Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is that all there is?

After seeing The Golden Compass I had to get the books and read them, especially when there was such furor over the way the movie changed the basic themes of the books. Now I get it and I wonder why the trilogy were sold as children's books, other than that the main character, Lyra Belacqua, is a young girl. The themes are much deeper and more complex than a simple fantasy or adventure story, which is not to say that children wouldn't enjoy the books simply for the story. In a way, it's ironic that such a weighty subject is classified as children's literature when the basic theme is that religion, Christianity, and the Catholic Church specifically, is based on the belief that we should remain children in order to be rewarded with heaven.

I read two of the interviews referenced on Philip Pullman's website and Christianity Today focused on the subject of Dust and the religious themes in His Dark Materials. One thing that Pullman brought out is that Christianity is based on the idea that the only good comes from being Christian and that the idea of morality, generosity, sacrifice, honesty, happiness, and ethics can only come through the church and thus through God. All other instances of virtue are tainted by the association of humanity unsanctioned by belief and faith. So what did humanity do before God came and made all virtues holy? How did humanity exist, prosper or even act morally and ethically until they were "saved"?

More and more it seems to me that religion seeks to put humanity back into the Garden of Eden naked and dependent on a Master to feed and house them and that to religious leaders free will is another name for giving up sovereignty over existence. You have a mind, but unless you allow God or the church to tell you how to use it you will misuse it. You will question and that isn't allowed. And look where that kind of thinking got western civilization during the Dark Ages. It's like Svengali has grown to infinite size and proportions with an infinite appetite for control. The very idea demeans the whole of human existence. Are we merely puppets?

There has been a rise in movies and on television of the idea that this existence, this mundane, sometimes banal existence is something to be cherished and enjoyed, but religion would have it otherwise. Build up your treasures in heaven not on earth where moth and rust corrupt. Give up your life destroying another religion or people and you will live in Paradise waited on hand and foot by virgins. Sublimate your desires, your pleasure in life, your very mind and you will be rewarded. (Isn't that just another name for slacker?) If that is the case, then why are we here? What purpose do we serve except to exalt a disembodied Creator whose roller coaster moods seem more bipolar than holy? Why bother to exist at all if our only function is to worship and turn our energies, our minds, our very souls over to the church and God so they can enjoy living on this earth in their bodies? Are we slaves or are we missing the point? Have we been led down the garden path blindfolded to be slaughtered so that it is as if we never existed?

Is that all there is?

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