I had seen the previews for the upcoming movie The Golden Compass, and it certainly seemed interesting on first blush. I wasn't really familiar with it, but the production level was obviously high, and I like a well done fantasy type movie such as it appeared to be. Then I received one of those dreaded email forwards claiming the movie was anti-religious and actively promoted atheism. I greet such emails with (well-deserved) skepticism, and turned to Internet myth debunker, Snopes.com, which proceeded to confirm the whole thing. I then happened to see a brief interview with the author Philip Pullman on the Today show, who was asked directly about the atheism issue in the books. He began a song and dance about letting readers make up their own minds about what a book is about. That, of course, confirmed the whole thing again.
The direct target of the book is the Catholic Church, which is up in arms about it, although the director admits to toning the book's attacks for the movie version:
The author's attack on organized religion has been toned down for the film, in a bid to attract as wide as audience as possible, something director Chris Weitz has acknowledged.
"In the books the Magisterium is a version of the Catholic Church gone wildly astray from its roots," Weitz wrote in the British Daily Telegraph.
But "if that's what you want in the film, you'll be disappointed," he warned.
However, the sanitized version of Pullman's book has failed to appease the Catholic League, which gathers some 350,000 members, and which has already been sending out leaflets denouncing the film.
"The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books," said president William Donohue.
"Unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books," he added.
Now I'm no alarmist about such things. I have no problem with, for example, the Harry Potter books and movies (I own and enjoy all of them), but the agenda of The Golden Compass seems quite clear and openly aggressive. My children certainly won't be seeing it.