His Dark Materials

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby The Spherical Cow » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:03 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
I suppose you think Lewis really thought God was a lion who ponced around fighting ice queens?


Makes about as much sense as the rest...

Also loving the use of "ponced".

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:38 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
It's not a book in which God doesn't exist, but one in which he not only exists, but plays a significant role. Yes, he's portrayed as a fraud, but he's portrayed.

Clearly, it's not that Pullman doesn't believe in God. He believes in him a great deal.

He simply doesn't like him much.


Or, alternately, God was used as a fictional or hypothetical character, as if to say "if God did exist, we would have to destroy him". A sentiment I have voiced many times. Would you like to tell me that I'm not an atheist, either?


In a way, yes.

I see the breakdown into three, not two, categories. Theists, atheists, and anti-theists.

An atheist isn't opposed to the idea of belief in God, but is simply indifferent to the idea of belief in God. If you don't believe that God exists, you don't believe. That's not a motivating force.

But Pullman falls into that third group, as it seems, do you. Not someone who is unconcerned with God, or in belief in God, but someone who expends significant emotional energy on opposition to belief.

That's not atheism, it's anti-theism. And it's a clear indication that religion has a strong hold on your world-view.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby 22/7 » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:50 pm UTC

jdege wrote:But Pullman falls into that third group, as it seems, do you. Not someone who is unconcerned with God, or in belief in God, but someone who expends significant emotional energy on opposition to belief.

That's not atheism, it's anti-theism. And it's a clear indication that religion has a strong hold on your world-view.


You're making a *MASSIVE* assumption here that you're really not qualified to make.

Also, you can subdivide atheist all you want, but it's still a subdivision of atheist. Anti-theism and atheism are not mutually exclusive.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby The Spherical Cow » Wed Oct 31, 2007 9:13 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
jdege wrote:But Pullman falls into that third group, as it seems, do you. Not someone who is unconcerned with God, or in belief in God, but someone who expends significant emotional energy on opposition to belief.

That's not atheism, it's anti-theism. And it's a clear indication that religion has a strong hold on your world-view.


You're making a *MASSIVE* assumption here that you're really not qualified to make.

Also, you can subdivide atheist all you want, but it's still a subdivision of atheist. Anti-theism and atheism are not mutually exclusive.


As an aside, the silliest argument I've ever heard against calling myself an atheist was from someone who seemed to believe it meant a lack of belief, full stop. The argument was "Well, you believe in gravity, don't you?" (besides being wrong about atheism, I wouldn't really say I believe in gravity anyway... :? Or do I? Curious.)

And yes, I agree - Pullman is most definitely an atheist. He is also an anti-theist. jdege's description of an atheist being someone who "is simply indifferent to the idea of belief in God" is actually what I would call an agnostic. Atheists believe (think?) there is no god, even if they accept some little doubt in there.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 9:24 pm UTC

The Spherical Cow wrote:jdege's description of an atheist being someone who "is simply indifferent to the idea of belief in God" is actually what I would call an agnostic. Atheists believe (think?) there is no god, even if they accept some little doubt in there.

Agnosticism is the belief that issues of faith cannot be resolved by reason. That the existence of God cannot be proven.

You can be agnostic and still hold it as a matter of faith that God does exist, or that he does not.

Atheism means living free of religion, not living in opposition to religion.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Wed Oct 31, 2007 9:27 pm UTC

However, in the current social climate, living free of religion is seen by many to be an opposition to religion, who will then attempt to attack you and bombard you with their own brand of faith until you become sick of it and turn anti-religious. What I am saying is that I do not have to believe that God exists to find myself in opposition to the idea created of him by members of our society.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby 22/7 » Wed Oct 31, 2007 9:28 pm UTC

I was always under the impression that an agnostic is someone who acknowledges that there is no way to prove whether or not there is a god, and that there never will be, and finds it all either trivial or pointless. That's not a very rigorous definition.

Edit: ninja'd

jdege wrote:
The Spherical Cow wrote:jdege's description of an atheist being someone who "is simply indifferent to the idea of belief in God" is actually what I would call an agnostic. Atheists believe (think?) there is no god, even if they accept some little doubt in there.

Agnosticism is the belief that issues of faith cannot be resolved by reason. That the existence of God cannot be proven.

