What’s up with The Golden Compass?

 

I admit I know next to nothing about this movie about to come out.  However, what I have read leads me to believe that this is a film to avoid.

I admit I don’t have many problems with the Harry Potter books and movies.  They are relatively harmless. 

It sounds as if this Golden Compass thing is openly and purposely anti-Catholic.

The Catholic League had a statement worth reading:

 

The Catholic League is calling for a boycott of "The Golden Compass"; the movie opens December 7. It is based on the first book of a trilogy titled, His Dark Materials.

The author of this children’s fantasy is Philip Pullman, a noted English atheist. It is his objective to bash Catholicism and promote atheism. To kids. "The Golden Compass" is a film version of the book by that name, and it is being toned down so that Catholics, as well as Protestants, are not enraged.

The second book of the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, is more overt in its hatred of Catholicism than the first book, and the third entry, The Amber Spyglass, is even more blatant. Because "The Golden Compass" is based on the least offensive of the three books, and because it is being further watered down for the big screen, some might wonder why a boycott is warranted.

The Catholic League wants Christians to boycott this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. [This seems to be a real and serious issue.] And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.

We are launching a major educational campaign designed to alert the public to Pullman’s game plan. To that end, we have prepared a booklet, "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked." It contains snippets of what reviewers have said about the film and the books, as well as revealing comments made by Pullman himself; it also contains a synopsis of the trilogy. In short, the booklet is not what we are saying about Pullman’s work—it is what he and others have said about it.

Pullman represents the new face of atheism: it is aggressive, dogmatic and unrelenting. It is also fueled by hate—by a crusading hatred of all religions, but most especially of ours. His side is counting on our side to lie down and die. He may have experienced little resistance in England, but it’s a different story here.

The reason we are starting our protest early is because it takes time to get the word out, and besides, the media love it when we give them something to chew on. The booklet is being mailed to thousands of influential persons, including film critics and Christian leaders.

While Roman Catholicism is the evil force in Pullman’s writings, his real goal is to put a positive face on atheism, getting children to buy his message. Thus, we expect more than Catholics will join our protest.

 

Strong words, even from Catholic League.

I am sorry that New Line got into this. 

Ironically I saw some propaganda for this new film, immediately after an airing of The Nativity Story.  The phrase that caught my attention when I was doing the dishes had to do with the birth of a child who would change the universe. 

Perhaps you folks can assemble some good links and discuss some issues to help people as little informed about this author and his books get up to speed.

 

BTW… Pullman thinks that if you have the temerity to criticize his books or call them for what they obviously are, you are a nitwit.  No… really.

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43 Responses to What’s up with The Golden Compass?

  1. David Schutz says:

    Our Archdiocesan magazine has published an article which I wrote on the novels (which I have just completed reading–hard work!) in relation to the movie. You can read my assessment and warning at http://www.kairos.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=831&Itemid=1

    Pullman is much more dangerous than Dan Brown for two simple reasons: 1) he is much more intelligent, 2) he knows the power of story as well as Tolkien or Lewis ever did.

    I think intelligent Catholics who are well grounded in their faith could benefit from reading the books–if only to be better prepared to counter the truly insidious doctrines hidden beneath the story.

  2. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    Father Z:

    I had not heard of these three novels, His Dark Materials, until two weeks ago. Since I am a catechist, I decided to purchase the books (they are perpetually checked out of the library) in order to read them. I have.

    (Spoilers Ahead)

    The Good: The novels are well written (and they can be entertaining).

    The Bad: The novels are anti-christian (especially anti-catholic) to the core. For any one who has read the novels to argue otherwise is disingenuous. No aspect of the church or its teaching or its morals is well regarded, and every facet of its structure is revealed to be ordered to oppression. Original sin, the four last things, and even the nature of God are distorted beyond recognition, ridiculed, and then finally cast off as delusions.

    The novels indulge in pseudo scientific explanations that are presented as true. Such as the statement that the multiverse is mathematically predicted by quantum theory.

    Most dangerous, however, is the explicit denial of anything truly spiritual (in the sense of immaterial) underlying the entire cosmology of the novels. The author has managed to construct a universe (or universes) that includes angels, ghosts, souls and daemons all out of matter. Even the “Dust” is just dark matter.

    (Big Spoiler)

    The Ugly: The universe is saved by an act of illicit pre-teen sex.
    There it is.

