Philip Pullman Sets Aside His Dark Materials For His Dark Messiahs

Illustration for article titled Philip Pullman Sets Aside His Dark Materials For His Dark Messiahs

He raised the ire of readers all over the world with his sideways glance at the Catholic Church in the series "His Dark Materials." With his new novel, Philip Pullman imagines a Jesus that had, yes, an evil twin brother.

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Never one to shy away from religion — given that his Dark Materials series openly questioned the tenets of the Catholic church — Philip Pullman, in his new book, takes things one step further. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, out this Wednesday, posits the question: What if Mary gave birth to twin sons, Jesus and Christ? And what if Jesus was much like the savior familiar from the Gospels, but Christ was a wee bit like Judas, tempting him and, eventually, betraying him?

Illustration for article titled Philip Pullman Sets Aside His Dark Materials For His Dark Messiahs
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Towards the end of The Good Man, Jesus himself questions the necessity of a church itself, saying "the governors of this church will declare that such-and-such a nation or such-and-such a people is evil and ought to be destroyed...and they'll raise their standard over the smoking ruins of what was once a fair and prosperous land and declare that God's kingdom is so much the larger and more magnificent as a result." Pullman admits "he really is speaking for me in that section." He then goes on to say, "The greatest excuse in the world is that 'God told me to do it': hence the Crusades. Once you are appealing to an authority that can't be checked, you are doing something dangerous."

Alternate histories are part of the foundation of science fiction, as is the reinterpretation of myth, but is Pullman's treating the Bible as a series of fables a valid storytelling path or simply a tact designed to stir and agitate and sell? And is either, necessarily, a bad thing?

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DISCUSSION

Anekanta
Anekanta - spoon denier

I've seen the Golden Compass movie, but I haven't read any of Pullman's work. So it's hard for me to judge whether he's just trying to sell books or something else. But I think he's making some intelligent statements. "Why do we need a church or a holy book to mediate our understanding of God?" It's a good question.

And he's right when he says: "Once you are appealing to an authority that can't be checked, you are doing something dangerous."

God shouldn't be telling people what to do or be regarded as an ultimate "authority." If you believe in a deity, then God should be like a good friend, not a Lord and judge. God is conscience and wisdom and compassion. The moment someone says "God Commands" this or that... I say they're not listening to God at all.