Perspectives: Does The Golden Compass point to a new atheism?
Rebecca Grace – Guest Columnist (OneNewsNow.com, October 29, 2007)
It all started with a phone call I received several months ago. A concerned mother called to tell me about The Golden Compass, an upcoming film from New Line Cinema. Several more phone calls followed the first one as did a plethora of emails expressing disgust over this movie — and rightly so.
I plan to review the movie, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see it yet. So, in the meantime, here is some information that will help you understand why the film has the potential to be extremely dark and dangerous.
According to CNSNews.com, leading atheist writers and intellectuals are engaged in a "scientific" quest to ultimately destroy organized religion, particularly Christianity. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and journalist Christopher Hitchens are some of the big names leading this "new atheism" initiative. Evidence of their agenda is seen in efforts such as the Out Campaign and the Blasphemy Challenge.
CNSNews.com defines the Out Campaign as "a movement started by Dawkins to encourage Americans to proudly display their atheism." ABC News describes the Blasphemy Challenge as a way "to challenge people to make videos of themselves denying, denouncing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and then post them on YouTube." ABC News also calls it "the cutting edge of a new and emboldened wave of atheism."
The Blasphemy Challenge targets teens while an upcoming movie that may have a similar agenda is likely to appeal to families, especially children.
The Golden Compass is a film from New Line Cinema based on the first book of a series, His Dark Materials, written by English atheist Philip Pullman. It is set to release December 7 in theaters nationwide. From watching the trailer, it’s easy to see that the film has a C. S. Lewis/Narnia feel to it, but don’t be deceived.
Pullman’s book trilogy is the story of "a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God," BBC News reported. The Guardian, a British newspaper, goes even further to describe the books as "metaphysical fantasies encompassing parallel worlds, the death of God and the fall of man …."
"I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say," Pullman said in an interview posted on his website.
Therefore, without yet seeing the film, at least one pro-family group — the American Family Association — is alerting Christians to the potential dangers of The Golden Compass. Because of Pullman’s clearly articulated anti-Christian motives, AFA is warning all viewers to run from the film.
The Golden Compass is set in an alternative world with a sinister Magisterium. It is about a girl named Lyra who sets out to rescue her friend Roger who has been kidnapped by an organization known as the Gobblers. Roger’s rescue turns into an epic quest to save two different worlds — one in which people’s souls manifest themselves as animals. These manifestations are known as "daemons," and Pullman says they help a person grow toward wisdom.
In addition, the movie website allows visitors to answer a set of questions and create their own daemons that journey alongside them in life.
"One of the [book] series’ main themes — the rejection of organized religion and in particular the abuse of power within the Catholic Church — is to be watered down," according to the Telegraph, a newspaper in the U.K. "But when the film is released in December the Magisterium will be shown as a critique of all dogmatic organizations, thereby avoiding a religious backlash."
Although the film has supposedly been stripped of the books’ key denunciation of religion to prevent offending Catholic audiences, that doesn’t appease the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The Catholic League still views The Golden Compass as bait for Pullman’s books, which the group says are representative of the author’s two-fold agenda "to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity. To kids."
—Rebecca Grace, a regular contributor to OneNewsNow.com, is staff writer for AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates OneNewsNow.com. Opinions expressed in ‘Perspectives’ columns published by OneNewsNow.com are the sole responsibility of the article’s author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, OneNewsNow.com, our parent organization or its other affiliates. All Original Content Copyright 2006-2007 American Family News Network – All Rights Reserved.
An Emboldened ‘Compass’: Anti-God, Anti-Church at School
By Tom Gilson (11/16/2007)
Last week, a local school counselor loaned us material from the Scholastic publishing company, promoting curriculum resources based on the upcoming movie and the already-published book, The Golden Compass. The materials were impressive—a gorgeously designed 31-by-21-inch poster of the movie, including an invitation for students to take part in an "Amazing Student Sweepstakes," and on the back of it, a set of curriculum resources based on the book—all at completely no charge to schools or teachers. (The poster and teaching materials are on Scholastic’s website.)
If it seems somewhat unusual for a curriculum company to be promoting a movie, that’s not the strangest thing about it. The Golden Compass is the first book in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And what are these "dark materials"? Readers can get a very quick overview of the series through the (quite accurate) plot summaries at SparkNotes online.