    While I agree with Chesterton that that anyone who purposefully reveals the end of story deserves to be in last circle of hell with all the other traitors, some ends are not worth the muck.

    Sorry for the length,
    Ernesto Gonzalez

  3. They’re also using “The Lord of the Rings” movie to push it.
    Some of “The Lord of the Rings” DVD’s have free “Golden Compass” tickets with them.
    The trailer also first shows the One Ring from “The Lord of the Rings” movie, then it morphs into a golden compass, and tries to make “The Golden Compass” seem like it is in the same genre as “The Lord of the Rings.”
    “His Dark Materials” (the series “The Golden Compass” comes from, have been said to be an anti-Chronicles of Narnia. Pullman himself has been highly critical of C.S. Lewis.

    I was surprised to see Nicole Kidman is in “The Golden Compass.” I thought she might have had a bit of Catholicism because I thought that was why she broke up with Tom Cruise, but then to see her in this movie makes me wonder if she really has convictions, or if money talks.

    Having read the synopses of the books, I would say even if it is just “fantasy” they can plant a lot of bad seeds in young minds.

  4. David Schutz says:

    Some links to read more (some pro-, some anti-Pullman:

    The Golden Compass Agenda Unmasked
    A full analysisi available for a small fee from the Catholic League in the US at https://secure.catholic.org/cl/orderform.php

    Dr. Perry Glanzer: Picking the Wrong Fight
    http://www.baylor.edu/soe/news.php?action=story&story=46272

    Peter Hitchens, “This is the Most Dangerous Author in Britain”
    (Peter–a Christian–is brother to atheist author Christopher Hitchens)
    http://home.wlv.ac.uk/~bu1895/hitchens.htm

    “Far From Narnia: Philip Pullman’s secular fantasy for children”. by Laura Miller
    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/12/26/051226fa_fact

    Gene Edward Veith: “Atheism for Kids”
    http://www.worldmag.com/printer.cfm?id=6154

    How Hollywood saved God
    On changes to the film to make it less “anti-religious”
    http://www.bridgetothestars.net/news/how-hollywood-saved-god/

    Why is Donna Freitas an unabashedly “Catholic” fan of Philip Pullman?
    http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2007/11/why-is-donna-fr.html

    Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in conversation with Pullman
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2004/03/17/bodark17.xml
    And by the man himself:
    Philip Pullman “The Republic of Heaven”
    http://www.hbook.com/magazine/articles/2001/nov01_pullman.asp

  5. Tom says:

    Fr. Z,

    having read the books a couple of years ago, I can vouch that they are indeed very anti- Christian (God is a portrayed as an old man that has dementia, and for this reason angels will not allow access to him). On the other hand, Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury) highly recommends these books and even said that they should be read by all students of theology, since they expose what religions can become like once they turn into instruments of power. If you check on amazon, you will find abundant literature on the philosophical and theological meaning of the work.

  6. Timothy James says:

    “I admit I don’t have many problems with the Harry Potter books and movies. They are relatively harmless. ”

    I’m sure you realize that this is a very controversial topic and that there are a number of Catholics who are very opposed to the Harry Potter series. Over at St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers they have issued a number of warnings about the HP series, in which they quote Card. Ratzinger and Fr. Gabriel Amorth who have both spoken against Harry Potter. What is interesting as concerns this post is that they say that Harry Potter and Pullman’s triolgy are very similar.
    “Parents are advised that many of the warnings about Harry Potter are also relevant for Philip Pullman’s trilogy”

    While you have suggested that the two series’ are very different, some believe that Harry Potter is just as dangerous as the Golden Compass. I suggest you read some of the material here:

    http://www.dads.org/article_category.asp?artCatId=10

    The chief Exorcict of Rome (Fr. Amorth) says, “Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil.”
    I think most would agree “relatively harmless” isn’t the best description for a work of the devil.

  7. Louis E. says:

    Personally,I am a sincerely non-Christian theist.

    I have steered clear of Pullman because of what I’ve heard about his attitude…I reject atheism with no less vigor than I reject Christianity.

    I respect those who are sincere in their belief over those who try to claim adherence to a faith whose teachings they do not take seriously and who truly believe in no higher power than their own feelings.We are not the Infinite…we approach it as the proverbial blind men the elephant…and it is not clay to be molded by our fingers.Nor does our inability to comprehend it make irrelevant what we can not comprehend.

