Books in the trilogy:
—The Golden Compass (1995)
—The Subtle Knife (1997)
—The Amber Spyglass (2000)
If you find that you inadvertently become a satanist, you can write to the publisher and get your money back. —Philip Pullman
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read. —Publisher’s Disclaimer
Showered with awards on both sides of the Atlantic; promoted enthusiastically within the public schools; hailed as the greatest children’s entertainment since Harry Potter first bestrode a broomstick; converted into a major Hollywood movie just in time for Christmas: you’ve got to admit Mr. Pullman’s trilogy suddenly has a lot going for it.
But before you run out and buy His Dark Materials as a Christmas present for your twelve-year-old, there’s something important you should know about it.
Philip Pullman has been anything but bashful about his atheism. He proudly proclaims it whenever he spots a microphone.
The message of his books, however, is not atheism.
We’re not talking about pop-culture satanism here, a bunch of dolts in black robes dancing around a pentagram. This is real satanism.
“In his [Satan’s] hostility to God,” R. J. Rushdoony writes, “he believes that the creature should have the same powers [as God] by right. Satan believes in creaturely and human rights. His goal therefore is to push man into rebellion to test his theory in the hopes that man, as civilization develops, will triumph.” This is what satanism is about: the tempter’s seduction of man by offering him equality with, or even superiority to, God.
This is what Philip Pullman is serving up to children. This is not the kind of charge you can just laugh off in a flip comment to an interviewer. Nor can the publisher get out from under it by making a disclaimer.
Let’s get down to business. We have prepared an eighteen-count indictment of Pullman on the charge of promoting satanism. Each count is a satanist proposition advanced by Pullman in his trilogy.
The first six counts charge Pullman with purposely and maliciously misrepresenting the work of God.
1. “Truth” exists independently of God, and man can know truth without God, even in spite of God.
In all three books, the girl protagonist, Lyra, resorts to a “golden compass,” a fantastic trinket called an “alethiometer,” which infallibly tells “the truth” to anyone skilled enough to read it. The alethiometer is a man-made object and is obviously a symbol of man’s science. And we all know “science” reliably tells the truth all the time, don’t we? Until, of course, someone else’s science comes along and proves that our science is all wet. The junkyard of history is littered with discarded “science” like phrenology, eugenics, the steady state theory of the universe, and whatnot (not to mention outright scientific frauds, like Piltdown Man). By teaching us that “truth” changes with time and new discoveries, Satan is really teaching us that there is no truth at all—only a temporary, man-made consensus.
2. “Consciousness” exists apart from God.
Another man-made object, the “subtle knife” introduced in the second book, has “intentions” and a consciousness of its own. Pullman makes it sound “scientific,” but it’s just old-fashioned idolatry—a satanist message that man, being equal to God, can create life as God does.
3. God did not create us; mysterious “shadow particles” did (Knife, p. 211).
Depending on which of Pullman’s characters is speaking, “shadows” or “Dust” or “dark matter,” alive and conscious in its own right, is responsible for human consciousness. God has nothing to do with it.
4. This “Dust” intervened in human evolution, as “vengeance” against the “tyranny” of God. Here Pullman exalts Satan and denounces God as a tyrant. Satan has been teaching this for thousands of years. Philip Pullman is only his mouthpiece.
5. Therefore life itself is self-created, without God. Pullman says this flat out in The Amber Spyglass (p. 28).
6. Not God, but “some lucky chance” produced the vertebrates (Spyglass, p. 390). You would have to be lucky indeed to start out with a cosmos-full of random, inanimate molecules and wind up with tree shrews, humpback whales, and Shakespeare. The whole satanist idea here is to deny God’s work as the Creator. Some call these notions “Darwinism” or just plain “science,” but they are satanist ideas.
A Libel against God
The next four counts of the indictment charge Pullman with blaspheming against the character of God.
7. God can be killed. The characters’ intention to do this is baldly stated in The Subtle Knife (p. 211), and the boy and girl heroes, Will and Lyra, actually do it in the climax of The Amber Spyglass. Certainly a god who can be killed is not the God we know from Scripture.
8. God is a liar (Spyglass, p. 28). He lied about being the Creator; He lied about being the Savior of mankind: He has lied about everything, all along. Never mind that Scripture proclaims that “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Num. 23:19). For Pullman, all of Scripture is a lie; and that’s satanism. As Rushdoony writes, “[T]he tempter offers to man an esoteric knowledge of good and evil, one attainable only by rebellion against God. Satan presents God as a liar … and himself as the bearer of suppressed truth.” That’s Pullman in a nutshell.
9. God has a beginning (Spyglass, p. 187). The Bible proclaims throughout that God is the same from everlasting to everlasting; that the heavens and the earth themselves “shall wax old as a garment” (Isa. 50:9) and pass away, while God remains unchanged. Again, Pullman misrepresents the nature of God.
10. In The Amber Spyglass, Pullman shows his young readers a God who has aged, grown weak and senile: He is a picture of “terrifying decrepitude” (p. 354), a “poor thing! … Demented and powerless” (p. 366). As soon as the children cut him out of his crystalline life-support system, this poor excuse for a god simply dies, dissolves into atoms blowing in the wind.
