The His Dark Materials trilogy has been on my reading list for a while. I love all sorts of fantasy, and that includes children’s and young adult fantasy. But since I have a rather long list of books to read, His Dark Materials hasn’t been really high on my list. It keeps get replaced by such things as The Conscience of a Liberal by Krugman, and the new Orson Scott Card (more on him below) book, Empire. Until now.
I’ve heard all the rumblings regarding the movie, The Golden Compass, which is based on the first book in the trilogy. Oh no! The author of the books that the movie is based on is atheist! Oh no! The author made a comment to the effect that the books are about killing God! Oh no! He says he’s the anti-C.S. Lewis! (Disclosure: I love C.S. Lewis.)
And, finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for has arrived. I received a chain email regarding the forthcoming Golden Compass movie (I love these things):
If you stand firm in your belief of God, I suggest that none of us go see this movie, ever, and to tell all of our friends and family to not see this movie.
Of course, now I want to see the movie even more. And I certainly still want to read the books. In fact, I’m ordering the whole trilogy off my son’s book order. Since the library is all out. Does that mean I don’t firmly believe in God?
Honestly, it looks like an interesting movie, and it’s based on books that are, by all accounts, interesting and well-written. I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction about gods, demons, magic and atheism since I was six years old. So, I guess instead of being an active Mormon, I should be Wiccan. Or an atheist. But I shouldn’t believe in Jesus. And yet, despite all the stuff I’ve been exposed to, I’m a Christian.
Can you imagine what would happen if they made movies out of Orson Scott Card’s Ender series? Well, Card may be LDS, but last I checked his protagonist, Ender, was a humanist and probably agnostic (if not an atheist). But because Card is Christian, movies on his books probably won’t be boycotted (well, maybe by evangelicals). And don’t forget that the “Zoram” character in his Homecoming series (a blatant rip-off of the Book of Mormon) is gay. And Card uses more profanity in some of his books than I think I’ll find in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Just because Philip Pullman is atheist doesn’t mean his books are worse than Orson Scott Card’s (or any other Christian author’s — I mean, the Left Behind series wins full marks for gratuitous violence).
I doubt my the first thing a 9-year-old is going to think when watching The Golden Compass is “Wow. What a great movie about atheism. I think I’ll abandon the beliefs of my parents!” My guess is that kids watching the movies will be thinking, “Awesome! I wish I had a talking monkey for a friend!” or “A movie where kids are better than adults! Cool!”
When I read the Chronicles of Narnia in first grade, I didn’t think of it as a tale with Christian underpinnings. I thought it was an awesome story where kids were doing fantastical things. And the animals talked. And there was magic.
I doubt very highly that child readers (and watchers) of His Dark Materials are going to discuss the religious (or lack thereof) beliefs of the creator. Any more than my youngest brother abandoned the Church for the world of witchcraft after reading Harry Potter.