  8. Andrew says:

    Here’s the Catholic.org article titled What Every Catholic Parent Should Know About the Golden Compass.

    Some excerpts:

    It’s not OK for children — impressionable as they are — to read stories in which the plot revolves around the supreme blasphemy, namely, that God is a liar and a mortal. It is not appropriate for children to read books in which the heroine is the product of adultery and murder; priests act as professional hit men, torturers and authorize occult experimentation on young children; an ex-nun engages in occult practices and promiscuous behavior, and speaks of it openly with a 12-year-old couple; and the angels who rebel against God are good, while those who fight on God’s side are evil.

    … there’s a great deal of cruelty and gore in the books, not just battles but deliberate murder, sadism, mutilation, suicide, euthanasia and even cannibalism. There are also passages of disturbing sensuality and homosexual angels who are “platonic lovers.”

    For example, one of the main supporting characters, Dr. Mary Malone, is a former Catholic nun who abandoned her vocation to pursue sex and science. The reader does not meet her until the second book, by which time the young reader is already engrossed in the story. By the third book, Dr. Malone is engaging in occult practices to lead the two main characters, a 12-year-old boy and girl, to sleep in the same bed and engage in — at the very least — heavy kissing. This is the act through which they renew the multiple universes created by Pullman.

    Another example is Pullman’s portrayal of the Judeo-Christian God. Pullman refers to him as “The Authority,” although a number of passages make clear that this is the God of the Bible. The Authority is a liar and a mere angel, and as we discover in the third book, senile as well. He was locked in some sort of jewel and held prisoner by the patriarch Enoch, who is now called Metatron and who rules in the Authority’s name. When the children find the jewel and accidentally release the Authority, he falls apart and dies.

    The 12-year-old protagonists — Lyra and Bill — discover there is no immortal soul, no heaven or hell. All that awaits us in the afterlife is some gloomy Hades-type afterlife where the soul goes to wait until it completely dissolves.

  9. Mark says:

    I checked out the website for this film a few weeks back. It allows you to do a kind of personality test that tells you what your personal daemon (pronounced demon) is and gives you a name for it…it basically seems like an animal totem…or something pagan like that. Also I read somewhere that the enemy in the work is referred to as the “magisterium”.

  10. Judy says:

    Here’s info on snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

    And at Catholic Exchange: http://www.catholicexchange.com/node/67309
    http://www.catholicexchange.com/node/67472

    There was an interview on Zenit with Peter Vere and Sandra Meisel here http://www.zenit.org/article-21008?l=english but you might have to log in to read it.

    Also, one of my younger brothers, a PhD candidate in literature, read the books. His opinion is that they are poison for children. I quote:

    “… If someone wrote books like this that used Jewish instead of Catholic figures, he would be reviled as a wicked anti-semite…. What bugs me the most, I think, are Christians who try to aplogize for the books, or even defend them. Some people want to say, “But this is an imaginary universe. If we lived in a world where the Church really were like this, then what would you think? The author is just exploring a hypothetical!” Ideas like that reflect a serious naivete about the psychological and social impact of fiction. You could justify anything that way. Want to write a book for children in which all people with dark skin are scheming, brutish rapists and es who drink baby and all people with light skin are noble geniuses with gentle and humane sensibilities? “Hey, it’s just fiction! Don’t get so worked up! What if we really were in an imaginary universe where things were that way?”

    This is not like the Harry Potter series (which is not only totally harmless, but probably even spiritually edifying for a kid with a little discussion or the right sensibility to begin with). The books in the Golden Compass series are deliberately designed to seduce children into radical distrust of and disgust with people who adhere to traditional religions, and especially Catholicism.

    The author has made no secret of his desire to make these books the anti-Narnia, but I would say that even if you are not religious, the kind of religious intolerance encouraged by these books is reason enough to avoid them. C. S. Lewis’ books reflect a deep charity and tolerance even for those who worship false gods. There is nothing like that in the Golden Compass.

    Who knows what the movies will be like, but I think wholesome cider can hardly be pressed from rotten apples.”

    No matter what anyone thinks about Harry Potter, it seems everyone can agree that The Golden Compass is completely inappropriate for children.

  11. Matt Q says:

    Dear Father Z:

    Yes, you are correct. The film/story totally is evil, smarmy in tone against Christianity in general and definitely anti-Catholic in particular, even to the point the “evil” in the story is called the “Magisterium.” What other religion or body intellect uses that term but us? One can clearly see this is propaganda against the Church. I even find it distasteful Nicole Kidman is starring in this film, she who claims to love her Catholic religion.

