On December 7, the movie “The Golden Compass” will be released in theaters and before you even consider taking your children, I URGE you to please read the Snopes.com site here.

This movie is drawn from a trilogy of books called “His Dark Materials” that are explicitly anti-Christian: They talk about the church, God, sin, the kingdom of heaven, Jesus, being a Christian, atonement, and redemption. They quote directly from the Bible. At one point, one of the key characters says:

I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all. (The Amber Spyglass, p. 464)

So there is no getting away from the fact that Pullman has written a series of books for teenagers / young adults, with an explicitly anti-Christian message. Here are two reasons why these books are harmful:
How he describes the church
In ‘His Dark Materials’, Pullman portrays the church as a massive hierarchical power-structure that is violently opposed to truth and freedom. In ‘The Subtle Knife’, the church tortures a witch. It sentences people to death for disagreeing with it, and sends out a murderer (granted forgiveness before he commits a sin). Churches commit sexual mutilation on children, and indeed sacrifice them:

There are churches there, believe me, that cut their children too, as the people of Bolvangar did – not in the same way, but just as horribly – they cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls – they cut them with knives so that they shan’t feel. That is what the church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling. (The Subtle Knife, p. 52)

He opened my eyes. He showed me things I never had seen, cruelties and horrors all committed in the name of the Authority, all designed to destroy the joys and the truthfulness of life. (The Subtle Knife, p. 283)

In every world, agents of the authority are sacrificing children to their cruel god! (The Subtle Knife, p. 286)

For all its history… it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out. (The Subtle Knife, p. 52)

So the way Philip Pullman describes the church in ‘His Dark Materials’ is unremittingly negative. Is this true to reality?
and, finally…
How he describes God
In the Bible, God is described as the ultimately good, ultimately wise, infinitely powerful, everlasting creator of the universe. In Philip Pullman’s books, he is none of these things. The difference is so great that you can even argue he is not talking about the same person. However, it is clear that Pullman does intend to talk about the God of the Bible, and does intend us to read him that way:

The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty… (The Amber Spyglass, page 33)

At the beginning of the world, God walked in the garden and spoke with Adam and Eve. Then he began to withdraw, and Moses only heard his voice. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was aged – he was the Ancient of Days. (The Amber Spyglass, page 344)

Clearly, Pullman is seeking to say something about the God of the Bible, through the medium of his novels. But Pullman’s account of God is, of course, totally opposed to what the Bible says:

He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves – the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust, as we are… (The Amber Spyglass, page 33)

Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? (The Amber Spyglass, page 344)

Pullman’s ‘God’ is just a created being – an angel, like all the others. He is not good. He is not wise, and he is certainly not all-powerful. In fact, when the heroes finally meet this ‘God’, he is a senile wreck:

…an angel, she thought, and indescribably aged…. she had the impression of terrifying decrepitude, of a face sunken in wrinkles, of trembling hands and a mumbling mouth and rheumy eyes. The aged being gestured shakily… and cackled and muttered to himself, plucking incessantly at his beard, and then threw back his head and uttered a howl of such anguish… (The Amber Spyglass, page 416)

Does anyone really believe in the kind of ‘god’ Pullman describes?
Read here for more information on his hidden agenda.

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4 Comments on The Golden Compass

  1. kwrenb
    October 30, 2007 at 10:19 am (16 years ago)

    I first read an article on this movie yesterday. Usually I take these types of reviews with a grain of salt, but this one does concern me. It definitely warrants a watchful eye.
    (the issue, not the movie!!!)

  2. Adrian S
    October 31, 2007 at 7:24 am (16 years ago)

    I don’t understand your comment about Pullman’s “hidden agenda” – I don’t believe there is anything hidden about his ‘agenda’ at all. It is there, clearly, for us all to see and debate.

    You also seem to have omitted perhaps the most pertinent part of the Snopes article:

    Pullman’s criticisms of organized religion come across as anti-authoritarian and anti-ascetic rather than anti-doctrinal. … His fundamental objection is to ideological tyranny.

    Historically, and still today, many many churches abuse the honest and decent faith of ordinary people to prevent free-thinking and open debate, to enforce beliefs on non-believers, and commit hideous acts against humanity and civilization.

    Debate is good, let all shades of opinion be heard so that all of us can decide our own path and not be tied to a 1984 style tyranny of thought that some organizations (churches and others) would impose.

  3. Luce Imaginary
    November 15, 2007 at 12:54 pm (16 years ago)

    Sounds like a cool film. Definitely be taking my whole family to see it.

  4. Anonymous
    November 20, 2007 at 8:48 am (16 years ago)

    God, with his mercy, gave us this work to do, so we don’t give up. 2 But we have turned away from secret and shameful ways. We use no trickery, and we do not change the teaching of God. We teach the truth plainly, showing everyone who we are. Then they can know in their hearts what kind of people we are in God’s sight. 3 If the Good News that we preach is hidden, it is hidden only to those who are lost. 4 The devil who rules this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. They cannot see the light of the Good News—the Good News about the glory of Christ, who is exactly like God. 5 We do not preach about ourselves, but we preach that Jesus Christ is Lord and that we are your servants for Jesus. 6 God once said, “Let the light shine out of the darkness!” This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ.
    The Everyday Bible : New Century Version. Nashville, TN. : Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005, S. 2 Co 4:1

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