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Distinguished Bibliophile
Nadine
Posts: 2,456
Registered: ‎10-30-2006
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Religion or Science

Religion or Science

I have heard a lot of discussion about the religious (or anti religious) aspects of His Dark Materials, but as far as the first book, The Golden Compass, I am not seeing a lot that has any relationship to religion. Now that might come up later on but I am limiting my remarks to this particular book.

Lyra's world seems to be loosely fashioned on the Catholic theocracy of the middle-ages. Beyond that there does not seem to be any religious implications in this world. There is no mention of God or "The Authority" that I have noticed. Priests are not spiritual advisors or officiators over religious ceremonies because there are none. Priests are scientists and they engage in scientific studies using "philosophical instruments." In this book science IS the religion and it is put to perverted uses and for political gain or control. This is carried out by "church" authorities as well as powerful lay people, particularly Lord Asrial and Mrs. Coulter.

I am curious about the way the rest of you responded to this first book. Is the religion here science?
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DavidC
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎04-09-2007
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Re: Religion or Science

This is a great question and I hope people offer their opinions. I agree with most of what you say, but have a slightly different take on the notion that "science is the religion" in the books. I think Pullman would define science as an open-minded approach to questions. In Lyra's world, as you say, the tools are used to reaffirm answers approved by the Magisterium. That'd be the opposite of scientific, even if the experiments are done in a laboratory. The second point you make in the same sentence, that science is put to use for other purposes, basically says this; though I'd amend it slightly to say what APPEARS to be science is put to other uses.

The case of Asriel might be more complicated. There's a part of him that wants to break out of the Magisterium's limits. This gets into the subject of character, which I'm sure we'll all be discussing for a while.

You're right about the absence of "The Authority" in the first book. But I still see religion in it, even if it's religion without ritual. Maybe that's Calvin's influence. (As you posted elsewhere, it's a Calvinist church, not a a Catholic one.)
Distinguished Bibliophile
Nadine
Posts: 2,456
Registered: ‎10-30-2006
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Re: Religion or Science

On second reading I have actually found something connected to religion. Page 51 Chapt 3. There is a Father Heyst referred to as the Intercessor led the College services, preached, prayed and heard confessions.
Distinguished Wordsmith
maxcat
Posts: 4,012
Registered: ‎11-01-2006
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Re: Religion or Science

I think in this case, science is the religion. Lyra was brought up in a place that had religion but it was loosely met. Science seemed to be the main topic there even though there were priests, but there were scholars also.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Shadow_Poet2
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎07-30-2007
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Re: Religion or Science



maxcat wrote:
I think in this case, science is the religion. Lyra was brought up in a place that had religion but it was loosely met. Science seemed to be the main topic there even though there were priests, but there were scholars also.




I understand what you are saying, Maxcat, but I wonder if we are seeing the true influence of religion on Lyra's world, or her perspective on it. Brought up by scholars and intricately connected to the "science" of discovering Dust, her world is strongly influenced by science. This would cause the story read about her happenings to include more science than religion. I don't think this means that religion does not hold a place in Lyra's world.

One constant about humanity that seems to stretch as far back as history itself is there have always been two kinds of finatics...the religious kind and the scientific kind. Authors have been writing about these conflicts for centuries.

Today, if you were to study the life of a scientist you may be lead to believe that religion holds no value in their world because they are surrounded and consumed by scientific persuits. At the same time, there are people willing to die in the name of their religion (and they are dying) all over the world. Just in this country, we have hundreds of demonimations because people feel strongly enough about their beliefs to seperate themselves from those who believe differently.

Likewise, if you studied a minister's life, you may feel like religion is very important in the world and there isn't much credit given to scientific exploration. The fact that the "church" holds such a level of influence in Lyra's world speaks volumes to me. I don't believe it would be called a church if it were not religious. It could be a society or something else. Asmov has written tales that do show the absence of religion in a society and other types of organizations grow in power.
Renée

""I now view my long road as a search for truth in my own heart, in the world around me, and in the bigger questions of purpose and of existence. How does one define good and evil." --Drizzt Do'Urden
Frequent Contributor
niki
Posts: 187
Registered: ‎12-25-2006
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Re: Religion or Science


Shadow_Poet2 wrote:


maxcat wrote:
I think in this case, science is the religion. Lyra was brought up in a place that had religion but it was loosely met. Science seemed to be the main topic there even though there were priests, but there were scholars also.




I understand what you are saying, Maxcat, but I wonder if we are seeing the true influence of religion on Lyra's world, or her perspective on it. Brought up by scholars and intricately connected to the "science" of discovering Dust, her world is strongly influenced by science. This would cause the story read about her happenings to include more science than religion. I don't think this means that religion does not hold a place in Lyra's world.

One constant about humanity that seems to stretch as far back as history itself is there have always been two kinds of finatics...the religious kind and the scientific kind. Authors have been writing about these conflicts for centuries.

Today, if you were to study the life of a scientist you may be lead to believe that religion holds no value in their world because they are surrounded and consumed by scientific persuits. At the same time, there are people willing to die in the name of their religion (and they are dying) all over the world. Just in this country, we have hundreds of demonimations because people feel strongly enough about their beliefs to seperate themselves from those who believe differently.

Likewise, if you studied a minister's life, you may feel like religion is very important in the world and there isn't much credit given to scientific exploration. The fact that the "church" holds such a level of influence in Lyra's world speaks volumes to me. I don't believe it would be called a church if it were not religious. It could be a society or something else. Asmov has written tales that do show the absence of religion in a society and other types of organizations grow in power.




I don't know if any of this has anything to do do with religion or science. It has to do with power and controlling people. You can achieve that by cloaking your particular ideology with any sort of "acceptable" trappings. Both religion and science have their own way of putting out their agenda. Religion claims a high authority that dictates these things although it is the people in control that deliver and interpret the message. You must accept it on faith. Science does the same thing. In both cases, depending on which we side with, we generally accept their "authority" on "faith". Science says it offers proof but how many of us really know since we don't belong to the inner group and know or understand what they tell us. If science in the form of some official body (or better yet government body like the FDA) say something is true then we accept it as something that has to be true because it is "official". I'm not saying that everything science tells us might be wrong but when it becomes political and part of the power structure, the fact that the people accept it as true means it will be used to "convince" people of certain things.
Inspired Correspondent
Bonnie824
Posts: 951
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Religion or Science

I am repeating myself from the movie discussion, but having seen the movie (not read the book yet, but will soon) and knowing many very right wing type religious people, I think the whole witches and good, authority is bad thing would surely set them off. Plus calling the little animal/soul friends things deamons.

Bonnie
Frequent Contributor
BarbaraN
Posts: 519
Registered: ‎11-08-2006
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Re: Religion or Science


Bonnie824 wrote:
I am repeating myself from the movie discussion, but having seen the movie (not read the book yet, but will soon) and knowing many very right wing type religious people, I think the whole witches and good, authority is bad thing would surely set them off. Plus calling the little animal/soul friends things deamons.

Bonnie




Isn't it amazing how terminology sets people off. I think that was the whole problem with Harry Potter. She called female magic people witches. Wizards are ok but witches are bad. I think now we have become desensitized to the term witch as an evil thing, so it might be becoming more acceptable. And I agree with you on calling the soul-mates daemons. Daemons or daimons didn't used to be necessarily evil back in the time of the Greeks. Their association with evil only came into common usage with the Christian era. The good daimons became guardian angels in in Christian terminology. Kind of looks to me like Pullman used the right word for his creation: http://deoxy.org/p_daimon.htm
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