What does Philip Pullman mean by “Killing God”?


I had been told by some friends that the author Philip Pullman said that his books are about killing God. I did not believe them until I looked it up on the internet. What does the author mean by this?

Maybe this:

“Give me a break.

I’m a liberal and I’m a Christian. I also take God seriously. Very. And so does Philip Pullman.

One of the things I love most about Pullman’s trilogy (aside from the fact that it is one of the greatest literary treasures of our time) is the thought Pullman gives to God. Pullman spends more time–far more, I suspect–contemplating the divine, the nature of God, and how we conceive of our relationship to God than most Christians do in an entire lifetime. He has gifted us with a provocative, stunning fantasy that revels in the deepest of cosmic questions, and they are questions near and dear to the heart of Christianity.

And my contention, as a scholar, a Christian, and someone who has read the trilogy more times than I can count, is that the telos of Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” is to save God, not kill him.

Take that, my fellow fearful Christians.

The soundbyte that everyone loves pulling from Pullman (so to speak), that his books “are about killing God,” I would amend to say that his works actually are about challenging a certain corrupt, destructive image of a god-who-is-not-really-a-god at all–and I’d add that the “killing” he speaks of is not actually killing at all (but then, you need to read the books to find out why–do your homework, people).

Woven throughout “His Dark Materials” is a stunning retelling of salvation. So, yes, that soundbyte about killing God is a tasty tidbit to cycle and recycle all around, but it only succeeds in scaring Christian parents across America into “saving” their children from one of the best reading experiences that lies before them in their young lives. I suspect that Philip Pullman might rather introduce them to a vision of the divine that will speak to their lives and a generation next who craves a God for our times.

I know that’s what he did for me. But then, I read the books. Did you?

Perhaps it’s not so much that liberals don’t take God seriously and therefore can’t understand people who do, it’s more that believers and the faithful who aren’t afraid of challenges to traditional images of God and to interpretations of their faith’s story and message, and who desire a lively dialogue about faith and not a pre-determined one–we get villainized as godless. ”

and, from the man himself:

Phillip Pullman’s answers to Questions about
Science and Religion

“My views on religion and science…That’s a long one. In a sense I prefer just to point to the story and say “There it is.” I’ll say a brief word about the Authority, though. The God who dies is the God of the burners of heretics, the hangers of witches, the persecutors of Jews, the officials who recently flogged that poor girl in Nigeria who had the misfortune to become pregnant after having been forced to have sex – all these people claim to know with absolute certainty that their God wants them to do these things. Well, I take them at their word, and I say in response that that God deserves to die.
The Authority, then, is an ancient IDEA of God, kept alive artificially by those who benefit from his continued existence.
Now then, Dust. Dust permeates everything in the universe, and existed before we individuals did and will continue after us. Dust enriches us and is nurtured in turn by us; it brings wisdom and it is kept alive by love and curiosity and diligent enquiry and kindness and patience and hope. The relationship we have with Dust is mutually beneficial. Instead of being the dependent children of an all-powerful king, we are partners and equals with Dust in the great project of keeping the universe alive. It’s a republican relationship, if you like, not a monarchial one. I don’t find it difficult to think that Dust might suggest a new kind of relationship with a God.
Why are all the church characters bad? That was due to a flaw in my artistry, no doubt. But I was trying to hit a target that deserved hitting, and there’s no merit in pulling punches when important issues are at stake. Anyway, every time I thought I was overdoing it, up came another scandal about brutal monks mistreating children in Irish schools, or sadistic nuns tormenting children in Scottish orphanages, to name but two that came up recently. These things do happen.
Church history: I’m fascinated by the history of religious thought and the structures of religious life. It was a natural thing to write about, because it encapsulates so much of the best as well as the worst of what human beings have done.
Do I believe in God? Well, actually, no. But could I just raise in response the question- does it MATTER what I believe in? You can see what the BOOK believes in – what it values, and what it criticizes; what it holds up for admiration, and what it deplores. What I personally believe in or not isn’t really important- except, of course, for the question of sincerity. Did I mean it? That’s what the question implies. Well, can I say that you don’t spend seven years on a journey like this without needing some sort of moral ballast to keep the keel upright and make sure you stay on course; in other words, I couldn’t do this frivolously or without conviction. Yes, I believe in what the book says. I mean every word of it.
The many-worlds theory, which I’ve heard expounded here in Oxford by one of its great theorists, David Deutsch, is a gift to a story-teller. Once the notion is there, all you have to do is work out a plausible way of getting from one world to another – which is one of the basic structures of fantasy, of course: Alice’s well and looking-glass, Lewis’s wardrobe – they’re all precursors of the subtle knife.

You misunderstood. The “god” that was going to be killed wasn’t actually god, it was the first angel who appointed himself god. The real god isnt killable in the story as far as pullman revealed.

Well you can’t really Kill God like… actually but I think this means like… taking all the power and maybe… destroying people’s faith in God… like… if no one believes in him or if his power is taken away then he is killed…?

I don’t know, I read the golden compass like 5 years ago i don’t remember much from it…. but I can’t wait to see the movie!!

To formulate your take on this, I suggest you read the books.

The Golden Compass SUCKS!!!! The sole purpose is to turn people (esp. kids) away from christianity and God…the author said so!!! plz dont see the movie…. <3

Good grief.
IF HE SAYS HIS BOOKS ARE ABOUT KILLING GOD, THEN WHAT ELSE COULD THEY BE ABOUT?!?!?!

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