Tom Gilson

Golden Compass Overview

NEW: Book discussions scheduled–scroll to the end.


On December 7, 2007, the $180 million film The Golden Compass will be released in American theaters. Emails are circulating about its atheistic origins, cautioning Christian parents not to let their children see the movie. I’ve been studying this issue, and I’ve posted several articles on it, which are listed below.


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.


I’ve been reading the trilogy and writing what I find as I go through it. From one perspective the series is very well written. 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?


I’ve been answering those questions while reading through the trilogy. These links will open pages in the older blogging system used until 12/4/07:


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. on The Golden Compass

This link exists primarily for discussion on my BreakPoint article published November 16.


“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


A New Bearing On the Golden Compass

Phillip Pullman’s values, and God’s; and how they may have gotten confused.


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?



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.



Book Discussions In Tidewater Virginia

Whatever Christians may think about the books and the movie, we need not become anxious or lose our joy over it. This is a great opportunity to tell the truth about a better story, a true story, the story of Jesus Christ.


Dates have changed due to library scheduling error. On December 11 and 13 I will be hosting discussions on The Golden Compass (and the whole series) in York County, Virginia, libraries. The December 11 discussion will be at the Yorktown Library, and the December 13 event will be at the Yorktown Library. Both events will begin at 7:00 pm.


Please come if you’re anywhere nearby!

Commenting Restored

The comment function here has been out of service, possibly causing frustration, for which I apologize. You can comment again now, and it will save and post as it should do. First-time commenters' comments will not appear, however, until approved in moderation.

6 thoughts on “Golden Compass Overview

  1. Please forgive me for intruding on this discussion to this extent, but I couldn’t find an e-mail address at which to send the below analysis of Pullman’s books, and I wanted to offer it for your consideration:

    A reviewer for asked author Philip Pullman about his popular His Dark Materials trilogy of fantasy novels for young adults:

    “Right, wrong, good, and evil. These four words are the foundation of most fantasy and adventure stories. But the concepts seem to be absent/muddied in the His Dark Materials series. Is this intentional? What do you want the reader to come away with after finishing the trilogy in regard to good guys vs. bad guys?”

    Pullman’s answer:

    “The concepts aren’t muddied — they’re depicted realistically. What I was trying to do was very much get away from the ‘He’s called the Dark Lord so he must be evil’ idea” (


    Continue Reading This Comment –>

  2. Intriguing, Ken. You make some very credible and well-researched points. Someone else (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who) said Pullman was preaching Panpsychism, the view that consciousness is the fundamental “stuff” of reality–this from the view that Dust is about consciousness. I’m not sure there’s one answer that would fully fit.

    P.S. My email was in the About page, but this tells me I need to make it more easy to find. I’ll do that now.

  3. It was Pullman himself who said he believed in panpsychism in an interview – it’s on the list at the Parchment and Pen site; let me know if you need help finding it. This belief is not inconsistent with Satanism. Anyway, I’m not trying to speculate as to what he, himself believes, just what the books say, whether it’s a sincere belief of the author or not.

    The HDM trilogy speculate as to the nature of sin. How has panpsychism got anything to do with sin? It wouldn’t seem to take in that much ground to me. Please correct me if I’m wron on that.

    How, for that matter, has atheism got anything to do with sin? It seems to me that if you’re going to say something like “sin is the beginning of wisdom,” you’ve got to be operating within some other frame of reference than panpsychism or atheism. What’s your take on that?

Comments are closed.


Subscribe here to receive updates and a free Too Good To Be False preview chapter!

"Engaging… exhilarating.… This might be the most surprising and refreshing book you’ll read this year!" — Lee Strobel

"Too Good To Be False is almost too good to be true!" — Josh McDowell

Purchase Here!

More on the book...

Discussion Policy

By commenting here you agree to abide by this site's discussion policy. Comments support Markdown language for your convenience. Each new commenter's first comment goes into moderation temporarily before appearing on the site. Comments close automatically after 120 days.

Copyright, Permissions, Marketing

Some books reviewed on this blog are attached to my account with Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, and I receive a small percentage of revenue from those sales.

All content copyright © Thomas Gilson as of date of posting except as attributed to other sources. Permissions information here.

Privacy Policy

%d bloggers like this: