Monday, December 03, 2007

Goooolden Compass, Daaaaark Materials

Have you read the books, and do you have thoughts about this Friday's release? I haven't, and don't.

I keep seeing squawks and warnings, but they tend either to be from Roman Catholics, or by the same sorts who hear about (but don't read) books and condemn them nonetheless. Or snotty dismissals of any concerns about anything ("Well, then, let's not read Paradise Lost, either!"). (I have links giving examples of each of these, but let's stay focused.) To me, that a movie is critical of Roman Catholicism is not a minus; and I prefer criticisms to be informed. So:

Are you going to see this, will you take your kids?

That Pullman has a big mouth about how repulsive he finds Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia is a big minus to me. It's pretty well-established that he had a definite agenda to provide an atheistic alternative to Lewis, and I've read that his books are well-written propaganda tracts. I'm sure the child I'd be likeliest to take would love eye-candy and excitement and fantasy, and my subsequent discussion of any ideological poison in the movie would be accepted, but the affections would remain excited by the other aspects.

Yet, word is, Hollywood's toned down the "anti-religious" elements. Which to me is like saying Mengele tried a gentler form of scientific research.

So, any informed thoughts?

UPDATE: Al Mohler has informed thoughts; he discusses the movie and the books (thanks, Nicky Bacala).


Connie said...

I have no 'informed' thoughts--sorry.

I will say that the fantasy aspect interests our oldest (17 yrs. old, believer), but I mentioned all the warnings I'd heard/read so she and dad did a little bit of research and discussing.

For now, we don't plan to see it. Partly because there's plenty available in that genre that is worth seeing, partly because youngest daughter is not a believer and unwilling/unable to be discerning/discriminating in this area.

P.D. Nelson said...

I have read the books in fact (this was before he came out with his I hate Lewis statements) a librarian suggested them to me as I am a big Lewis fan.

I didn't like them I saw where thy were going and it made me mad. Not because of the "RCC" references but the whole character of the books turned me off.

Staci Eastin said...

I have no informed opinions. The most interesting opinion I have read came from a pagan homeschooling mom on a message board I sometimes visit. She said the third book was the most subversive and she could understand Christians being offended.

For what it's worth, I'll probably read the books myself, then discuss with my husband before we make any sort of decision. (I would like for my husband to read them, too, but he just doesn't have the time.) I would like to know exactly where the series is headed before we decide.

Neil said...

No informed opinion here either.

The trailers talk about fulfilled prophecies and show supernatural actions. Obviously therefore supernatural beliefs and concepts are okay in his world... perhaps it's just the requirements of a "holy" God that cause Mr. Pullman some difficulty.

Surly Mosey said...

I wanted to but after reading a bit about him, I'll not. Mainly because of these two reasons:

a)"My books are about killing God."
Link A

b)"I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief"
Link B

Stefan Ewing said...

I don't want to see it, but my wife—who is not (yet, God willing) a believer—seems interested...mainly because she's a Nicole Kidman fan (and we both liked Daniel Craig as James Bond).

I haven't mentioned the controversy surrounding the movie to her yet, because I don't know how she would receive the criticism (it won't serve the Gospel if she writes it off as kneejerk fundy opposition). If she insists on going, I'll go with her, watch and assess it for myself, then deconstruct it with her when we get home.

She seems open these days to hearing a Christian critique of culture, which is a start in the right direction....

Oh, and "Hollywood" + "Christian-friendly films" = "Salacious/falsely pious Cecil B. deMille spectacles."

Stefan Ewing said...

That last line was in response to Dan's thought at the end of the original post.

Daniel said...

I haven't read the books, and I don't plan to see the movie or let my children watch it.

Pullman says in his own faq:

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.

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them.

Your books deal with many of life's big questions? God, the church, good and evil, love? and you are not afraid to challenge your young readers. Is that a conscious aim when you sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper? Do you think children's writing has a duty to pose difficult questions?

No. The only duty it has is best expressed in the words of Dr Johnson: "The only aim of writing is to help the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."

You have run into criticism from certain religious groups who regard you as subversive, with the Catholic Herald describing your work as 'worthy of the bonfire.' Do such emotional responses concern or upset you or does it please you to generate strong reactions?

I'm delighted to have brought such excitement into what must be very dull lives.

In a CBC radio interview Pullman was asked, 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.

In another Q and A session Pullman is asked: Do you believe in God?

Answer: 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.

In yet another interview we hear:

You’re not really giving us any clues to the source of the extreme antipathy to the Church in your books.

Well, all right, it comes from history. It comes from the record of the Inquisition, persecuting heretics and torturing Jews and all that sort of stuff; and it comes from the other side, too, from the Protestants burning the Catholics. It comes from the insensate pursuit of innocent and crazy old women, and from the Puritans in America burning and hanging the witches – and it comes not only from the Christian church but also from the Taliban.

