Pullman risks Christian anger with Jesus novel

Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:42pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

OXFORD, England (Reuters) - Bestselling British author Philip Pullman risks offending Christians with his latest book, a fictional account of the "good man Jesus" and the "scoundrel Christ."

The 63-year-old, an outspoken atheist, angered some members of the Catholic Church with a thinly veiled attack on organized religion in his hugely successful "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the first of which was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster.

But "The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ" is a far more direct exploration of the foundations of Christianity and the church as well as an examination of the fascination and power of storytelling.

In the novel, Jesus has a twin brother called Christ who secretly records and embellishes his brother's teachings.

Speaking about the book to an audience in Oxford on Sunday, Pullman acknowledged that it was likely to cause offence.

When one man said Christians would be upset to hear Christ referred to as a "scoundrel," Pullman replied:

"I knew it was a shocking thing to say, but no one has the right to live without being shocked. Nobody has to read this book ... and no one has the right to stop me writing this book."

In the book, Christ is lured into betraying Jesus by a mysterious stranger who wants to use the controversial preacher and his beliefs as a focal point for a new religion preserved and controlled by a powerful and wealthy body called the church.   Continued...