Anyone Have a Citation for This? December 10, 2007

Anyone Have a Citation for This?

Apparently, there are emails circulating that quote Philip Pullman (author of The Golden Compass) as saying this:

“I want to kill God in the minds of Children…. I want them to decide against God and the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Simon Owens at Bloggasm is having a hard time finding the source for this statement:

After hitting thousands of inboxes, this false quote eventually spilled over onto dozens of webpages. Notice that some of those sites are run by churches.

I meticulously went through every single direct reference to the quote, and never once does it cite a source. A few of these webpages claim that this quote came from a mysterious 2003 interview with the author, but we never actually find out where.

In fact, the only quote that Pullman actually said that comes close to this appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“I’ve been surprised by how little criticism I’ve got. Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. I’m a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people – mainly from America’s Bible Belt – who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven’t got enough in their lives. 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.”

This, of course, is entirely different from the author saying “I want to kill God in the minds of Children.”

I mention in my book that this was something I saw in church — someone citing a statement as fact when it wasn’t actually true.

It’s just dishonest. Simon isn’t sure who began misattributing this quotation to Pullman, but it’d be nice to set the record straight.

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  • JeffN

    Enough with the Philip Pullman Movie already. It’s been done to death. 🙂

  • Bad

    Can’t Pullman speak for himself and put the rumor to rest? At this point, we can’t say for sure that he didn’t say it somewhere, can we?

    Course, this still sounds like the “Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide” myth.

  • Siamang

    I think this is the “source” of the quote. Snopes has this as part of a forwarded email:

    They are hoping that unsuspecting parents will take their children to See the movie, that they will enjoy the movie and then the children will want the books for Christmas. That’s the hook. Pullman says he wants the children to read the books and decide against God and the kingdom of heaven.

    These are the words of the EMAIL writer, not Pullman.

    I think what happened next is that someone put quotes around that last sentence and put those words in Pullman’s mouth.

    As I’ve said before, honest quoting of your adversaries isn’t something vociferous Christians are intellectually rigorous about.

  • Richard Wade

    Well, even if Pullman didn’t say this, and even if he publicly denies having said it, and even if no citation is ever found, and even if the original authors of the statement publicly confess that they made it up, if indeed someone did, this allegation will never, ever, ever go away, because the people who will keep repeating it for the next several decades have been trained all their lives to believe whatever they are told.

  • Huw

    Thanks for “snoping” this out! And it will be promptly blogged: I’ve had the “kill God” quote offered to me in comments on my blog as I recently wrote a review of the book.

    But it is a common problem: it’s one the Internet! It must be True! I’ve often had to point out to someone that LarkNews or Landover Baptist are not valid sources of Christian view points, any more than the Onion or The Onion Dome (Eastern Orthodox Humour site). Humans seem to like to proof text, even when we don’t know what we’re citing.

  • Mriana

    “I want to kill God in the minds of Children…. I want them to decide against God and the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Eh, it’s no worse than, “You know how to kill a god? Stop believing in the god.” Regardless of whether or not he did say it, it’s the same idea.

  • Adrian

    “…decide against God and the Kingdom of Heaven”?

    This doesn’t even sound like something an atheist would say. Curiously, it sounds exactly like something a fundie would say an atheist has said, if that makes any sense at all.

  • “This doesn’t even sound like something an atheist would say. Curiously, it sounds exactly like something a fundie would say an atheist has said, if that makes any sense at all.”

    That’s a great point, I didn’t even think of that. An atheist would never refer to it as the “Kingdom of Heaven”

  • They don’t even really kill God in the books. There’s just some character that claims to be God, and he dies on his own. By my interpretation, the real God is elsewhere in the stories…

    And though Pullman does reject the “Kingdom of Heaven”, the alternative he suggests is the “Republic of Heaven”.

  • Jason

    I think Siamang has it as the source – the quoting of emails on as what Philip Pullman said. I wrote several Catholic churches that used the quotes in their bulletins to suggest people stay away. One person has written back so far referring me to that Snopes page.

  • Jenna

    This is awesome. I found this site in my search for some answers on the seemingly ridiculousness hatred for the Author. A few of my Christian friends refused to watch it with me. As usual and my interprutation of the movie. Regardless of religion the fanatics always want to repress new thoughts and ideas. Different is evil. I haven’t been able to find the interview either but every Christian site quotes it. SHOCKER!!!

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