Every single religion that has a monotheistic god ends up by persecuting other people and killing them because they don’t accept him. Wherever you look in history, you find that. It’s still going on.

As Surly Mosey points out above - Pullman is by no means sitting on the fence, but is decidedly anti-God, and particularly, anti-monotheistic.

If he were merely writing books, and his own open and vociferate disdain of God were merely hinted at in the books even then I should find myself hard pressed to read them or see the movie - no matter how riveting the story might be. But what seems plain from all I have read is that he is by no means masking his disdain of God in these children's books, but writing as though his singular agenda was drag God and those who profess belief in Him into open scorn.

None of us marvel that Satan has been victorious in obfuscating 'true' religion first by bestowing upon the world a multitude of counterfeits, and then by proliferating evil through these same counterfeits and thereafter applying the blame to all religion in general. Yet it is the brazen typifying of -all- religion as being equally corrupt and portrayed thus in these novels that would be my greatest hindrance to reading them.

I don't doubt that the guy has some story-telling chops, but frankly, I just am not -that- starved for entertainment.


CR said...

I do not know if I'll ever see it. I certainly would not pay a dime to go and see it.

From my understanding the movie is not that bad. It doesn't have the blasphemy of Pullman that he is so accustomed to saying.

He says that God was never a creator but like the angels. I guess the difference between Pullman and let's say a JK Rowling is that JK Rowling doesn't necessarily have an agenda. Pullman clearly does. And he communicate that agenda in future movies or books for children. I don't know.

I guess it's a decision of conscious each person has to make.

Four Pointer said...

Have not read the books. Will not read them either. Neither will I go see the movie. I don't have a problem with anybody exposing Rome for the Pagan harlot she is, but this guy's aim is to make children hate God Himself.

I have read enough (credible) information about the books to know that this is Satan's way of getting little kids fascinated with the story so he can later instill a hatred for God in their hearts.

If this guy was a Mormon or JW, and the idea of this movie was to promote ideas central to either of these religions (like Battlestar Galactica is for Mormonism), it wouldn't even be a discussion.

An Alien said...

I guess putting the very anti-God ideas into children's heads is not commendable.

Still, I have read the His Dark Materials trilogy. I'll admit the atheistic-ness of it made it sort of uncomfortable to read, but at the same time the books are very well written and otherwise very enjoyable, so I think it's a shame Pullman felt he had to put in all that propaganda.

Personally I don't mind having my beliefs challenged - I think it's healthy - and I can relate to Pullman's views that religion causes a load of problems (think of the Crusades, terrorists etc.). And being a Christian doesn't mean you can't have an open mind. So I am not as anti-Pullman as some. But that's just my point of view.

Kim said...

I obviously live under a rock, because I've never heard of the guy. First I heard of this whole thing was about a week ago on someone else's blog.

I guess I should be more aware.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Dan,

This is no ordinary fairy story.

The books were recommended to me by a non-believing friend. I read all three and my conclusion is, were such a thing advisable, I would immediately vote to put them on the liborum prohibitorum as injurious to the faith.

Christians have no business rewarding thinly-disguised atheist tracts with their business.

Daniel: interesting quotes from Pullman. It seems his position on atheism is somewhat flexible. He sounds hesitant in your quotes but in this recent interview he seems a bit more sure of himself: "I'm not deluded: Christians are. There is no God."

Pullman is entitled to write and say whatever he wants to. But Christians would be foolish to sacrifice their children to the god of entertainment by paying to let them screen this picture. Sadly, many will.

Craig Schwarze said...

I'll go see it because I want to see Armoured Bears.

I read the books, and "The Golden Compass" was good, but the series went downhill pretty quickly.

Certainly there is an "anti-God" theme (God is called "The Authority"). Although, interestingly, it comes out later in the books that The Authority was not the creator Himself, but was His chief angel who rebelled. Which puts a rather bizarre twist on it, from a Christian perspective.

I'm looking forward to hearing what Al Mohler has to say about it (he saw an advanced screening).

Craig Schwarze said...

Just glanced at Wikipedia. It seems I remembered wrongly. The Authority is the first of the angels, but the implication seems to be that the Angels spontaneously appeared out of Dust, rather than being created.

The point still stands that the Authority is not God, but is styling himself as God.

Rick Beckman said...

I haven't read the books, but I saw the movie at a preview showing on Saturday. As far as movies go, it was mediocre; I gave it a 6/10 in a review @ and I wrote about the religious aspect of the movie in a subsequent post there as well.

The movie -- self-contained, without Pullman's interview quips or material from the book to go by -- didn't so much seem against God as it did the abuse of authority by organized religion. The Inquisition definitely comes to mind.

Actually, the world sculpted by Pullman within the story is far from atheistic; angels exist, God is numbered among them, and he dies of old age -- nobody *kills* him, and indeed the film's protagonist(s) attempt to help him, which ultimately leads to his demise.

