I am currently working on a much lengthier reaction to Pullman’s His Dark Materials Series but I thought I would take a break and comment on this article that passed across my desk today from worldnetdaily.com categorizing the Pullman series as paganism. For example, this quote:
“Pullman has been quoted in interviews as saying he is an atheist, but that label is highly misleading. There is spirituality here, and it’s as blatantly occult as it gets. Pullman’s tales combine clever plots grounded in dark nihilism with a default pagan cosmology. Everyone believes in something, and Pullman does, too, whether he will admit it or not. The plot revolves around spiritism, magical thinking, mysterious visions, parallel worlds, and yet as always with pagan beliefs, they come off as glitteringly empty.”
I won’t dispute that ‘everyone believes in something.’ Nor will I dispute that there are elements that we would normally consider as ‘pagan.’ However, I believe the author of this article completely misunderstands the current strategy of the secular humanists.
If we take an example like Harry Potter, whom the author of that article also decries, the difference between the threats is easy enough to detect: Rowling did not present her series as potentially being reality, nor does anyone- even young readers- think that it might be, whereas in the Pullman series, what he presents is explicitly something that he believes could be real, and by connecting with claims that students will hear described as scientific (Ie, Evolutionary theory and the Multiverse), students are led to think the same. There is no line between reality and fantasy, here.
What is paganism but religion without revelation? The Pullman series is part of the new trend in secular atheism to take the claims of both revealed religion and paganism and show how they could be compatible with an atheistic world view. Everything that pagans and Christian theists might posit as evidence for the truth of their views are reinterpreted in naturalistic terms.
For example, in Richard Dawkins’s Delusion, he begins by pointing out that just because he is an atheist and an evolutionist, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t stand in awe of the universe. In the NBC television series, “Heroes,” we see evolution being able to produce people with abilities that we would have otherwise described as miraculous and supernatural. Indeed, in the latest episode, the characters talk about whether or not they are ‘gods.’
This is perfectly compatible with the Pullman series which allows that ‘god’ exists, but thinks of Yahweh as merely the first conscious agent that evolution produced. This, too, harkens back to Dawkins, who in TGD defines the ‘God’ he wishes to denounce as being Yahweh, or Zeus, or Baal… of course failing to understand the God of the Bible as a transcendent entity that is simultaneously immanent in his creation, non-contingent, and everlasting- much different than putative entities like Zeus.
This trend is also percolating up on the net. For example, an atheistic gent with a masters in philosophy tried to make the argument on my forum that even if we granted the miracles ‘as described in the Bible’ (by which he only meant Jesus’s miracles), we should still prefer a naturalistic explanation for those miracles. This is really identical to what Pullman is doing, except that his series argues that even the truths that pagans accept should be interpreted in naturalistic terms, too.
In other words, the current trend in secular atheism is to back off of the strident claims of past generations that mocked the human race for being seeped in religion and superstition, but to admit that they themselves are awed by the universe as much as anyone else, and further, to argue that any true thing we might find in any religion- revealed or otherwise- can still be understood in naturalistic terms.
I need not go into the fact that such a view is self-evidently unfalsifiable. If you interpret everything in naturalistic terms, it isn’t exactly an impressive argument when you say there is no evidence of the supernatural.
So, as much as I agree with the author of that article on the threat and danger of the Pullman series, I definitely don’t agree that it is a ‘pagan’ story or that Pullman himself has any interest in the occult. The real danger of the Pullman series is that it prepares the young, thinking person, to believe that even if Jesus rose from the dead, that still would not be evidence for the existence of God, or for the truth of Christianity.
Since we Christians follow Paul in 1 Cor 15 as pointing to the resurrection as the single most important validater of the Christian religion, one can see how one would prefer to have more pagans running around that would likely be persuaded if they thought the resurrection was actual than a bunch more secular humanists who are willing to concede the resurrection but interpret it within an atheistic framework.
As an atheist said on a discussion forum a few years back, “What’s the big deal that Jesus rose from the dead?Â With 10 or 20 billion people that have ever lived, the odds are that someone would come back to life eventually.”Â And there are more than 20 billion universes in the ‘multiverse’/many worlds hypothesis.