Is this what you want your children to learn about God?
Lies about Man
Pullman also presents a satanist version of the nature of man.
11. Throughout the trilogy, Pullman tells us that the act of disobedience to God gave man his soul. This is the original satanic message, first spoken in Genesis 3:5—eat the forbidden fruit, Satan tells Eve, “and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
Rushdoony comments, “[T]o know here means to establish or determine. Instead of an absolute and eternal moral law, all reality would be subject to the redefinition given it by man.”
For Pullman, “Dust” or “dark matter,” the stuff of life and consciousness itself, which is in the universe for no reason at all, is also Original Sin; and without it, humans are no better than zombies.
12. “Natural impulses” are good. They must be, because the church, which in Pullman’s world is evil, has always “tried to suppress and control every natural impulse” (Knife, p. 44).
Perhaps Mr. Pullman ought to visit a prison and talk to the inmates about some of the natural impulses that landed them there. Ivory tower types (Pullman is an Oxford don) can be incredibly naive about these things.
13. Satan’s angels who rebelled against God are the original “followers of wisdom,” and human beings should imitate them (Spyglass, p. 429). The satanists in Rosemary’s Baby could hardly have said it better.
Smearing the Church
Pullman has a satanist view of the church, too. He is truly an uncircumcised Philistine who defies the armies of the living God (1 Sam. 17:26).
14. Every single clergyman or “Christian” in this trilogy is described as 100 percent evil, 100 percent of the time. I doubt this can be truly said of any human institution in the real world, no matter how wicked or corrupt; but when you’re writing fantasy, you can stack the deck as you please. It doesn’t have to make sense.
Pullman pours invective on the church—which for him is cruel, ruthless, intellectually dishonest, abducts and tortures children, employs assassins, is up to its elbows in dirty money, and willing to baptize animals (Compass, p. 299). Clergymen and church officers are “insane” and “want to die” (Knife, p. 113), “a body of men with a feverish obsession with sexuality” (Spyglass, p. 292), they practice voodoo (Spyglass, p. 298)—I’ll bet they don’t even remember to recycle.
15. Pullman is not just an atheist fathead inveighing against all theism in general. Consider this quote from Spyglass, page 393:
“I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.”
Can you imagine what kind of hot water he’d be in if he said Islam was a mistake? Or feminism, gay rights, or global warming? But if you single out Christianity for disrespect, the American Library Association and all the other award-givers will beat a path to your door.
16. As a substitute for communion with the living God, Pullman offers “love,” by which he means sex. After one of his characters first experiences sex, she says, “I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside of us” (Spyglass, p. 398). There we are, being our own gods again.
Satan always tries to distract us with the fleeting pleasures of this world: after all, he says, that’s all there is. Pullman’s wholehearted agreement with this proposition is glaringly evident throughout the trilogy.
17. Pullman states that there are three parts of human nature, “spirit and soul and body … But the best part is the body” (Spyglass, p. 392). This same body, so susceptible to disease and injury and aging, foredoomed to die—that’s the best part.
No faithful Christian would deny that the human body, created by God, is important, valuable, and good. To say otherwise is neoplatonic dualism. We believe in the resurrection of the body, as stated in the Apostles’Creed.
By insisting that the body is “the best part” of us, Pullman is trying to convince us to concentrate on temporal and transitory things: to worship not the Creator, but the creature.
And the Payoff Is …
Finally, while we believe in the resurrection of the body, Pullman believes in its total and irreversible dissolution.
As always, wherever we find humanism—which is merely one of the synonyms for satanism—we find a morbid mania for death.
18. There is no afterlife in Pullman’s world. Yes, there is a “prison camp” of a parallel universe to which all the dead have been condemned (because Pullman’s God is unjust and cruel). It’s part of the children’s quest in The Amber Spyglass to go there and set the dead free to find their true destination—“oblivion” (p. 286). Once released from this rather nasty place, the dead will “become part of everything” (p. 286): they will be reduced to disconnected atoms floating randomly about the universe.
So God lied to us about salvation, too. And just as it always is in the humanist scheme of things, the payoff for each and every one of us, whether we’ve done good or evil, whether we’ve enjoyed our full share of the pleasures of this world or been unfairly done out of them by someone else’s wickedness, is death. Each and every one of us gets exactly the same reward—nothing.
That’s why, for Pullman and his kind, we have to do everything in our power to get all we can while we’re still alive. Whether it’s a soviet workers’ paradise, a world government run by the United Nations or a scientific elite, or Pullman’s own “Republic of Heaven,” we always wind up turning to an all-powerful worldly state that promises to make this vale of tears a paradise.
And that’s satanism.
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:2
This stuff is too bitter to be taken straight, especially by children. So Pullman sugarcoats his poison; and because he is a skilled literary artist, he does it very well.
It’s easy to fall under the spell of Pullman’s writing. He knows how to keep the story moving and make the reader eager to see what happens next. These are marketed as children’s books, but Pullman doesn’t write down to a child’s level. When he wants to make you feel for a character, he can do it—whether you’re twelve years old or sixty-two.
