy, and he thought that that would be a good way to behave when he himself was old; John Faa was a shelter and a strong refuge.”

I’m sure there’s a religious echo in that last phrase. But as I do all through the book, I hope, I locate this quality firmly in a living human being, and not in some distant or imaginary or abstract God. Qualities such as authority and love and kindness – or their opposites, such as cruelty or evil – are not abstract. They have no existence outside human life. They can only exist when embodied in a human being. That is where the difference between me and a Christian is most clearly marked, I dare say.

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  • Thank you both!

    This is a splendid introduction to Pullman’s philosophy. As he says, he’s not your garden variety materialist.

  • Smart guy. I’m a Christian and he points out a lot of points of weakness in our tradition. Constructive criticism I’d say and I’m thankful for it.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely brilliant (on both sides). Thanks for a great conversation–I hope it gets the attention and contemplation it deserves.


  • Yay!

    I’ve been coming by now and then to see if you would cover GC.

    I’m going to post a link to this interview.

  • Um, Philip: when you say “Qualities such as authority and love and kindness – or their opposites, such as cruelty or evil – are not abstract. They have no existence outside human life. They can only exist when embodied in a human being. That is where the difference between me and a Christian is most clearly marked, I dare say. . .”

    That is unavoidably speaking to, if not from the heart of Christian teaching, kind sir — “they can only exist when embodied in a human being.” Mr. Pullman, Nicea calling on line one; Nicea on line one for Mr. Pullman?

  • Great interview — thanks Peter.

  • What a lovely interview! It’s always heartening to see people with profound disagreements engaging in sensible conversation and debate. There’s far too little of that, these days.

  • This is a brilliant back-and-forth. Thank you for posting it!

  • Wow!!

    I love such honesty and respect between two people who dialogue from opposing worldviews. How refreshing. Well done!!

  • tcblank

    Very intersting interview. The thing that jumped at me the most was his revultion at the word spiritual. Spirit comes from the greek word pneuma meaning breath. Or that which is unseen. I have read the books and there is much that is real, yet unseen in the stories. Einstein said that our universe exisits with somewhere between 10 and 13 dimensions. We live in about 6 of them (3 spatial, time gravity and light). Spiritual denotes that which is outside our material existance but is nonetheless real. Is PP so arrogant to think that life only exists in the limited material state that we now find ourselves in? Multi-dimentional beings are out there and do interact with us. Even PP admits to angel-like beings in his books. So if that is the case why is ‘spiritual’ such a hard pill to swallow. In my humble opinion, it just denotes the part of our selves that cannot be explained by the materail universe as we know it. I am a Christian, and I am not religious. I am spiritual and I have a faith that there is a God, he loves us and is involved in our existance, both past present and future. i do not think that an rational person can look at the intellegent design of the material world and still say that there is no God. Basic law of science is called the law of entropy. It says that compounds left on their own break down to the simplest of elements over time. They do not come together and form complex organs like the human eye or hand. Intellegent design is screaming out from the whole of our world. PP is sadly deluded to think that man is the full end of our existence.

  • Anonymous

    tcblank: scientists defined the laws of thermodynamics. You’d think they would know their implications. If you are truly interested, you can easily look up scientists’ rebuttal. For example, why can we freeze ice cubes?

    Your attachment to intelligent design is depressing. Your elders have pushed it on you as the only possible conclusion for the faithful, no doubt. It’s not, and there is much growth to be found by exploring this.

    Your explanations of extra dimensions are nonsensical (light its own dimension??). Please do not repeat them around other believers. Scientists are actually not sure about the idea of extra dimensions–at the moment it’s just a useful frame to model the universe with. Also, I think Pullman would argue that angels do not intervene in our world, and that the existence of anything spiritual is tough to justify. This is a difficult criticism, and various traditions believe different things (some also say that no miracles are performed in the modern world). Maybe you should look into why yours believes what it does.

  • I wonder if those who hold that the eye is evidence of “intelligent design” have ever seen the inside of a human eye? The optic nerve attaches to the retina from the front, leading to the famous “blind spot” and a severe restriction in resolution. Like the human spine and the appendix, it’s one of those things that makes perfect sense in the context of a natural world in which things gradually change from one thing to the next with neither goal nor reason behind them, and no sense at all if you assume that an “intelligent designer” made it all with us as the final aim. If I designed a camera like the eye, no photographer would buy it.

    I think it’s amazing that Atheists always get accused of arrogance and hubris. “Are we so arrogant as to not see the magical angels in the air around us?” say those who would not only have us believe in Angels, but in doctrines and scriptures and interpretations of religious mores that hold they have a direct connection to Truth and Knowledge and God, as if they’ve never even heard of irony. And incredible that such people can read an article where someone chastises them for exhibiting what John Ruskin called “the surest sign of putrescence in a national religion,” the idea that virtue is uniquely theirs and vice entirely of the alien, and still find the gall to criticise from this high horse, as if they haven’t just been called on it.

    With that out of the way, thank you for such a polite and interesting interview.

  • Anonymous


  • Retha

    Pullman: “If there is an exclusively religious sin (not exclusively Christian, but certainly clearly visible among some Christians) it is the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others.”

    Me: If that is true, why does his HDM series then put all virtue in the actions of unbelieving characters, and almost all vice in the believing characters? It would seem that this sin is not so exclusive to religious people, but appears in Pullman’s mind as well.

    Pullman: “It [the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others] is so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive, that it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door. “

    Me: Yeah, that’s the same thing that puts me off about Dawkins, Hitchens and the like – this “so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive,” view that all belief in God, and believers in God, are evil and/ or stupid, and atheism the clever, moral thing. It “leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the anti-religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door. “

  • Anonymous

    I love Pullman’s statement that values are human, and cannot understand where the interviewer seems to think that without God, there is no motivation for goodness. That’s really the reason books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials bring controversy; not because of their evil, but their good. Fundamentalists who want to hold the “keys” to goodness are threatened by humans who can be truly good without being truly religious.

    I’m surprised the interviewer posted the entire interview after cutting it up biasedly in his article.

  • I love Pullman’s statement that values are human . . .

    I too, though I think the more significant section of the interview is the bit where he talks about virtues, not values. There’s a significant difference netween the two, and virtues are a whole lot better than values. (The language of virtues is an appeal to objective standards, while the language of values is relativistic to the core and borrowed from the world of economics.)

    . . . and cannot understand where the interviewer seems to think that without God, there is no motivation for goodness.

    I agree that there are other motivations for goodness besides God. But I am not so sure that there are motivations away from badness without God. Now, obviously, some people cite their faith in God as justification for doing bad things, but their faith in God at least provides a basis for appealing to them to do good things instead of bad things. But in the absence of a transcendent reality such as God, what motivation would, say, a Soviet “theocrat” have for doing good things instead of bad things?

    Note also that, in Pullman’s own trilogy, the motivation for doing good ultimately comes from the need to navigate one’s way through an afterlife that continues to exist even after the “God” who created it has passed on.

    In any case, the deeper problem is not the absence of any motivation for goodness in an atheistic worldview, but the absence of the possibility of goodness in an atheistic and especially materialistic worldview. Pullman and other atheists may say that it’s “a very bleak and limited view of human possibility” to argue that true goodness is impossible if we are nothing more than the products of our genes and memes — but who has limited us, if not the people who argue that genes and memes and the deterministic patterns that emerge thereof is all we are?

    That’s really the reason books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials bring controversy; not because of their evil, but their good.

    Well, I’m something of a Harry Potter fan, so obviously I disagree that the two franchises are equivalent in this regard!

    Fundamentalists who want to hold the “keys” to goodness are threatened by humans who can be truly good without being truly religious.

    Good thing I’m not a “Fundamentalist”, then! I rejoice in the goodness of non-believers, just as St. Paul did (cf. e.g. Romans 2).

    I’m surprised the interviewer posted the entire interview after cutting it up biasedly in his article.

    All magazine articles go through multiple drafts, and you always want to include more material than the publication has space for. Along the way, editorial choices have to be made, “biased” or otherwise. Some quotes fit the primary themes of my article, and some didn’t, but I enjoyed the e-mail exchange and wanted to share the bits that got trimmed.

  • Jamie

    I am significantly impressed by the respect and candor demonstrated in this interview. It is not often individuals with such opposing viewpoints treat each other as thoughtful, intellectual people with unique validities.

    I am always encouraged when people choose to look beyond their own opinions and experiences for knowledge and truth.

    Knowing that I do not understand everything, nor do I feel the need to, I find my faith in God and Heaven comforting and uplifting. It is enough for me. I believe others are entitled to the same choice.

    Our experiences shape who we are. If we choose to be limited and enslaved by the negitive, we may be brilliantly creative, but it should not be mistaken for wisdom.

    Having said all of this, I look forward to the movie and reading the books, if, for nothing else, an entertaining venture… Thank you. Blessings to you both.

  • This was a neat interview… Of course, PTC was a little pushy on his religion, and PP wasn’t afraid to shove right back. In the end, no one changed their mind – which was expected. I haven’t gotten a chance to read the books… did see the first movie. As probably intended, I didn’t sense much in the way of religion or non-religion. What I did see was a lot of magic… demons, Dust, spells, witches… etc. All of these magical things remind me of something else… what was that…? Oh yeah, believing in something that seems to be unreal at first. The child can read a compass that no one else can read. Christians believe in a God that Atheists don’t see. Any parallels there?

    Let me just say that belief or non-belief in something like religion, faith or spirituality doesn’t necessarily make one unintelligent. When we go back and forth telling each other that to believe or not believe is obviously stupid, well, we’re giving ourselves too much credit. We’re not immune to being wrong, and we’re likely no more or less intelligent than the people we’re insulting.

  • Mark

    I am currently reading His dark materials right now, trying to decide weather to let my ten year old son read them or not. I have been seeing a lot of negative response towards both the books and the film, but as Mr Pullman indicated it was from just one part of the spectrum. There were other comments by other organisations that were actually good and gave a warm review to the film.
    I am a vivid fan of fantasy and every year especialy towards christmas I always look for a good fantasy. This year the golden compass is likely to be that film. So let’s just keep it that way and try to avoid any religious speculations about the movie. To all intends and purposes if you give these books to a child they’d be to enthralled by the adventures of Lyra, her encouter with the polar bear and most of all how cool it would be to have a deamon of your own, to even think that there might be any religious implications in the whole story. It is us adults that impress things in the minds of children by pointing to them those bits and pieces that most probably they’d have skipped because they have deemed as boring.
    As for us adults who are of chritian believe, as long as we have faith ther’s nothing to fear.
    So let’s just threat both books and movie as just fantasy and enjoy them as such. Pure fantasy!

  • Anonymous

    I think we all are living in a fantasy world. If I believe in and don’t mess with you, then great. If you think I am a deluded idiot, so be it. The problem always comes when one individual attempts to stop the beating heart of someone with an opposing view simply because they don’t like them, be it athiests like Mao, Stalin, or Hilter who killed to control in the name of no religion; or a middle ages crusader murdering innocent jews and muslims in Jerusalem in the name of Jesus.

    Kudos to both CT and Pullman for having a conversation without shooting, car-bombing or burning each other at the stake to prove their point.

  • cooley

    amazing interview 2 great minds talking about a piece of fiction if only they could put there minds to the real world it would might be a better place to live in?

  • Anonymous

    I hate to hear of your strong discontent for Christians. I feel sorry for anyone who believes that Christians are deluded because of their Faith in Christ Jesus. It takes a great faith (meaning that of an aetheist) place faith in nothing especially when the evidence of God’s existence is so great.

  • S8A

    Thank you for such a considerate discussion, and I mean well considered as well as courteous. I would like to read what Mr. Pullman would say about why one would be virtuous if there is no authority above one’s own or a society’s particular proclivities or sensibilities. To use an extreme example, I personally find eating the flesh of one’s defeated enemies revolting, but history and anthropology certainly show us that other individuals and societies have not shared this revulsion. Are “goodness”, “sweetness”, and “virtue” simply subjective? Are they simply an individual’s emotional response? Can they be discussed as objective without appealing to a “higher authority” than our own sensitivities? No doubt we CAN be good without God, but the question then becomes why be good and what is “good” if these things are merely subjective. If one were subjectively to perceive, say, torture and murder as good, yes, there may be laws and authority to physically stop one, but who has the authority to say that it is objectively evil and from where did this authority come? Thank you for this thoughtful discussion. Though I don’t personally agree with Mr. Pullman, I think I would enjoy nursing a beer with him!

  • Skyweir

    Great to read this thoughtfull interview. I think I will strive to behave like Mr.Pullman whenever I express my atheism in the future.

    This qoute needs a counter argument, however:
    “i do not think that an rational person can look at the intellegent design of the material world and still say that there is no God. Basic law of science is called the law of entropy. It says that compounds left on their own break down to the simplest of elements over time. They do not come together and form complex organs like the human eye or hand. Intellegent design is screaming out from the whole of our world. PP is sadly deluded to think that man is the full end of our existence.”

    I think you would do well to read up on basic biology. The human eye and hand is easily explainable by evolutionary theory, and intelligent design does not explain anything. It amounts to attackin the question from the wrong angle, like saying that our hands must be designed by a higher intelligence, since they fit so well to our gloves….
    Sky hooks are very much debunked in science, I am afraid.

  • Rowan

    I genuinely enjoyed reading this interview and the questions and views of both individuals give the thinking person a lot to consider.

    First I would like to say that my husband and I saw ‘The Golden Compass’ this past weekend and both loved it! The story line, the cinamatography, the actors real and animated were compelling.

    While it is unfortunate that such excellent entertainment can end up causing such an uproar, therefore preventing many from reading or viewing a well written fantasy and excellently done movie; still it is also these uproars that have happened all through the ages that lead to the controversies that make people think and grow as individuals and ultimately as a race.

    The saddest part for me is when people are so sure of what they believe, so sure that their view is the right one that they cannot bear to have those beliefs questioned. We should all hold our personal beliefs up for close examination with open minds and open hearts on a regular basis! If what you believe is the right truth for you……..then it will stand up to examination, regardless of what questions are thown at it.

    Of course there is also this, and it is a point that gives just about everyone who contemplates it indigestion, ‘The Truth is not the same for everyone’! Life is a journey and we are individuals taking that same journey. But that is as far as ‘same’ can go. We all experience life differently, we all view everything in life differently, our needs and our experiences in life lead us to determine what is ‘Truth’ differently!

    Therefore it is totally impossible for humankind to all believe the same thing, about the existence of God/Gods or the lack thereof, let alone the way that each should walk their own ‘spiritual’ path.

    I am not personally in agreement with either of the gentlemen in this article (though each said various things that I can wholeheartedly agree with), but appreciated their willingness to calmly and honestly discuss their widly opposing views. If we were all, regardless of our personal views on religion, spirituallity, science, and on and on, simply willing to realize that it is not possible for a ‘One size fits all’ belief system for the human race, we would live in a much happier, healthier, and safer world!

  • michael

    I disagree with tcblank’s assertion that pp is deluded in his thinking that complex structures (such as the human hand or eye) necessarily develop from the intelligent design of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent creator. Is it so irrational to believe that the simplest particles of our material world would collect and congregate and form under the influence of completely unconscious (or a-conscious if you prefer) forces (like nuclear force or gravity); and that over countless eons, these unconscious forces could shape a distinctive and what we now know as a familiar shape such as the human hand or eye? I think pp addresses this issue in his characterization of the “other worlds” that overlap our own. There is the flip of a coin that determines the course of the river that we know as time. A single pebble can redirect an entire river (given enough time) or a butterfly’s beating wings can cause a storm halfway across the world. These undetermined and perfectly random interaction of forces are limitless in their potential to shape and to mold what we see as the human body, and moreover, it is important to note (as pp does in his description of the mulefa) that the course of evolution could quite possibly have gone in a completely different (but not necessarily less graceful) direction. When a tsunami breaks over an impoverished village in eastern Asia, do we attribute this to the hand of god punishing the poor inhabitants who are guilty of nothing more than trying to eke out a meager existence? No (hopefully your answer was no at any rate). We chalk it up to an unfortunate and ultimately random series of circumstances that we, as the finite creatures that we are, have little power over. Now imagine a million more of these ultimately random forces colliding and shifting and constantly moving over our own dark materials of this earth and you have a picture of the evolution of not just mankind, but of mountains, of rivers, of plants and every “sentient” organism to have walked the face of this earth. Is that not a rational assumption?

  • I very much enjoyed reading the email discussion – especially Mr. Pullmans view that goodness, empathy and kindness, are not something in need of gods.
    Show a healthy 2 year old (from any culture on this planet) a video of another similiarly aged child crying or being distressed, and watch the reaction. They immediatly try to comfort the other child – very much in the way a daemon and a human might comfort one another – without having ever been introduced to any religion

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to thank the interviewer for asking those questions and compiling the whole thing. However smart Mr.Pullman can be, he talks deceitful lies and nothing except it.

    1. He says he was bred among the Christian culture and respects Christian art, but do not believe in God. It is the same thing – using an allegory – as if he was raised in a beautiful house that always gave him a warm welcome, but now he demonstrates contempt for the owners and inhabitants of this house. If in his early years Mr. Pullman had any teenage problems with his Grandfather, a clergyman, that doesn’t make his hatred against all the Christianity more acceptable.

    2. He says that he concerns for children whose minds are attacked by TV – his own books, IMHO, attack them much more. He blames TV for profiting in children, but he himself can be blamed for this. because his books and now a film are widespread, and he certainly makes money successfully writing his controvercial books and talking everywhere about them.

    3. He makes, as Ratha stated, all the non-believers good and all believers evil. This is a dirty game and cheap trick for any rational mind. How can we suggest GOODNESS to be personified in gyptians, witches, wild bears etc.? He even names one of the witches Seraphina – why the hell is she named after the Angels, or Seraphs?

    4. He names human souls DAEMONS. You don’t need to be a Latinist to understand this word perfectly. It is symbolic that it was changed in translations – to ‘daimonion’ or even ‘alm’ – just to stay away from demons and beasts of hell. It is revolting to think about the HUMAN SOUL embodied in a rat, or a moth, or even anything less significant.

    There are more things to blame him for. His books are to be sold only with PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker.

  • Institoris

    I’d like his own soul to be in a moth. Moths are so fragile.

  • Well, the last two comments certainly didn’t embody the spirit of dialogue and exchange.

