Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Thursday, December 09, 2004
Philip Pullman sells his soul to the Demiurge
I think everyone remotely connected to the geek subculture has heard about the "Han Shot First!" Star Wars controversy, which raises the question of how much control an author has over the content of his/her previously published text. Now comes Exhibit B: Philip Pullman's willingness to write God out of the screenplay for the movie adaptation of His Dark Materials (see Baude, Farrell, Taylor for more complaints)

This isn't just about who shot first in a bar; this is about the heart and soul of a novel. His Dark Materials is based upon the idea of rebellion against the ultimate authority--a God reminsent of the Gnostic idea of the Demiurge*. It's a fun thought exercise in "If God turns out to be the major asshole that fundamentalists portray Him as, what would you do about it?". The fact that God is a petty tyrant in Pullman's multiverse says nothing about the nature of God in our multiverse--it only reveals what we, deep in our hearts, feel God should be*.

I've gotten off topic. But the fact is that my faith in God wasn't challenged much by Pullman--I was disturbed, sure, by the anti-theistic tone, but considering the character of God in the book, I'd say it was justified. However, my vision of God doesn't look anything like Pullman's character--although I'd admit that there are some Americans whose vision of God are more reminiscent of the Demiurge. Maybe it's time that those Americans face up to that.

And I suppose that if Pullman is worried about funding, Michael Moore could probably pitch in.

*A "Roman Calvinist" demiurge rather than a Jewish demiurge.

**There are some who contend that Pullman is working in an anti-C.S. Lewis vein; however, I think that there's a similar strand in their theology: When a character in The Silver Chair is told that his God, the lion Aslan, doesn't exist, he admits that maybe he doesn't, but he'll still keep believing in his benevolent God. Pullman's characters resist God only when it turns out he's malevolent. There's a sense in both books of morality existing outside of God; that rather than God dictating the rules of morality, the rules of morality dictate who should be God. And if the entity at the job isn't adhering to these rules, you have a right not to serve that entity.

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