Published November 8, 2007
An email making the rounds questioning the value of an upcoming Hollywood release for children is actually very accurate in drawing attention to the anti-religious sentiment which deals with a child who kills God.
Internet emails are notorious for propagating urban legends and fueling rumors based on inaccurate speculation. But this email is true and has been verified by the highly regarded website www.snopes.com.
Georgia Baptists considering taking their children to view the Dec. 7 Hollywood release of The Golden Compass might want to rethink that decision. While some disagree whether the film is specifically anti-Christian or simply anti-religious, the intent is the same – undermining belief in God and established religion, say those familiar with the books on which the movie is based.
“The thing that I find to be so disturbing is that it is being released during the holiday season and is being promoted as another children’s fantasy movie in the vein of The Chronicles of Narnia or even Harry Potter,” says Patrick Thompson of the GBC’s Sunday School/Open Group Ministries.
“The previews focus on a healthy distrust of established authority in a good-verses-evil vein and that generally sells well with American culture. That’s why films dealing with the Revolutionary War and serial movies such as Star Wars have performed so well.
“But in this movie the full story, as it develops, is rebellion against a dogmatic system – religion – rather than affirming it as a system that challenges and motivates you to be a better person through a relationship with Christ,” he adds.
The movie is based on the first of three books by British children’s writer Philip Pullman, an avowed atheist who has stated “I don’t profess any religion; I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words ‘spiritual’ or ‘spirituality.’” The Snopes web site further states that Pullman told the Sydney Morning Herald that “My books are about killing God.”
The movie, staring Nicole Kidman, is based on the first book in Pullman’s trilogy named “His Dark Materials.” The first installment, Northern Lights was released in the United States as The Golden Compass.
Books of the trilogy, according to Snopes, have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, with Northern Lights winning the Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature in 1995. Earlier this year it was awarded the “Carnegie of Carnegies” for the best children’s book of the past 70 years. The final book of the series won the Whitbread Prize in 2001, making it the first children’s book to do so.
The series follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God and his group, known as Church. The book identifies the church as the Catholic Church but that element was toned down in the movie.
However, Thompson says the result is the same: Church is positioned as being evil and corrupt and the child emerges victorious for killing its leader, God.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has said that the Hollywood producers have “dumbed down the worst elements in the movie because they don’t want to make Christians angry and they want to make money. Our concern is that unsuspecting parents may take their children to see the movie and see nothing wrong with the storyline.” But then, he adds, they may purchase the series and discover that the books sell atheism more than loyalty to establishments.
Snopes mentions that while the books are not anti-doctrinal and Christ is not mentioned in any of them, “Pullman has hinted that He might figure in a forthcoming sequel titled The Book of Dust.” The website adds that Pullman’s “fundamental objection is to ideological tyranny, and the rejection of this world in favor of an idealized afterlife, regardless of creed.
“As one of the novel’s pagan characters puts it, ‘Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.’”
The movie, which was produced by New Line Cinema for estimates of $150- to $200 million, will be accompanied by a video game targeted to children and produced by Sega.
Another website, Wikipedia, cautions that the movie seems to be an exciting children’s tale, sharing much with the Chronicles of Narnia. “For example, both feature children facing adult moral choices, talking animals, religious allegory, parallel worlds, and concern the ultimate fate of those worlds. They even begin the same way, with a young girls hiding in a wardrobe.
“However, in the trilogy the young girl becomes enmeshed in an epic struggle to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile individual named God. In the final book characters representing Adam and Eve witness the death of God (who turns out to be an upstart angel, rather than the creator).”
Thompson said Georgia Baptists should be prepared to engage in conversations with children and their parents about the movie and its attack on faith.
The Snopes website, which updated its report on the movie as recently at Oct. 27, is held in high esteem by journalists and others for its objective role in debunking rumors – especially those propagated by mass emails since the rise of the Internet.
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