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Banned Books: Catholic League Attacks “His Dark Materials” Trilogy

Banned Books: Catholic League Attacks “His Dark Materials” Trilogy

Hundreds of books are challenged or banned every year– but Philip Pullman‘s “His Dark Materials” trilogy holds the additional dubious honor of being specifically targeted by the Catholic League because of themes including “atheism and Catholic bashing.”

The trilogy, which is often classified as children’s or young adult literature, includes the books “The Golden Compass,” “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass.” The three books follow the protagonist, a young girl named Lyra, and her friend Will through their adventures in parallel universes, and has been described as a modern take on Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Fantastical elements such as talking polar bears, witches, and magic are central to the plot of the series.

The shortcomings of organized religion are often mentioned by characters in the trilogy. A witch named Ruta Skadi states, “For all of [the Church's] history… it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out.” Lyra assists in the death of the “Authority” (God), and as a result sets all the souls trapped in the underworld free.

On the subject of criticism of the trilogy’s anti-religion themes, Pullman said, “I’ve been surprised how little criticism I’ve got. Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak… Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.”

While the themes sound kind of heavy for a children’s trilogy, I found “His Dark Materials” to be one of the most compelling and best-written series that I have ever read. The books are challenging but I made it through all of them by the time I was fourteen, and was blown away with the power and passion of Pullman’s story.

This trilogy embodies everything about quality literature: fantastic writing, lifelike characters, a vivid setting, and, most of all, a compelling storyline that examines serious issues. It’s not “The Babysitter’s Club,” that’s for sure. But any school or public library that bans “His Dark Materials” robs its patrons of an amazing literary adventure.

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Photo credit: Cea

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122 comments

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3:54PM PDT on May 29, 2013

i really don't think these books should be banned. they are great books and if you really don't like them because they have to do with killing god just ignore the books

11:56AM PDT on Mar 17, 2012

How do they pick the books to be banned?
What criteria is used? Surely this is largely subjective???
The list could be a lot longer...

1:33PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

If they disagree with the message, I would think it would be more effective for them to provide counter-arguments than to just try to suppress it. But maybe 'rational discussion' is too much for them to handle?
It sounds to me like the main flaw of the book might be too much focus on Catholicism at the expense of the other religions. Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam, to name just a few, all do as much or more to try to control people's lives and control or 'cut out' healthy impulses.

1:19PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

I am atheist and i am not evil so there is no reason to ban a book that merely suggests atheism.

1:18PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

I am atheist and i am not evil so there is no reason to ban a book that merely suggests atheism.

11:27AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

The Catholic "League" is NOT the Catholic "Church" and does NOT speak for it!

9:41AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Better they attack the pedophiles amongst themselves!

12:36AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Whatever the church does not like, it burns or bans. To them, ignorance is not only bliss, it's power. Keep the populace ignorant and their power increases but when people start to think for themselves, their power diminishes.

4:45PM PDT on Oct 2, 2011

The CHURCH, regardless of if it's Catholic or not, is guilty of so many crimes against humanity and self-expression, it wouldn't even make a poorly written joke if it wasn't true.I cannot understand how people follow some ideas so blindly.If it were up to the Church, the only book that wouldn't be banned was their religious dogma, the Bible.And no, I am not religious so if I offend some of you, that is life...

8:04AM PDT on Oct 2, 2011

The Catholic Church still lives in the Middle Ages. This is the "INDEX LIBRORUM". They would like to burn witches if they could.

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