Philip Pullman awarded for services to Humanism

Best-selling author Philip Pullman CBE, whose works include the multiple award-winning trilogy His Dark Materials will today be given an award for services to Humanism at the British Humanist Association’s annual conference in Manchester. Philip Pullman CBE is a longstanding supporter of the BHA.

Philip Pullman’s best known work is the trilogy His Dark Materials, beginning with Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the USA) in 1995, continuing with The Subtle Knife in 1997, and concluding with The Amber Spyglass in 2000. This absorbing sequence of books is an imaginative and humanistic story of growing up, with elements of mythology, fantasy and magic, philosophy and theology, in which organised religion is not treated kindly and God, the elderly and frail tool of the Church, dies.  

Since its publication, Philip Pullman has also become known as a public commentator on religion, and on education and literature. He was chosen by The Independent for its ‘Good List 2006’ of ‘50 campaigners, thinkers and givers’; the panel of experts at The Independent cited the worlds this ‘campaigning atheist’ creates ‘in which children see good as a matter of choices that are within their control. Pullman wants children to realise they are the inheritors of philosophical, artistic and scientific and literary riches’.

Speaking on ‘faith’ schools, Philip Pullman has said:
‘What I fear and deplore in the ‘faith’ school camp is their desire to close argument down and put some things beyond question or debate. It’s vital to get clear in young minds what is a faith position and what is not – so that, for instance, they won’t be taken in by religious people claiming that science is a faith position no different in kind from Christianity. Science is not a matter of faith, and too many people are being allowed to get away with claiming that it is, and that my ‘belief’ in evolution is a thing of the same kind as their ‘belief’ in miracles. What we need in schools, really, is basic philosophy.

In an interesting interview on the Christian website Third Way, he said:
‘This is the mistake Christians make when they say that if you are an atheist you have to be a nihilist and there’s no meaning any more. Well, that’s nonsense, as Mary Malone discovers. Now that I’m conscious, now that I’m responsible, there is a meaning, and it is to make things better and to work for greater good and greater wisdom. That’s my meaning – and it comes from my understanding of my position. It’s not nihilism at all. It’s very far from it.’