    In a further analysis of the books, it is an attempt to destroy the concept of God in the minds and hearts of children. Sorry, Father, but even Harry Potter is dreadfully heathenistic.

  12. Diane says:

    Fr. Z, thanks for posting on this and get ready for many hits to come in via google and other searches now that you’ve posted on it. This has been a highly searched subject (Golden Compass & Catholicism). The atheists and promoters will soon follow with many comments, more than likely.

    This film will be far more dangerous than DaVinci Code and watch for Catholics and Christians to put out material equal to, or greater than they did for that movie.

    The movie itself has been somewhat sanitized of some of the blatant anti-Catholicism, but retained “Magisterium” as an evil entity. The movie is not the greatest danger, but the books, which children will undoubtedly want after they see the movie. In fact, Pullman is counting on it. Unsuspecting parents will be handing their kids pure poison, especially when they get to books 2 and 3 of the trilogy.

    Many Catholic bloggers, including myself, have been hitting the web with this for some time, with much traffic coming in to those posts.

    This Rock Magazine has already published their article which will appear in the 12-2007 issue. A link can be found at the bottom of my extensive blogpost with numerous other links.

  13. Diane says:

    Tom said: On the other hand, Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury) highly recommends these books and even said that they should be read by all students of theology, since they expose what religions can become like once they turn into instruments of power.

    Why am I not surprised that the Archbishop of Canterbury would encourage reading of the book?

  14. Devereaux Cannon says:

    I have finished the last of the three books Saturday. My mother-in-law, who is religion editor emeritus for Publishers Weekly magazine (and Episcopalian), wanted to make sure that I knew what they were about. She said that they promoted atheism. Having read them, I am more inclined to believe that there is a more sinister agenda.

    They are indeed, very well written. But for the blatant anti-Catholic, and also a bit less but still there, anti-Jewish (at least in the religious sense) agenda, I would have loved them. But the anti-Catholicism is not at all subtle. What actually is subtle until the third book is the pro-Lucifer agenda.

    Here are a few points:

    1. There is no true God. Life emerged from a source called “Dust”. The first life forms to emerge were the angels. The first Angel to emerge was a liar who told all of those who followed that he was God the Creator. That first angel/God figure is refered to as the Authority.

    2. This quote from the second chapter of The Amber Spyglass makes it very clear who the leader of the antagonist forces is:
    “The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty–those were all names he gave himself.” “He told those that came after him that he had created them, but it was a lie. One of those who came later was wiser than he was, and she found out the truth, so he banished her.”

    The “she” who rebelled is never named as Lucifer, but the point is clear, and she lead 1/3 of the angels in rebellion again The Authority/God/Adonai. Sound familiar? The contest between The Church a/k/a The Magisterium and the protagonists in these books is a continuation of that war between God and the rebellious angels.

    Of course, God and the Church are the bad guys in all of this.

    The movie is supposed to have toned down it anti-Catholic theme. In watching the the previews, I could only see that The Magisterium may not also be refered to as The Church. That is not much toning down.

  15. Habemus Papam says:

    This sounds extremely sinister and dangerous. From what I’ve heard so far this is the Gnostic heresy; the evil God versus the good Lucifer. 1/3 of the angels rebel? At Fatima in 2000 John Paul II warned us against the tail of the Dragon sweeping 1/3 of the stars of Heaven to the earth.

  16. Dan J. Howell says:

    Here is a question for those out there. I have all three of the books and needless to say out of all of the children books I have read I truly didn’t find them to be good at all. If you have a child I would recommend these books:

    Seven Keys to the Kingdom: Garth Nix
    The Chronciles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis

  17. Trevor says:

    I also posted about this on my blog with some articles from This Rock Magazine.

    http://pertesanctamaria.blogspot.com/2007/11/more-on-golden-compass-and-his-dark.html

  18. “Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury) highly recommends these books and even said that they should be read by all students of theology, since they expose what religions can become like once they turn into instruments of power.”

    Kinda like… hmm.. let’s see… hmmm… The Church of England?

  19. Marcin says:

    I even find it distasteful Nicole Kidman is starring in this film, she who claims to love her Catholic religion.

