C.S. Lewis. Brit, Oxford-educated scholar, author, Christian apologist, and writer of one of the most popular series of children’s fiction in modern times.
Philip Pullman. Brit, Oxford-educated scholar, author, militant atheist, and writer of one of the most popular series of children’s fiction in modern times.
See if you can spot the difference between these two guys. No, the answer isn’t that one of them is already dead while the other is only wished dead by half of America – although that’s certainly the case. The answer I was thinking of was that one has been accused of attempting to indoctrinate kiddies into following Christian teachings, while the other is being accused of trying to kill God. In this George Bush-led modern world where all issues are increasingly black and white and tolerance and understanding are synonyms for ‘pussy’, there can clearly be no middle ground here. In the hope of easing tensions and letting all you poor, confused souls out there know who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’, I present the Pullman vs. Lewis “Battle of the Beliefs”.
Pay close attention to the outcome, as only one man can have total influence over your child’s future beliefs, morality and general wellbeingness – and it’s either a stuffy, English gent who believes in God, or one that don’t. Judgment day is here people.
Bout 1 – Childhood
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland and was named in honour of his father’s favourite office supplies. He had a fairly common life for a boy born in the late 20th Century and, after leaving a school in which the headmaster was later committed to a mental asylum, he developed a passion for fantasising about spanking women. At the age of 15, Lewis abandoned the Christian faith of his childhood and instead the teenager devoted his time to a fascination with superstitious nonsense, dogmatic rituals and mythological fables. Such a radical change in his beliefs was unnoticed by everyone including his God.
Philip Pullman was born in the city of Norfolk, England. The son of a RAF pilot, young Phil travelled the world and spent some time being schooled in Zimbabwe and Australia. This, in part, explains his exceptional circumstances of being British and yet still able to write competently. In Australia, Pullman developed a love for comic books and playing the didgeridoo. In fact, he confided to a close friend that he was, for a while, torn between becoming a world-famous author and playing the didge on a rock in the outback. Eventually, destiny decided for him when he broke his ‘doo ‘horsing around’ and his mum refused to buy him a new one until he tidied his room. Before going to college, Pullman was educated in some unpronounceable place in Wales – which went some way to undoing his previous educational success and is why he now employs a foreign copywriter.
Winner: Lewis – simply because his Wikipedia entry is longer and far more interesting.
Bout 2 – Oxford
A year after earning a scholarship for University College, Oxford, Lewis went off to fight in the Great War. After getting injured and suffering from depression, he realised the war wasn’t that great and soon returned to his studies. Teaching in Oxford from 1925, he rubbed shoulders with other renowned authors of the time, received many an honour, and was tutor for such figures of literary prominence as Betjeman and…um…Lings.
Pullman attended Exeter College in 1963 and, after five years, failed to get anything better than a paltry third class BA – hey Phil, Lewis got a first…your ass has been totally pWnd! The lazy bastard went on to work part-time at Westminster College, Oxford (as the janitor, maybe?) while writing children’s books in his spare time – of which he seemingly had a lot. During his tenure at one of the leading universities of the world, Pullman’s most significant contribution to literature was writing: “Mr. Shepards got a big dong 4 a face” on the toilet wall.
Winner: Lewis – the dead man takes bout two due to the fact that he seems to be the only one who actually spent his time in Oxford attending the university.
Bout 3 – Literary accomplishments
Alongside his scholarly work (somehow, I can’t imagine that being the opening of Pullman’s paragraph…the slacker), Lewis wrote a number of popular novels – most famous of which are the Narnia series of children’s books that have sold over 100 million copies. He also wrote several novels and articles pertaining to Christianity, which gave him the reputation of being one of the world’s most celebrated Christian apologists. This simply begs the question how many Christian apologists were about at the time and what were they apologising for. And who’s celebrating them for doing so.
Philip Pullman’s much celebrated ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy kicked off in 1995 with ‘Northern Lights’ (titled ‘The Golden Compass’ in North America, presumably so Pullman can flesh out the word count on his depressingly light CV a little more). Thus far, the series have sold about 12 million copies and have won a plethora of awards including the Carnegie Medal, the Whitbread Prize for best children’s book, the Whitbread Prize for best book, and the Whitbread Prize for the only author who had enough free time to show up in person and collect the award. Pullman was also named joint winner for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005. So that’s sort of a part-time winner when you think about it. Slacker.