There, for example, we learn about "intercision," a plot feature of the The Golden Compass. What is this "intercision?" The answer really can’t be quoted on this page. You may go to SparkNotes to find out, but be sure no young children are looking over your shoulder. (Note that SparkNotes draws its interpretation on that point from the second book as well as the first.) Yet Scholastic wants schools to teach this material to our children.
And they surely don’t want them to stop at the first book. The second book is entitled The Subtle Knife. That happens to be the name of the one weapon that can kill God. The third book tells us that God is relieved to be killed. He’s a rather pathetic character, tired of all the responsibility, "half-crazed with age and infirmity," in SparkNotes’ words. He had been rather mixed up about things all along, though. The Satan figure in the trilogy was the one who brought freedom to humans. God—and the dominating, violent, fearful church—fought against this freedom. Pullman cheers for their downfall. He has said so not only in his fiction, but also in interviews. The books, he says, are "about killing God."
Pullman’s God is fictional, and we must hasten to note that the actual God is not concerned about death threats that might be made against Him. The real concern is for students who will have this dark material forced on them in schools.
Scholastic is by far the top source of reading materials for American schools. What they market, schools buy. One might wonder what they stand to gain from giving these expensive materials away.
Well, it’s not really all that hard to figure out. The poster says the materials are "generously sponsored by New Line Cinema." Generous, indeed, that they would co-opt an educational company to advertise their film for them? But it’s not entirely a co-optation—for Scholastic co-produced the film. It’s all bound to sell a lot of books, of course, and Scholastic will gladly handle that transaction for your child, too. Does this seem like a company that has students’ and schools’ best interests at heart?
There is word on the Web that the anti-God theme has been toned down for the movie; and that theme is expressed much more strongly in the second and third books than the first, anyway. So is there any reason to make a fuss over this first book, and the movie? Yes, because the first book in a trilogy, if it is at all interesting, is (among other things) the strongest possible advertisement for the second and third. It’s impossible to promote only the first. Who could stop reading The Lord of the Rings just when the Fellowship separated, at the close of the first book?
Moreover, the anti-Church, anti-Biblical elements of even the first book are plenty strong. The Church is presented as highly controlling and evil; and this is not some other-world, purely fantastical church with no connection to our own world. In Chapter 16 we learn of its "Vatican Council." In Chapter 19 a character speaks of being "baptized as a Christian" in Geneva. Chapter 2 tells us the last Pope in this world was John Calvin, which in another context would be knee-slapping hilarious, but here contributes to the strength of the connection this fictional world has to our real one.
One of the prominent themes of the book is "Dust," a mysterious "charged particle" from the sky. In the closing chapters of the book, the protagonist, Lyra, finally learns that Dust is "the physical evidence for original sin"; and Dust is what powers her "alethiometer" (the golden-colored, compass-looking device for which the book is named). From the Greek, alethiometer means "truth-measurer." It is a device she consults, through a kind of clairvoyant process, to learn secrets and discover truths; it never lies or misleads. Dust and the alethiometer—central symbols in this book—together send the clear message that truth is measured by the power of original sin. In the closing pages, Lyra decides that Dust is a good thing after all, and she determines to go on and defend this original sin against the Church. Thus we are ushered into the second book.
This is certainly not a message we want our children to take to heart. Still, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Pullman is working on our turf when he tells his tale. I’ll gladly stand up our story against his! The story of Christ has drama, it has strong characters, it has relevance, it has a truly stupendous surprise ending—in short, all the elements of great story. Best of all, it’s not fiction. It happened! So we need not respond defensively, or with anger, or by picketing the movie, or with any of the worldly methods Paul warned against in 2 Corinthians 10. This is the time—especially since the movie is coming out at Christmastime—for us to tell the true story of Jesus Christ, in love and with a positive tone.
Yet there is a limit, and Christian parents ought to stand guard on behalf of the next generation. The Golden Compass—book or movie—does not belong in our schools.
—from http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7254 via http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/mamaclsn/430599/ . Tom Gilson is director of strategic processes in the Operational Advisory Services team for Campus Crusade for Christ. He maintains a blog at www.thinkingchristian.net .
[Editor’s note: It is supposedly a violation of the separation of church and state to teach anything in public schools that promotes Christianity, but it is evidently quite all right to teach something that openly promotes atheism. I am so, so, so, SOOOOOO glad that we have chosen to homeschool!!!!! WSW.]