Pullman says he hopes his book will send readers back to one of the other versions of this story: the Bible. He believes they might be surprised by some of the inconsistencies they find there.First, I want to say: what's the problem with inconsistencies? Why do all atheists (Pullman is a very public atheist, I'm not picking on "non-believers" here) think inconsistencies in the Biblical narratives will suddenly make all believers over into non-believers? Is it because a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds? Is it because all atheists presume all believers are merely dupes and fools and poor, pitiful folk clinging to nonsense and fictions in extremis?
"Think of a sick man wracked with pain and fear. Think of a dying woman terrified by the coming darkness. there will be hands reaching out to comfort them and feed them and warm them."Which is just so insulting and simplistic and ignorant it should be passed over without further comment. But then Pullman says this, too:
The Jesus who emerges from this story is a real person, a man ... a man of strength and conviction with a gift for story telling ..."This story," of course, is his novel, one which "he hopes his book will send readers back to one of the other versions of this story: the Bible," wherein they will find those dreadful contradictions that will surely shatter their complacency and religious feelings.
I am first to agree that too many Christians in churches are merely baptized heathens. I remember the church member of my first church who, after three months of my sermons, told me he'd read the Bible in his youth, and knew all he needed to know about it, and didn't need to hear any more from it from the pulpit. So I'm not naive about Biblical illiteracy among "the faithful," and I daresay pointing out the contradictions in the Biblical stories (as I've said before, the nativity stories of Luke and Matthew are literally irreconcilable, yet we reconcile them every Christmas by overlooking the contradictions) will get a pastor in some hot water, at least. But you know, somehow that hasn't made me an atheist, or made any church members I knew or know now, into atheists. And I think if people were to "return to the Bible" they'd see that Jesus is "a real person, a man ... a man of strength and conviction with a gift for story telling." And if the Church is not teaching Jesus that way, then the fault is with the Church, although it's also with the people, who crowd the mega-church of Joel Osteen to hear about how God wants them to be rich (the Church of Meaning and Belonging), and flee the church that requires too much of them (the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging) (those two terms being explained here). And that fact makes me a little weary of those who would "reform" believers or even make them over into non-believers by getting them to separate from that "stranger" the Church. It's a voluntary organization, and it is what its members want it to be; and the idea that all it is, is a comforting fiction whispered in the ears of the vulnerable, well....that suggestion is just beyond ridiculous:
"My church comforts the sick and the dying. My church feeds the hungry. What does your church do? Oh, that's right, you don't have a church!"I guess I'm saying I love these people on the outside looking in who think the exterior view is enough to make them experts on what I can't understand from the inside.
I'd also argue that the inconsistencies are good things! Especially the ones in the parables! But that gets us back to the Church of Meaning and Belonging, v. the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging. The distinction between them, though, can't be seen from the outside; and the view from the outside is the only view critics like Pullman have.
In the immortal words of Nigel Molesworth: "He is utterly wet and a weed. I discard him."