Christians are expressing concern about the movie “The Golden Compass” that opens December 7, 2007. Some are calling for a boycott of the film. “The Golden Compass” is based on a book of the same name written by author Philip Pullman. (“The Golden Compass” is the first book in a trilogy that goes by the name “His Dark Materials.”)
During the last two months, I have read the three books in “His Dark Materials;” I have read other books by Philip Pullman; and I have read everything I could find on the Internet about Philip Pullman, “His Dark Materials,” and the movie.
My purpose in assembling this information is to assist Christians in forming an educated opinion about the books, the author, and the movie. Should you wish to conduct your own research, the list of links at the end of this article may prove helpful.
Several of the emails that I’ve seen concerning “The Golden Compass” refer to an article at the Snopes.com Web site. Snopes.com is a Web site that provides information about urban myths and rumors. You can read the Snopes.com article on “The Golden Compass” here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp.
Some of what is on the Snopes.com page is true; some is merely personal opinion. For example, the Snopes.com page says that the movie “The Golden Compass” is based on a series of books. That statement is true. The Snopes.com page also says the books have anti-religious themes. That statement is opinion. In my opinion, the books do have anti-religious themes, however, the author, and others, have said they do not consider the book to be anti-religious.
Some of what is on the Snopes.com page goes beyond opinion into the realm of speciousness. For example, one person says that Philip Pullman’s objective is to kill God in the minds of children and that Philip Pullman despises C.S. Lewis. Both of these claims appear to be distortions of what Pullman has actually said. Although Philip Pullman has made it clear that he despises The Chronicles of Narnia, he has also said that he respects C.S. Lewis.
Points to consider:
In conclusion, it didn’t take much research to realize that Phillip Pullman desperately needs a Savior. A proper Christian response to this situation includes praying for Phillip Pullman and his salvation. Also, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself discussing “The Golden Compass” with unbelievers, you have an opportunity to point them to the real God, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Below are some of the things that Philip is quoted as saying in various articles. Philip’s words are in italics.
Pullman, though, expected more. "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak. I'm a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people - mainly from America's Bible Belt - who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven't got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."
The Guardian Unlimited quotes Philip as saying
Pullman, whose grandfather was an Anglican priest, and who stopped believing in God as a teenager, said: "I am all for the death of God.
Philip is supposed to have said this during a debate on morality in fiction at the Edinburgh international books festival at the weekend. I was not able to confirm the accuracy of this quote <Al>
“…he rejects the critics who have accused him of advocating underage sex.
"Nowhere in the book do I talk about anything more than a kiss. And as a child, a kiss is enough. A kiss can change the world."”
Finally: is “His Dark Materials” anti-religious, or isn't it?
Religion is something that human beings do, and the story is
on the side of humanity. The feelings of wonder and joy and awe that human
beings have always felt in the face of nature and the mystery of our lives have
sometimes taken religious expression, and sometimes poetic; and sometimes
they've been expressed in writing about science. I think I tried to give those
feelings expression in the form of a story. He that hath ears to hear, let him
hear. That's what the story is for.
As for what it's against - the story is against those who pervert and misuse religion, or any other kind of doctrine with a holy book and a priesthood and an apparatus of power that wields unchallengeable authority, in order to dominate and suppress human freedoms. In Lyra's world, that power is wielded by a mighty and corrupt church, which differs in some ways from the church in our world just as the everyday lives of the characters do. In our own world, that sort of power has been wielded at various times in the name of religion as well as in the name of 'scientific' atheism. It's wielded politically, and it's wielded culturally; sometimes it`s a religious police force that beats women who aren't wearing the correct dress, and sometimes it's a cowardly press, cringing in front of corporate power, that cackles and jeers whenever it sees something it thinks it's safe to criticise.
Many of the commentators in the media have seen you as a conscious antidote to C S Lewis, seeking to do for a moral atheism what he did for Christianity.
Yeah, well, it’s largely nonsense, of course.
What is your purpose in writing your books?
My intention is to tell a story – in the first place because the story comes to me and wants to be told.
Some of the articles and talks I've written are to do with the subject of religion, which I think is a very interesting one. The religious impulse – which includes the sense of awe and mystery we feel when we look at the universe, the urge to find a meaning and a purpose in our lives, our sense of moral kinship with other human beings – is part of being human, and I value it. I'd be a damn fool not to. But organised religion is quite another thing. The trouble is that all too often in human history, churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people's lives in the name of some invisible god (and they're all invisible, because they don't exist) – and done terrible damage. In the name of their god, they have burned, hanged, tortured, maimed, robbed, violated, and enslaved millions of their fellow-creatures, and done so with the happy conviction that they were doing the will of God, and they would go to Heaven for it.That is the religion I hate, and I'm happy to be known as its enemy.From time to time I have a new thought on the subject. When I come up with something worth writing down, I'll put it here.
"I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," says Pullman. "Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil's work."
you say that your books have an anti-Christian purpose? Mary Malone in The
Amber Spyglass, an ex-nun who has lost her faith, says that Christianity is a
very powerful and convincing mistake.
Well, Mary is a character in a book. Mary's not me. It's a story, not a treatise, not a sermon or a work of philosophy. I'm telling a story, I'm showing various characters whom I've invented saying things and doing things and acting out beliefs which they have, and not necessarily which I have. The tendency of the whole thing might be this or it might be that, but what I'm doing is telling a story, not preaching a sermon.
It's not just Christianity I'm getting at. The reason that the forms of religion in the books seem to be Christian is because that's the world I'm familiar with. That's the world I grew up in and I knew. If I had been brought up as an orthodox Jew, I would no doubt find things to criticise in that religion. But I don't know that world as well as I know Christianity.
I see no evidence for his existence, but of course that's not to say that he doesn't exist; I simply haven come across any yet. Furthermore, in my view, belief in God seems to be a very good excuse, on the part of those who claim to believe, for doing many wicked things that they wouldn't feel justified in doing without such a belief.
On his web site, Philip Pullman says he doesn't know if there's a God or not.
His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?
I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.
Why do you hate God so much as it appears in your books?
Philip: Well, it is not that I hate God, it is just because I don't believe in God, it is just that I think the people who do believe in God and persecute the people who don't believe in God are thoroughly dangerous, that is the way I would put it. People who have got an idea of God that makes them want to persecute other people for not believing their idea of God, they are the dangerous ones, people who say we have got the truth and the truth is in the Bible or the Koran or the whatever it is and we know the truth, and we are going to kill everybody who doesn't believe things that we believe, that is a dreadful state of affairs and it is an unfortunate part of human nature that it seems to be attracted to this sort of extreme certainty and arrogance and so much so that they want to make everybody else believe the way they do and kill everybody who believes different. And I think that is the dangerous thing and those are the people I mistrust and fear and would fight against willingly.