The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here’s the story: Mary has twins — Jesus, a religious weirdo, and Christ, the politician. Encouraged by a mysterious stranger, Christ makes plans to turn Jesus’ provincial message in to a world religion.

I sort of wanted to like this book, if only so I could resist the holy religious outrage which often accompanies anything written by the pop atheists nowadays. Religions would most of the time be better off confronting the abuses of faith that are pilloried by people such as Pullman, rather than pretending they don’t exist.

Of course, this assumes that said pillories have merit. Alas for Angry Atheism, Pullman’s retelling of the Jesus story lacks the bite necessary to be taken seriously as a grown up indictment of Christianity, although I’m sure some less discerning readers will salivate over the audacity of suggesting Jesus was not the Son of God. Lo! The Prophet Pullman!

But no, in Good Man Christ’s visions of a powerful (abusive) Church are a clumsy caricature and his twin, the “good man” Jesus, a pastiche of hippy love and post-modern doubt. It’s even theologically naive: in a radio interview, Pullman wished us to believe that Christ’s divinity was some late concoction, forged perhaps by St. Paul, whereas the “true” Jesus can be found in Mark. This forgets, of course, that the Pauline epistles predate Mark by some way.

The book is not without some merit. Pullman has ably captured the bare style of mythic narrative — you could almost imagine the story being found among some gnostic gospels — and pulls you speedily along towards the tragic denouement. No prizes for guessing which son of Mary lives and who dies to found a world religion.