You can be agnostic and still hold it as a matter of faith that God does exist, or that he does not.

Atheism means living free of religion, not living in opposition to religion.


Not exactly.
dictionary.com wrote:a·the·ism (ā'thē-ĭz'əm) Pronunciation Key
n.

1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.

Wikipedia wrote:Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods[1] or rejects theism.[2]


So an anti-theist can also be an atheist.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:14 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:I was always under the impression that an agnostic is someone who acknowledges that there is no way to prove whether or not there is a god, and that there never will be, and finds it all either trivial or pointless. That's not a very rigorous definition.
You can deny the possibility of proof and have faith, or deny the possibility of proof and not have faith. The latter is acceptable dogma within the Catholic church.

22/7 wrote:
jdege wrote:Atheism means living free of religion, not living in opposition to religion.
Not exactly.
dictionary.com wrote:a·the·ism (ā'thē-ĭz'əm) Pronunciation Key
n.

1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.

Wikipedia wrote:Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods[1] or rejects theism.[2]
So an anti-theist can also be an atheist.
Fine. So let's accept those definitions.

A change in nomenclature doesn't change the fact that Pullman and the anti-theists exert just as much intellectual energy on issues of religion as do the people of faith.

Which, speaking as a person to whom the whole issue is fundamentally irrelevant, strikes me as rather odd.

They're both of them ideologues.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:17 pm UTC

Jesster wrote:However, in the current social climate, living free of religion is seen by many to be an opposition to religion, who will then attempt to attack you and bombard you with their own brand of faith until you become sick of it and turn anti-religious. What I am saying is that I do not have to believe that God exists to find myself in opposition to the idea created of him by members of our society.

The First Amendment has two clauses concerning religion. One forbids the government from establishing a religion. The other forbids the government in interfering in people's free exercise of religion.

You are free to believe what you want, or to believe nothing.

You are not free to prevent other people from engaging in their own religious practices.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:24 pm UTC

Did I attempt to prevent them practising their own religion? No I did not, I ask to be allowed to practise mine in peace, which I am not. Until that happens, I am going to remain in opposition to those who try to force it on me. God is a handy metaphor when I desire to write about these people.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:38 pm UTC

Jesster wrote:Did I attempt to prevent them practising their own religion? No I did not, I ask to be allowed to practise mine in peace, which I am not. Until that happens, I am going to remain in opposition to those who try to force it on me. God is a handy metaphor when I desire to write about these people.

If the practise of your religion requires that you not find yourself in the presence of those who have differing beliefs, you're going to be in opposition a good, long, time.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:43 pm UTC

There is a difference between being in the presence of someone with a differing religion (Say, SpitValve, who used to be around here a lot. Christian, and a good friend of mine) and someone who desires to push that will onto mine.

In essence, if CS Lewis is allowed to write Chronicles of Narnia then Pullman is equally allowed to write His Dark Materials.

Look at it from a narrative perspective. Religion is a big part of many people's lives, it has a rich and varied history to draw upon along with layers and layers of symbolism already created just sitting there for you to draw upon in your books. Or something.

Gorram, Jordan will you get home please so you can convert my drunken rambling into sensible words again.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:09 pm UTC

Jesster wrote:In essence, if CS Lewis is allowed to write Chronicles of Narnia then Pullman is equally allowed to write His Dark Materials.

Of course he is.

And I'm free to ridicule both.

I find the idea of portraying Jesus as a talking lion just about as absurd as writing a book about God as a way of promoting atheism.

Lewis is pompous and preachy. For all that Lewis was the overtly Christian writer, Tolkien had a much better feel for it, the paganism in LOTR is a much better expression of the Christian ideal. (And if you don't think that makes sense, read his paper on Beowulf.)

As for Pullman, he's angry and bitter.

And about as tedious as Lewis.

Remember what Tolkien said about allegory...

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:11 pm UTC

No, I don't. Memory is fuzzy tonight, for some reason...

Also, to be honest I completely lost the point of your posts way back at the start. I'm just replying as an alternative to passing out at my desk. Apologies if I have been a dick.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby fallenstar » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:17 am UTC

Jesster wrote:And the second is an inbetween? Despite the fact it introduces Will, Mary Malone, the Subtle Knife and really gets going on the narrative.



