Phillip Pullman, the famous atheist author behind the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy, has recently said that Jesus Christ is a great speaker that children in school can learn from.
"Jesus was a great storyteller. To invent the story about the Good Samaritan, you hear it once, you never forget it, you tell it to somebody else and it still has the same effect. The man was a genius of storytelling, if nothing else," Pullman said at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday, according to The Australian News.
Pullman, who is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and supporter of the British Humanist Association, insisted that it is "very important" that children be familiar with biblical stories, as well as classic folk tales.
The 66-year-old author from Norwich, U.K. attracted controversy with his 2010 novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a fictional work where he depicts Jesus as two personalities, two brothers who work against each other – with "the scoundrel Christ" hijacking his brother's noble ideas and building the church around them.
His other famous work, His Dark Materials, was turned into a Hollywood movie in 2007 called "The Golden Compass," and starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
The movie was controversial both among atheists and Christians, with the former upset that the novel's anti-religious themes were watered down in the movie, while the latter warned that children could be led to read the books behind the movie and be influenced by atheism.
Although he maintains that he is an agnostic atheist, Pullman has differed from other prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, who has rejected religion or the Bible having any beneficial effect for society.
At the Oxford Literary Festival event, the author described the chance to write another book of his, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, an updated version of the classic fairy tales, as "one of those gifts from heaven," but added "in which I don't believe."
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Pullman said that classic tales are "vital" for everyone to learn.
"I would urge everyone to get some of these stories in your head and practice them – not by heart or by rote – but like a jazz musician, who doesn't know the exact notes he is going to play, but knows the chords he will base them on. You will enjoy them and they will really stay with the children," the author added.