    Get over it. It was equally distasteful to find Tom Hanks starring in “The Da Vinci Code”, him who claimed to love his Greek Orthodox religion. But hey, wasn’t that film a fiction, too?

    I guess there is no religion in Hollywood, but Mammon. Sad, very sad.

  20. joe says:

    Whenever I consider the matter of Harry Potter vs. His Dark Materials I am reminded of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 23:24.

    AMDG,

    -J.

  21. Craigmaddie says:

    On the topic of creeping paganism: in the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow there is an activity for you children in which they are supposed to say a prayer to an Egyptian God of their choosing for the safe passage of the soul of one of the Egyptian mummies that are on display.

    That still disturbs me that one.

    It seems elsewhere in the Museum that every religion other than Christianity – and especially not Catholicism – is “interesting” and worthy of respect.

  22. Craigmaddie says:

    Woops – I meant to type “for young children”…

  23. Maria says:

    Mr. Gonzalez,
    “(Big Spoiler)

    The Ugly: The universe is saved by an act of illicit pre-teen sex.
    There it is.”

    Am I simply very naive, or is this at the most implied as a possibility in the book?

  24. Jordan Potter says:

    Pullman’s imaginary cosmology is basically a variation of the old Gnostic myth in which the Creator God is not really God, so those angels and humans who fight against God and the People of God — Sophia, Lucifer, Cain, Judas — are the good guys, and those who serve Yahveh are the bad guys. The enemies of God have discovered the secret about God, and know the path of liberation from God’s service. There is a major difference between Gnosticism and Pullman’s cosmology, however, In Gnosticism, there is a true God, infinitely higher than the false God who created the universe, and Gnosticism claims to have the secret knowledge that will free us from God and this corrupt material world, enabling our bodiless spirits to return to the Father. But with Pullman, there is no God or spirit at all — only matter. God is a fraud, as in Gnosticism, but there is no higher God, no spirit or soul that must be freed from the material universe. In Pullman’s universe (multiverse), God must be destroyed so everyone can come to understand that matter is all there is, that this life is all we have. So, as Dan Brown did in The Da Vinci Code, themes and tropes and fairy tales from Gnosticism have been borrowed and used, but it’s not Gnosticism that Pullman is pushing, just as it’s not Gnosticism than Brown was pushing.

    Pullman isn’t the first authory of fantasy to borrow and subvert ancient Christian and quasi-Christian stories and ideas, and he won’t be the last. Pullman’s reimagining of the War in Heaven with Satan and the demons as the good side has also been done before, and probably done better. For example, Brust and Zelazny’s To Reign in Hell (1984), while not aimed at children, turns the traditional Miltonian War in Heaven story on its head (the book’s title itself is from Paradise Lost) much as Pullman does, with Yahveh and his allies being the bad guys and Satan and his allies being the good guys. Well, actually that’s an oversimplification. In Brust and Zelazny’s story, Yahveh (like Pullman’s God) is not actually the creator of all that exists, but was the first being to spontaneously generate out of the Flux (like Pullman’s Dust). Unintentionally, Yahveh’s struggle to maintain his cohesion in the Flux caused his “brother” and friend Satan to come into existence, and together they then created heaven and helped the other angels come into existence. (A little like the Paulician/Manichaean myth of Jesus and Lucifer being brothers.) The angels are corporeal beings, and even have sex with each other. The story then proceeds to explain how, through a series of tragic misunderstandings and escalations, the peace of heaven was destroyed and Yahveh and Satan became enemies — Yahveh is wrong, but not “evil” per se, and actually has great love for his fellow angels, albeit a sometimes misdirected love. The War in Heaven leads to the expulsion of Satan and his allies (Satan never intended to become their leader, and kept giving Yahveh the benefit of the doubt until finally forced by circumstance to oppose his brother), and then somehow the earth is formed from the Flux, and the war between Yahveh and Satan spreads to earth.

    Twisted stuff indeed, and all of it a fairly predictable product of the perennial human urge to live life apart autonomously, apart from God and at odds with neighbor.

  25. Greg Smisek says:

    QUOTES FROM THE AUTHOR, REVIEWERS, AND THE BOOK
    (I compiled the following quotations, with online citations; links within the quotations refer to relevant paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

    I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more
    subversive than anything poor old Harry [Potter] has said.
    My books are about killing God.

    –Philip Pullman (author), interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, 2003

    Despite the armoured bears and the angels, I don’t think I’m
    writing fantasy. I think I’m writing realism. My books are
    psychologically real.