God as an angel is a far cry from Christianity, and the abuse of authority by religion certainly ought to be villainized (I'm reminded of "V for Vendetta" in this regard).

But as far as true Christendom made up of true Christians who live a life honoring to God...

Well, the movie doesn't even go there. As much as the world may want to hate us, it can be quite hard to villanize those who love & do good by not only their friends but also their enemies. And like the opposition Jesus met, ours is far more likely to come from within our own numbers than from without (not that it doesn't, by any means!).

David said...

Hello. I'm a lurker here and thoughts I'd offer my take on the books. I did read them. (I really like Theology and Sci-Fi/Fantasy and wanted to see what all of the fuss is about.)

Here is my attempt at a theological summary of the books:
The trilogy is a retelling of the story of the rebellion of Satan in Heaven and the Fall of Mankind on Earth. However, in this case, the choice is between (a) blind obedience and submission to a cruel, oppressive upstart angel pretending to be the Creator and (b) choosing to grow in wisdom and knowledge into true adulthood and maturity. Pullman adds to that quantum physics (the multiple world interpretation, specifically) and biological evolution (of all sentient beings including angels and spirit-bengs) in order to create a universe without God. What he leaves us with is a short life in which we must strive by ourselves to create a Republic of Heaven. We then die, ending our existence with our bodies and spirits dissolving and returning to the universe.

I'm guessing Pullman meant for the books to have a triumphant ending -- celebrating life and man and what we can accomplish on our own. However, I found the ending to be sad and devoid of any true hope, meaning, or purpose.

Will I see the movie: I don't know. The previews look appealing. My older two children could understand the worldview being presented and how it does not line up with the Biblical worldview.

I hope this helps.

--David in FL

Kay said...

Everything I've come across so far is leading me to the conclusion that it would be an experience very like the last episode of Doctor Who, which reviewed on my blog (the writer, Russell T Davies is also an out-spoken atheist, though he clearly can't stay away from religious themes in his work).

Marvellously put together, compelling story-telling, but ultimately leaving you cold. I'd like to see it eventually, but my kids will see Lord of the Rings well before they're exposed to this sort of thing.

Nicky Bacala said...

Try Al Mohler

Matthew Celestine said...

Not seen the film. I dont watch films much.

But the books were quite good, if rather heavy.

I am sure children brought up in a Bible-believing home will not be harmed in the slightest by either the books or the films.

God Bless


CR said...


My favorite Dr. Who series was the one with Tom Baker when I was a little kid. The Dr. Who that they were showing on the Sci Fi channel were really disappointing - maybe I didn't catch the religious theme because they were such bad shows.

An Alien said...

I think His Dark Materials aren't really aimed at children anyway although it seems that the film is. They do explore some quite deep and dark themes at times. I think when a teenager reads them they are hopefully of the age that they can tell that it is a wrong world-view. And even younger children can be discerning, if they are taught that sometimes good shows don't always get it right about God and suchlike. It's probably just as good to watch something like this and then discuss it as a family afterwards, talking about which bits are good and which bits are wrong.

Unknown said...

My first thought is to not immediately throw a book burning because of what others have said without having read a book first, and then draw your own conclusions. If anyone chooses to base their religious beliefs from a fiction book is sadly without hope - I'm thinking Divinci Code, etc. When Harry Potter first came out there was so much outrage and "book burning" thought behind it, many did not see them or read them only based on others interpretations of them. I know, a whole different discussion...The best way to understand someone of a different belief system is to read their values - the Christian belief system is from the Bible - the only true Word. The Mormon - the Book of Mormon, etc. If you are founded in your belief, and rest and rely upon God as the only way, then rest in that. You won't be swayed by a movie - God has you - you are covered. I don't believe that someone would believe the Golden Compass to be something to emulate, or to act upon for their religious understanding. Okay - nuff said!

LeeC said...

I think Al Mohler nailed it both in review and how to respond.

As for seeing it, is being entertained that important?

If nothing else I think it fails the causing a weaker brother to stumble test at the least.

Dr. Caligari said...

I'll go see it because I want to see Armoured Bears

The film must actually be an allegory about the Second Amendment, and our right to arm bears.

DJP said...

Oh, boy.

To that, I can only say... click here.

Matt Brown said...

My only quibble with Dr. Mohler is his picture on his blog. He looks a bit creepy, which is certainly not how he usually presents.

Tim said...

I read the books and saw the movie, mainly to know what it is about, and be able to discuss it with those who would look into that stuff.
The movie was mediocre at best (art speaking), but fairly close to the book.
The books, though, start well and turn out very quickly to be a second rate piece of litterature.
As for my recommendation to see/read Pullman, I would not. I'm not saying I will tell people not to go, but if they ask, my answer is "it is not worth it, and may harm some".
The theological message is not as offensive as expected, but still very harmful.
*spoilers ahead*
Pullman turns out not killing God, but his version of god dies himself out of weakness and insignificance.
It is still a very bad book to let kids read, especially if not accompanied.