Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) have been getting a lot of attention. Many Christians are up in arms over the anti-Christian and supposedly atheistic theme of the the trilogy. Now that the first novel, The Golden Compass, is a major motion picture the rancor has increased.
Why are these Christians so upset? It’s simple – they’re right in the thought that Pullman’s His Dark Materials is intended to be both anti-Christian church (anti-Catholic to be more specific) and atheistic. Generally reliable sources confirm that Pullman wrote the works to promote atheism in the same way that C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia promoted Christianity. Pullman’s trilogy is in admitted fact a reworking of Milton’s classic 17th-century poem Paradise Lost into a children’s tale.
I’m Pagan so the anti-Christian church theme doesn’t particularly bother me. I’m not thrilled with the atheistic message contained in the works, but I feel that intelligent readers can see more of the author’s bitterness and disillusionment than of any basis for denying the existence of some form of divinity.
That doesn’t mean I believe that His Dark Materials is suitable reading material for children and many young teens. I firmly believe that the works were egregiously miscategorized. The material is these works is far too complex, dark, and grim for children.
The villains are on par with any of literature’s worst and the books show the actions of those villains with garish details – acts that make the most hideous techniques employed at GITMO pale in comparison. This, combined with the near constant failure, setback and grief that the young heroes experience despite their best efforts, makes the books unsuitable in my opinion for younger readers. I don’t think that children need to read stories that unrelentingly highlight that all plans can fail and that sometimes there are no good choices.
To sum it up – I thought the books were a good read – for adults!