    —Philip Pullman (author), interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, 2003

    Of course, I don’t say, ‘There is no God.’ I say: ‘There is a God,
    and here he is dying’ – and this is what I was particularly pleased
    with — as a result of an act of charity. And he goes ‘with a sigh of
    the most profound and exhausted relief.’ … He’s the
    first angel.

    —Philip Pullman (author), interview with Third Way, 2002

    [T]his world where we live is our home. Our home is not
    somewhere else. There is no elsewhere.

    —Philip Pullman (author), on the key values of the “Republic of Heaven

    What I’m doing is utterly different. [J.R.R.] Tolkien [author of
    Lord of the Rings] would have deplored it.
    … I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.
    Mr. [C.S.] Lewis [author of the Chronicles of Narnia]
    would think I was doing the Devil’s work.

    —Philip Pullman (author), interview with Washington Post, 2001

    All stories teach, whether the storyteller intends them to or not.
    They teach the world we create. They teach the morality we live
    by. They teach it much more effectively than moral precepts and
    instructions. … “Thou shalt not” is soon forgotten, but “Once
    upon a time” lasts forever.

    —Philip Pullman (author), Carnegie Medal acceptance speech

    In Pullman’s trilogy, [teenage heroine] Lyra is the new-age Eve,
    and [teenage hero] Will is the modern-day Adam. God is a
    wizened spent force of an “Authority”. And “The Fall” is to be
    celebrated as the defining moment of mankind, rather than the
    source of all worldly evil.

    —Steve Meacham, book review, The Sydney Morning Herald

    [Author Philip] Pullman represents the new face of atheism:
    it is aggressive, dogmatic, and unrelenting. It is also fueled by
    hate—by a crusading hatred of all religions, but most especially
    of ours.

    —Bill Donohue, President of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

    I used to be a nun, you see. I thought physics could be done
    to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn’t any God at all and
    that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion
    is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.

    Dr. Mary Malone, ex-nun physicist character,
    The Subtle Knife (2nd book of the trilogy) (see also interview with Pullman)

    BUT MOVIE VERSION WILL BE HARMLESS, RIGHT?

    But one of the [book] series’ main themes — the rejection of
    organised religion and in particular the abuse of power within
    the Catholic Church — is to be watered down.
    … The controversy centres around the trilogy’s sinister
    Magisterium, which readers understand to be a thinly veiled attack
    on the Catholic Church. But when the film is released in
    December the Magisterium will be shown as a critique of all
    dogmatic organisations , thereby avoiding a religious backlash.

    —”Philip Pullman film stripped of religious themes,” Telegraph, 16 October 2007

    How many Churches do you know of that claim both dogma and a Magisterium?

    TOPSY-TURVY THEMES

    The following is a shortlist of themes which are essential to the book trilogy. Black is white, and white is black. Even if the movie succeeds in somewhat obscuring these themes, they are near and dear to Pullman’s heart and sure to be in the movie to some degree.
    1) authority is bad
    2) organized religion is fascist
    3) God is an egomaniacal has-been (or the delusion of egomaniacal religious
    authorities, see 1 and 2)
    4) spirituality is humbug
    5) the Fall is the shining moment of mankind
    6) there is no afterlife (at least no happy afterlife).

    And as the Catholic League points out, the movies are baits for the books, which are blatantly anti-Catholic and mock God.

    If you want to try your hand at understanding the atheistic worldview behind such a work, check out this interview with Philip Pullman.

    A FEW WORDS FROM THE WORD

    After being slimed by Pullman, you or others may find Carl Olson’s article useful, “Dogma Is Not a Dirty Word.”

    And lest we should too easily excuse atheists:

    Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] invisible attributes of
    eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and
    perceived in what He has made.

    —St. Paul, Letter to the Romans (1:20)

    And lest we think such
    insidious
    fare is no big thing:

    And [Jesus] said to His disciples:
    It is impossible that scandals should not come. But woe to him
    through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone
    were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea, than that
    he should scandalize one of these little ones.

    Gospel according to St. Luke (17:1-2)

  26. Paul Murnane says:

    I’m happy to report that my son’s Catholic school sent out a notice both by email and flyer referencing the Catholic League’s statement. These went out just days before all of the bus stop ad spaces around the school changed to “Golden Compass” ads. This allowed parents to pro-actively address the issues with their children.