    Anonymous: I find your allegory in 1. to be disingenous. Pullman is not arguing that he was never welcomed in the house, he is arguing that he doesn’t agree with the beliefs of the owners. The same argument could be made about any political disagreement and you would understand it. “I was raised well by hardcore communists, but now I’m a free-market democrat. I might be a social democrat, but I’m a democrat.” That doesn’t mean you can’t go home for christmas dinner and respect everyone there even though you disagree with them.

    Institoris: what are you saying here? That you would like Pullman to have an accident? That you would like his soul to be crushed? That’s very much not in the spirit of the Bible, not to mention morally repugnant.

  • Paul

    What I get a sense of here, which is sadly rarely reflected elsewhere, is that Pullman is important, because he – and his work, are engaged with the BIG questions. This is why people like Rowan Williams find him intriguing.

    Pullman’s work, or HDM, is positioned right across a Christian faultline – namely, the dividing line between those who believe in Christianity as an individual, philosophical religion, or those who believe in it as an authoritarian, top-down religion. Those who cleave to the latter are those most challenged by Pullman.

    Lastly, I confess myself profoundly disappointed by those who believe that, without God, there is no reason to be moral. This is the most depressing argument of all for religion. I regard myself as an agnostic. If I find a wallet in the street, I return it because doing so is the best option; the benefit for me of keeping the wallet, thinking about the reaction of s/he who has lost it, is outweighed by the benefit for the owner of having the wallet returned. And in turn, I know my whole species will benefit if we all behave this way. (There are biological studies which show other species behave this way too).

    Surely, if I merely return the wallet because God will ‘get me’ if I don’t, this is not a moral act?

    Thanks for an intriguing interview!

  • Lee-Anne

    I don’t seem to notice any comment on the fact that religion is most often used by charlatans and mountebanks to eke a tidy living from the credulous and gullible. From a Christian viewpoint, this is obvious in that the majority of humanity are not Christian and believe in “false gods and idols,” but the same can be said by adherents of many religions — at least those that give a fig about the details of what one believes.

    Ambrose Bierce once commented on the word Palace: PALACE, n.
    A fine and costly residence, particularly that of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside. There is progress.

    The same wry observation can be made about almost any religious structure, be it church, synagogue, temple, mosque, pastoral residence, or monument. Are the poor no longer with us? Do we give a damn? We have it on the advice of Jesus that one should sell all that one possesses and give it to the poor if one hopes to get into Heaven, so in what sense are modern Christians given a special dispensation to build elaborate churches, cathedrals, clothe their priests in gold (or the equivalent in designer labels) and collect SUVs in the garages of their three bedroom homes in the suburbs? His advice was in the form of an extended riff on material wealth and its incompatibility with virtue worthy of a Buddhist monk, but is routinely ignored except by “cranks and weirdoes.” Was his advice too hard to understand? Or is it just irrelevant because Jesus, the poor sap, didn’t know about the joys of indoor plumbing, Rolex watches, and a really fine car?

    Exactly how many Ted Haggards, Richard Roberts, Gary Aldridges, pedophilic priests, Christian lawyers who espouse and encourage official misconduct and torture, and Administration officials who preach piety and do murder does it take before we figure out that there is, in fact, a man behind the curtain and that their real business is fraud and intimidation, a religious racket that has been going on since the first wily priest suggested that he, and only he, could arrange for the appearance of Aurochs and Mastodons fit for the table? How many religious con men can dance on the head of pin? Quite a few it seems.

  • Anonymous

    Good interview, refreshing to see respect on both sides without the need to pander to sensibilities.
    I think that the religious ‘side’ has enough publicity going for it (everyone knows what they stand for), and it is very important for true athiest thinkers like Pullman to be widely heard.
    If this does not happen, then the arguments of fundamentalists that ‘atheists are bad, they cannot have morals, a world without God means only selfishness and suffering’ will not be thoroughly refuted.

  • Asriel

    Thank you to both of you. It was wonderfully refreshing to read a polite yet passionate discussion between two people with such differing opinions.

    Institoris and the Anonymous poster before you:

    Please refrain from such blatant attacks in future. You are not giving Christians a good name. Look to the interviewer for help on how to be civil to someone you disagree with. It is a valuable skill and you will find that more people will listen to you.

  • I can not imagine what childhood PP had. Therefore I will not condemn him and only hope and pray that one day he will open his eyes and wakeup from his view of life.May God bless him!

  • tam

    How ironic is it that people are quick to point out the “many” contradictions of Christianity. However Mr. Pullman’s philosophy seems to be full of them and yet it seems to go unnoticed. Pullman claims to be a materialist and yet he still believes in consciousness? A materialist only believes in matter and yet Pullman believes in consciousness which is immaterial? He claims he is a Christian and yet does not believe in God?
    These claims are absurd so absurd in fact it is as if saying I enjoy eating an omellete just without any eggs. The eggs is what makes an omelette. Christianity’s sole foundation is God. One cannot hold two seperate worldviews without there being a contradiction.

  • Tam: The idea that there is a contradiction between believing in consciousness and materialism is not acknowledged by most atheists. Or neurologists.

    And if you read the interview carefully you’ll see that he doesn’t say he is a Christian, quite the contrary, he says that he is a “Book of Common Prayer”-atheist. That is to say: an atheist from a Christian background.

  • Bigmamatweet

    Big question Pullman, if there is no God, why then are you attemtping to “destroy” Him in the minds of children? Why then spend so much money making a movie to denounce Him? I feel pity for you and your kind. You are very deluded and lost.

  • Beck

    I much agree with many of the other posts that it is refreshing to read such a civil and thoughtful discussion from two people with such opposing views. I am a Christian and try as best as I can to practice my faith as I perceive it from my biblical studies. I have grown up in the Christian faith and have found by my own personal experiences and studies that many past and present actions and proclamations of “Christians” are actually quite anti-Christian in their nature. I believe that we, as Christians, often give rise to the skepticism and unbelief of non-believers through our ignorance and misrepresentation of our own faith. It is a valuable tool to be a “doer of the word” and not just a hearer. Yes, Christians believe that they are correct in their belief that there is one true God, and He sent His Son as a ransome for many. Everyone will not agree, and we need to be knowledgable and wise enough to give a seasoned response to any proposed question that is likewise much tempered with love. If the love of God truly dwells within us then we will not intentionally do or say anything to insult or hurt our “neighbor” no matter the circumstance.

    I agree that humankind can do good and love without believing in God. However, a Christian SHOULD be able to display a love that is not of this “material” world (loving our enemy/ persecutors, doing good in exchange for evil). This unworldly concept is the very foundation of Christianity and yet is often disregarded in many Christians’ day-to-day lives. If we live our lives as intended by our Savior, we can win many unbelievers by example and not by disagreement.

    These are just some of my personal thoughts and are not meant to offend anyone. PP is obviously a very intelligent man and raises many valid points regarding Christianity and the existence of God. I do wonder why it is so incumbent upon him to discredit the Christian faith as opposed to the many other religions and faiths that exist in the world today. There presents in his tone an undeniable hatred and bitterness for Christianity in particular. To a believer like myself, it is almost evidence of the existence of spirituality and the Christian truth. What compels so many non-believers of varying religions to focus such hatred and contempt on the Christian faith?

  • …this is seriously becoming an interesting debate.
    Mr. Pullman: I shall try to become as tolerant…(awesome)

  • Caitie

    It is almost as enthralling to read the comments after this educational debate as it is to read the debate itself. I come from a Christian background and am throughly rooted in the Christian religion. Therefore, when I read comments that are so malicious towards PP I am very surprised. Where I come from, Christianity is characterized by care and a loving nature to those who surround us. This does not mean that we condemn them, no matter how tempting it might seem.

    On the other hand, I do disagree with God being supposedly defamed in such a way. I believe that this book, which I did read as a child and am now rereading, is entertaining for their plot alone. As a Christian, though naive, child, I was not influenced against my faith because of reading this. I am rereading it with a close eye to the religious content. It is a little upsetting to know that I have been tauting books that are being interprated as so anti-religious.

    The plot does not really thicken in religious content until the second and third books, however – The Golden Compass itself can be read purely for entertainment. I refuse to denounce this series and to therefore encourage closemindedness. I truly hope that all of the people who read this interview read the books and make their own judgements. Just as The Chronicles of Narnia can be interpretated to encourage Christianity, so can His Dark Materials be read in the opposite way.

    Isn’t that the beauty of art, however – that it’s open to interpretation? Literature is art and is therefore maliable to many different purposes. I believe that you get out of a book what you put into it. A book can mean many different things to many different people, so please do not turn away any who would read this.

  • After sifting through alot of the philosophy and perstpectives, it seems to me that pp’s beliefs have one very constant, if not always obvious, theme of bitterness. To have such strong feelings of detest for other literary works such as the narnia books, and then to represent your own story as such an innocuous thing as simple “storytelling” seems a bit presumptious to me.

    As a born and raised Christian, I was given a set of basic ethics to live by, which many children are since they have little or no choice in the matter. And even pp gives some credit to his upbringing for the moral ethics that he retained, even though he rails so strongly against the idea that ethical behavior is strictly a christian byproduct.

    That being said, I am decidedly on the fence when it comes to religious beliefs, yet I can’t miss the serious taste of bitterness in pp’s dialogue. It seems very personal, rebellious, insolent even.

    But that is his walk. And truthfully, the stories really are pretty good, if not more personal than he is letting on.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting reading, especially after being “warned” not to see the film because the author wanted to “bash christianity”. Personally, I like to make my own mind up about what to see/read etc. I can understand where PP is coming from but I don’t disagree with religion entirely and I think it is wrong to say that “God” should be destroyed – how can you destroy something which doesn’t exist (if you’re aetheist)? Also, it is unfair to say someone is “stupid” because they hold different beliefs or viewpoints. Many people gain great comfort from their faith (whatever that may be) and are able to use their religion to give their children some kind of moral guidance. No-one HAS to have a religion or God to do these things but some people PREFER having an organised religion or set of beliefs. Generally, human beings need something to believe in whether that be God, their football team, their partner or themselves.

    The basic message of any religion I have looked at is that we must treat one another with respect. (Do unto others as you would have done unto you or treat your neighbour as yourself). Again, one doesn’t have to be particularly religious to follow these principles but for some people their religion is the vehicle by which they can live this message. What is wrong and what must be avoided is the manipulation of this basic message. How often have we seen those at the top of any religious heirarchy using faith for their own ends? Equally, what we must also avoid is this concerted effort to get everyone believing (or not believing) a particular way is right. Each man (or woman) has to choose, eventually, their own path. As for stating that “God doesn’t exist” – how do you know? How do any of us know for sure what is beyond our own human self? There are many things we cannot feel or see but they are there – various energies of which I am not entirely sure because science was never my strong point. It doesn’t mean they do not exist simply because I have never seen or heard of them.

  • Val Serrie

    I watched the film last night with great delight. It was well done in every respect, I think.
    I now intend to buy the trilogy of books and read them despite a busy schedule.
    As for Mr. Pullman’s philosophies, I tend to agree with him on almost all counts.
    The one main exception perhaps, is the strict adherence to materialism which excludes any provision for spiritual existence. I suspect a rooted fear of being wrong leads one to only acknowledge that which is concrete and easily proven at any given moment in any place by anyone.

    Certainly, something on the level of spiritual existence cannot be proven so easily. Nevertheless, I have had a handful of spiritual experiences in my life that have left me with no logical conclusion but to acknowledge that there is some level that is not material and also not an affectation of the mind or the imagination, but that nevertheless exists.
    Without these rare experiences, I too would be inclined, I think, to only acknowledge the strictly physical world.
    So, other than this gap, and a certain oversight about Tolkien’s work (I think he should read The Silmarillion which pre-dates TLOTR including the description of how the universe was created) I think that the rest of Mr. Pullman’s philosophies and observations and analysis to be quite intelligent, compassionate, extremely honest, and very defensible.
    If he has made any error at all in his estimation of the universe it is probably only that he might yet have an experience that changes his perceptions. If there is one thing that I have learned over the years, it is that just when you think you have it all figured out – something new comes along to teach you a new twist. An open mind is a wonderful asset. It’s the only way to keep adding to the pile of treasures within.
    Keep up the excellent work, Phil.

  • Anonymous

    I think that you are a horrible person, due to the simple fact that your latest movie “The Golden Compass” is a very sneaky and conwardly way to promote atheistism. You are a coward and a liar!!! Believing in god is a choice and a freedom, who are to target this movie with such a horrible meaning to innocent children who maybe don’t know about god and the devil and the bible.
    You have used your power and connections to promote more evil into this world. The last days are near that much is obvious especially with dispectful acts such as your movie and the anti-christian message that it carries, you just need to ask yourself two simple questions. How will you feel when you stand before GOD for judgement? and how will you feel about your atheistism then?

  • tam

    mrtn…The major problem with materialists is that they cannot explain consciousness which causes them a great dilemma. Just because so called atheists and neurologists(as you say) do not acknowledge this problem does not mean that there is no contradiction. There are groups in the world that believe the earth is flat and yet believing this does not make it so. Also, Mr. Pullman does say in his interview that he is, “Christian to the core… Christianity has made me what I am, for better or worse. I just don’t believe in God”. That sounds like a contradiction to me??

  • Hey, Tam! No argument with your first point. One of the major problems with materialism is that it runs into difficulty fully explaining consciousness (in fact, neurologists will usually be the first to tell you this). However, the set of things we can’t explain is infinite. Just because we can’t explain something, we don’t necessarily run into difficulties so long as there is no conflict. We have yet to find a reason why an only-material universe could not contain consciousness. There are some very good empirical observations that say the Earth isn’t flat, while there are no good observations saying that the universe is more than material stuff and something which we think is consciousness in it. So your analogy doesn’t work.

    I believe that the question of God’s existence is more of an aesthetic judgement (a matter of taste or what kind of universe works for you, once you’ve accepted that the universe physically works the way it does) than a question of science or knowledge or fact. I also acknowledge that science by definition cannot disprove (or for that matter prove) the existence of God. Furthermore, while I agree that a universe containing a God means we shouldn’t have to think about certain basic problems such as consciousness, free will, teleology, etc., it doesn’t appear to help me, personally, function in my daily life. Quite the contrary, it causes me to not think about certain issues I should be thinking about.

    I acknowledge that all people have a right to their beliefs. In short: I’m completely ok with people being Christian and feel no need to be an atheism missionary like, say, Dawkins’ foolish carpet bombing of the religious field. But I will sometimes take offense at certain political choices arising from your religion. But that’s a discussion for the wider public and for our legislative bodies, and not for this sort of more spiritual discussion.

    As for Mr. Pullman’s comments about being Christian to the core, he’s using what I guess we can call an atheist discourse. He means Christianity not as a religion but as a culture. He’s just saying that he comes from a Christian background and that Christianity has shaped the person he has become. Christianity is, after all, a huge set of practices, mindsets and discourses.

  • Anonymous

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Note to the Anonymous author of the comment I just deleted: No one “forced” you to write what you wrote. You chose to post a crude verbal attack against one of the people who posted a comment here.

    I almost never delete comments to my blog, but in this case, I have. I am tempted to say I was “forced” to do so, but no, I chose to delete it, just as you chose to write it.

    Thank you for your kind words about the interview, though.

    And thanks to everyone else for keeping the comments coming. Some of them have been very interesting, and I have thought about adding a few of my own, but work and family have kept me busy. Maybe later, when I’ve had time to digest them a little more.

  • Jeff

    First of I would like to commend both PTC and PP for a civil and rational discussion of opposing viewpoints. We could all do well to learn from such an example. Like another commenter earlier stated I too disagree with both these gentlemen however found much to think on and much that appeal to my own sensibilities from their dialogue. I would like to respond to another earlier comment:

    “It is revolting to think about the HUMAN SOUL embodied in a rat, or a moth, or even anything less significant.”

    It seems to me that thinking the other beings that share this planet are somehow less significant than we simply because they lack the same cognitive functions has led us to dominate, destroy and imbalance our planet’s natural resources. I ask you, can you eat the rotting flesh of a 6 day old dead animal unpreserved by refrigeration and so help reduce the spread of disease? A condor can. In light of this value are you not less significant than the condor? The examples I could name go on and on. In essence value is endemic to need and inter-relational support. I would contend in fact that it has become we who may become insignificant to the earth if we continue with this way of thinking. After all, with our cognitive processes we have the ability to work in harmony with all the other species and have rarely chosen to do so. Now we face global repercussions from it. Perhaps it is time to drop this narrow way of thinking.

  • paul

    I think all Christians should cherish these books and consider them classics. Anyone who lets dogma overrule his beliefs is on a path that could lead to inquisition or the killing of doctors. Isn’t modern Christianity about the personal relationship with the living God? And not some ancient authority far, far away?
    What better way then to describe God as that which is the most humble and common and at the same time so ever present and fulfilling? That is Dust.

    Despite this, I think I can best describe myself as a materialistic atheist who doesn’t share Pullmans view of consciousness. I believe consciousness is an artifact, an illusion. But it is an illusion I lovingly bathe in. Something I embrace and hold warmly to my chest. And knowing it is an illusion I have the opportunity to stand back and reassess my relation to it. I’m not saying I am any good at that but at least I know that path is open to me.
    I think I should be more tolerant towards Christians for at their core they share an illusion just as I do. I just wish they too realized it is so and relished the fuller chance of exploration and wonderment.
    In this same way I am dear to His Dark Materials.

    Thank you both for such a beautiful interview.

  • You’re welcome, paul — and thank you for raising the question of whether consciousness is an “illusion”, because this gets to the very heart of why I am a theist and not an atheist.

    Put simply, what it all boils down to for me is this: Either God exists, or I do not. If there is no God — and if, as the more materialistic scientists say, all personal and social behaviour can be reduced to biology and thus to chemistry and thus to physics — then there is really no “I” or “Thou”. Instead, everything we know and experience is simply the end result of the fundamentally impersonal interactions of our genes and memes, and consciousness itself is, as you say, an illusion.

    But if consciousness really is an illusion — a deception, if you will — then what, exactly, is being deceived?

    I don’t see any way around the fact that “I” really do exist. And, to make a long story short, I don’t see any way that “I” can be a person, and especially a person who possesses free will, unless my personhood stems from something higher than myself — namely, from the personhood, indeed trans-personhood, of God.