That's kind of my point. It introduces Will and Mary Malone. Mary doesn't really become important until the third book. I see your point about the Subtle Knife and Will, though. I guess I spoke a little too hastily, but keep in mind, this is just the impression I got. I haven't read them in a year, also, so that may have a little to do with it. It also may be because my favorite is the third, and so by the middle of the second I just want to finish it so I can move on to The Amber Spyglass.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby 22/7 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:56 am UTC

jdege wrote:
Jesster wrote:In essence, if CS Lewis is allowed to write Chronicles of Narnia then Pullman is equally allowed to write His Dark Materials.

Of course he is.

And I'm free to ridicule both.

I find the idea of portraying Jesus as a talking lion just about as absurd as writing a book about God as a way of promoting atheism.

Lewis is pompous and preachy. For all that Lewis was the overtly Christian writer, Tolkien had a much better feel for it, the paganism in LOTR is a much better expression of the Christian ideal. (And if you don't think that makes sense, read his paper on Beowulf.)

As for Pullman, he's angry and bitter.

And about as tedious as Lewis.

Remember what Tolkien said about allegory...


AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:19 am UTC

jdege wrote:Remember what Tolkien said about allegory...
Jesster wrote:No, I don't. Memory is fuzzy tonight, for some reason...
"I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse "applicability" with "allegory"; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader and the other in the purposed domination of the author."
22/7 wrote:AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby 22/7 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:37 am UTC

jdege wrote:How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.


That may well be true, but I found him *exceedingly* tedious in the four books of his I've read (betcha (betcha? You were ok with *BETCHA*??) can guess which four those were). Now, I enjoyed the hell out of them, but I still found them tedious.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby pollywog » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:55 am UTC

jdege wrote:
22/7 wrote:AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.


Well, that's just an opinion. I don't consider him the best. He's in my top 20, but he's not the greatest, as far as I'm concerned.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby d33p » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:10 am UTC

At this point, I'd like to interrupt and say that in the discussions of agnosticism, atheism, and deism... all I've noticed is a distinctive "Christian" bent. I don't mean that in a specific denominational sense, but in a general Western sense.

I have rarely run into atheists who were as adamant against "gods" as they were against "God." Granted, that may be my own experience and have little relevance to anyone else. Nonetheless, to respond to the "anti-theist" statements... I see the same trend.

You don't see many atheists or anti-theists who strongly oppose the deity of Brahma, Jah, Onkar, or The Great Spirit. They may disagree if you bring it up...

But I'd wager if you ask them what being an athiest means, they'd reply, "There is no God."

Not, you'll notice, "There are no gods."

To bring back into the thread-sense, I really feel Pullman went above and beyond in promoting an anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, anti-Western-monotheism point of view on religion. While I grew up in a monotheistic tradition, and understood his biblical references with much more astuteness than had I not, from a literary standpoint I believe Pullman's message could've been stronger and more reaching in a general "anti-deistic" sense, rather than as specific as he went.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:16 am UTC

pollywog wrote:
jdege wrote:
22/7 wrote:AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.


Well, that's just an opinion. I don't consider him the best. He's in my top 20, but he's not the greatest, as far as I'm concerned.


He doesn't even rate, where I'm sitting. Greatest english language writer of the 20th century? Far from it. He wasn't a fiction writer, he was a linguist whose hobby-writing would have been better suited to writing atlases and almanacs than novels and stories. His talent with narrative, description, pacing and the like is dwarfed to nonexistence by the true greats of the 20th century (Hemingway and Faulkner leap to mind readily). Hell, I can probably find 10 or 20 better authors without leaving the sci-fi/fantasy section of my bookstore, and that's saying something because that genre is *awash* in crap.

So no, him saying something does not make a good appeal to authority in a topic about literature.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby pollywog » Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:25 am UTC

I liked The Hobbit, so I put him up there.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:45 am UTC

I agree with you deep. I know what the problem is with me though. In my culture, and probably in America as well, there is a distinctive Christian bent. I've never had buddhists screaming at me that I'm going to burn in herll. I was raised Catholic, in Catholic schools, so it's not only the mythology I'm most familiar with, but it's something that was ingrained in me from a young age and somethign I still feel guilty about. Because they get you like that, when you're young, and put so many things in place in your head that make it so hard to escape them, and make you feel horrible for doing it (Often these are done with the best will in the world). So I can see why anti-christianity is a common theme to high-profile atheist works.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:21 pm UTC

I have rarely run into atheists who were as adamant against "gods" as they were against "God."



