This is not likely to be a popular post, but here goes. I am a big fan of Philip Pullmans so-called dark material, namely, his trilogy, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Over on the America blog, James Martin has posted on this and, although his view is a bit unclear, he says that he agrees with Bill Donohue that parents should be warned about Pullmans books. Thats fair enough. Michael Dirdas review of The Amber Spyglass for The Washington Post a number of years ago made this point as clearly as it can been made. Dirda writes: But make no mistake: This book [The Amber Spyglass] views organized religion as repressive, life-smothering, mendacious and just plain wrong, right from the beginning of time.
What then is there to like? Once again, Dirda hits the mark: In the end, the Dark Materials trilogy is an ode to the joy of living in a physical world, a hymn to flesh, to exuberance, to the here and now, to free thought, imagination and feeling, to nobility of spirit.
I happen to think that these positive traits are entirely compatible with organized religion and so I choose to focus on the positive rather than on any anti-religious themes in these books.
I read these books to my son when he was not old enough to appreciate the metaphysical reflections on the relationship between goodness and authority. For him, it was simply a wonderful adventure story. It was that for me, too. But it also had the great merit of being an adventure story full of difficult ideas that had to be reckoned with.
And if I havent angered enough readers already, let me add this: Pullmans trilogy is infinitely better than the Harry Potter series.