    There is more that could be said about this, but work beckons, alas!

  • Raffee

    I, too, want to thank Mr Pullman and Mr Chattaway for the great example and standard they set on “how to have a civil dialogue/debate.”
    I entirely agree with everything said by “Beck” earlier, and I want to add a few more points:
    1 – It is true that many Christians, today and in history, have been very “bad” people, and did “evil” deeds, thus putting a huge scar in the face of Christianity, and it is also true that there are many very “good” people who are not Christians. but we are usually mixing 3 things together, and blaming one for the mistakes of the other, and that is not vrey correct to do. “Christians” are different from “Christianity”, which is different from “Christ” or “God”. If christians are wrong and do evil, it does not mean that Christianity is wrong or evil, and even if Christianity in itself is wrong, it does not mean that God (as depicted in Christianity) is wrong (or does not exist for that matter). christianity is a religion, created by people, and as we all agree, people can be wrong. Sometimes Christianity gives a wrong image of God, so we should separate discussions of Christians, from discussions of Christianity, and ultimately from discussions of Christ and God. Denouncing Christianity does not necessarily denounce God.
    2 – A previous post said “I believe consciousness is an artifact, an illusion. But it is an illusion I lovingly bathe in. Something I embrace and hold warmly to my chest.” I honsetly can not understand this. I do think it is an illogical statement, but I might have misunderstood the author, so it would be good if we can get more explanation. How can you have and “bathe in” conciousness if it is not real?
    3 – There was a point about truth, that “The Truth is not the same for everyone.” I disagree with this. The word truth itself means “universal and imperative reality.” the Oxford disctionary gives the following explanation: “a fact that is know to be true or real.” By definition there can be one truth. There are people who talk of “percieved reality” or “percieved truth.” It is not truth – simple as that. If I have one apple in my hand, that is the only truth. If a drunk person percieves that I am holding 2 apples, the truth is still that I am holding one apple. If a person standing behind me does not see the apple, the truth is that I am still holding one apple. what we percieve to be true, and what we learn to be true may not be the truth really. As it was pointed earlier, many people percieved that the earth was flat, but that was proven to be wrong, and the truth is that the earth is round (or round-ish). Our experiences and “journey through life” may change us profoundly, and the way we percieve things, but the truth does not really change. Do we think that the earth was flat at first (while people though it was), and then became round-ish, when we percieved, and experiences told us it was not? I think not. I am not saying that this is a point for Christianity, because one might say that “Christians might be wrong, and the atheist perception might be the truth.” And I agree, but that would mean that Christianity is completely and totally wrong, and that the fact whether God exists or not is a question about a single TRUTH, and not something that each of us has a right to decide for herself/himself. We may have a personal belief, but it is not necessarily in accordance with the truth.
    4 – The absence of proof is not in fact proof of absence. In oder words, if you can not prrove that something exists, it does not mean that you can proove it does not exist. To put is in simple mathematical problem: it is know that to proove that a triangle is isoceles, one needs to show that at least 2 of the sides, or 2 of the angles of the trianlge have equal measures (2 equal sides, or 2 equal angles). If you have the measures of only one of the angles and one of the sides, you can not proove that the triangle is isoceles, but this is not proof that the triangle is NOT isoceles – and even if you know for sure that the second angle and second side are not equal to the angle and side (respectively) we can not proove that the triangle is not an isoceles. So if we can find not proof that God exists (I personally can find plenty, but my aim is not to persuade anyone), it does mean that God does not exist. Mr Pullman has himself said in another interview (and I applaud his honesty and open-mindedness), that there is a lot he does not know, and there may be a God, but he has not found signs that show this. This means that there might be signs out there, but he has not been able to see them (for whatever reason).
    5 – There have been many posts about whether or not this book/movie is “appropriate” and how it will be affecting children. I personally do not agree with Christians who tend to boycot such books and movies. for 1 thing, it simply draws more attention to the book, and for another simply because if my faith is threatened by someone else’s opinion, then I am not really a believer, and the truth should stand agains all accusations and trials. But I find it very peculiar that Mr. Pullman “detests” the Narnia chronicles since they are mere “prpaganda” in favor of Christianity, yet adoptst the same medium and identical style to do propaganda agains Christianity. I would certainly understand that he disagrees with them, but it is obvious that he and C.S. Lewis are doing the exact same thing for opposite perposes. So to say that he detests the workd of Lewis is really hitting his own works as a side effect.
    6 – Finally. There are many religions around today, but as atheism is mainly agains the monotheistic religions (not to say agains the Christian religion in particular), I want to talk about only those. The 3 monotheisting religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) talk about one single God, creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything in existance. God who is above and beyond time and space. Each of these religions have a different portrayal of this one God, and since (as I said) there can only be one truth, 2 of thses three portrayals are wrong. This of course does not affect the reality and nature and essence of God. We may one day find out that all three of these religions are wrong, and yet God exists but is of a different nature. So we come the the main question: Does God exist? God – apart from the believers, apart from the material universe, and apart from the religions that claim to be telling the truth about him. Here also can only be one truth. God either exists or does not exist, and this is a universal truth, not for me to decide. This is not an aesthetc question which “each one of has has to answer on his own.” If God does not exist, then I would be wrong, and since I am generally a good person guided by my genes and memes, then I will have lost nothing, and go to oblivion, But if God does really exist, then Mr. Pullman will be wrong (along with all those who agree with him) and they will have to give account for their deeds. This is the question that each of us has to answer on her/his own: If God exists, which side do I want to be on?

  • Anonymous

    There is a lot of talk about “truth”. The only “truth” in this particular discussion is that we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.

    Faith is about what you believe. Religious people believe there is a God (or gods) non-religious people believe there is no God. Either way, both sides are displaying faith of some description.

  • paul

    @peter: That is an interesting point of view.

    As you can understand from my point of view, I think consciousness is highly overrated. To me, this idea of illusion or construct applies to many things. A concept as civilization is perhaps easier to see in this way as a construct or extra artificial layer upon a hunter-gatherer society but the same also holds true for Newtonian physics or what we experience as solid matter which is in fact for more than 99% vacuum. Free will for me too is in this context just an illusion.

    Nevertheless, I do not want a bowling ball to fall on my toes, I still love theme park rides and art and I cherish my right to vote and to dip my toes in the bathtub of consciousness.

    To come back to your argument; No, I will not take deceit as a synonym. I think that is not the correct leap to make. Matter does not fool. There is nothing being deceived nor a deceiver nor even an intent.

    I think I agree with your first assessment so I might have to concede that I am not. Just another construct. And I am fine with that. If all I perceive of the world is illusion within illusion, construct upon construct, then why would I (want to) be different? I see myself as part of this complex world and I can’t imagine a world without me, literally.

    I still do not want a bowling ball to fall on my toes, though.

    To conclude with a bridge to Pullman, I don’t think that any construct or illusion can give meaning and so for me life in general is utterly meaningless. But I think my life has meaning, at the very least to me. Meaning is what we give. We can’t fall back on a fatherly figure, it is up to us to give. It is a human affair. So here I think I am on Pullmans side and I think he is, as a writer of fiction, in the meaning-giving-business. And I think he is pretty good at it.

  • Jeff

    Here is a question that keeps getting overloked within all this context. If all conciousness is illusion then who or what is perceiving? what directs the force of any individual being to utilize it’s various processes to act in any particular fashion and most importantly to organize those factors to act in functions of increasing complexity? Now one can utilize quantum mechanics to make this argument that ordered systems to evolve to higher complexity out of chaos… in effect there are two forces entropy and order and while one breaks down systems the other causes said systems to evovle to higher orders thus able to handle higher and higher levels of chaos and create order from it ad nauseum. However this still skirts the fundamental question…. where is the I in all of this… often people will say there is no proof of an I but as one person mentioned earlier… there is also no proof of a not I. And this brings about the basic paradox: can both I and not I exist simultaneously? Is it both true that there is a me and there is no me?

  • AM

    I’m only bothered by Pullman’s narrow-mindedness and intolerance. He clearly thinks his way of thinking is the right way. I’m a christian and I have a few atheist friends. None of us claim to be right and the others deluded in our way of thinking. They are simply different schools of thought and we respect that.


    tcblank: Actually our world does not scream “design”. Do you think that if God created us out of thin air by a design he would have made us (and so many now extinct animals) so imperfect? If so you would be saying God made mistakes time and again and was continually tinkering and refining his work. And by the way complex systems like the eye do form from simpler systems as science has already proved.

  • Achei, I agree. If the world screams anything it is the process of evolution and the fact that all life on earth began as a single organism. I have a poster on my wall showing a female snow monkey holding her child. I would like to see a proponent of intelligent design explain to me the monkeys’ shockingly expressive and “human” faces. If anyone has ridiculous hubris it is the people who believe humans are completely superior and original. As for daemons, that is one of the elements of the HDR books I loved most. I think the interconnectedness of all life is wonderful. Nature is beautiful and amazing on its own, with or without god. The idea that our personalities and deepest feelings could be expressed in an animal form makes for great fantasy. I read the first two books as a child and they did nothing but enrich my life. They did not “make” me an atheist. Children should be encouraged to think about these questions, not kept sheltered and made to swallow their parents narrow beliefs. I would agree with other posters that if we want to be objective and scientific, there is equally little evidence both supporting and refuting god’s existence. I would argue that a staunch atheist has a type of faith. Personally I think there’s no fun in “knowing” the answer. We should all keep our minds open and searching for the rest of our lives. For me that’s enough meaning: to learn as much as I can in the time I have.
    Sorry for the disjointed response. This was a great interview, and there were just too many good ideas to respond to. Thanks to the interviewer and the author!

  • Anonymous

    I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture given by Mr Pullman a few years ago at the University of East Anglia (in his birth city of Norwich). I was already a loving victim of HDM and the Sally Lockhart novels. I’ve laughed, cried, feared, curled my toes and been moved beyond expression. You know what? This man is a story teller of the highest degree. Some bits of the bible are pretty good too – and I have read it! We are monkeys; intelligent, yes, but we are a part of this world – not some
    ethereal beings awaiting our elevated time. Mr Pullman reminds us that we are small but extraordinary in that our world is so different to those we have yet discovered. Oh that we could all cherish each other and all that we share this precious place with. Why we have to attack a bloody good story teller is quite beyond me – this Jesus bloke would, I’m sure, approve of him.

  • tiffany

    This interview was an interesting read…thanks for sharing it. As a Christ-follower, I’m concerned that some members of the Christian community have launched attacks against PP and his work – he has adamantly claimed to believe that there is no God, so how can you berate him for writing material that reflects his beliefs? How can Christians be angry with non-Christians for acting like non-Christians? I do not believe that followers of Jesus Christ should shut their eyes and ears to every idea that may contradict their own beliefs – if you are a Christ-follower, then the spirit of God lives in you and will help you discern which ideas are of God and which are not. We should be teaching the truths of God to our children so that they won’t be swayed by every new idea or belief system that they encounter in life.

    However, I don’t believe anyone should say that someone is “deluded” for believing in God. Might I say that another person is deluded by believing there is no God? God has revealed himself through His creation to all man – however, man will not feel the need for God until God creates that need in his heart. Followers of Christ are simply those to whom the need for a Savior has been revealed. May God reveal the need for Himself to all men! If Christians will focus on spreading the light of Jesus Christ to the world, rather than tearing down those who do not know God, perhaps God will use us to make Himself known!

  • phillipshj30

    Mark Phillips

    I read the interview. I plan not to see the movie nor read the book. My wife told me that she had heard an atheist movie was playing that plans to kill off GOD. How quaint!
    How can you say that you do not believe in spirituality and even the word spiritual turns your stomach when there are spiritual beings in your books? I don’t get it. If you are atheist (and you claim to be a materialist atheist none the less) how can you even mix spiritual creatures into your thought and even fiction? Demons are created beings that Christians believe were thrown out of heaven by GOD. You believe in these (even refer to them) and claim to have no sense of or hate the word spiritual?
    And what about witches (wiccans)? They believe that all things have a spirit even trees, plants and flowers and you have them in your book? How can you include this sect in the book and movie when they are probably some of the most spiritual people (I would say confused and devil fooled) people out there?
    I also lol when I read your comment that “My own background, as I’ve said many times, is Christian to the core. Christianity has made me what I am, for better or worse. I just don’t believe in God.” Come on, make up your mind. Either be totally for or against all things spiritual. Stop wasting my and other peoples time and be a priest of your own little pure religion instead of one that mixes with others and expects itself to be original.

  • Anonymous

    @Mark Phillips

    Though I cannot know for sure, I doubt that Mr. Pullman believes in the existance of demons and the likes outside the fictional world of his books.
    By taking the story and characters in his novels for as real as you take the ones in the Bible, you are putting both books in the same literary genre, non-fiction.

  • Anonymous

    A great interview for the most part.
    Religion is always a touchy and heated subject. (ironic) It was nicely handled.

    For anyone who actually reads these comments clear down at the bottom of the page, i have this to say.

    phillipshj30. You are just the talented kind of person who has the rare ability to agrvate me. I am a Christian. I very much doubt that we are the same denomination, but we have much common ground. You however, are acting as a closed-minded fool.
    First; stop crying GOD in bold capital letters as if you have to prove him to others. God can prove himself.
    Second; You self ritously said that you would not watch a movie or read a book based on something you heard second hand. Find the truth of things for yourself before you make a decision. Your attitude toward this is similar to that of Hitler when he put a ban on books because they were a threat to the way of thinking which he was imposing. When you restrict different ways of thinking, you deny others and yourself the opportunity to learn. It is foolish not to question the things you are taught and the world around you. Sometimes we are taught falsely, and when we are taught correctly we must learn it for ourselves or we will not truly believe it.
    Third; do not speak of things you do not know. You have not read the books and you intend not to, yet you speak of the witches and the demons that fill its pages. the demons in this particular work of fiction have absolutely no parallel to the fallen angels who were cast from heaven. demon in this book is in fact only pronounced “demon” that is where the similarity ends, for the word is spelled “daemon.” Besides, demon is not an apropriate name for the fallen angels. Demons are found in many cultures and mythologies that are not Christian based. I am not much for history so i may be wrong but i don’t think that “demon” was attached to the fallen until some English Christian king wrote his book entitled “Demonology” in which he listed the alleged names of the fallen. he did this in order to justify his persecutions of witches in the late middle ages. I do not find him to be a very enlightened person thus i do not remember his name. So in the end demons are not Christian in origin and therefore have no place in your argument. Same goes for the witches. the witches in this book are, like the ones in Harry Potter, not devil worshiping, cult practicing heathens. they are not even “wiccan” as you called them. i have seen something of the wiccan culture and the witches in the book have few if any parallels with them. Try to remember, this is a work of fiction, no matter what the religious or anti religious undertones may be, therefore witches can be whatever the author wants them to be.
    Fourth; you are again a fool if you do not realize how a persons background affects their preceptions of the present.
    that is all i have for you.

    Next, i would move on to the religious aspect of the whole thing but arguing gets people nowhere. those who say God exists and argue about it probably wont be persuaded otherwise. the same can be said of people who do not believe in God.
    I believe that contention is of the Devil and as long as we all argue and debate about God, nothing positive will happen. Besides as I said before, God can prove himself. I am willing and eager to share his Gospel with others but only the Holy Spirit can let you know that it is true.

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with PP regarding his interview statements, as follows:
    “But that doesn’t prevent me from pointing out the arrogance that deforms some Christian commentary, and makes it a pleasure to beat it about the head. What on earth gives Christians to right to assume that love and self-sacrifice have to be called Christian virtues? They are virtues, full stop. If there is an exclusively religious sin (not exclusively Christian, but certainly clearly visible among some Christians) it is the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others. It is so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive, that it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door.

    The plainest and simplest description of the world, for me, and the truest, is that there is no God, but that human beings are capable of great goodness and great wickedness, and we don’t need priests or Popes or imams or rabbis to tell us which is which.”
    I remember clearly the time I spoke my opposition to a sermon given by an obviously chauvinistic priest, claiming woman to be not-equal to men. (I was about 14-16 at the time) I was immediately told off, put in ‘my place’ by my father (no less).
    It’s no wonder I stopped practicing the Roman Catholicism under which I was raised (not I said ‘under’) and was without a religion, until in my forties and discovered Wicca to be the religion I already had inside me all my life, and Witchcraft to be an intelligent practice, that today’s science can actually quantify.

  • caphill

    I find in all of this a great irony: that we as human beings, as the “result of an unguided, natural process with absolutely no purpose”, are so consumed with finding purpose.

  • Looey

    Great interview although the questions seem to be geared solely around how this book contests the foundations of Christianity and the conflict that this causes.
    Consequentially the part that I take with me will be the idea of producing work as if only you will have access to it. There wil always be those whose opinions differ.

    Belief is such a subjective topic, instead of reading about what PP does not believe I’d sooner read a discussion over what other influences have gone into the framework of the story.

    I would be very much interested to hear PP’s opinions on the Jungian Psychologies as some of these, even if coincidentally, tie in with symbolisms and loosely with alternative realities treated within the books.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have anything against atheists or any other religion whatsoever. But Mr Pullman seems to have shear hatred against the chatolic church. If he is an atheists as he claims, than he does not have the need to diminish God and religion in a book intended for children. He might claim that his book was based in an other universe, so he could have easily called this evil organisasion something else, but he chose to be so specific as to name the Vatican which is the seat of the chatolic church, which brings me to another point. Wasn’t he brought up as church of England. If so the pope and the Vatican had nothing to do with what he said had such an effect on his life. So can he explain why did he paint the church as so evil. If this man used to live a couple of centuries ago, I would say that he might have a point. But this age is marked with people who in the name of God and the church have done tremendous acts of kindness. Naming just one, Mother Theresa, should be enough to show the world that the world of christianity is not made of monsters as Mr. Pullman painted it. Mr Pullman’s assaut on the Chatolic Church did not end there. Trying to paint the church as evil was not enough. He went to the extreem as sending one of his characters on a quest to find God Himself and destroy him. If He does not believe, why did Mr Pullman had the need to destroy what at Least four Billion persons on this earth see fit to believe in. Because the one God is not only adored by Christians, but also By Islam, Jews and Budists.
    People have been naming Harry Potter. Harry Potter is not a religious book and I don’t know wheater Ms. Rowlings is a believer or not. The differnce is that Harry Potter kept Religion out of the story, so anybody who read those books can make himself as part of the story whitout being forced to make moral decisions, Unlike Mr Pullman’s Books (which I Have to admit are very good books). These books makes you angry at certain passages, simply because we know that the message that these books are sending on the church are simply not right.
    Finaly if athesist truely don’t believe in anyhting, why do they find the need to fight against Christianity, why not fight against Islam or Judaism or Buddism or Hinduism. The Chtolic church has a lot of publications which shows what we believe in. But that’s the whole point, we preach what we believe in. Atheist believe in nothing so why do they preach it.

