I read this for the first time back in high school. The second time through was recent for me. I tore through this first installment fairly quickly, because it’s just as engrossing and well-written as the first time I read it.
I was once warned by my pastor Grandpa not to read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials because his novels “go against God.” I felt bad back then–for I had read The Golden Compass–but my Dad later reassured me that it was okay.
I’ve read many fantasy books that feature gods and goddesses, religions different and similar to my own beliefs. Why was Pullman’s work more dangerous than the morals of, say, Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire?
My good friends in college were atheist, agnostic, or a combination of both. Why this differed from what I’d known growing up, I didn’t mind. I didn’t hate my new-found friends; in fact, I think that they have every right to not believe in a creator. That doesn’t make them any worse or any better than me.
Pullman himself states that he’s not against God, even though he is an atheist, but rather wants to teach children about the power of choice. I agree with this sentiment wholly.
While The Golden Compass is more serious than some of the fantasy books I read when I was younger, it’s still engaging and teaches valuable lessons:
- Your soul is yours to shape, whether its the soul of a daemon or bear armor
- Choose your friends and your allies wisely, for you do not know who could betray you, or mean you ill will
- Be brave, no matter what you face
These are some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from re-reading Pullman’s first installment of His Dark Materials. I think that these ideologies are just as worthy as the kindness and goodness taught in Harry Potter.
So, here we are. While I do believe in God, I do not cram it down people’s throats. I prefer to let my actions, words, and the way in which I treat people reflect my Lutheran faith. As a liberal, Democratic person, I do not subscribe to the belief that you’ll burn in hell for not believing in God, a god, or gods. If you’re part of a different faith, that’s cool. I respect your religion, and do not look down on you for it.
I think that it’s ignorant to say that your Christian faith is better than, say, a Hindu or a Muslim’s. If I’d been born in a different country, I would probably be practicing a different religion. And that would be okay.
As a writer, I now find it silly that I was ever afraid of my Grandpa’s comment, all those years ago. I think that learning about other religions is not only interesting, but valuable when I meet new people who might be practicing a faith that’s similar or completely different to what I’m used to.
I’m okay with having my beliefs tested. I like affirming my personal beliefs–not just religion, but my other views regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, feminism, and the freedom to create.
So, thanks Philip Pullman for creating a serious book trilogy for kids and adults alike. I’m excited to start watching “His Dark Materials” soon.