Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy constitutes one of the finest reading experiences for children I’ve ever seen. I read them as an adult, on the advice of a literary colleague, and fell under their spell immediately. They are fantasy books, for sure, but with a strong rational and anti-authority philosophy. And although I don’t think of them as purely anti-religious, if your religion is one with an authoritarian streak then …
In a brief article in The Guardian, Pullman takes on those who would seek to ban his books from library shelves. He points to the futility of such bans, the inevitable increased readership of banned works, and the utterly moronic reasons that some give for requesting bans. But he saves his real vitriol for religion. Pullman’s basic take on religion
My basic objection to religion is not that it isn’t true; I like plenty of things that aren’t true. It’s that religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good.
isn’t precisely the same as my own, since I do disagree with religion because it is false. I also like plenty of things that aren’t true – the works of David Foster Wallace are a timely example – but the things I like that aren’t true don’t claim to be true. But I certainly also agree with the things that drive Pullman nuts
In fact, when it comes to banning books, religion is the worst reason of the lot. Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of private solace, artistic inspiration, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed. The rank stench of oppression wafts from every authoritarian church, chapel, temple, mosque, or synagogue – from every place of worship where the priests have the power to meddle in the social and intellectual lives of their flocks, from every presidential palace or prime ministerial office where civil leaders have to pander to religious ones.