Artistically, His Dark Materials is miles and miles ahead of the Harry Potter books. Pullman is simply a much better writer than J. K. Rowling.
But that only makes it worse. St. Paul warns us (2 Cor. 11:14–15) that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light,” and his ministers into ministers of righteousness. Pullman’s art is quite simply to make the evil appear to be good, and the good to seem evil.
God gave Mr. Pullman the gift of literary talent; and Pullman has chosen to use it in the service of the devil, with children as his target audience.
Besides which, he cheats.
Let us admit it is not possible to write any fiction, especially fantasy, without cheating. The world conjured up by the writer’s imagination is not real. No novelist can plead innocent to the charge of stacking the deck in his imaginary world to make events fall out as he wishes. Hercule Poirot will always be more successful at solving mysterious crimes than any real-world detective.
But Pullman’s cheating is in the service of a religious agenda. (Yes, atheism is a species of religion, albeit a perverted one.) In his imaginary world, atheism has no downside. His science can give you a machine that always tells the truth, and everyone has an externalized soul—a “daemon” in the form of a lovable talking animal: so no one ever really has to feel lonely or unloved because his true-blue, ever-loving daemon is always there for him.
Maybe in the real world we could get by without God, if only we had cuddly talking daemons who loved us unconditionally, and science that could truly do the things it always promises to do: abolish disease, poverty, war, etc., as well as moral and factual uncertainty. By providing such amenities for the inhabitants of his creation, Pullman presents a world in which the rejection of God makes people happy. Satan always needs to resort to fantasy to do this.
Which lands us right back on square one, with Satan promising Adam and Eve that “ye shall be as gods” if only they disobey the real God. Rebellion against God will work, if only you give it a chance.
Pullman also cheats by borrowing themes and images from the Bible, John Milton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien and twisting them to serve his purpose. So we have a “city in the aurora” aping St. John’s vision in Revelation of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven (Compass, p. 331), angels kneeling in adoration of Lyra (Knife, p. 244), Lyra’s father and mother wrestling with an angel, like Jacob (Spyglass, p. 363), and Will and Lyra reenacting Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit (Spyglass, p. 416). By way of warning to parents, the two children then go on to have sex together.
The whole climax of The Amber Spyglass, page after page of it, shamelessly mimics the climax of Tolkien’s Return of the King: Will and Lyra (=Frodo and Sam) toiling through the darkness toward their apocalyptic goal, while Lord Asriel (=Aragorn) leads his armies in a desperate, last-ditch battle against the overwhelming forces of God (=Sauron). We cannot say whether this much borrowing is done on purpose, to mock Christian writers, or just because Pullman’s own atheistic worldview cannot generate many ideas of its own.
Finally, Pullman has his characters recite bits of Scripture; but he tampers with the text to put his own spin on it. Some Biblically-challenged readers might be gulled into thinking these parodies are the real thing.
An Atheist “Faith-Based Initiative”
We’ll say nothing here about the Golden Compass movie, which we have not seen. But parents need to know that Philip Pullman’s books, satanism and all, are being energetically promoted to children in the public schools.
Scholastic Books makes them available at school book fairs, but they are also for sale every day via The Scholastic Store on the Internet, along with study guides, lesson plans and school activities, and an essay contest for students in grades 8–12.
As bad as the public schools already are, this is a way to make them worse. Random House’s “right to read” sounds more like a euphemism for spoon-feeding the ABCs of satanism to a captive audience in a classroom.
Are we making too much of this? Is there really any danger that children who would otherwise grow up to be Christians will be deflected into atheism by reading Pullman’s fantasies? After all, “it’s just a story, isn’t it?”
Sure, and Desperate Housewives is just a television show, and you should let your children watch it. While you’re at it, let your twelve-year-old daughter watch Girls Gone Wild, and let your twelve-year-old son watch dogfights.
We remember how upset the humanist crowd got, two years ago, when Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried to get C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books into his state’s public schools. Their objection was that Lewis’ fantasy stories are a Christian allegory. The Huffington Post called the governor’s suggestion “another faith-based initiative.”
Well, what is the Pullman push, if not a faith-based initiative on the part of atheists? It goes along with “comprehensive sex education,” “social justice education,” and the rest as part of a ruthless program of humanist reconstruction of society. This is to be accomplished primarily in the public schools.
We take it as a given that the whole public education enterprise is dedicated to replacing children’s Christian faith with faith in statist, secular humanism. John Dewey called it “democracy,” but what he really meant was the elevation of man’s law over God’s. The addition of His Dark Materials to the curriculum adds another weapon to the schools’ anti-Christian arsenal.
We cannot conceive of a single reason for a Christian parent to put these books into the hands of a Christian child.
—All citations from the novels are from the Laurel Leaf boxed set.
 Pullman in an interview with the Washington Post, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A23371-2001Feb18?language=printer.
 R. J. Rushdoony, Genesis (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2002), 41.
 Rushdoony, Leviticus (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2005), 306.
 See http://store.scholastic.com.
 See http://content.scholastic.com/browse/unitplan.jsp?id=284.
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.