That's because, generally speaking, most western atheists have not had the same pressure exerted on them by the followers of "gods" as they have by the followers of "God", and therefore have not needed to push back. So while they might or might not say that belief in Gods is silly, superstitious, or even harmful on a theoretical level (or not), they have trouble conjuring the same level of give-a-shit towards that as they do to the ever-present religion that they actually interact with on a daily basis.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby d33p » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:41 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
I have rarely run into atheists who were as adamant against "gods" as they were against "God."



That's because, generally speaking, most western atheists have not had the same pressure exerted on them by the followers of "gods" as they have by the followers of "God", and therefore have not needed to push back. So while they might or might not say that belief in Gods is silly, superstitious, or even harmful on a theoretical level (or not), they have trouble conjuring the same level of give-a-shit towards that as they do to the ever-present religion that they actually interact with on a daily basis.


I can see your point, but as far as Pullman goes, I can't help but be convinced his work would've been far more... accessible?... had it been cloaked in a bit more subtlety. His preachiness comes off as too visible and mars what could have been an extremely poignant parable. But parables only work when they need interpretation.
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Re: His Dark Materials - marginally OT

Postby bod » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:13 pm UTC

I've never read anything by Pullman, so I can't really join in the debate here, but he was my writing professor way back when I was at University. He could be very passionate - he gave a great lecture on graphic novels once time.

It's a little strange when someone who was just another person in my life is suddenly so widely known.

That's my only claim to fame :-)
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:54 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
pollywog wrote:
jdege wrote:
22/7 wrote:AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.


Well, that's just an opinion. I don't consider him the best. He's in my top 20, but he's not the greatest, as far as I'm concerned.


He doesn't even rate, where I'm sitting. Greatest english language writer of the 20th century? Far from it.


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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby The Spherical Cow » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:58 pm UTC

jdege wrote:
Belial wrote:
pollywog wrote:
jdege wrote:
22/7 wrote:AHAHAHAHA. You just called Pullman and Lewis tedious while simultaneously discussing Tolkein. That's *awesome*.
How so? Tolkien will clearly be remembered as the greatest English language writer of the 20th century.


Well, that's just an opinion. I don't consider him the best. He's in my top 20, but he's not the greatest, as far as I'm concerned.


He doesn't even rate, where I'm sitting. Greatest english language writer of the 20th century? Far from it.


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A link to a book on Amazon hardly qualifies as an argument. Care to elaborate?

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:27 pm UTC

Also, just because one guy said it somewhere, doesn't make it true....

Anyway.

I can see your point, but as far as Pullman goes, I can't help but be convinced his work would've been far more... accessible?... had it been cloaked in a bit more subtlety. His preachiness comes off as too visible and mars what could have been an extremely poignant parable. But parables only work when they need interpretation.


As a parable about organized religion and the church (as opposed to about God or Gods), it worked pretty well I thought. And as a response/counterpoint to Narnia, it also functioned well. It wasn't about gods or gods, really, as those are somewhat irrelevant to someone who doesn't believe in them, it was about the fan-club.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby d33p » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:34 pm UTC

Belial wrote:It wasn't about gods or gods, really, as those are somewhat irrelevant to someone who doesn't believe in them, it was about the fan-club.

Hmmm. I disagree. It seemed to me that his moral was that mankind couldn't be free until The Almighty was killed. If it was about the followers, than the dismantling of the organisation would've sufficed. Instead, Pullman pits his hero (or anti-hero, I'm still fuzzy on that) against a god he reveals as a decrepit weakling.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:43 pm UTC

Except, to some extent, you can read the almighty in the book as a symbol of the belief itself. It makes the symbolism of opening the protective barrier and exposing it to the world particularly...relevant.

At any rate, he had to be somewhat specific and pick a specific entity or he couldn't write a story.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby d33p » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:47 pm UTC

Yeah, I can see the symbolism in that, and it is striking, although I don't think he had to pick any entity at all. To simply pull back the curtain and find, not an old man, but no one at all.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:52 pm UTC

Even in that case, you'd have to believe there was a specific entity there, in order to have a religion active in the world making claims about him, and also so that there's a reason to pull the curtain back at all. If there isn't the expectation that there *is* someone in particular there, then his absence means nothing.

