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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Atheist's Narnia

The new movie "The Golden Compass" is based on a series of book I've never heard of called "His Dark Materials" by an angry atheist named Philip Pullman.

As a side, why does it seem all outspoken atheists I know of are angry? Must have had a beloved hamster die when they were kids or something.

Here's a snippet from THIS article in which we are treated to Pullman's review of CS Lewis' Narnia:

"I loathe the 'Narnia' books," Pullman has said in previous press interviews. "I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away." He has called the series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things" he's ever read.

Wow...tell us how you really feel Phil? A "deep and bitter passion"? Huh.

THIS article has more details about the anti-religious theme. It would appear in Pullman's work we see the grand hope that atheism offers: hedonism. The notion that religion "poisons everything" is just odd to me...like the atheist world view spontaneously generates a utopia of peace, love, and dope? What in atheism does that? As long as I can take advantage of people and do better than others, doesn't THAT answer the Darwinian call of the wild moreso than a shared (which automatically implies sacrifice - a distinctive CHRISTIAN value and theme) utopia? I mean really now, how is the notion of living in peace and harmony (at the expense of my personal pleasure and advancement - the fulfillment of my all my selfish desires) any different that the rejection of the world's pleasures for a life of solitary prayer (as one of Pullman's character's complains about)?

As for the angry atheist's radio show on "Air America"? Well, just another example as to why that network is failing.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:54 AM [+]


Ironically, most of the venom towards him has seemed to be because of his dislike of Narnia ;)

I couldn't care one way or another, books are well, fiction, and I honor those who choose to not make them available to their kids, but don't worry that they are out there. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that my oldest has read the first one and maybe the second, but not the third one.

By Blogger Mimi, at 2:19 PM  


It seems to me that he has flung plenty of venom of his own.

Narnia was fiction as well...and yet...clearly allegorical; intended to express some notion of truth and reality.

I generally see allegory as a means of celebrating something...or perhaps a means of viewing something from a new perspective. As such, given my background, I wouldn't read Pullman.

I've been an angry atheist (chock full of venom) and I'm not sure I'd want to read any allegory I would have written back then. But then, I'm likely never going to make a living writing...so there's more than world view reasons for avoiding my work as an angry atheist.

That being said, as I read some of the excerpts I can certainly glean some fallacies in his arguments...some strawmen and many misconceptions about theism and Christianity in general. But being unable to interact with such arguments drives me crazy. Plus Pullman is in a place where I once used to be and it is a ugly place.

By Blogger fdj, at 2:40 PM  


Plus Pullman is in a place where I once used to be and it is a ugly place.

That's very, very, very true.

Yeah, I agree that there's been plenty of venom, it just cracks me up that so much attention has been on his view of Narnia, you know? Like, "he can say whatever he wants UNTIL he critiques Narnia" Anyway, I'm not advocating rushing out and buying the books, and I'm certainly not planning on reading them anytime soon. And, I believe in being informed about books and what the themes are, just not censoring for others or worrying unduly that a single book will turn someone away from their path (not indicating that you are doing either, just stating my positions).

Good to see you back in this neck of the woods.

By Blogger Mimi, at 3:11 PM  


I hear ya...I'm not concerned so much with any individual losing their faith...my interest is in the fact that the book series is a hit (at least in the UK).

Plus, it's not his criticism of CS Lewis...but his choice of words: "loathe...hate...deep and bitter passion...ugly and poisonous"

This brings back memories for me because I used to hate Christian things in similar fashion. Today, I don't think I would speak such venom even about children's books designed to introduce our kids to "My Two Daddies" (or whatever) and I am supposed to be the one who hates stuff (or so the bumper sticker says: "Hate is NOT a family value.")

I think it does say something about where we are as a society that we would make a bestseller out of a book that apparently derides the notions of "God" and "Church"? (and mind you I have not read the books and can only garner my info from quotes)

It would have never been published at the time that Narnia first appeared. The mention of which doesn't mean that I'm not calling for a ban or anything, but I do note that its success is a sort of litmus test for our cultural mindset.

As many well know, I have long looked to cultural markers to discern where we are and where we are headed. I'm generally not encouraged and expect the newest round of persecutions to begin in short order. But that's paranoid, I know.