  27. Matthew says:

    Catholics accusing someone of being aggressive, dogmatic and unrelenting is about as hilarious as Christians worrying that someone will brainwash their children with a book.

  28. Maynardus says:

    Here in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts we few surviving Catholics have a nearly infallible guide in matters like this: The Boston Globe!

    ‘Tis very simple – if The Globe is for it, beware! Conversely, if The Globe is agin’ it, it’s probably OK.

    And when Pravda, er, The Globe devotes 1,724 words to debunking the “myths” that are fueling the “suspicions” of “conservative religious” organizations and the dreaded “Christian blogosphere” who have “attacked” this film, one needs no golden compass to discern the straight and narrow!

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2007/11/25/god_in_the_dust?mode=PF

  29. Robert says:

    You all do realize that this is a FICTION book. Nothing is being portrayed as true or factual, it’s all made up. How come so many feel that this fictional story is such a real threat to your beliefs?

  30. Bill says:

    Donohue is right. The movie by itself would probably be something you could accept (you might not go see it, but you could accept that it was out there). The movie as a stalking horse for the books is a different issue.

    There’s a good article about the upcoming movie in the current (December 2007) issue of “The Atlantic.” You can also find the article on their website:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200712/religious-movies

    Those who have not read Pullman and those who might normally discount something from the Catholic League may be more inclined to read this article. The article is slightly sympathetic towards Hollywood, but here is what can be clearly seen in the article (and I have not read the books):

    1) Pullman’s work is non-Christian and atheist. Although Pullman may claim to be killing of the image of God as a bearded man in the sky, the God that gets killed in the trilogy is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (“God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty”).

    2) New Line realizes that however much it likes the story, it cannot release an anti-Christian film. The film director’s interpretation of Pullman is that “the Magisterium [of the books] represents an oppressive theocracy or a totalitarian state, not religion in general.” New Line will not release an anti-religious film.

    3) Pullman wishes the movies were being made with the story as it appeared in the books. But he wants the movie to be a success and for movies of the other two books in the trilogy to be made. He will not talk down the movie.

    It’s clear to me that Pullman wants the movies to be made not just for whatever payday he might receive, but because he thinks that they will lead viewers to the books themselves.

  31. Fred says:

    Interresting point, Robert.

    In my Catholic family, we try to distinguish between fiction and non-fiction in order to give my kids a leg up on critical thinking skills. This allows them to enjoy the many benefits of fiction (entertaining story, good writing, glipses into far away places and thoughts, etc) without the need to take it as non-fiction (i.e., “truth”). And (this is important): It doesn’t matter if some people believe the fiction in question to be non-fiction.

    The Golden Compass (book & movie) is fiction. Very entertaining stuff. But those who equate reading The Golden Compass with reading, say, a Protestant Bible kind of miss the point of critical thinking, which relies upon at the basic ability to discern between fiction and non-fiction.

  32. Jordan Potter says:

    Robert said: You all do realize that this is a FICTION book. Nothing is being portrayed as true or factual, it’s all made up. How come so many feel that this fictional story is such a real threat to your beliefs?

    Yawn. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, from the Da Vinci Code promoters. How dare Christians complain that Dan Brown’s work of fiction completely butchers history and seeks to undermine Christianity. After all, it was only thousands of people who came away from Brown’s potboiler thinking that it was accurate, as Brown himself asserted in his book. Now a work of children’s fantasy has been produced by an atheist who has stated publicly that the purpose for his work is to get people to stop believing in Christianity. Pullman has said he has a great dislike for C.S. Lewis’ Narna books. Well, Robert, perhaps you should tell Pullman, “You do realize that the Chronicles of Narna are FICTION books. Nothing is being portrayed as true or factual, it’s all made up. How come you feel that Lewis’ fictional story is such a real threat to your beliefs?”

    Think, man! If someone decided to write a work of fiction based on some other person’s actual mother and father, in which the fictional mother and father are portrayed as twisted villians who torture and eat little children, is it really your contention that the person has no right to complain just because it is “only a work of fiction”? If you really think that, then you have no understanding of or respect for the value and the power of literature, drama, art, and the human imagination.

  33. Jordan Potter says:

    Matthew said: Catholics accusing someone of being aggressive, dogmatic and unrelenting is about as hilarious as Christians worrying that someone will brainwash their children with a book.