  • Anonymous

    Immensely enlightening interview. Its a rarity to read such well constructed, relevant arguments(on both sides). Pullmans triology has directed me to assess my outlook on live and the supposition of an afterlife. I was as engaged by this interview as by the mythos itself.

  • Anonymous

    GOOD JOB PULLMAN! they were great books!

    i dunno, i liked the books i am christian and i dont have a problem with them… but then again i am only 12 ^^


  • Anonymous

    I have just seen the film and have just purchased the trilogy. While not having read the book yet, intuitively I felt the film to be somewhat overly condensed even truncated. The story as it appeared in the film deserved a broader more nuanced treatment. However it was stunning visually and has convinced me to read the original works. Not being a Christian or a follower of any transcendent dogma or tradition I am certainly less concerned about any pernicious influences attributed to the work that others may fear or attribute to the author. Interesting and curious debate though. I would like to point out a few inaccuracies or questionable assumptions about other religious traditions. An interesting position on the nature of God within the Islamic perspective is that God is essentially undefinable (hence contributing to a prohibition on any visual representation of either the Prophet or Allah). Within Islam most references to Allah centre on the discussion of attributes or behaviors described in the Koran as the template for human behavior. Islam and other traditions such as Judaism, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy are often more complex and subtle in their debate on the nature of experience and existence than Christianity. Buddhism does not accept the existence of God. All deities described within the various Buddhist sects are metaphors. If you wish for an extremely complex discussion on the nature of existence and experience may I suggest that you reference the many debates contained within Hindu philosophies? I have spent much of the last thirty years of my life teaching, assisting and providing care for children and adults with a variety of mental and physical challenges and disabilities. The many varied and remarkable ways in which individuals struggle to overcome these challenges and achieve their own understanding and place in this life is what defines any understanding that I might have of the nature of human consciousness. To be alive and to continue to live requires courage, perseverance and a rudimentary and direct awareness and experience of “compassion” and empathy. For me this is the essence of of consciousness. You may debate forever how many angels or whatever may dance on the head of a pin but meanwhile time passes unmercifully and there is much to do: the suffering that you can alleviate, the wonderful brilliant stories and great works of art that can be created, our balanced and responsible presence that our world needs now and the personal responsibility that we need to take rather than blaming or attributing everything to some mythic devil or deity. As an artist and writer Mr. Pullman has (according to many accounts honors and awards) made a wonderful and imaginative contribution to the ocean of human literature, why may I ask does this cause fear for so many of you?

  • I beg your pardon?
    You, young man, misunderstand a few things guite – and actually, I do not think that they are about culture – at least not in the political sense….
    …you just want to might and try to find a girlfriend, make a family, be a good boy; Yes?
    On the other hand, considering options; ya might also wanna consider growing up and havin
    a life of your own! Who knows?

  • Anonymous

    There are a few people that you might point at and say- they do not consider themselves worthy of eternal life. I do not agrue with such people nor consider it my job as a christian I believe that people send themselves to the abyss and perhaps Pullman is one that will go there- He is the only one that can change that.

  • Fred

    To anonymous who said that the Christian discourse is less sophisticated than other traditions. Hey, I disagree. What about the debate regarding free will? It seems to me that many other traditions downplay the importance of free will. Indeed, reincarnation has always struck me as being very deterministic and discouraging. At least Christianity offers a quick way out. Don’t forget the ongoing debate between Protestant fundamentalism and Catholicism as to whether salvation is attained through good works or faith. The old “justification through good works or Faith” argument. You strike me as a justification through “good works” kind of person (regardless of whether you believe in God or not.) Also it seems to me that a belief in or desire for something that transcends this sorry ass painful world is at the core of what it means to be human and conscious. The very act of creating a fictional world such as in the Golden Compass seems to me to be “transcendent”. Why do we define it as “fantasy” if its only a reflection of concern with mundane material reality or institutions. How boring is that!?
    Anyway, what about the whole free will thing, I,d like to hear your thoughts on that one.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Fred for responding to my thoughts. First of all I apologize for implying that the “Christian Discourse” is “less sophisticated ” than other traditions. What I meant to say is that the existential and transcendental debate contained within many other traditions is often more “complex” and indeed more nuanced than much of the contemporary discourse centered on Christian theological and institutional concerns. Christianity does seem to me ( with some notable exceptions such as the current Popes initiatives towards establishing a more open dialogue with certain other faith traditions including the eastern orthodox church) to be “circling the wagons” so to speak.
    You are correct to assume that I would be defined as a “justification through good works” kind of guy. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Jesus say something to the effect that one should be judged by one deeds as opposed to ones words?(perhaps one of our Christian friends might correct or clarify my crude paraphrasing of His words)
    The Oxford Dictionary defines “free will” as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at ones own discretion” (by the way, I also have similar problems as you with the concept of reincarnation)
    If the Oxford definition is at all acceptable to you I would propose the following position on the nature of free will. “Free Will” is a linguistic and cultural artifact that is circumstantially and contextually defined and posses a limited “shelf life” within most individual lifespans.
    As you have read my previous entry you will be aware that I have spent much of my life working with individuals challenged by a broad spectrum of mental, psychiatric and physical disabilities. Let me pose several questions to you. What free will would an otherwise physically healthy individual suffering from the advanced ravages of alsheimers disease possess? What free will can be exercised (with any degree of understanding of consequences)
    by an individual suffering in a state of deep paranoid delusional schizophrenia? What free will is accorded to women and child refugees in war torn areas of the world who are routinely brutalized and raped. I would also propose that this “free will” that we so blithely refer to is perhaps a “luxury” afforded to those privileged few on this planet who are actually able (according to the Oxford definition) to “act without the constraint of necessity or fate”. By the way this world is “sorry ass and painful” only some of the time, in fact, overall I regard this world as being unendingly fascinating and exciting.

  • Teresa

    First of all, should anyone consult their unabridged dictionaries, daemon means, from Greek, a minor divinity, between the gods and men. The secondary meaning is a guardian or inspiring spirit. It is only at the level of a pocket dictionary that the word means devil. Therefore, it is quite likely that daemons are similarly regarded to the totem animals of the American Indian beliefs, the animal spirits which go with us, not ourselves per se, as opposed to Christian devils. A totem animal is the essence of that creature, not any particular pet. I find this very comforting, and not a put down of those creatures at all.

    I found the information in this interview fascinating…thanks for sharing it. I can relate to Mr. Pullman’s relationship to the Church of England; through the books and the movie I always suspected the object being put down was not man’s experience of the immanent, but the political misuse of power in the name of religion, which happens regardless or actual denomination. Glad to hear this confirmed. The viewpoints expressed here remind me of the theme of Graham Nash’s song “Cathedral.”

    I do think the movie adhered to the major points and meaning of the book– so many do not, that it is refreshing to find one which does.

    Peace to all,

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad that I took the time to read this interview. Although I don’t agree with everything that has been said, It has opened my eyes. Lets just say it’s given me alot to think about.

  • Anonymous

    I have posted in this blog earlier. The nature of this discussion is not atheism or believe, its about Mr Pullman’s triology. Everyone has the right to believe or not believe in anyhing he or she wants, after all that is what free will is about. I myself am a Roman Chatolic and as such I firmly believe in god, but that does not give me the right to condem Mr Pullman for his believe. It doesn’t even give the right to redicule atheist or any other form of belive around the world. But it does give me the right to protest when someone ridicules my religion, my church and most of all my god. What’s worst is the fact that all this was done very subtly in a children’s book. The book was marketed as a fantastic adventure for children and young teenagers. Now we have to give merit to Mr. Pullman’s ability to right. I’ve read the first book. It was captivating and an extremly good read. The first book per se is quite innocent only small references were made against the chatolic church, so small that can easily be dismissed. But it had done its job of hooking unsupecting children to continue to read the ather books. In the other books that attack on the church is made clear in the first few chapters thus opening the way for Mr Pullman’s attack on god himself in the most direct of manners. If Mr Pullman had proclaimed the book as an atheist publication it would have been completly in his right of free speech to do so, But to disguise his theacing in a children’s book is nothing but criminal.
    His attack on the church was so direct and blunt that if he had written the same thing on Islam he would have probaly sparked a Jihad.
    There is no philosophical way how to deal with this book. It is simply athesit prpoganda disguised in a children’s book. If this is the only way he can find to share his non believe than he must be really desperate.

  • Anonymous

    This comment is directed to Lee-ann a post quite early in this blog.
    It is quite easy to watch CNN or Sky News or what ever news you listen and list the names of those preists or clergy man or Church people who have done wrong deeds towards humnity. But the fact that you can name them by name means that they are Individuals and as such you cannot place there blame on all of the church.
    You have made your list. Now let me do mine. How many Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul the second or Pope Hone the 23rd, how many missionaries have to give their lives before the likes of you start seeing the whole picture. The Church was founded by Jesus Christ, but is led by man. This means that it is bound to make mistakes and mistakes it made in the two thousand years of its existance. But on the other hand the ammount of good that the church does and has done to people around the world is beyond any measurment.
    To Judge a two thousand year old institution on the deed of few of its members is simply arrogant. So before droping judgmnet why don’t you make a more balanced research, because I’m absolutly sure that if you’de start making a list of good christians and bad christians, the list of the good would be much longer than that of the bad.

  • Jen

    I am just a Mom researching a movie. I am not nearly as smart as most of the posts above….I will say that I perceive Mr. Pullman as hostile in his approach to anyone who does believe in God.

    I believe in God, I don’t feel that I am unintelligent or stupid. It is sad that Mr. Pullman is not able to express his viewpoint without putting down those who don’t share his way of looking at things.

    As a parent and a Christian, I have no problem seeing this movie with my kids or letting them read the books for that matter. My husband and I welcome different viewpoints that open dialog with our children. We teach them not to be afraid of opinions that are different than theirs. Something can be learned from all schools of thought….

  • Anonymous

    Dear Jen
    To Go and see the film with your Kids is a very good idea. It is a fantastic movie, the acting is superb, the special effects are out of this world and the plot of the movie is great. The Producers of this movie have been very careful to eliminate what they refered to as offensive parts. This they did even because Ms Kidman the leading lady in this motiuon picture insisted that any anti christian references must be removed is they wanted her to sign in for the movie.
    As mentioned before I have read the first book and a good part of the second and third book. They are magnificintly written I’d have to say that Mr Pullman has a talent and knows how to use it. If you don’t have any problems with the idea of killing god himself than go ahead and read the book both you and your children. I can assure you that you are going to enjoy it. If read with an open mind this book poses no real threats but we all know how children are impressed with what they read and watch so in my opinion which I might add doesn’t count for much parents should read the book themselves before giving it to their children.

  • gogeo

    The wisdom of man is as folly to the angels – gogeo

  • Anonymous

    Pullman has no idea who he’s messing with. One day he’ll be standing before the god that he is trying to get rid of in childrens minds.

  • Dwarf

    Once again, thank you for the interesting (and comparitively peaceful) interview.

    One thing that has caught my attention is the fact that many of you seem to find the quote “My own background, as I’ve said many times, is Christian to the core. Christianity has made me what I am, for better or worse. I just don’t believe in God” contradictory. I do not agree with this, as I myself am finding myself in this situation. I am now 16, and have been brought up as a catholic. When anyone asks me of what religion I am, I tell them that I am catholic. My parents are both very strong believers in God and in the Church, and so this is not a topic that I can talk to them about. However, despite my strict catholic upbringing, I do not believe in the same way that most cristians do. As a matter of fact, if I had to chose, I would sooner call myself an atheist. So really, it is quite possible to have been brought up “cristian to the core” and still not believe in God.

    Due to the fact that I can not decide what I belive in, I have decided that until I figure it out I will just try to do what is “good”. “Good” being that which makes me feel good about myself(and not ashamed), and that is trying to be kind and tolerant. So the comment about there not being any reason to be good if there is no god also bewildered me. If one only does “good” things for the sake of god, then that itself does not seem “good”. It seems to me that we should be kind not so that we can be rewarded but so that we feel as if the actual act of kindness IS the reward.

    And as for the recurring comment “atheists will pay when they are standing before god”, well, that is ridiculous to me. First of all, if god is as good and forgiving as he is made out to be, then he will forgive. Secondly, if the person has been kind (the so called cristian values) then there is nothing to forgive. And thirdly, if this God chose not to forgive the people who did not believe, then I personally would prefer to rot in hell than be in heaven with a god like that.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to have stumbled upon this interview. I think the thing to remember is that to an awesome, mighty, and just God (creator) all of our (created) works on our own are as filthy rags. There’s nothing we can do on our own to make up for the myriad of sins that arise from our nature as humans – from the most elderly to the youngest. The love extended to us by our creator included leaving perfection, becoming a human and dying so that we could live. It’s so cool and after years of searching through other traditions and points of view, I’m so thankful for what He did for me!!

  • shaggy_hudds

    Hear hear Dwarf.

    Good to hear such wise words from one so young. I have always thought that a god so petty as to give more thought to whether I believe in them and what I eat rather than how I live my life is not one I would want to get to know.

    Keep on thinking for yourself and not taking the easier option of just blindly following the belief structure of your parents.

  • Anonymous

    If you guys believe that there is’nt a god then that’s fine with me but, I believe in the one and true God.

  • Anonymous

    Why do people think we’re “blindly following” our parents and elders?

  • Jamie

    I posted a comment about 2 weeks ago, before I read His Dark Material Trilogy. My opinions haven’t changed, although I discovered something while reading the books.

    It is interesting to me (as an intelligent individual, as well as a Christian) how up in arms people are about Mr. Pullman’s destruction of god (note the lowercase) in one of his books. If you read the books, you’ll find the god destroyed is a fictional representation about as distant from the Christian God as you can get. If a person who did not know me, told a detailed story describing my personality, motives, and character (incorrectly) and advocated my destruction, people that knew me would laugh at the absurdity of the claim. It is the same concept (I believe) that should be applied to Mr. Pullman’s stories.

    They are imaginative, creative, intriguing, entertaining, and FICTION.

    I don’t have a problem allowing my teenage children to read the books. As an active and involved parent, I look forward to the discussions we will have and the opportunity to encourage them to use their God-given abilities to sort through, analyze, and defend their conclussions.

    I believe Mr. Pullman is a talented man. I disagree with the beliefs he professes, but that’s just one woman’s opinion. Be well and blessed.

  • Mr Pullman, I don’t know where else to post this comment, so I will jot it down here and hope it gets to you. Though you have said you don’t care what your readers think about your books, I feel compelled to tell you anyway. I just finished Amber Spyglass — the tale was riveting, painful, powerful, heart-rending and beautiful. There were moments when I was sorry I ever picked up those books and yet I couldn’t put them down. They are timely, too. Though not a Christian, I consider myself a person of deep faith and yet in recent years I have become afraid of religious people. So many seem to lose all common sense in their fervor – your books captured the reality quite well, I thought. In fact, though parts of the story made me squirm, I found that I agreed with most of what you said, and I think that even (or perhaps especially) people of faith would do well to focus on creating “The Republic of Heaven” where ever they are instead of waiting for it to be handed to them. And I thought it wildly funny that in your Atheism you hit on the core of what religion should have done for people. How beautiful might the world be if we were Lyra — creating heaven and seeking truth.

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

  • weatherwax

    It seems that we are all pretty much of the same tree, Pullman drinks the same water enjoys the same daylight and delights in the beauty and complexity of our world. His roots just appear to be in different and if I might add, particularly fertile soil.
    Strangely, I have greatly enjoyed all of Pullman’s books and many Christian works also. As always it seems that the most important factor in getting the most from a piece of literature is approaching it without bias and walking away from it reflecting on it’s content.

  • Anonymous

    I have become afraid of religious people.-rebecca

    There should be no reason to be afraid of religous people if that is what you want to call us.

  • Anonymous

    Well, Pullman is evidently an intelligent person. I even agree with a lot of what he mentions, but, what irritates me profoundly is that he affirms so convinced that anyone who belives in the existence of God is wrong and mistaken. I do not belive in what i do (God or anything else that i belive in) because i need to, but because i have choosen to. As it irritates him to hear Christians adjudicating values and virtues to religion, it irritates me to hear him denie that posibility, for i think, what has ever and will always move the world and humanity is that: POSIBILITY, not probability.

    Claudia Guerrero
    Querétaro, MEXICO.

  • Anonymous

    Pullman just needs to stop accusing christians in what we believe in. Whatever He thinks or says about us it won’t change my views on God and christians. And if there is not a god then then we wouldn’t be here.

  • Anonymous

    Juat to add something to my last comment. Pullman is trying to suck god out of kids minds in his book a little at a time

  • Marios

    I’m not a Christian – nor am I even fractionally spiritual – but I think it’s fair to compare His Dark Materials with Narnia (fiction which is fairly obviously preaching the worldview of the author). Overall, I enjoyed the books, but the preaching was extremely annoying (same reason I wouldn’t read Narnia now unless I was intentionally reading it to get a handle on C.S. Lewis’ religious beliefs).

    With regards to the interview, I don’t think Pullman was pushed all that much (but I’m not sure he really could be, given the format). Pullman gets plus points for occasionally considering a point of view not his own – particularly admitting that his cultural background is Christian (some hurraytheists try to push an argument very similar to neopagans about hidden secret cultural roots …).

    With regards to materialism – Pullman just isn’t a materialist (in this interview or in his books). It’s rather odd that he quotes Dennett, since the majority of Dennett’s books are about clarifying the distinction between a materialist view of consciousness a ‘mysterian’ view of consciousness.

    I find this quite annoying. Theists are usually quite upfront about rejecting materialism. Mysterians, however, tend to want to claim the logically/scientifically superior position of materialism while also retaining all the cosy mystical intuitions (souls + absolute morality) available to non-materialists. Just to rub salt into the wound, they tend to be pretty snotty towards ‘honest theists’.

