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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Phillip Pullman says...

On spirituality and the rest...

"Nowadays, I’m as sure as I can be that there is nothing there. I think that matter is quite extraordinary and wonderful and mysterious enough, without adding something called spirit to it; in fact, any talk about the spiritual makes me feel a little uneasy. When I hear such utterances as ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’, or ‘So-and-so is a deeply spiritual person’, or even phrases of a thoroughly respectable Platonic kind such as ‘The eternal reality of a supreme goodness’, I pull back almost physically. I feel not so much puzzlement as vertigo, as if I’m leaning out over a void. There is just nothing there.

Consequently, the immense and complicated structures of Christian theology seem to me like the epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy – preposterously elaborated methods of explaining away a mistake. When it was realised that the planets went around the sun, not the Earth, the glorious simplicity of the idea blew away the epicycles like so many cobwebs: everything worked perfectly without them.

And as soon as you realise that God doesn’t exist, the same sort of thing happens to all those doctrines such as atonement, the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, original sin, the Trinity, justification by faith, redemption and so on. Cobwebs, dusty bits of rag, frail scraps of faded cloth: they hide nothing, they decorate nothing and now they mean nothing."

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