    Being aggressive, dogmatic, and unrelenting aren’t necessarily bad things, so it’s not much of an accusation to say that Pullman’s style of atheism is aggressive, dogmatic, and unrelenting.

    Well, it was predicted in an earlier comment that the Pullman Pack would soon be descending on Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s weblog. Looks like Robert, Matthew, and Zayin are the first of many more to come. Most of their comments will probably be pretty ugly and irrelevant to the topic at hand, like Zayin’s, and Fr. Zuhlsdorf will probably be busy for while deleting them.

  34. Will says:

    In an interview in the new WIRED, the director asserts that the film’s depiction of “the Magisterium” is merely “a statement against dogmatic authority of any kind.” This makes as much sense as calling the villains “the White House” and insisting that it has nothing to do with the American presidency.

    Weitz is either a fool or a knave, there is no third alternative.

  35. Tommaso says:

    Who could possibly get worked up about a work of FICTION

    http://www.protocolsofzionmovie.com/

    Hmmm!

  36. Sean says:

    Will ‘magisterium’ be translated as ‘caliphate’ for the Middle East and Africa release? Probably not. Atheists are grey men with no balls.

  37. boeciana says:

    It seems elsewhere in the Museum that every religion other than Christianity – and especially not Catholicism – is “interesting” and worthy of respect. – with regard to Kelvingrove in Glasgow. To be fair, Craigmaddie, the Italian medieval/Renaissance art section is thoroughly sympathetic to the religious significance of the images. I was rather impressed. (I haven’t been to the Mummies bit, though.) Dali’s ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ has been hung in a pretty poor spot, though.

    To go back to Pullman – I would agree that there is no need to think we’re meant to think a sex-scene is implied at the end. It never even occurred to me.

    I may be a very stupid reader, though, as it wasn’t until the third book that I had any idea what his agenda really was; I suppose I assumed he was using a church-like-thing as a generic abused-authority image. Which should probably have bothered me more; but one gets rather inured, unfortunately, to secularists who think the Church is a perfect image of what’s wrong with authority. Rowan Williams’s take on it was interesting and intelligent, but also quite clearly did not engage with Pullman’s apparently real views that the Church as she really is is the sort of thing he portrays in his stories.

    Such a shame that Pullman writes so well! And how I hate lamenting the skilled exercise of human talent; but good writing in the service of desperately misguided philosophy is much more dangerous than bad writing. How annoying that Pullman is so much better than Rowling!

  38. Greg Smisek says:

    Maynardus, thanks for the link to Dr. Freitas’ article in the Boston Globe.

    Freitas: “God is not dead, then: A false God has died and the true God – a feminine divine – is revealed.”

    To echo Mr. Potter: Where have we heard that before?

    I’m not sure how far Mr. Pullman would agree with Dr. Freitas’ interpretation of his book, although both aim to disabuse folks of the notion of a God who is “all-powerful, all-knowing, and immutable” and Other than His creation. The fact that a feminist liberation process theologian thinks these are great books is another good reason to steer clear of them.

    I’m curious, could those who have read the book comment on the following:

    Dust is the Holy Spirit. … In the books, Dust’s love for humans is unconditional, even though they often do things to hurt and deplete Dust’s influence and presence. Dust has many names in “His Dark Materials”: Wisdom, Consciousness, Spirit, Dark Matter.

    Does Pullman portray Dust as a living being that is itself (herself) conscious and capable of thinking and loving?

  39. RBrown says:

    I guess there is no religion in Hollywood, but Mammon. Sad, very sad.
    Comment by Marcin

    Perhaps. But Melinda Dillon goes to daily mass when she can.

  40. Tito says:

    Bill Cork, I mean Bill,

    You’re kidding right about your post. The Catholic League may be a little over zealous but the core of the their message is correct. Pullman’s books are overly-anti-Catholic.

  41. JayneK says:

    The comment from the Archbishop of Canterbury was that he recommended the books for teens but not for younger children. He was saying that it was helpful for understanding opposition to Christianity. It was not as bad as it sounds when taken out of context.

  42. JayneK says:

    I was not born into a Christian family. A major factor in my becoming Christian and eventually Catholic was that I read the Narnia stories as a child. These were my favourite books and Aslan so captured my imagination that I longed for him to be real. I got my greatest wish when I discovered him in this world under another name.

    So when I read an author claiming that his goal is to do for atheism what Narnia does for Christianity, I take it seriously. Fiction does matter.