Why I’m Going to See The Golden Compass (Hint: I was Encouraged by Bill Donahue)

Before I begin this post about the Golden Compass, a refreshingly original fantasy by Philip Pullman and a movie that will be released on December 7th, I have to mention that our very own xJane, with her exclusive Hollywood connections, has already seen and pre/reviewed the movie!

Listen to tone of Bill Donahue (sort of the Jerry Fallwell of American Catholicism) in this anti-Pullman diatribe:

It is important that all Christians, especially those with children or grandchildren, read this booklet [“The Golden Compass: The Agenda Unmasked”]. Anyone who does will be armed with all the ammo they need to convince friends and family members that there is nothing innocent about Pullman’s agenda. Though the movie promises to be fairly non-controversial, it may very well act as an inducement to buy Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. And remember, his twin goals are to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity. To kids.

Please get the word out.

Now, I have to admit that I’m a bit offended by old Mr. Donahue. Just a bit. He makes atheism sound like such a wicked thing. I’ll fancy that it’s his agenda to promote Christianity and denigrate atheism. Maybe even to kids.

(The regular maligning of skeptics was one of the great joys of being a half in, half out of the closet doubter attending an LDS church and reading the Book of Mormon–in which atheists are struck mute and trampled by angry mobs.)

So Catholics are now pulling the books from school library shelves and are urged to boycott Scholastic, which co-produced the movie. This worries me a bit because Scholastic’s sales were really hurt by Christian boycotting of another popular series.

This anti-Golden Compass fervor has caught on beyond the Catholic fold, spread by frightened Baptists, Mormons, and the occasional Episcopalian. I don’t quite get this–my children are bombarded with Christian stuff every day. We happily talk about works by authors of various denominations, including Presbyterian (JK Rowling), Anglican (CS Lewis), and Catholic (JRR Tolkien). (Is going by initials a sign that you’ve made it as a popular children’s author?) You don’t see me running to the American public secular school library, demanding that they remove The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from their shelves cause CS Lewis was trying to shamelessly promote Christianity. And to defenseless kids, by God!

I’ll have to admit that I really enjoyed The Golden Compass, the book. It’s set in a richly imagined fantasy world without a single elf or dragon and the characters are believable and even the villains are as complex as they are menacing. Lyra Bellaqua is a feisty young heroine worthy of our undying devotion. I wish I could say the same great things about the next two volumes, but Pullman set raised the bar so high on the first one that I think he slammed his head into it (or sailed completely under it) on successive attempts.

So, partly to spite Old Mr. Donahue, and partly because I love The Golden Compass so (as a reader of fantasy, and not as an atheist), I’m going to encourage you all to see it (my kids were already going to go, regardless of my say in the matter). We’ll probably go to a theater in the Irvine or Newport Beach area on the opening night. Anyone want to join us?

Please get the word out.


  1. the Book of Mormon–in which atheists are struck mute and trampled by angry mobs

    maybe we can get Wong & Bell to do the Koran & the Book of Mormon!

    As an atheist who truly believes that the kind of religion I was exposed to as a child constitutes spiritual abuse, I’m always annoyed by religious who are happy to press religion upon the children of others but freak out if areligion is also available. See tGC just to combat that!

  2. […] Golden Compass. This film is already generating controversy because the author is an atheist, and Christian groups are already organizing to boycott this film because of its supposed atheist […]

  3. I wonder if people like Mr. Donahue are really so naive that they don’t realize that, in raising the stink that they do about things from time to time, they actually inspire more people to seek out what they are trying to get people not to see or read.

    Because, you know, I very likely wouldn’t have sought out either the book or the movie in this instance except that I’ve heard Mr. Donahue and his fellow travelers ranting and raving about them so extensively.

  4. Here’s another movie xians are complaining about: Beowulf. Apparently, portraying pre-Christian peoples as happy is a hate-crime against Christianity. Who knew?! I’ve heard pagans discussing their disgust for this particular movie, but their arguments are based upon the substance of the film: it’s not close enough to the book, according to them.

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