    If you want to reject materialism, that’s fine – but you can’t on the one hand reject it while also claiming superiority on the grounds that you’re a materialist!

    As regards ‘consciousness’, it like ‘religious experience’. Most people agree that (some) individuals report having had direct experience of one or the other. If you’re a Believer, you start from the position that these are transcendent phenomena, and so reject mundane material explanations. If you’re a Materialist then you don’t. Pullman’s characterisation of consciousness is transcendent – so it’s not surprise that theists/’spiritualists’ find it easy to see their own beliefs reflected in his ideas about Dust (and morality).


  • P.S. In reply to anonymous – yes, but does he swallow?

  • Anonymous

    yea this book is the coolest book i have ever read

  • josh

    For all you people who think that Pullman has some sort of an agenda with the Catholic church or was deliberately attacking it, let me say this: there is little or no evidence to support that he was directly referring Christianity or the faith itself. What he criticizes in these books, is what happens when organized religion of any kind becomes repressive and tries to tell people what to think. I think also, and he shed more light on this theory when he mentioned the former Soviet Union in this interview, he is possibly speaking out against theocracy, or when a government becomes entwined with religion and there is no separation between church and state.
    Do not believe for a second, that Pullman,(being the intelligent and well-read person he is) would be so arrogant as to denounce the ultimate goals of most religions, which is the betterment of every individual and the human race.
    He may have his own beliefs about many things, but he is no Ayn Rand when it comes to getting them across. He’s got class, a “virtue” many of these anonymous comments lack.

  • someone

    I found the movie it quit interesting, and no I don’t want to read any of the books either. It’s funny that someone who doesn’t believe in God, beleives in Demonds. in the movie each person has their own demond so If someone doesn’t believe in God then one should not believe in the Devil or demonds or a spiritual world for that matter. Sounds like the work of the Devil to me. And how could this movie and books get kids writting awards when there is obvious graphic violence shown in the film(a bear loosing a jaw in a fight), along with teaching kids to get what they want with what ever means, without respect for parents, elders, other people. Phillip you are an idiot!!!!!!! And the same goes for all your Atheist readers too. Not to worry, when you asks for Gods forgiveness, he will forgive you.

  • truth will set you free

    to the author of this book , im not sure if he intentionally is trying to lead souls astay from the truth, which is that god does exist ans his son jesus died for our sins so that we may go to heaven,
    if it was intentional i just want to say that i rebuik you satan in the name of the lord jesus christ, depart from this man

  • the truth will set you free

    for god so loved the world that he gave his only beggotten son.

    to all the athiest who think that life has no purpose you are rong and time is running out please repent of your sins and be clean,,
    the day of reconing is at hand.

    god loves you please dont listen to the doctrin of the damned, can the blind lead the blind, well in no way can a man say their is no god.

    you say prove thier is a god i say prove their is no god..

  • newtons law of relativity, ever action has a equal and oposite reaction.

    how does a big bang happen from nuthing,

    a bang is a reaction not an action

    the action came from god

  • that boy is back 4 bizness

    energy has no begining or no end

    how then a big bang from nuthing

    something outside of our universe had to step in and creat the energy to begin with.

    go does exist weather you like it or no. will see what thiese athiests are thinking on their death bed,, they will be in pure terror from not knowing whats on the other side,,,
    the devil is trying to get souls dont let him get your,,,, ask jesus into you life before its to late .. god loves you and he cares

  • MGL

    Tito: we don’t know if the Big Bang was a reaction or an action. In fact, our current laws of physics were pretty much not in place yet. Your syllogism isn’t a syllogism, it is a statement of faith. That’s ok – the Big Bang’s origin and development is one of the great mysteries, and if you want to use it as an article of faith, ok – but dressing it up in scientific language is pretty senseless. Check out the Wikipedia article on the big bang. Our current theories are just immensely cool.

  • I agree with the many posters who said you can’t judge a book/film or any other work without actually reading or watching it yourself. I think that some people waste an incredible amount of energy lashing out against things they don’t understand.

    I would like concerned parents to realize that these books are not dangerous, much less the film. The sensationalized idea of “killing god” is really not the point of the trilogy at all. For one thing, the entity who is defeated is not a real God, nor does Pullman name him God anywhere in the books. In my view he is a representation of the abuse of religion to gain power taken to the most extreme. In other words the message is a warning that if we allow dishonest, power hungry religious or political leaders to control our lives, eventually we may even treat them as “God”.

    But as I said the only way to judge for yourself is to read the book, see the film. All of the above deeper messages really don’t appear until the later books. The movie is just pure fun, although the action might be a bit frightening to very young children.

  • phillipshj30

    Mark Phillips
    After my last posting I began reading some atheist postings and have been researching the websites. Pullman seems to be right in line with the atheist thinking. Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps I am unintelligent. I don’t know. I have found the whole atheist argument confusing and a bit convoluted. I once believed that there was no God and believed in the theories of evolution/big bang much as the athiest and agnostics do. It took a lot of intellectual energy for me to keep up the belief in those concepts. My main question was “what was there before the small particle that became the universe?”. I just did not get it.I wasted a lot of thinking time trying to figure it out. It just did not make any sense to me just like it my not make sense to some that there may be an omniscient God. I do not know and I cannot answer the question about human existence except through the realm of belief. I either accept that everything was an accident and that the cosmic particle was always there or there is a Creator. I found no definitive answer in my own research of the cosmic particle. I just came up with theory, unproven law. I am a believe it or not type of person and when these theories could not satisfy me, I defaulted. I did not willfully think of anything about God or bigbang/evolution for almost as long as five years but both ideas were almost always there competing inside of me, begging for resolution. My physical life outside reflected my internal life. I was unfocused and life seemed meaningless. Some of you are going to say “then I found God and lived happily ever after…… blah blah blah”. However, I have made a willful choice to believe in a Creator God who wants a relationship with me that answered the question of how and why am I here. To me, and atheists and agnostics have argued about this point endlessly, anything that lies outside of the realm of the unseen exists only in the mind and in the realm of belief. It is easier for me to believe in God. My question is answered. Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps I am unintelligent. But I have found the answer in the words “In the beginning God created heaven and earth…..” God has always been. For me the question has been answered.

  • Further insight may be gained by those who listen to the entire set of HDM CDs produced some years back by the BBC, distributed in the U.S. by Random House Books on Tape and found in many libraries. Most noteworthy is that the books are read by Mr. Pullman himself and further dramatized by a cast of distinguished actors.

    By listening, it’s possible to gain some further appreciation of Mr. Pullman’s feelings through his tone of voice, inflection and emphasis. Also, it’s not easy to skip the more philosophical passages in a spoken rendition, which is what I suspect many children do with the printed books. The act of listening underscores that Pullman’s language is anything but simple. These are not written as children’s books. It takes pretty adept young readers to wade through the philosophy, perhaps akin to wading one’s way through the King James Version of the Bible. The action episodes are far more absorbing and compare with those in the Harry Potter books – fascinating stuff for young readers.

    So often our adult perspective is short-sighted when it comes to children. It’s fair to predict that Pullman’s works will not bring the Christian world crashing down any more than Dan Brown’s best-selling pot-boilers, The DaVinci Code or Angels & Demons. The kinds of kids reading HDM are no more likely to grow up atheists or anti-Christian than those of my generation who read the diatribes of Ayn Rand when they were pre-teens and teenagers. And if they are influenced by Pullman’s views, what then? Will the universe disappear in a flash, as it was supposed to in Millennium Year 2000? Not likely. I’m more worried about society’s future if we experience an increasing population of semi-literate children growing to adulthood in ignorance, prejudice and hatred.

  • Spectacular. Thank you both so much for such an intelligent and stimulating conversation.

  • Oh man, I will never stop admiring this man. Philip Pullman is a brilliant writer. That he just so happens to be atheist and wrote a novel encompassing his beliefs is inevitable and yet so many people come up with slanderous things to say about him. I love the fact that he still remains courteous and patient. Thank you for putting up this interview.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is absurd that some people are so narrow-minded. I may not be someone with strong opinions in either direction, but just seeing how certain people react to someone else’s views, is just… the only way I can describe it is…annoying. So what if he doesn’t believe in God, does he really need too? If you must then go ahead, but I wish people wouldn’t be so pushy when it comes to their religion.
    So, for kicks, let’s just say a Christian wrote a book (a children’s book) meant to get people to believe in God. Would it have been a big deal, no. People would praise it. But when someone with a different viewpoint comes along, people make a big controversy of it. And if there is a God, I’m not saying Jesus in particular, just a God. I would think God would want diversity and different opinions on earth. And Jesus, someone loving and compassionate, I would think, would want the same thing come to think of it. He doesn’t seem to be a demanding God, but a loving God.
    I also don’t think Philip Pullman is trying to pry children away from God. As we all know, there are sins. And it seems many Christians are hypocrites when it comes to that. What I get out of it, is that if you make a sin, you can ask God for forgiveness, so you can sin and sin and sin again, and be saved again and again? You could just keep sinning and sinning and still go to heaven. So if you can sin so much, than why can’t you have a different opinion? (I’m not saying all Christians are like that, but the more conservative fundamentalist type or whatever they would like to call themselves seem to have that quality.) And also, if God controls everything we do, then why are there non-believers? If he can control us, wouldn’t he make us all believers? And, how can you enjoy life, when you’re thinking that some higher being is controlling everything you do? Where’s the spontaneity? Where’s the fun? It almost seems that would hold you back in life, or just believing a higher being is controlling us, would make things simpler. You would always have an answer, God. But then what is there? What is the point, if someone controls us? Maybe, God put us on this earth, but made it our decision to decide what we do. That would indeed (in my opinion) make more sense.
    But I must say, I found all these different opinions and the interview, extremely fascinating. And some of them, I totally agree with, others, not so much.
    Also, I think Philip Pullman is quite intelligent, and this interview made my evening very interesting. 🙂

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    re the earlier post
    ‘So, for kicks, let’s just say a Christian wrote a book (a children’s book) meant to get people to believe in God. Would it have been a big deal, no. People would praise it.’

    the thing here is that the writer has openly stated the theme behind his writing, is to promote atheism, so he can be commended for his honesty, but this did not get translated to the parents sending their kids off to the movies to watch this atheist propaganda. Now that is really deception, and most christian parents would want to know that they were about to send their kids to be subjected to a conversion to Atheism session

  • hmmm… once again i get the feeling you haven’t actually seen the movie

  • phillipshj30

    Mark Phillips

    Christians and theologians will argue about freewill endlessly. They will also argue about “once saved always saved” and “you can lose your salvation”. Major separations between people of faith have been brought about by these arguments. I have seen two Christian men almost physically fighting over these very concepts. I know that in my own experience that you can get lost, walk away from God. I did it. A few months after my “salvation experience” I walked away from God and began living a life that would be considered the same as a “person from the world”. Was my “salvation” a fraud? I do not know. All I know now is that I am now in the grace of God. Can you sin and get to heaven? Yes. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” Even the best of Christians such as Billy Graham, Andy Stanley, Mother Theresa, Bill Hybels, Chuck Swindoll, Wesley, Spurgeon, Tozer, Martin Luther King, JR., Martin Luther, Augustian, Paul the Apostle and countless other unnamed Christians will tell you “it is only by grace that we are saved, not by ourselves so that noone can boast”. Can you live a life that looks like you do not know Jesus and consider yourself a Christian? There are a lot of people who confess to be Christians but really, in their heart of hearts, do not believe. Their life shows it, with bitterness, greed, anger, lust “and the like”. Will those go to heaven? I can truly say that I do not know and theologians much smarter than I am still wrestle with that question. My belief is that if your life does not look like Christs or if it does not “bear fruit” of love, patience, kindness, peace, self control (and other fruit of the spirit that I cannot remember right now)then maybe you should take a look at your life and see what you really believe.

    One person said;
    “Where’s the fun? It almost seems that would hold you back in life, or just believing a higher being is controlling us, would make things simpler. You would always have an answer, God. But then what is there? What is the point, if someone controls us? Maybe, God put us on this earth, but made it our decision to decide what we do.” If it were not for God I would not have gone to Nicaragua and been surrounded by some of the most beautiful people in the world and helped build houses and a kitchen for the poor. If not for God I would have stayed in a factory job and not pursued a career in teaching. If not for God I would not have helped feed homeless people or built homes for a single mother with Habitat for Humanity. The Christian life is not boring. The most adventurous and wonderful place you can be in the world is in the middle of God’s will.

  • I liked this interview, and was very impressed that two people with such different views could discuss issues like this with such civility. Until I got to this line:
    “If there is an exclusively religious sin (not exclusively Christian, but certainly clearly visible among some Christians) it is the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others. It is so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive, that it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door.”

    I’m a Christian. Have been since high school. But I’m all for being open to others’ opinions, being kind to others, and not ramming my opinion down someone else’s throat.
    I’m not about to deny that there are many Christians that give the faith a bad name, that don’t live up to what is taught in the Bible. And I also agree that there are plenty of people that do good that aren’t Christians or part of any religion. I personally think that one of the greatest problems with my faith (and many organized religions) is that we judge people based on how much our beliefs are or aren’t the same, because that is a far reach from what is taught in the world today.
    No, I don’t think Christians should take all the credit for all the good done in the world, but I don’t think an atheist (or an intelligent person in general, which I think Mr. Pullman is) should call it “stupid” for people that wish to do so anyway. I don’t think he would want a Christian to call his personal convictions “stupid”.
    I personally believe in God. I believe it by faith, I can’t prove it by anything directly tangible, but that’s what I feel is right. I believe I’m going to heaven because of Him. Do I think someone will go to hell just because they don’t believe? I hope not. But I really don’t know the answer to that question, and I honestly think a lot of religious people struggle with the question of the afterlife. If Mr. Pullman doesn’t believe God exists, that’s fine with me. He has every right to choose what to believe or not to believe in. I just ask that he gives Christians the same thing he is asking us for: understanding, and not getting all bent out of shape when you don’t agree. I liked the rest of the article, but suddenly calling an idea held by some Christians outright “stupid”, when not all Christians have bashed atheism, just really bothered me. He’s generalizing a little too much for me.
    Whether you look at life from a religious standpoint or not, I think it remains that in this life, we are called to be honorable people and do some good in this world. Love and respect people (and their opinions), and in turn they should love and respect you.

  • Anonymous

    I have never heard of Philip Pullman or his books before “The Golden Compass” has been put on film and I saw it just 3 days ago. I think Mr Pullman is a very rational man and he makes a point of saying “his opinion or his view”. He has a right to voice his views and opinions about his own book, mostley when people critisise him or his books as much as they seem to here. I must say I didn’t find anything unathical in the movie and I can’t wait to get the trilogy in my hands to read. I have also been raised in a christian believe, and have found over the years that it is nothing but brainwash, someone elses opinion of something or someone, pushed on you, telling you that you are bad from get go and you have to spend your life making up for it, but as we are human, it’s not possible and hence need saving in the end by God. Mr Pullman in no way is pushing his views or opinions on people. People a making a mountain out of a mole hill. The interview was great PTP has stated points that people have brought up and Mr Pullman gave HIS answers. There is no Philip Pullman movement or any such thing, so these apparent christian people that a screaming for his books to be band, should go to their apparent christian value and “live and let live” and let their children make up their own mind whether they like to read any book and what they get from it. Love, respect, kindness etc are possible without religion, we are human, not religion, we can do all the nice things without having to be told to do them. It is within us to treat others as we would like to be treated. No God needs to tell one this, and in the end it was a human who wrote this in another “great” book that people love to interpret and change as they please, so it fits their views of God and his apparent values (oh the book is the bible if I didn’t make it clear and no I’ve never actual read it properly, to many humans had their hands in it).

  • Anonymous

    I came accross this site looking for an answer to the claim that Philip Pullman writes something that implies destroying God in his third book of the series and that the purpose of the story was to turn children away from God, towards athiesm.

    So far, I have not found an interview where Pullman says such things. I have not read the books, so I don’t know for myself what they contain and I won’t go by what others say. I did just watch the Golden Compass movie today and I personally enjoyed it, but wished it would have been a little longer. The movie left me wondering what is going to happen in the sequels or if sequels would even be made.

    Here is what I got out of the interview, I wonder why “spirit”, “spiritual” is revolting to Philip? Just not believing it’s real wouldn’t seem to inflict that strong of a feeling in a person.

    What makes more sense to me is if Philip has experienced oppression, judgement, pride and self-righteousness in the church, whether it be catholic, christian, or any other religion for that matter. I don’t think any person, church, religion, etc. can portray God without messing up. After all we are all human (imperfect) and I think a lot of people get turned off by even the concept of God because they see those professing strong beliefs in God being less than perfect and even at times “worse” themselves than someone that doesn’t believe in God.

    Personally, I do believe in God and I was not raised with a religious background. It was after I had children, that the thought of living this life then dying without a purpose or ever seeing my children again became overwhelming for me and I wanted to know if there was a God because I wanted nothing more than to be with those I love forever.

    I decided to read the bible because I wanted to know the truth about what it contained. In doing so, I found God personally. I can see how someone that hasn’t experienced God yet or seeked Him out can believe He is not real. I questioned His existence too and without experiencing God myself, I could have never really believed in Him. After all, even believing He is real isn’t really believing in Him.

    God leads us to Himself, and unfortunately a lot of people, even those that think they are doing God’s work, turn people away.

    Before I really experienced God, I did believe He is real because there is an obvious difference between good and evil in the world. I unfortunately experienced a lot of the evil, but the good was there too. I didn’t believe “in Him” at the time though because I didn’t even know Him.

    What’s my point? I wonder if Philip Pullman has experienced too many self-righteous people, pretenders and those that take matters into their own hands and try to save people they think are lost, but instead turn people away from God, because honestly people are good at doing that.

  • Anonymous

    I think Pullman’s beliefs can be summed up easily. People who don’t believe in God are capable of doing good and evil. People who believe in God are capable of the same. I’d have to agree. It’s not necessary to be a believer in order to be a good person. Even if it were true that his books convinced kids to not believe in God, would it really be damaging to those kids’ morality? No it would not. Not unless God really is a vengeful psychopath that sends everyone to a place full of torture devices as some people claim.

  • Ray in Pennsylvania

    Some writers here have alluded either implicitly or explicitly about the sterility of this dialogue. ‘I won’t convince you and you can’t convince me, so what is the point’?

    Well, here is the point: In America this year, we will very likely elect either a woman or a African American as President. Yet an avowed atheist will stands no chance to hold any powerful political office in this country in my lifetime.

    In the fundamentalist rural community where I live, an atheist is not welcome, not to be trusted with community leadership nor with the welfare of children. The prejudice is palpable. My atheist views, which I do not trumpet, but will not disavow, have cost me some friendships and respect from my religious neighbors.

    I am an old man now and don’t much give a damn, but I do resent fiercely the hardships this social discrimination by self-styled “Christian” folk has caused my son, especially in his school years.

    So every time a writer discourses with eloquence and intelligence a defence of my “aesthetic choice”, he fights for no less than my dignity and respect. And for what it is worth, Mr. Pullman has my deepest thanks for assaulting the myth of the religious monopoly on morals and ethics.

    Someday in small town America, an atheist may stand on equal footing in society with self proclaimed church member. I won’t live to see it, but my son might. And if it does come to pass, it will be because of creative people like Mr. Pullman. And it will not be because he uses his works as propaganda, but because his sucess brings focus to his thought and his humanity which in turn demand respect even from those who disagree with him.

  • Anonymous

    The devil is a liar

    Philip Pullman clearly stated in an inverview that he was trying to undermine the basis of christian belief
    be aware. this film is not what is says on the tin

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous said…

    The devil is a liar

    Philip Pullman clearly stated in an inverview that he was trying to undermine the basis of christian belief
    be aware. this film is not what is says on the tin

    3:04 AM

  • Humanist

    To the previous poster/poster, let me suggest the following in verse:

    Less Anonymity
    Adds Credibility

    In other words, if you really have the courage to share with us your beliefs, you’ll do as the title of that inspirational hymn calls out – “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!”

  • Anonymous

    Calling Yourself Humanist dosen’t really give you an identity. So by trying to ridicule someone for simply not putting a nick name is simply ridiculous.
    So Let me try and fix this silly mistake that you pointed out. Even though I’m not the anonymous writer, I am also a chatolic. My name is Mark Borg and I live in Malta (the small Island right in the middle of the mediteranean) I have both seen the film and read the books. The film in itself is brilliant and in no way is it offensive (I give my praise to the script writers for a fantastic job) But the books are offensive to say the least. If Mr. Pullman’s idea behind the book was to promote atheism by showing that atheism is the true believe, it would have been completely legitimate to do. Since as it was earlier pointed out, us chatolics do it continously, naming some examples (Jesus of Nazareth; The Passion of the Christ, The Nativity Story and many many more)But in doing so we never try and make other believe look as murderous monsters. This is what Mr pullman did. As he himself stated in an interview that was done in 2003 “The sole intention of this book is to kill God.” If he is so sure that god does not exist why did he feel the necessity to kill him. So that brings up a question. Who is he trying to convince that God does not exist? The children? To whom this book was addressed. Or Himself.
    So If you ask me if this book is dangerous or not. I’d say yes. Because this book does not promote athesim but is a blunt attack on the Chatolic Church and all of its beliefs.
    One simple note in the end. On the Epuin way thousands were crusified and all of them were forgotten. Yet more than 2000 years ago a man was Crusified in Gerusalem a minor Province in the vast roman empire and his name is still famous now. Don’t you think that this person whose memory and teachings outlasted the romans themselves and coutless other empires is who he said to be, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

    Mark Borg

  • Humanist

    Ah, Mr. Borg of Malta … congratulations … you for one have definitely stood up for your beliefs. Yes, I’ve heard of Malta somewhere and it was so nice of you to locate it for me. You wouldn’t trace your lineage to the Knights of Malta, by chance? Commendable group, those Knights, an order originally devoted to the care of sick pilgrims and the care and defense of the Holy Land. Unfortunately, the religious charity of the Knights of Malta has not always extended throughout the Roman Catholic world, especially among the loving and kindly church authoritarians who tortured and executed their brethren in the Medieval, Spanish, Portuguese and Roman Inquisitions. Sometimes all’s well that ends well, however. After all, it only took some 360 years for the Church in 1992, under Pope John Paul II, to express regret for the heresy trial of Galileo, officially conceding that the Earth was not stationary in the universe. That was comparatively easy for the Pope to say – now. At this point in time, however, it’s rather tough to make it up to Galileo, although some in his time would have said he got off light. The Church let him live.

    Perhaps it is a good thing that you and I and Mr. Pullman were born into a more enlightened age. Were we living 400 years ago I would suspect that you would be a far greater danger to Mr. Pullman’s continued existence than Mr. Pullman (as you claim) would be a danger to the Church’s. The same holds true now, I believe. I don’t worry for the Church’s future or the so-called threats that the passionate corps of believers such as you so frequently point out. Cheer up – there will be many future generations coming along to inculcate in the faith. As to my sharing my real name or the nature of my faith and beliefs, I must confess to cowardice, Mr. Borg. Publicizing them might get my fragile frame stretched on the gentle and loving rack of authoritarian religious charity.

    Authority – and I’ve used two derivatives of the word above – is a major issue with Mr. Pullman. Make it a synonym for repressive acts of religious intolerance throughout the history of many organized religions. Those of us who try to keep open minds and a conviction that others have the right to hold differing views tend to look with deep suspicion on the preachments of persons who claim that they and their kind are the only possessors of unassailable truth. Such persons have the regrettable habit of claiming the authority to deprive others of their liberty and freedom of thought.

  • Anonymous

    An excellent conversation, fought well by both sides. As someone else has already said, PP pointed out a lot of faults in our traditions, and that he delivered some excellent constructive criticism.
    However, having read ome other peoples inputs, I would like to say that I think that anyone who wants to protect young minds from the ideas which the hdm books portray are acting just as the magisterium does in the books themselves: trying to restrict free will and open mindedness. I myself am a catholic, but I still view the hdm books as the greatest achievement in the world of literature, and though i still retain my beliefs, the books have revealed to me a new way of looking at life. They are not atheistic at all.

  • Anonymous

    An excellent interview!

    Why are people worried about taking their kids to see the film though?

    It is far removed from the book, any depth or sense of grandeur from the book is either removed or edited about confusingly, leaving the film feeling rushed, truncated and wrong.

    Adored the books, the film put me in mind of a 2 and a half hour intro to a computer game of the Northern Lights… not a decent adaptation.

  • silenthunder

    WOW. This interwiew was one of the best I have ever seen. For all of the rebuke pp has recieved is the followup comments I personally think that these two great minds demonstrated what most of the world population could use a little bit of, humanity. By this I mean two individual with such vastly diffrent beleifs having a civil conversation so well that at least on pc part he would like to sit face to face for discussion. Granted pp may have went a little to far in saying christian believers are stupid. But it must be understood that he is being attacked and critized by a very large number of the close minded believers for whom such a civil discussion isn’t possible for them to hold. We must understand he is probably a little bristled up and spoke with words a little stronger than he meant when stating his OPINION. That said I confess to being a christian and I have read the bible the full way thru a few times. While I believe in God I also believe that he expects us to be openminded enough to believe what we belive but also to listen to other beliefs fully without malice or halfhearted because we already know the truth. If that was the case why is the greatest gift he gave man(stated in the bible) Freewill. I hardly doubt that the God of the bible that is so loving and forgiving towards us will condemn us for questioning what we believe. There is even a passage in the bible(can’t remember which but maybe someone who does will kindly post it) that states “Test the Spirit so that you know it is truly a spirit of God and not of the devil trying to led you to temptation.” I have it a little roughly put bit it is basicly the passage. If we don’t test are faith on a regular basis by hearing things opposite of those beliefs how can we possibly say the belief is from our heart and not just going with the flow of family and friends? As for my children I will encourage them to read these books and anything else that will cause them to question their beliefs and search for those things that to them either confirm or disprove any part of or all their beliefs. I will be there to guide them but just like every other aspect of life I want to know that if I am not there they are sure of what they know and believe enough to stand on their feet. If they give in just because everyone around them says they are wrong then what would happen if(God forbid this) they were stuck in a situation surround by satanist telling them they are right? Only by allowing them to strengthen and temper thier own beliefs by questioning and answering on their own will they be able to stand against that tide. If they have diffrent beliefs then me so be it as long as they believe in something(even athiest belive in themselves)I can feel that I have taught them enough to let them go. And beyond that in the end why argue? I the athiest are right then it won’t matter anyway and if us christians are right our loving God has already forgiven and will reveal the truth.

    These books were great both story wise and intellectually. They provoked thought on my behalf plus gave me an enjoyable story to read. I encourage everybody to read them. I look forward to getting a chance to see the movie. kudos to Phillip Pullman. Thank you all and God Bless.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent interview, between thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting people. Much good discussion following, as well – my compliments to those of you who have been civil and literate in your commentary and discussion.

    On the other hand, quite a lot of the discourse in the follow-up has been uncivil and stupid. Illiterate, poorly-spelled, grammatically incorrect: STUPID.

    It seemed to me, on reading through the ongoing back and forth, that the Stupid contingent sits with a pretty square majority on one side of the debate.

    I will leave it to others to point out WHICH side the stupid and illiterate seem to lean towards.

  • phillipshj30

    Mark Phillips

    I did not know that we were being graded for grammar and spelling or I would have studied a little harder before taking the test…oops…writing in the blog.

    It has been my experience that when someone does not know what to say….and they have to say something just to get the last word in…….they resort to name calling and unjust criticism. The last time I checked, and many in this blog have stated such, everyone has a right to an opinion. Intelligent discourse, or lack of intelligent discourse, are attempts to prove one’s position and everyone has a right to chose an opinion or belief. Please do not cheapen discourse with name calling.

  • Anonymous

    I have just finished reading these books. I have to say HDM is probably not the best book i have ever read but quite possibly the story that has moved me the most. I didn’t necessarily pay as much attention to the fact of this books anti religious
    elements but more to its pro human elements. Lyra and Will are what i believe could be the pinnacle of our
    existence. i believe that a person should not know about the after life until they get there, and what really matters is how you get there . If we all took a lesson from these two fictious characters we would probably be a little better off.

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  • First of all I would like to say that it is so true what it says in Gods word it says ‘that the lost person is “dead in trespasses and sins”(Ephesians 2:1) How can you make a dead man see or feel? How can you convince a dead man that he needs to change? It is impossible for a dead man to respond because dead people dont feel anything. They especially dont feel the conviction of sin. It requires a special, supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to rouse the human consciousness to its sinful condition. The Bible also goes on to say that “sin makes people hardhearted, spiritually blind, and past feeling” (Ephesians 4:18,19) Also in Ephesians 6:10-17 it says ” Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the sheild of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD(caps are mine. With that said, there is nothing us as Christians will say so that the eyes that are blinded to their sinfulness will be opened apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. REmember that when you sit and argue about spiritual matters your fleshly words will do nothing only the word of God can fight those battles. So I pray for you Phil Pullman and the rest of the people that have openly expressed there lack of belief in The Living God, that the Holy Spirit will do a work in you to remove the veil from your eyes and that you will SEE the God who is so obviously pursuing you.

  • Regrettably, I have to repeat to you – shauns – what I said earlier:

    “Those of us who try to keep open minds and a conviction that others have the right to hold differing views tend to look with deep suspicion on the preachments of persons who claim that they and their kind are the only possessors of unassailable truth. Such persons have the regrettable habit of claiming the authority to deprive others of their liberty and freedom of thought.”

    I am a person with faith, although not your kind of absolutist faith. It is generous of you to pray that the scales will fall from my eyes. May I return your generous gesture with my prayer that the scales fall from yours.

  • I as well have to repeat what I said earlier…

    “With that said, there is nothing us as Christians will say so that the eyes that are blinded to their sinfulness will be opened apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.”

    Im not saying Im going to change your mind nor will I try because it would be useless to argue about something as complex as who God is with my own wisdom, thinking I can somehow show you how much smarter I am than you. God himself needs to reveal that to you not me. Thanks for your prayers, may I ask to whom you are praying?

  • The implication of your question is that in some way, to whom I pray is some false god, and to that I take exception. That’s the trouble with Absolutists – that only their narrow definition and their tortured embellishments of religious belief measure up, and that the beliefs of others are in some way deficient. If I stand with you in a crowd of thousands, where the blessings of Deity are sought, would you dare to question whether individuals within that assembly are “entitled” to pray, as you feel yourself so surely entitled? That, sir, is your answer, in the same form of the parables that Jesus posed.

  • Luke 4:8 Jesus answered, It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”

    Maththew 7:13,14
    Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    Matthew 16: 15-19

    “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say that I am?”
    Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdowm of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    So I guess the age old question is still out there to be answered ……”Who do you say that I am?”

  • May I just point out here that PP didn’t say that believers were stupid, but that people who thought that all goodness was in religion and all badness occurs outside it.
    I guess there are believers who think that, and that is kinda silly if you think about it. Maybe PP does think believers are unintelligent, but that’s not what he was saying when he said, “it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you’re not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door.”

    Humanist, I think you are hilarious and fabulous!

    I’m not Catholic, so when I read in the books references that seem similar to the Catholic church, it doesn’t hurt my feelings like it might if I were Catholic, but I have to say that when I do read those things, I don’t think, “Eew is that how Catholics really are?” (I’m Mormon, so I am very familiar with spectacular

    I take it more the way Josh put it when he said, “there is little or no evidence to support that he was directly referring Christianity or the faith itself. What he criticizes in these books, is what happens when organized religion of any kind becomes repressive and tries to tell people what to think.”

    And if PP was trying to undermine Christian beliefs, it went over my head because I agree with Katie when she said:

    “In my view he [the authority] is a representation of the abuse of religion to gain power taken to the most extreme.”

    He’s not my God, doesn’t resemble my God, or any religion’s God of which I am aware. Wasn’t he just a old decrepit angel that was about to disappear?

    “i just want to say that i rebuik you satan depart from this man”

    Gee, do you think it helped? If I see on the news that PP has turned Christian, I know a few other people I’d like to hit with a “rebuik”.

  • Thanks, LRHG. Humanist is my name – sarcasm is my game! Especially when it comes to religious absolutists.

    Considering that you are a Mormon, you’re certainly going out on a limb in your free thinking. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the more authoritarian religious bodies in modern existence. Other Mormons in recent years have been excommunicated for making in all innocence much less radical statements than you!

  • Mark Phillips

    I have put some serious mental energy (and some might say “not a lot going there”) into some of the discussions (or arguments) going on here. I will agree that you do not have be religious to be good. It is possible in our human nature to accomplish great works of philanthropy without the “aid” of a religious system. e.g. A soldier in his fox hole gives his life for his buddy or even his whole platoon when he throws his body on a grenade. A man jumps into freezing water to save people in a car wreck or plane crash. A billionaire gives incredible sums of money to charity. All these are works of incredible altruism.

    “Religious” people also do claim to have the way to a good life through practice of rituals and chants and songs and fasting and self mutilation and beliefs that a turtle holds up the world. They also have the “means” to get to heaven through these rituals and the more devout and zealous followers of these faiths (including some who claim to be a part of the “Christian” religion) will defend their religion as the one true way to heaven and everlasting life. I feel that these are common knowledge.

    When someone does these great deeds, to whom does that person point at for the great deeds? A truly humble man will say “I did it because it was the right thing to do”. Then the analysts and “freethinkers” of this world will say “look at what human kind is capable of… or look at what progress we have made in the field of….or look at what great works of art we can create” and the finger for the ones responsible are pointed at finite man instead of an infinite God.

    However, those who claim to be followers of a man named Jesus point at Jesus as the reason for great works and assert something quite different and more radical than any “freethinker” can imagine, that God came to Earth in the form of this man named Jesus Christ.

    He is seen as a great teacher, a good man, a performer of great works. But, He claims that He is the Son of God, equal to God. Now I do not know about you, but, when one investigates the life of Jesus you have to take the whole person into account. The fact that Jesus claims to be God is the source of either serious delusion or immeasurable truth. I will totally agree with C.S. Lewis. If you say He is a great man, good teacher or prophet then that great man or good teacher includes massive insanity and also a massive ego. If His claims are false then you must reject much of His sayings as the ravings of lunatic. I am sorry; if someone claims to be God then they had better prove it. And He did. He proved it through His death and resurrection. He died on the cross for our sins. He bridged the gap of hell that we may not only have a relationship with God but we also have eternal life in Jesus if only you would believe. If you do and accept Him as Lord and Savior in your heart, confess that fact, then you indeed, are a new creation not only dwelling in Christ Jesus but Christ Jesus also is dwelling in you in the form of the Holy Spirit. Christ does not reject you. You, in your unbelief, reject Christ.

    There really is no intellectual argument where this is involved. It is a simple syllogism that even a child can comprehend. If you believe in your heart what I have said above then you are indeed saved. If you do not believe me look in the Gospel of John and tell Jesus face to face that He is not God’s Son, the eternal God in human flesh. I, and other people who confess to be followers of “the Way”, are easy to dismiss because we are indeed human. But I suggest that you read for yourself and make your own “freedom of choice” to either accept God as His Son Jesus or reject Him as a stark raving lunatic. Get off the fence and state what you believe.

  • Anonymous

    little red haired girl says:
    Well, humanist, all I was saying was that that’s how I took it when PP said what he did.
    I don’t think the same way, nor do I agree with what the other posters I quoted believe, necessarily.
    I was just saying that’s how I took what PP said in the interview. (I mostly think he’s full of it. Great writer, but full of it.)
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true, and I believe in it whole-heartedly.

  • Esteemed Mr. Pullman I live in Russia. I read your trilogy “His Dark Materials” your perception of the world is very understandably me. I want talk with you discuss in detail your book and sense put in her. If this possible please piss to me in Mail box or in ICQ: 481-110-212
    P.S. Sorry for my English.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, my!

  • Anonymous

    Little Red Haired Girl says:

    Oh, my!

  • Anonymous

    I think you are disgusting. But I am not against your books. I don’t understand how you can consider yourself christian but don’t believe in God. I think it is terrible to call christians deluded for believing in something… how can someone that doesn’t believe in anyhting have the right to say such things.

    And Alex, christianity isn’t a tradition, it’s a way of life

  • I am amazed and saddened by the inquisitorial behavior of certain people posting, who simply cannot abide that there are people like me who do not care for them to dissect my personal faith position. What I believe is my business and you are way out of bounds when you presume that you have the right to cross-examine me and make judgments about what I believe and what I do not believe. We are having a discussion here – not standing in front of a congregation and being demanded to give our “testimony.”