By Blogger fdj, at 9:00 PM  



How is this Godless movie for children any different than any of the other dozens of Godless movies for children that we've watched? Seriously, CAN he divorce himself from the Judeo-Christian context and still have a story worth listening to? Have you read any Japanese fiction recently?

Haven't read the books but I bet there's heroism there and the very deffinition of heroism has been set in our culture by - you guessed it - our Faith. The "god" the girl is supposed to kill isn't really God at all, but an evil being. As you've pointed out, evil can't really exist in an atheistic context. It requires a "good".

What's the kerffuffle?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:38 PM  


Hi James,

I think you'd be interested a recent article on Beliefnet by Dinesh D’Souza: "The Opiate of the Morally Corrupt." Here are some excerpts:

Sigmund Freud saw religion as providing a cowardly refuge from the harsh realities of life and the inevitability of death... Wish fulfillment would most likely give rise to a very different God than the one described in the Bible. Wish fulfillment can explain heaven, but it cannot explain hell.

... the reason many atheists are drawn to deny God, and especially the Christian God, is to avoid having to answer in the next life for their lack of moral restraint in this one.

In a powerful essay, “The Discreet Charm of Nihilism,” Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz argues that in order to escape from an eternal fate in which our sins are punished, man seeks to free himself from religion. “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.” So the Marxist doctrine needs to be revised. It is not religion that is the opiate of the people, but atheism that is the opiate of the morally corrupt.

If you want to live a degenerate life, God is your mortal enemy. He represents a lethal danger to your selfishness, greed, lechery and hatred. It is in your interest to despise Him and do whatever you can to rid the universe of His presence.

Full article can be found here

By Blogger Pintradex, at 10:36 PM  


>What's the kerffuffle?

What is the message in the books? What is the author trying to get across and does he accomplish it?

I'll reserve my judgment of the book beyond having some personal experience being an angry atheist. Perhaps the tale is as seemingly innocent as the "Wizard of Oz"...but it sounds to me like he's not one to beat around the bush.

By Blogger fdj, at 3:50 PM  


What's all the kerfuffle?

I'm guessing there must be quite a kerfuffle if the Catholic League has written a complete little booklet you can order online titled "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked" and are trying to boycott the movie.

It isn't necessarily the movie that we must worry about but just like other book movies it will undoubtedly promote the book. "If the movie is good just think of how awesome the book will be." It is being targeted towards OUR children to learn to love and if you have a big reader??? According to the Catholic League the books are quite blatant in their hatred towards God and as the trilogy progresses they become more so.

I've been searching reviews of the book this morning...the movie has been noted by many different sources to be a very watered down version...I came across a 5-star review that, to me, was quite disturbing. A quote from the review says (he started out by saying he just finished reading the entire trilogy to his 3 children all under 13)
Author Philip Pullman concludes, without didactic hamfistedness, that the first purpose of churches and governments is self-perpetuation through maintaining the ignorance of their adherents and citizens. The greatest wisdom and joy, in Pullman's worlds, comes of full, mortal, bodily engagement with the physical world per se: with domestic comforts, food, sex, art, aesthetic involvement, work well done, craft, cleverness, etc. The well-earned consciousness of a human adult, earned through Blakean experience, is the crowning moment of all creation. Antithetical to this wisdom and consciousness is dogmatic narowness, asceticism, monasticism, self-denial, narrowness of experience.
That this idea is dramatized through the adventure stories of children is remarkable.

By Blogger Susan Sophia, at 7:31 AM  


SS...that is a fascinating review and I think sums up my concerns. What is the overriding theme...what is being communicated? In the context of the story: What is considered good and noble? What is considered evil and bad?

The reviewer gives us insight into what is considered the source of "greatest wisdom and joy" and what is interesting to me is that none of the things mentioned are "bad" in and of themselves - rather what we do with them.

The "evil" ascribed to notions of "god", "church", "asceticism, monasticism, and self-denial" is indeed where MY kerffuffle lies. Pullman makes no secret about his agenda and purpose. I've no wish to be entertained by it, since neither the book nor the movie will respond to my questions or concerns.

By Blogger fdj, at 8:10 AM  


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