Tom Gilson

The Golden Compass

Book Discussion on Golden CompassThe $180 million film The Golden Compass will be released in American theaters on December 7, the day I am posting this page. Emails have circulating about its atheistic origins, cautioning Christian parents not to let their children see the movie. I’ve posted several articles on this issue, listed below. From now and for a while after my book discussions next week (click on the image) I will keep the article aggregation in this prominent location.

The movie is based on the first book in Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, which has been a bestseller over several years and has won numerous awards. The Scholastic publishing house co-produced the film and is now heavily promoting the books for use as teaching materials in public schools.

What’s the truth about this film? How anti-God or anti-church is it? None of us have seen the film yet. Rumors suggest that the anti-religious elements have been toned down in the film version. Nevertheless the movie is an advertisement for the books, so it matters what is in them.

From one perspective the trilogy is very well written. It’s incredibly colorful and imaginative. I’m especially impressed with the pacing of the books, the way Pullman keeps creating new problems as he solves old ones, so that the reader feels a continuous alternating sense of relief and suspense, always carrying him or her forward toward the end.

On another level, the books really are strongly and clearly opposed to church and God. How does this play out? What images carry these themes? Is Pullman really writing about our churches and our God, or has he just created an alternate, fantasy universe, irrelevant to our own? What is Scholastic doing with these books in schools? What should we do about it?

Here you see my progress through learning about this issue, following it through the reading of the books, and continuing with responses to the public “buzz.” Most of these links will open pages in my older blogging system, used until 12/4/07. First listed, though, is a very useful set of condensed introductions to the books:

Plot Synopses and Analyses from SparkNotes:

The Golden Compass and “Killing God”–Not An Urban Legend
My first encounter with the issue.

Coming Soon To Your Child’s School: Hostility Toward God and Church, Heavily Promoted

This link includes shortcuts to SparkNotes plot summaries–a great way for you to get your own quick overview of the books. The main subject, though, is Scholastic’s promotion of the movie and books for use as teaching materials in public schools.

Once Again, How Can This Be Legal?

Is Scholastic on the verge of violating the First Amendment by making curriculum resources out of these books? No answers here, just questions, and a comparison to a parallel case.

On Christianity, the Arts, and How To Have a Disagreement

How we can respond in a Biblical manner to all this.

Original Sin Is the Source of Truth? (The Golden Compass)

One of the astonishing themes of the first book in the trilogy.

Death of Divine Authority—Pullman’s Agenda

Based just on the content of the first two books, this appears to be the underlying purpose of Pullman’s fiction.

“I’m Trying to Undermine the Basis of Christian Belief”

That’s what Phillip Pullman told the Washington Post in an interview. Note also the link there to an excellent Mars Hill Audio discussion on the book.

“Democracy of Reading” or a Hidden Agenda?

Phillip Pullman says he doesn’t have an agenda, and every reader should be able to draw their own conclusions? How believable is this? And even if it were true, does he really expect this of third-graders?

Strongly Recommended: Jeffrey Overstreet on The Golden Compass

Well balanced and knowledgeable, a great, thorough analysis

Rehabilitating The Golden Compass’s Religion

Donna Freitas wrote in the Boston Globe that Pullman has only killed an impostor God, and the real one is strongly supported by his books. Is she right?

Over-reacting?

Are Christians over-reacting to The Golden Compass? Some perspective helps us answer that question.

Preacher-Man Phillip Pullman

Phillip Pullman claims he has no message to deliver, just a story to tell. An insightful storyteller’s analysis by John C. Wright reveals this to be a hollow claim from within the story–no reference to Pullman’s prior atheistic assertions required.

Golden Compass Radio Interview

On December 3, with PraiseFM of Minnesota.

The Most Ironic Thing Said So Far About The Golden Compass

“Only a miracle…”

The Other Side of Christianity

The Church and the God Pullman doesn’t tell you about.

Compass Fading

Just some parting thoughts.

2 thoughts on “The Golden Compass

  1. I agree that the books are definately anti-church and anti-God. However, a lot of people talking about what makes these books so horrible are getting the facts wrong. For one, there is so much hype about how horrible daemons are, when they really are a physical representation of a persons soul. Here Pullman seems to be in accordance with religion in saying being seperated from your soul, “intercision” is the worst thing that could happen to you. Also, he destroys a character called “God” who was the first angel to come into being. Pullman never makes clear in his books, the possibility of there really being a creator. Also, he has obvious versions of heaven and hell. I think Pullman is kidding himself if he thinks he is atheist. Also, I thunk the hype generated by the religious fervor is only making these books more desireable to read. I do agree though that they shouldn’t be aimed at younger audiences.

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