Their dark imaginings

7th November 2003 at 00:00
As a Christian and a teacher, I felt I had to respond to the article "Christian anger at blasphemous play" (TES, October 24). I wonder how many of those who seek to condemn Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy have actually read the books.

To me the books are not about denying the existence of God but rather questioning the nature of God. What sort of God do we believe in? How blindly do we follow those with the authority of the Church?

Pullman's novels explore these themes and in a fantasy world come to their own conclusions. They invite the reader to question fundamental issues about who God is and what is his real influence in their lives. Pullman is in fact following in the footsteps of other literary giants such as Blake and Milton in questioning our ideas about God.

Yes, in Pullman's books, God is nothing more than an ancient and decrepit angel who simply falls apart when he encounters Will and Lyra. But this is just a story. The reason why children should be encouraged to read His Dark Materials is first and foremost that they represent some of the finest children'steenage literature to have been written in many years. The breadth of Pullman's narrative and the scope of his fantastic vision is equal to Tolkien or anything that has been written since. Let children revel in this.

Then ask, why do people not want children to read these books? Is it because they believe that they will make them atheists? In that case perhaps children should just stick to safe Christian narratives such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Though I would point out that in my school many of the children do not come from a Christian heritage and would probably find CS Lewis' s books far more offensive than Pullman's.) Or are people afraid of Pullman's books because they encourage us to question what we believe in, which authorities we choose to follow and how we show our love for each other?

I believe that only by encouraging everyone, not just children, to question their beliefs in the spiritual, moral and social dimensions of their lives will they attain a truly adult sense of who they are. Surely, as we see constantly on television the devastation wreaked in the name of religion as Christians, Jews and Muslims all fight for what they believe in we need to encourage the next generation of children to ask who is God? What do I believe in and how will this make me act in life?

Perhaps if more of us were brave enough to discuss these questions with our children we would build a better understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others regardless of their faith.

Read Phillip Pullman's work and ask yourself why is it being condemned. Is it because he writes profoundly immoral work or is it because people are afraid of the questions they may have to answer?

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