So God (or a specific god, anyway) would still be in the story, it would just be revealed that he didn't exist. And at the same time, you'd lose the metaphor for belief, because the belief *does* exist, Pullman just believes it needs to be slain.
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:54 pm UTC

But then the book would not have been as exciting.

And really, he did reveal it to be no-one at all. You had angels, and God was the very first of the angels, who then lied to all the others, saying he had created them. So essentially the curtain was drawn back on God to reveal that he himself was no such thing.

Also, try not to forget throughout that the books were children's fiction, and that he wanted to be as plain and open as possible as a counterpoint to Narnia.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby d33p » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:59 pm UTC

I have effectively been convinced. Yay, debate!
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Belial » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:22 pm UTC

Awesome. Now, as to the other major point in this thread...

jdedge wrote:A change in nomenclature doesn't change the fact that Pullman and the anti-theists exert just as much intellectual energy on issues of religion as do the people of faith.

Which, speaking as a person to whom the whole issue is fundamentally irrelevant, strikes me as rather odd.

They're both of them ideologues.


The absurdity you're trying to point out isn't actually valid, because Pullman isn't expending the same amount of time thinking about GOD, he's expending the same amount of time thinking about belief and religion, both of which are real, active forces in the real world, and are just as relevant to an atheist as they are to anyone else.

Refusing to stick your head in the sand and pretend that organized religion doesn't exist or have an effect on your life, does not in fact revoke your atheist card. It just means you occasionally look around.

Also, as a separate point, there's still a problem with your terminology. "Anti-theist" does not mean "against belief" it means "against god". It implies someone who believes god exists, and opposes him, which describes nearly no one I'm aware of. If I believed god(s) existed as described by most religions, I would be an anti-theist, but since I have no reason to believe this, I am not. I am just an atheist, in that I believe in the existence of no god(s).
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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby jdege » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:52 pm UTC

The Spherical Cow wrote:


A link to a book on Amazon hardly qualifies as an argument. Care to elaborate?

Shippey does a great job.

You can argue style, you can argue merit. But you can't argue that Tolkien has not consistently ranked #1 in readers polls, still, 60 years after the books were written.

And you can't deny that he's had enormous influence on popular literature.

Salon: The book of the century

The critics of his day hated Shakespeare, because he was popular. The literati of today despise Tolkien, because he is popular. But 100 years from now the pets of the literati will be forgotten. Tolkien will still be read.

Lewis? He'll always have a niche.

Pullman? I doubt his reputation will last out the decade.

Tolkien will endure.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:56 pm UTC

The literati do not dislike Tolkien because he is popular, it is because his writing is tedious, the story itself could probably fit into a single book and his pacing is absolutely horrible. Sure, he tops the reader's polls, but how much of that is by reputation alone? I know that I read it as a kid because of it's reputation, so self-perpetuating in a sense.

Also, I would think His Dark Materials will still be read, not for the atheism, but for the incredible love story it tells.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby The Spherical Cow » Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:04 pm UTC

Jesster wrote:The literati do not dislike Tolkien because he is popular, it is because his writing is tedious, the story itself could probably fit into a single book and his pacing is absolutely horrible. Sure, he tops the reader's polls, but how much of that is by reputation alone? I know that I read it as a kid because of it's reputation, so self-perpetuating in a sense.

Also, I would think His Dark Materials will still be read, not for the atheism, but for the incredible love story it tells.



Indeed, the love story is what I remember most from reading His Dark Materials. The story itself is fantastic, the worlds and cultures are excellent (and are places I'd like to see more written about). The atheistic/anti-theist/anti-church themes running through it are just another part of what are really good books.

As for Tolkien... I like LOTR. I've heard plenty of people say they dislike the pacing and what-not, but I don't really see it, personally. Although I agree it doesn't really deserve to top polls quite as often as it does, if it deserves to at all.

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Re: His Dark Materials

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 01, 2007 5:09 pm UTC

Don't get me wrong, I love LOTR, but from all I learned in English Literature it says that really it is not an amazing book.


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