Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Golden Compass

[Disclaimer: This post is not suggesting censorship, nor do I promote a boycott of the following film. I merely want Christian parents to realize that this film is based off a series of books with an anti-religious theme.]

This movie is based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of books titled 'His Dark materials.' The author is a militant atheist whose professed purpose with these books is to turn kids away from Christianity. Pullman is a supporter of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. New Yorker journalist Laura Miller has described Pullman as one of England's most outspoken atheists.

The movie has been cleaned up to avoid a lot of objections, but the movie is of course bait for the books which are anti-religious in theme. The books get progressively worse with the heroes (children) in the 3rd book actually killing God, who is depicted as a little shrunken man.

Snopes has more information on Pullman, the movie, and the triology.

Quotes from Pullman:

"I don't profess any religion; I don't think that its possible that there is a god; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words 'spiritual' or 'spirituality'"

In a 2003 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he stated that:

"My books are about killing God."

From reviews of the trilogy at, it appears that the first book is very tame, with the second two becoming increasingly anti-religious. Here are a couple reviews from the last book of the series:

And as religion seems to be brought up in many of the reviews, I would like to address it briefly too. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, of course. But Pullman spends so much of this book talking about how close-minded and judgmental organized religion is, he just comes across as close-minded himself. All his characters who believe in religion are evil, corrupt, ignorant, or stupid. It just seems very hypocritical to be so judgmental about religion when he is preaching open-mindedness. His belief in atheism is fine, of course, but he allows it to overtake his story, and the plot suffers as a result.

I bought the trilogy after seeing that the movie was slated for release this fall. I was blown away by the Golden Compass. Pullman is a superb storyteller and the high adventure and incredible imagination that went into the first book was mind blowing. I remember thinking that surely this was a story that would surpass "The Wizard of Oz" as a cultural cornerstone of fiction. Having read "Paradise Lost" also played to my aspirations of intellectualism while reading the books.

But when "The Subtle Knife" adds a new hero and makes an almost predictible jump to our world - present day, so begins a slide away from wonder. Still through incredible writing ability Pullman makes an enjoyable read of it, though nowhere near the story "The Golden Compass" is. The heavy themes certainly start leaving a childrens book mentality far behind. It becomes unclear if the writer hates (and hate is not to strong a word here) religion or just Christianity. Certianly Christianity has all his ire.

By the time we get to "The Amber Spyglass" the exciting beautiful story is a full blown anti-sermon on atheism with all the rhetoric of the most zealous puritanical ministers. "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster" Says Nietzsche, and that may be what transpires. There are confusing story segments aligned it seems with the sole purpose of pontification. Story arcs that border on boring,such as the spyglass itself, seem wholly irrelevant. Morally bizarre situations rule the day: Broaching sexuality for minors, excusing evil characters actions in Machina Ex Deus fashion, rebellion and out right lieing as a virtue. Some of this could have been interesting if it were a topsy turvey things are not what they seem story, But that ship sails early on. Instead there is no forgiving the lack of motivation for characters early actions. The climaxs are all underdeveloped as far as reasoning. The coming of age subplot has nothing to do with character. Petulance is only rewarded.

As you can guess by now I'm sorry I read anything past "The Golden Compass" and worse I paid for them. When I pickup a book I'd rather not be preached at religious or otherwise unless I am in the religion section. This is not escapist fiction, It's a personal diatribe. Insidiously wrapped in a childrens story.