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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What are your thoughts on Philip Pullman's new book? Why do some people find it offensive?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16543points) May 5th, 2010

Philip Pullman’s new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a modern retelling of some of the stories from the Bible. It seems to be creating quite a stir, despite a clear inscription on the back cover stating that it is a story and nothing more. What are your thoughts on the book? Why do some people find it offensive?

You can read a short extract here

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7 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

This is the first I’ve heard of the book. Of course you know that the religious folk were not fond of His Dark Materials, and it was clear that the author did not mean them to be.

This sample text parallels—indeed, paraphrases—the Bible very closely right up to the point where twins are born and then in much of what follows. By staying close to what many regard as scripture and then departing in radical ways it really might sound like blasphemy to a lot of people.

I think it is an interesting idea, but I also think Pullman has hewed so closely to biblical text that it is tedious. So I am not sure I could get through the story, no matter how intriguing the premise. It is almost as if it had been written solely to provoke. And that, to my mind, is not a worthy basis for literature.

Bear in mind that this opinion is based on nothing other than the small sample you linked, informed by an appreciation of His Dark Materials and probably influenced by my own views as an atheist who grew up well schooled in the Bible.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jeruba I found it curious that the religious folk criticised His Dark Materials for trying to destroy children’s faith, when it only ever attacked the organisational bodies of religion. Pullman has often said he thinks the truth of the stories in the Bible is less important than the stories themselves.

I agree provocation is not a worthy basis for literature, but a new perspective is a valuable thing and for those who would not be offended, it can offer a new perspective on old concepts. Thanks for your response.

Jeruba's avatar

I would venture to guess that those who would not be offended aren’t the ones most in need of a new perspective. But that might just be my bias speaking.

iphigeneia's avatar

Honestly, that extract reminds me of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. To me, it’s a playful literary experiment, and also quite clever. Others, though, might see Pullman’s treatment of the Bible as on par with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They may interpret it as making a mockery of the Bible, especially given Pullman’s existing reputation within conservative religious circles since His Dark Materials.

anartist's avatar

This is not the first time a serious writer has written of the life or even the afterlife of Jesus in an unorthodox way. Other books were also controversial. The Man Who Died, 1929, by D. H. Lawrence, and The Last Temptation of Christ, 1960, Nikos Kazantzakis.

wundayatta's avatar

There are quite a few religious people who do not take kindly to anyone messing with their sacred texts. They want the texts to be sacred and held sacred, and that means no one should turn them into fiction or do anything other than revere them. Some of these people would like to execute anyone who disrespects the texts in any way, shape, or form.

In my opinion, such folk take their texts way to seriously, and are far too insecure about their power. If the texts were powerful, no amount of change or ridicule or satire could hurt them. But, perhaps because they are unsure of their own faith, they have bolster it in all ways possible, including making a big stink whenever they think their religious texts have been disrespected.

When you think about it, it’s quite natural. An awful lot of people protect their name very strongly. It’s as if their name is more important than who they are.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@wundayatta Thanks. It reminds me of when Gideon tore down the statues of Baal – “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”

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