I feel that Pullman offers a fantasy series that might not be all that far out there when it comes to his portrayal of the church.
I would be considered Agnostic even though I don’t like subscribing to a theological identity. I was a history major and this made me hate religion. I have studied and saw all the ridiculous things that the church has perpetrated through its varied incarnations.
The big thing that springs into my mind is how the creation story compares with that of the creation of the Christianity in our world.
In the His Dark Materials Trilogy, Pullman sets up his multi-verse with the Authority, who is not the creator, as the head of everything. Everyone thinks he is the creator but we find out that he is not. I see a huge parallel between this and evidence that surfaced over the past one hundred years with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves in the Middle East. In these scrolls were documents hidden from those who would have destroyed them. One of the most interesting is the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I have read a book that has a photocopy of it along with a translation that would suggest that Mary was Jesus’ most trusted and revered apostle. The apostle to the apostles.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Well if that is true then why did Peter start the church?” Good point. Tradition tells us that Peter was the rock that the church was founded on and is waiting at the gates of heaven to let those worthy in.
I think that is a load of crap.
In the Gospel of Thomas, another document contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls, talks of Peter being jealous of Mary Magdalene and that Peter was a sexist, which in some ways makes a lot of sense when looking at how the church has treated women.
These gospels also talk of how Jesus asked Mary to start the church.
So after followers of Jesus fled to the west in fear of persecution from Romans and Jews, Peter stepped in and said that Jesus asked him to start the church that single handedly killed millions upon millions of people, directly and indirectly. Through war, greed, fear, witch hunts, and slavery. Much like the church in Lyra’s world, just a little more exaggerated.
Peter can be the Authority who sent history in a very different direction and caused a little under two millennia of death, fear, and greed.