Winner: Pullman – Granted, Lewis produced more and held down a real job, but Philip Pull-“your goddamn finger out”-man has got the awards to back him up.
Bout 4 – Adaptations of popular works
Lewis has the advantage of time to ensure his novels, most prominently ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, have seen numerous translations for TV, film, theatre, radio, rap, and probably a lego version on YouTube. The proliferation of such adaptations is largely due to the abundance of wardrobes, talking lions, and war orphans in England. The recent movie was particularly successful, using special effects to make the four child stars’ accents even more ingratiatingly English, and remained mostly faithful to the original story – although this is purely speculative as it has been years since anyone’s bothered reading the novel.
Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ has been adapted for film, radio, theatre, and porn – all receiving great commercial and critical success. The recent film version (based on the first book of the series, ‘Northern Lights’, and titled ‘The Golden Compass’) is notable for the scene in which a polar bear rips off another polar bear’s jaw, and how you can clearly see how many people are dying as their daemons burst into golden dust when they do. Cool. Coming under pressure from Christian groups who demand that only they tell children what to think, the film does seem very watered down from the original message and the world waits with an almost tangible sense of impending disappointment as the sequels are inevitably changed to conclude with Lyra meeting God and congratulating him on the great job he’s doing as he tells her to vote Republican and invade Iran.
Winner: Pullman – A film adaptation of Narnia was always going to be easier and less risky than one of ‘His Dark Materials’ so that has been taken into account, and I do think ‘The Golden Compass’ was better. I just wish the director of the latter gave his audience some credit for intelligence and didn’t make feeble claims about the nemesis of the book being not, strictly speaking, religion but any totalitarian government. It is about religion. Grow some fucking balls.
Final Bout – Religious Views
Clearly winning another prize for interestingness (yes, that IS a word), Lewis rejected his Christian upbringing at the tender age of 15 when he became more interested in the occult and the homosexual tendencies of his fellow pupils. He remained a devout non-believer for many years, often quoting Lucretius to bolster his stance: “Had God designed the world, it would not be/A world so frail and faulty as we see.” Eventually convinced of the existence of God by JRR Tolkien, a man whose grasp of reality is most evident in his ‘Lord of the Rings’ series of travel guides, Lewis became a converted Christian after God barged into his home late on a Wednesday, helped himself to the last piece of cheese, pissed without lifting the toilet seat up, raped Lewis’s pet hamster, and left without even saying thank you. After this experience, C.S. Lewis devoted his life to subversively exposing children to Christian beliefs in a way that is perfectly wholesome, acceptable, and not dangerous. After all, readers of Narnia aren’t being forced to think a certain way, they’re just being shown the glory of God…uh, Aslan…
Pullman has been described as one of Britain’s most outspoken atheists. Which must have royally pissed off Richard Dawkins but probably went unnoticed by the rest of the nation. Some claim that Pullman actively follows a Christian agenda, and his novels are a direct reaction to Lewis’s Narnia series which Pullman perceives as religious propaganda. Anyone close to Pullman, however, are aware that he doesn’t actively pursue anything and it would be far more accurate to say he simply sat and passively wrote an anti-religious story that others would have to get out of their homes to actively find and read. The lazy cunt. Interestingly, not all Christians consider Pullman a blasphemous toe-rag, and some groups argue that Pullman unwittingly pays tribute to the God he tries to discredit. Thus proving the mantra, seek and thee shall find. Ultimately, it is clear that Pullman has devoted his life to subversively exposing children to his atheist beliefs in a way that is demonstrably evil, unacceptable and dangerous. After all, readers of the Materials trilogy are being forced to think a certain way, and that is to hate God…uh, the Authority…
Winner: Pullman – Despite never doing an honest day’s work in his life, I respect Pullman for taking a clear stance on his beliefs. Lewis just strikes me as caving into peer pressure. Seriously, in another world or another time, Tolkien would have convinced Lewis to start smoking pot and Narnia would have had a far more interesting kind of message for the kiddies…
Overall Winner – Pullman
Although Lewis’s Wikipedia page is far more informative, Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ has the guts to truly challenge the establishment while Lewis merely takes the best bits from the bible and features a talking lion. To be honest, that lion pisses me off and if I lived in that stinking world I’d probably want to kill him and his furry, superior-than-thou face. At the end of the day, anything that makes the kids question everything is a good thing and any organisation that is so nervous about its own foundations that they vilify anyone who dare says “now, hang on a minute…” clearly needs to re-evaluate the strength of its product. Pullman wins.