    I will tell you this, however. Not so many years ago I offered Christian caregiving to two individuals over extended periods, having been trained as a Stephen Minister. Those of you who know about Stephen Ministries or care to investigate will learn that it involves Christ-centered care to people who suffer. One older individual waged a long bout with terminal cancer and it was a privilege and honor to be asked to walk along. The other, a younger person, was beset with terrible family and financial problems, and we made a journey with the Lord at our side toward healing for more than two years. Stephen Ministers, it is said, provide the care, but God’s unconditional love provides the cure.

    It is a small offering of service that I can bring to good people with problems, while trying to fulfill the will of the Master who put us all here. And I believe in it because it brings together God and humans, and I am a humanist in my moral and ethical values. I respect the right of others to have their beliefs, so long as they respect my right to have mine. My creed is neither authoritarian nor absolutist nor exclusionary, all the worst features of “organized” religion that Pullman despises and that have been perpetrated on the innocent all through history and to this day by narrow-minded zealots.

    Pullman is professed atheist, and I’m sure that his differences with me are profound and irreconcilable. Do I respect him any less for it? Never.

  • Anonymous

    I have read all three of His Dark Materials, and I loved them. I almost cried at the end of the Amber Spyglass. I have read many of your comments and quite frankly I think the many of you are embarrassing yourselves, and honestly giving religion a bad name. One anonymous said that that they feel sorry for atheists because they go against the belief of god even though there is so much proof supporting the existance of god. I find this to be very ignorant. I cannot think of one thing that prooves the existence of god, and many of the beliefs heled by the church about god have been proven wrong with Science. Galileo proved the Earth revolves around the sun, and was imprisoned for it by the church. Darwin made the Theory of evolution based in sound scientific evidence as aposed to those who still believe in creationism and retain blind faith in god. Please if anyone has proof of creationism than please share it. Humans evolved from monkeys, ask almost any scientist and they will tell you the same thing. humans and Chimps share 98.5% of our DNA and the only other difference is that somwhere along the line two chromasomes to fused together creating a different DNA code and humans were born. There is sound scientific evidence behind this theory, but there is no proof of creationism.
    Now I have problems with those people who think the book should be banned, if you don’t like it… don’t read it, it’s so simple, why reck other’s enjoyment by having it taken off the shelves.
    Now some may say i am attacking the christian religion, but that was not my intent. I have great respect for those who use their brains and are openminded to science, I am however attacking those who have taken their religion too far. Don’t ban books because they talk about your religion the wrong way it’s unconstitutional what about free speech?!?!?!?!?!? Pullman doesn’t even attack christians, he is using a god that may or may not be the Christian god, but none the less he is commenting on how extremists can wreck the world, these just happenned to be religious he could have written it with the god as the good guy, it doesn’t matter. Just think, use the brain that “god gave you” and question that which you don’t believe in, within reason, and don’t remain ignorant through fear of the church or god, and be open to other possibilities.

  • Mark Phillips
    I was not singling you or anyone in particular out or arguing. I was imparting truth backed up by almost 2000 years of Christian thought.

    “My creed is neither authoritarian nor absolutist nor exclusionary, all the worst features of “organized” religion that Pullman despises and that have been perpetrated on the innocent all through history and to this day by narrow-minded zealots.”

    This is a creed of the early church used for baptismal candidates.
    If one is a Christian, one should adhere and believe in this creed.

    Apostle’s Creed,
    I believe in God the Father Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth;
    And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;
    the third day he rose from the dead;
    he ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.

  • Mark Phillips

    After making my last posting I realized that the theory of evolution is a very new concept indeed, compared to the eternal nature of God and belief in Jesus Christ. Humanism and atheism, to me, are extensions of Greek stoicism. As a quick reference I a quote a source in wikipedia that hits the nail on the head. “Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; the philosophy holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand the universal reason (logos). A primary aspect of Stoicism involves improving the individual’s spiritual well-being: “Virtue consists in a will which is in agreement with Nature.”[2] This principle also applies to the realm of interpersonal relationships; “to be free from anger, envy, and jealousy”,[3] and to accept even slaves as “equals of other men, because all alike are sons of God.”[4] This is not such a bad philosophy in and of itself but it infers that mankind is sufficient and leaves the door open to setting man up as a god of himself. I feel, and I think many would agree, that finite man is very insufficient at controlling his own behavior, whether it is religious or non-religious.

    What then are we to say? If man is incapable of controling his behavior and eternal destiny then in whom should we put our trust?

    John 1:1
    “1In the beginning was the Word (Greek, logos, used in the same sense of the word), and the Word was with God (Jesus), and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.”

  • Anonymous

    If I may say somethng about it ,I would dare to say:you can´t hold the ar,you cannot touch,though you know it exists…someday,sometime you´ll see Jesus` light in your heart,and then you`ll understand us ,christian, and why we love HIM.
    Some people,I do not know if is his case, like everybody`s attention,if this is the case…he got it!

  • I don’t know, but indeed there are a lot of points in Christian, but that was great thinking..

  • Mr. Phillips, contemporary humanism goes far beyond a simple connection to Greek stoicism. As long as you’re in Wikipedia, you might read up on the subject of humanism as well, and I’ll call your particular attention to commentaries on religious humanism. Those who think of themselves as humanists comprise an extraordinarily diverse population, inclusive enough to incorporate people with deep religious beliefs – Christian and other – as well as those like Philip Pullman who are distrust and reject the irrational and supernatural.

    Here’s an interesting quote by Frederick Edwords, executive director of the American Humanist Association:

    “The fact that Humanism can at once be both religious and secular presents a paradox of course, but not the only such paradox. Another is that both Religious and Secular Humanism place reason above faith, usually to the point of eschewing faith altogether. The dichotomy between reason and faith is often given emphasis in Humanism, with Humanists taking their stand on the side of reason. Because of this, Religious Humanism should not be seen as an alternative faith, but rather as an alternative way of being religious.” See the complete article at

    I’ll try not to comment more on humanism at the risk of derailing the general discussion about HDM.

  • Sioned o Gymru

    Great interview! I found it from following a link on Philip Pullman’s website.

    Just wanted to say I find it quite funny that so many of the diatribes against Mr Pullman are so badly written – bad spelling, no punctuation and no paragraphs!

  • Anonymous

    r u going 2 write another book after the book of dust?

  • Anonymous

    please do write another book every1 loves this series!

  • Mo

    It is encouraging to see that both writers and commentators are able to express their thoughts in such a civilised and respectful manner. Obviously there are some who use this discussion as an excuse to flaunt their beliefs about, but in general I have to say I am quite suprised by the civility shown by the Christian members on this website – Forgive me if I sound arrogant or stereotypical, but it is not at all like this where I come from.

  • Anonymous


  • It’s difficult to know just where to begin after so much has been written in response to this interview. I had several profound reactions — both positive and negative, and also moments of consternation and confusion.

    My first reaction was to the article itself. I am a fan of Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, and it was through his website that I found this article. I consider myself to be a skeptic — I avoid words like “agnostic” and “atheist” as too decisive in their implications. Even being a fan of HDM, I had not been aware of until now the extent of PP’s atheism and was struck by the intensity of it in places. Many things he said resonated with me, but also I find some perilous gulfs in his philosophy, which have been touched on by others — especially pertaining to the break between materialism and an belief in or understanding of consciousness.

    Raffee said “Here also can only be one truth. God either exists or does not exist, and this is a universal truth, not for me to decide. This is not an aesthetc question which ‘each one of has has to answer on his own.’ If God does not exist, then I would be wrong, and since I am generally a good person guided by my genes and memes, then I will have lost nothing, and go to oblivion, But if God does really exist, then Mr. Pullman will be wrong (along with all those who agree with him) and they will have to give account for their deeds. This is the question that each of us has to answer on her/his own: If God exists, which side do I want to be on?”

    His final question is, to me, completely superficial. The question is not which side you want to be on — unless your moral philosophy is entirely consequentialist in nature, and therefore not really pertinent to religion anyway — indeed the more pressing issue is the earlier one he states, “Does God exist?” This is the question that gives rise to these arguments and discussions; this is the question that inflames debates and raises hackles and in the final calculation (some might say) makes life worth living.

    The other thing that struck me was the mention of the idea of justification through faith or works because my college history class just finished a section on Martin Luther and the reformation in which we read texts by both Luther and Calvin in which they described their struggle to reconcile the teachings of the Catholic Church on redemption of sins through works (e.g. penance, etc.) and the profound disquiet of their conscience (or soul, if you prefer) despite. This, I feel, is the difficulty Dwarf described in trying to understand the difference is being good for goodnesses sake and good for the sake of a God. Faith must be present and real (so says Luther) for a work (or thought, or penance) to be real in the eyes of God.

    Lastly I want to say, to me the most interesting thing I got out of HDM was the importance of original sin to humanity. It’s been a while since I last read the books — about 3 years now, I think, and I’d love to reread them but I can’t find my copies (which makes me very upset!) — but as I recall (and I may be mixing my reaction to HDM with some other things I’ve read, as I said, it’s been a while) as I recall Dust and original sin are tied together, and by the end of the story readers are led to believe that original sin, the knowledge of good and evil is what makes us human, indeed what defines free will. To me, this is the crucial thing. To me this is the essence of being human, the ability to understand (or create, or be taught) the difference between right and wrong — that this element is why no one can be fatalistic, or deterministic and tell a compelling story. This is why I believe PP says what he does about consciousness despite his avowed belief in materialism. This is why I love his books.

  • Hannah S

    I loved this interview! It gave me some insight into what the big fuss is about from those that dislike what Mr. Pullman wrote or disagree with the way he presented his views.

  • I enjoyed your interview.It has given me many answers I have wanted to ask on the subject Christianity after reading your books ,His Dark Materials.

  • I njoyed your interview.It has given me many answer’s I have wanted to ask on the subject Christianity after reading your books ,His Dark Materials.

  • To Mr. Pullman,
    I’m a science teacher in middle school. I teach about evolution and I always get a child who says, “I believe in god and he made adam and eve.” To which I have to stop my lesson and break down how (Allegedly) two human beings who had three sons, could not have created all of us. Let alone the incest implications. My students reply..”EWWW”!!! I have to explain to my students that although we are in public school, I can not give my personal views or opinions but let science show you what the possibilities are to that whole “adam and eve” theory. As a person who believes in science, I do not believe in god. IT is hard to teach evolution when so many are brainwashed by their religious groups that these “people, beings or idols” are somehow real and created humans and everything you see and touch. To look into the brainwashed students eyes is hard. I love my job very much but when it comes to evolution lessons, I dread walking on the egg shells. I have had my difficult experiences with religion in my life and with my children’s fundamental foundation. So, to end all the silly religious issues, we are now pagan. Period. We walk the path of nature and facts. Respect nature and give me only the facts. Thank you for a wonderful trilogy. I just read Lyra’s Oxford and now am reading your latest about Mr. Scoresby and how he met the polar bear king. Wonderful literature. Excellent revealing conversation you had here.

  • phillipshj30

    Psalm 19
    For the director of music. A psalm of David.
    1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they display knowledge.

    3 There is no speech or language
    where their voice is not heard. [a]

    4 Their voice [b] goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
    In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

    5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

    6 It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is hidden from its heat.

    7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
    reviving the soul.
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

    8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
    The commands of the LORD are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.

    9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
    enduring forever.
    The ordinances of the LORD are sure
    and altogether righteous.

    10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
    they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the comb.

    11 By them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

    12 Who can discern his errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.

    13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
    Then will I be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

    14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

  • Anonymous

    You missinterpret many many things. Read the bible fully and actually try to interpret it fullman and I can say you will become a christian. And dont just critic eveything in the bible while you read.

  • Anonymous

    Saying that there is no God is actually acknowledging a God in some way… and if you truly believe that there is no God why do you find the need to destroy it in others’ minds?

  • Anonymous

    Saying that there is no God is actually acknowledging a God in some way… and if you truly believe that there is no God why do you find the need to destroy it in others’ minds?

  • To the person above me,
    Saying that there is no god does not acknowledge his existence but acknowledges other peoples’ belief in his existence. Pullman is simply addressing the matter of belief in god rather than trying to make it seems as if there is a god to be destroyed. To me it seems the authority in the trilogy is not god but a physical metaphor for peoples’ belief in God. In the trilogy he exists simply as a device to question the philosophy of those who are so indoctrinated by religion.

    I find religion an interesting concept. It seems to me in every religion there is a system of merit; if you’re a good boy then you get a sweet. It seems to me this attitude does not encourage the healthy morals reliogion preaches but rather encourages the selfishness of man. People do things to gain merit rather than to help. Can’t people do good things without an alterior motive? If people do good deeds for their own selfish gain, then are they really good deeds? And how is any religion ‘good’ in teaching this. If there is a religion not based on such a system then I would be very interested to hear about it.

  • Anonymous

    This is so long…

  • Pullman is a real good thinker. Interesting.

    I find it funny that the Journo has pointed out that Dawkins Hitchens and Pullman are all from the same country…

    Hmm… Godless country? I suppose the demographic has had more experience with threocratic organisations acting pretty Godly, rather than America.

  • First, excellent interview. It is always amazing and makes me very happy to see intelligence and respect between two people with very different views. While I did get the feeling of a couple semi loaded questions, still very kudos to the both of you.

    Second, my concerns on much of this is that if u truly hold to heart you beliefs or faiths in this world, then how could a story or book change that. No book or story should ever be band or be said to be “evil” to read or hear. Not even books created by villains or tyrants from human history.

    If a book can changes a persons beliefs or faiths then that persons beliefs or faiths are what the person should question, not the books. On the other hand many books bring up questions that should be asked of course, but, I truly think no one should ever say not to read a certain book because it disagrees with there own views. That only would show weakness in that persons views.

    And last, to anyone who has not read the HDM trilogy, you’re really missing out. It may have some views I believe in and others I don’t, but that does not matter in the slightest to me.

    It is an amazingly creative and inspiring story, perhaps the best I’ve ever read. It has villains, triumphs over evil, monsters, heroes, love, suspense and everything else that goes into making a great story. And bottom line, that is the only thing you should ever be concerned about when reading a story. The fact that when your finally finish it, u can sit back and think “that was a great adventure”.

  • Anonymous

    to all athesist or people who want a way to express their personnel feelings consider the

    A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements.

  • James H

    Thank you both for sharing this interview, it has given me both great confidence in my choice to be Athiestic and the confidence to say what needs to be said for me to stand up for what I believe in.

    The part that affected me the most was the question dealing with HDM reflecting ‘Christian’ qualities. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Pullman. The idea that my kindness towards other humans came from a figment of medival imagination is both reprehensible and slightly repulsive. Without a doubt Christianity has many great virtues to be proud of, but to take it as far as to label the virtues themselves as Christian-like is wrong.

    Both sides are brilliant and I feel fortunate to have found this interview while casually browsing the internet. I will be sure to refer to it often.

  • Anonymous

    this was an insightful conversation. im not a christian but i dont dismiss the idea of a ‘god’ obviously PP has come across some ‘evidence’ that proves the non-existance of any such ‘god’

    but anyway back to the film, i have seen the film, im a projectionist so iv probably seen it more than most, but not by choice, and im glad that i was being paid to see this rather than paying.

    even so, honestly i didnt think it was a bad film because of any ‘anti-religious’ messages or such… was just a badly made film.

    no plot, poorly concieved characters, poorly acted, visual effects looked like they were done by a kid who just started using photoshop. some of the worst dialogue (“you can write this shit but you cant say it”-harrison ford)

    but the one thing i dont understand no matter how many times i watched it was the ideas of these daemon things.

    note all the evil characters have animals like wolves and such, why werent these people noticed and kept an eye on during adolesence? surely it would have been a dead give away. to me the whole weight of the film falls cus of this.

    honestly i havent read the books, so i couldnt comment, maybe they are alot better and to be honest i couldnt care less. but as far as the film interpretation goes….its gash! i wouldnt recommend it to my worst enemy.

    as a projectionist i sincerly hope they dont make any more….*begs* please new line dont make any more

    again im not dissing the film because im christian and disagree with PP’s views, i find any athiest’s or religious persons views interresting….just i hate bad films that dont go any where and this is certainly one of those.

    please avoid.
    ramble over

  • Anonymous

    I do not denounce Pullmans philosophy that he presents in his books, in fact, I sincerely respect his views as I hope he will respect mine, but I cannot help asking myself, has Pullman ever tried to open his heart to God or his sacred word. I have a concern for a man that denounces God, and I hope that he will at least speak to God as if he hears and seek him as if he might actually find something. God can give a peace in life that cannot be explained, or reproduced. At the same time God can give the most uncomfortable feeling of despair and uneasiness.

  • This is a great site. Thank you for your information. I THANK YOU I SALUTE YOU IT,S A AMZING SITE.

  • Anonymous

    It was a great discussion – so reassuring to know that human beings with profound differences can air them politely and agree to disagree. The real evil is those who can’t do that and who, it has to be said, are sometimes motivated to senseless violence by a twisted interpretation of religion.

    The only question that is perhaps not contemplated sufficiently here is the nature of faith: if anything about the spiritual world were proven beyond doubt, there would be no need, no room for faith. The world would be an entirely, completely different place. There would be no room for free will because we would all have to bow down completely to whatever the “proven” spiritual superpower wanted. The authority of the church (or whatever it was) would be absolute and unquestionable. It is practically unimaginable.

    So in debating whether the spiritual exists, whether there is a God, whether religion should be observed or respected, there are no absolute rights and wrongs. We will never know until (as some believe, including me) we die.

    In “Life of Pi”, there is the wonderful observation that proof and evidence will only get you so far in your understanding and, after that, everyone has to make a leap into the unknown. Mr Pullman makes his leap, but people with faith have every right to take theirs without the hint of criticism from anyone else.

    We can never prove anything one way or another and, therefore, I do believe it is a kind of arrogance to believe that you can actually “prove” the non-existence of God or spirituality through sheer reasoning or superior intellect. That’s just wrong. Like Pi, you can make your leap of faith and I respect you for it, but you cannot go around implying that yours is the only “reasonable” way.

  • dvector

    Just a note prompted by the mention of faith in the previous post, I like this authorative definition: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld”

    Faith requires hard evidence and I personally see evidence of a Creator/ God.

  • Lf

    First of all, I would like to express my deepest respect for Philip Pullman, because he has written some of the best books I have ever read.

    I am neither a Christian nor an Atheist. I must say, I am confused. Unfortunately, I am the type of person who needs proof before I can start to believe. So how can I ever believe in any religion?
    Bit this shouldn’t suggest that I find someone deluded and stupid, just because they believe in something. I actually consider them lucky.

    However, I don’t think one should look at the characters as either good or bad, because there is, in fact, no bad guys in these books, in my opinion. If you think about it, all parts only want for the world what they think is best. The Christians from Lyras world want to kill her to prevent her from being tempted, and thereby prevent sin. Do I agree with them? No, not at all. And what makes them look like the bad guys is the methods they use. But even if their minds minds are twisted by the belief of what they MUST do to save everyone, their intentions are not evil. Lord Asriel is against the church, but you cannot call him a bad guy either, because he only does what he thinks is right, because he believes in something too.

    I think people forget this,when they wright such hatefull comments.

  • Anonymous

    To LadyHawk529:

    I am almost 12 and am about to start 6th grade. I can’t wait to stand up in front of my science class one day and walk out because I’m not going to listen to evolution crap. Or maybe I can bring my Bible into class when she says we’re going to start on the origin of the world and read that instead of the textbook that lies.

  • Humanist

    My, how precocious for somewhat not quite 12! It is such a pleasure to be enlightened by someone so young who knows so much more than his or her teachers. Or as a particularly reactionary U.S. Congressman was once heard to say, “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” We can’t wait for you to act out your courageous threat to denounce your instructor and walk out of class. By all means come back and tell us how it goes.

    Or could it be that you’re not a child at all – merely a troublemaking adult making an amateurish attempt at stirring the pot?

  • Anonymous

    i am a 12 yr old girl who have read the books and loved them. I don’t believe mr pullman wrote these books to promote atheisim. All i want to say is that these books did not change my mind on god at all. i don’t think he wanted to change any childs mind about if there is a god or not

  • Julian Wilson

    What really annoyed me was that in your afterword you say thanks to friends family and books you have read, but tend to omit the books name that you take the most from i.e. the bible. Even though you quote from this book abundantly and without it your book would be nothing. Why? Would like to know the answer.

  • I just finished HDM and found this blog and the thing i find most interesting is that people on both sides of this “argument” seem to not see that anything that makes you think about or rethink your stand point on religionspiritualityphilosophy is a good thing. It will either strengthen your view or waver it and if it wavers you need to question yourself deeper. And deep in yourself is where you find answers not in other people and their beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    To Humanist:

    Hello. I would just like to say that I have been going to youth group at my church and we have been watching videos on creation vs. evolution. Here is something that I have to say on the proof that God created the world.

    1. The comets. Scientists say that comets have a lifespan of about 10,000 years. If the Earth is billions of years, why are we still seeing comets? (It is not the Oort cloud)
    2. If evolution is true and there is no God, then what is the meaning of life?
    3. What about the bones the Smithsonian is trying to hide. Like, say, a thighbone almost as tall as I am! (I’m about 5′ tall)
    4. Where did the canopy go?
    5. This is intended for LadyHawke 529: It was not Adam and Eve that completely populated the Earth. It was Noah’s three sons and their wives that repopulated the Earth after the flood.
    6. The Earth is not billions of years old. It is around 6,000 years old. You want proof? Add up the dates in the Bible. THE BIBLE DOESN’T LIE.

    What do you think of what you believe about evolution now? Why won’t you believe in God when the evidence of His Love, Faith, Wisdom and Grace are staring you right in the face?

  • Humanist

    I’m not certain why you chose to address your comment to me, but I stand in awe of your reasoning and intellect. I don’t know where you live or what your educational plans may be, but suggest you consider applying without delay to Harvard, Dartmouth or Princeton here in the U.S. or to Oxford or Cambridge in the U.K. After all, you want to change the world, don’t you? Be sure to enclose your blog post with your college application so that the school can gain a true appreciation for your thought processes. Best wishes for success.

    Oh, by the way, where did you get it that I don’t believe in God? As I have said before, my faith is my business and your remark is personally offensive when you assert that I don’t believe in God. Read what I’ve said before and think about it in total, youngster. You have no right to make such assertions.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I do have the right to make that assumption. Your screen name is “Humanist” which means that you believe in the evolution theory.

    And why did you recommend that I apply to top rate colleges. I’m still considering if I even want to stay in Nebraska to go to college!

  • I just finished the trilogy for the second time and again am amazed by the originality here. Thank you Mr. Pullman. To me they are not an attack on anyone, just an amazing work of art – an opportunity to experience things from a perspective not my own. Spectacular.

    I was shocked by the venomous comments from the christian/catholic/religious contingent. ‘Humanist’ – props, though a bit sassy.

    ‘If said’ – check out Nichiren Daishonins Buddhism (SGI) if you like proof that a practice can enhance your life without judgement (on anyone or any religion) – I’ve found it to be intelligent, strengthening and enlightening. No belief – proof.

    I’m shocked that any person can find these books so threatening. You only have to look within yourself to be guided by your own inherent moral compass to know what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for you. Build your strength from within! Educate yourself, ask questions when you feel yourself reacting in fear to something – you can trust yourself, surely.

    I am not christian though raised in a christian society – roman catholic no less… The guilt never dies! ha. I call myself a ‘recovering catholic’. The atrocities of that church are deep and ongoing. I am human; subject to my own judgements and opinions – always trying to keep in mind that in the scope of things, I know next to nothing. Open heart; open mind. While I have been crippled by some experiences in my life, they have only enhanced my empathy and compassion for all of us. No one has ‘The’ answer. Surely if there is a god who created all, there are as many ways to it/he/she/them as there are grains of sand, or stars in the universe, or molecules of existence. If there is a god.

    Like someone else here said, my beliefs are my own. There are many ancient religions and practices much, much older than Jesus – and he obviously learned and benefited from many of them, which he demonstrated in his teachings. Fear is the enemy of us all. If you want to use a God construct, there is nothing outside of God. Nothing. Not good not evil not anything. So why so much fear? Can’t you feel when your heart is singing with joy? Don’t you know when you are living in the wholeness of yourself correctly? What more do you want? Why would you try to tear someone away from their path to join one that may not be ‘right’ or ‘correct’ for them? It is so very, very personal.

    Sorry for the soapbox – the venom, though – wow!

  • Humanist

    Stay in Nebraska – please. When one knows all the answers, why go anywhere else and risk being exposed to facts and knowledge that might jeopardize one’s preconceptions? It’s so comforting to attain absolute certainty from church basement movies produced and marketed by religious charlatans, fobbing off pseudo-science on the gullible.

    You sir have managed to amaze me with your complete and total blind stupidity. So be proud. Your “Proof” of the bible being right is hilarious. So stand up and be proud :D. I salute your ignorance. I think I will start taking bets on how long it takes u to be in the Darwin awards ^^. As others said, for the sake of all that is good and intelligent in the world, please stay in the backwoods of Nebraska.

    Ps. My apologies to everyone for this little banter, but my god, mine not yours haha, I couldn’t help myself.

  • Pps. This blog might make a good book.

  • are you going to make movies for all the books? your interview was inspring! Thank you!

  • Me

    Philip Pullman, although having strong beliefs, does not impose these upon anyone, something that I believe religion does. He simply wrote a STORY BOOK, A WORK OF FICTION. To anyone, not necessarily on this thread, who has criticised him, I think they should realise that people are allowed to express their opinions, regardless of their religion. If you don’t like what Pullman has to say, don’t read his books!
    As for the 12 year old girl from Nebraska, perhaps you should grow up a few years before shouting your beliefs around, all of which are utter rubbish in my opinion. I feel sorry for you, you’re a first class case of how religion is immoral. No doubt you have had religion shoved down your throat, with no chance to put any kind of personal attachment to your beliefs.
    I was debating with fellow classmates a few days ago, ll of whom were religous, and they all agreed that ‘science is a new religion’. Science deals with fact, and does not force people to waste their lives praying to a non-existent force, one who commands what is right and wrong, arbitrarily for that matter. The God of classical theism is a dictator.
    I can only hope that what the 12 year old from Nevada is taught, sorry made, to believe is a dieing tradition, though I think that will be wishful thinking.

    Philip Pullman, we all owe you so much for broadening so many peoples minds, and exposing so many insecure believers. ‘Amen’.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for a wonderful read.I loved every page and am sad to have finished.

  • Anonymous

    rhetotic and intellect appear to be mutually exclisive 🙂

  • Humanist

    So does proofreading.

  • Anonymous

    Dear commenters,
    I am also 12 and would like to say a few words about the real subject:The Books.I think PP’s “Authory” is what has come of humans trying to control others though the “fear of God”. The real divine presence is the Dust and/or Angels. I read almost all of the comments on this dialogue and though it was mostly adults arguing their point I also found some children my own age commenting. One of them stated that they were not influenced towards atheism AT ALL.I feel the same way! Ask the us what happened instead of speaking for us!! The story of Lyra and Will is a moving story. I hope you can all be at peace with one another! This is coming from a twelve Y.O. girl. Thank you for your time people.

  • Anonymous

    woohoo to the 12 yr old girl who agreed with me about the whole not affected by mr pullman’s athesim belifs. also everyone has a right to their belifs and although we should all discuss them it might be a good idea not to call people idiots just cause of what they believe. just a suggestion 🙂

    p.s heaps of 12yrs old are posting comments go us 🙂

  • Doda

    Pullman: How can you be adamant in the supposed “fact” that God does not exist? I, personally, cannot surely state the the Lord exists, but, in my admitting that, It also shows the vulnerability of both our claims. obviously there is no tangible 100% effective proof that shows that God does, or does not, exist, or there would be no bickering or disagreement over the matter. however, in my perception of the Earth’s complexity, as tcblank said, and my own personal experience which i do not care to disclose, whether a sure statement or not, i stand by the fact that God exists, “without a doubt”. Misconceptions, the division of His followers, and people like you who choose to follow a “logical” path, whom succumb to earthly views, and care not to venture into the beauty of any other possibility, are the basis of the world’s greatest chaotic features. I implore that you ponder quite a bit more over the stone- sure statement you so ignorantly make.

  • cyd in california

    people! what is going on here? and what does punctuation and spelling have to do with anything? and i am seeing a lot of rhetoric and intellectual babel going on and it looks more like one-up-man-ship rather than an intelligent debate. why the sci-fi bull shit?

    but for the teacher that calls Christian children “brainwashed”?! “brainwashed”!!?? excuse me but you are out of line. what kind of open mind is that for a “scientist”? i am a 61 year old Christian and was raised as a Lutheran. i am not stupid (as pp sees it) nor brainwashed, on the contrary, i am a successful business woman. free will and faith are the basis of Christianity. as for your “teachings”, we have no idea how long the “days” were during the creation. it could have been months, years, centuries between the setting of the sun at that time. and theory is there were other humans created before adam and eve (the two who were made specifically in God’s image in thought and intelligence), like test subjects, just like monkeys were. no need for incest, as you seem to love to say to those children (that’s disgusting in itself). why would you rather think you came from apes rather than as intelligent being? well, that is YOUR theory but i do not want you to brainwash MY children with YOUR beliefs. maybe you should try asking questions at a bible study before you make assumptions on the facts of the bible teachings. you may be surprised at how wrong you just might be.

    and, no, not all Christians are good (many take advantage of it) and not all atheists are bad. no Christian i know believes that. so that argument is bull. we are all just human beings with, again, free will. that is God’s gift to us, to have faith that he exists or to not believe. it’s your choice.

    i have really just one question. how could a false belief last over 2000 years by so many “stupid” people or a book (the bible) be the most published, most read and also be around for 2000 years if it is so ridiculous? there have been many religions come and go (jim jones said HE was the christ…opps, guess not!!) but Christianity has survived the test of time. if you want to ignore THAT fact, it is again up to you.

    what you want to believe is totally up to you but how dare you try to persuade children, with disgusting remarks, to believe your “theory” over their parents belief! i wouldn’t let you within 500 yards of my children. how dare you make yourself an authority over those children’s parents!


    I just saw the movie “The Golden Compass” on television. I fell in love with the story and can hardly wait to read the book. I hope it is a continuing saga and there will be move movies.
    Does anybody have a First Edition of Golden Compass for sale?
    Linda Norcross Dossey.

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  • Anonymous

    I would before all things like once more to thank our two interlocutors for their civil discussion. Though I realise it may not be a compliment to Mr. Pullman, I found both to have embodied the calm style of the Angelic Doctor, as well as Socrates.

    First, there seems to be some misunderstanding about the significance of statements such as, “The Good is meaningless without God,” or, “God is necessary for ethical behaviour.” Forgive me if the matter has already been addressed. As a Catholic, I hold the notion to be true, in two ways.

    The first is the obvious explanation, that Heaven and Hell are warnings and pleas for our obedience to God. Scripture, all of Scripture, is conducive towards our salvation, and thus we cannot ignore the vivid descriptions of both Paradise and damnation.

    Yet there is a second point, too often ignored. God is, in Christian theology, equated with the Good. Thus, a Christian would argue, to deny the existence of an absolute God is to deny the existence of an absolute Good. Thus, the natural law is denied, and one is left to rely on oneself and oneself alone for moral law, a trait common to Lucifer and all the tyrants ever to have been tempted and condemned by him.

    I would again like to extend my thanks to both gentlemen involved in the interview. Thank you for a mannerly exhibition of religious discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Dear other anonymous 12 Y.o.,
    Thanks for replying!!! I’m sorry if my comment made it sound like other people were idiots. But adults really should give us more voice. Peace peoples- Anonymous 🙂

  • Anonymous

    P.S. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted a daemon. 😀

  • Your books are absolutely amazing.
    I have read The Golden Compass and I am halfway through The Subtle Knife. I wish you could come to Australia and do some book sings in Mackay. bye!

  • Phillip Pullman if you had magic to give people deamons, I would be one of them.

  • phillipshj30

    Ontological Argument
    What follows is a typical statement of the ontological argument. As you will see, it is a reductio ad absurdum argument; that means it begins by assuming the denial of what is to be proven, shows that the denial leads to a contradiction, and deduces that the denial is false (and thus that what is to be proven is true).
    ‘God’ =df. the greatest possible being.
    God doesn’t exist. (Assumption.)
    It’s possible that there be a being just like God in all respects except existence who does in fact exist (call this being ‘Zeus’). (From 1.)
    If Zeus were just like God in all respects except existence and did in fact exist, then Zeus would be greater than God. (From the fact that it is greater to exist than not to exist.)
    It’s possible that there be a being greater than God. (From 2 and 3.)
    It’s not possible that there be a being greater than God. (From the definition of ‘God.’)
    Thus, God exists. (From 1 through 5 by indirect proof.)

  • Humanist

    Unfortunately, your ontological argument trips over itself and collapses just one step out of the starting gate. In point 2 you suggest that "it's possible" that some being "like God" exists.

    In the following points, however, through some sort of mental alchemy, you argue as if point 2 were not just a possibility, but hard fact. That's akin to a runner in a baseball game stepping outside the base path to avoid being tagged by an infielder. It's an automatic out.

    As to ontology, it is perplexing that so many who profess their religious beliefs seem impelled to discover some temporal, finite proof to support them.

    The foundation of religious belief goes beyond everyday logic to something more sublime – articles of faith. As John Wesley preached, "Faith in general is a divine, supernatural 'elegchos,' 'evidence' or 'conviction,' 'of things not seen,' not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual."

  • Unbelievers are right in most of their thinking

    You might be one of those who are abandoning Christianity; one for whom religious beliefs are not just irrelevant, but baseless. You might be right, at least to some extent. Some traditional beliefs are not true, and the “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. Most people don’t dare to confront their religious beliefs, and opt for the status quo, afraid of abandoning the “certainty” of their convictions. Most have become marginalized from the institutional Church, and try to find an environment in which they may fill a vacuum in their lives.

    An illuminating book gives hope to you! The author accepted the challenge of finding the One who is recognized, even by Gnostics and atheists—the Existence. “Christianity Reformed From its Roots – A Life Centered in God” is perhaps a generation ahead of the current mentality, but you might find that there is something for you, too!

    Bishop John Shelby Spong says of this book that it “rightly points out that those who seek to defend Christianity’s past are also killing Christianity’s future.” I am attaching two reviews of the book by eminent philosophers and thinkers that might give you an idea if this book is an insightful reading for you. You might look also at excerpts of the book at this link of


    Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
    Author – Retired Episcopal Priest
    Carmel Valley, California

  • Humanist

    Looking forward to reading your book, Father Meija.

  • It's probably been forever since anyone has commented on this, but the passage about counter-reformation paintings reminded me from a passage from "The Violent Bear It Away" where the freethinker Raybear thinks of his uncle the "prophet":

    “He always felt with it a rush of longing to have the old man’s eyes—insane, fish-coloured, violent with their impossible vision of a world transfigured…[it] was like an undertow in his blood dragging him backwards to what he knew to be madness."

    The fact that the images he mentioned make Pullman so repulsed is not hard to understand. He considers them deluded, so their ecstasy is hateful. But I can't help but wonder, if in his case as well as certain other virulent atheists, if the urge to attack religion is itself a means of replacing the religious impulse with something else.

    In any case, I cannot like him. Usually, I am the sort of Christian who tries to give a humble, conciliatory response to this sort of thing. But you know, this is really my honest feeling: he is a brilliant man, but he is in the Devil's power.

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  • Hi there
    i was wondering what are your bEliefs and do your beliefs have an affection on what you write?

  • Hi!
    I really extremely enjoyed reading all of your golden compass series of books! i especially loved the lantern slides, they gave me a much beter look on it.
    The last lantern slide in the last book of the series was a great one, it really made me feel it (and i hate to admit it but i cried XD)
    i love your work and i really hope the second and third book will be made into a movie 🙂
    ~i didnt find your book offensive even though im a christian because its not that bad and some of it is possible, but i found it still amazing 🙂
    ~i am looking forward to reading more of your books! 🙂

    Your biggest fan,
    Sierra L. 🙂

  • 00000

    Is Pullman jealous of Tolkien? Face it, you’ll never be as good as he was.