Q The book also forwards the idea of a "Republic of Heaven," religion run by humans. Is that republic any better? Because it's still run by humans, who are fallible and seduced by power.
A Yes, but who have the democratic means of changing those in power. One of the founding principles of a Republic of Heaven is it's got to be a democracy. The trouble with the old [system] was that the authority came from above and was not to be questioned. [It] puts humans in temporal power, secular power, running the lives of others. And that's the bad thing.
When I first read this, I thought he might make a good protestant. I once heard Brian McLaren (I think) say "We aren't protesting anymore." I quoted that a few times, then thought, "No, I think I am still protesting, or at least I've moved on rather than back." I wouldn't consider Catholicism at this point because of the hierarchy and I don't believe several of the doctrines. In most of our churches, you can vote the bum out. (Ours is one of the exceptions at the moment.) And there is a feel at first with this story (which I haven't read or seen) and DaVinci Code (which I both read and saw) that they are at odds with the power of the church.
But is Pullman going farther than that? Is he wanting to vote on God himself? As an atheist, he is asking the kind of questions we would want him to ask as a seeker. (read the interview for more). And I don't mind at all the exploration of these questions in fiction. My only concern has been about the fact they are children's books. The other day my daughter brought home the Left Behind for Kids which she got at her public school library. I gave her the same talk I would have given her had she brought home Dark Materials (the trilogy which includes Golden Compass). "Honey, feel free to read it, but understand that may not be exactly how we believe." (Or at least how her father believes.)