Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Literature, Atheists, and Jesus-lovers

Browsing around the Intertubes, as I do, I've come upon more than one discussion lately about Christians going crazy over the new movie adaptation of Pullman's The Golden Compass. What boggles the mind is not that the Jesus-lovers feel that their feet are being stopmed on, since it seems to me that no amount of room is enough as long as there are people who disagree with them (that's another story), but that they're going bat-shit crazy over it now. I understand that a movie can call attention to a story in a bigger way than most books can, but this book was first published in 1995. It was winning awards at least by 1997, which is when my copy is from and it heralds some awards. This conclusion that I want to draw is that Christians don't actually read.* Just to be inflammatory I could go ahead and say that it seems they don't even read their bible that closely, but I think I'll skip that argument. Anyway, here's the description from some facebook group telling us about why we shouldn't see this movie:

Name: "Do NOT support "The Golden Compass"
Type: Entertainment & Arts - Movies
THE GOLDEN COMPASS, a new movie targeted at children, will be released
December 7, 2007. This movie is based on a the first book of a trilogy
by atheist Philip Pullman. In the final book a boy and girl kill God
so they can do as they please. Pullman left little doubt about his
intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "My books are about
killing God."
The movie is a watered down version of the first book and is designed
to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their
children to see the the movie and that the children will want the
books for Christmas.
The movie has a well known cast, including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig,
and Sam Elliott. It will probably b advertised extensively, so it is
crucial that we get the word out to warn people to avoid this movie.

Having read this series twice, and the second time was just earlier this year, I feel pretty safe in saying that whoever wrote this just heard a few tidbits about the movie and then wrote this. Let's disect it

Pullman is an atheist: true, but to be honest this has little bearing on the actual story. In fact, even though the main characters, Lyra and Will, set out to "kill god," or The Authority as he's called in the books, they actually end up playing the roles of Adam and Eve later. There's even some speculation on the afterlife, so it's obviously not interfering with his fiction. Asimov was essentially an atheist but I don't see anyone going "Don't ever read Nemesis because Asimov was an atheist and scientist!"

Spoiler Alert***
Will and Lyra "kill God so they can do as they please:" Again, whoever wrote this either hasn't read the story or read it and didn't get it at all. Lyra hears bits and pieces about her father working on some way to kill The Authority and later her best friend dies and so she decides to find some way to save him from it. After an arduous quest, she makes her way to the land of the dead and finds him. She and Will create a way for the souls to become part of the flow of the universe, and, if I recall correctly, inadvertently kill The Authority at another point in the story.

"My books are about killing god:" Yeah, I mean on one level they are, but Pullman says that they're also very much a coming of age tale in this interview, and I would expect that quote had some context with it. I get the feeling that Christians don't read, and then someone brings up some "god hating book [they] heard about" and everyone goes "oh no! I must hide my eyes and protect my childruns!"

This story is "designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas:" If you're not going to let your children read this or see the movie then you might as well bar them from Harry Potter (which I don't like, but at least I've read it and have an informed opinion), A Wrinkle in Time, Wicked, Dune (because Bene Gesserits and Mentants are probably just as bad as witches and atheists!), The Crucible, and many other good books in existence.

I can understand wanting to shelter your kid from drugs, foul language, unpleasant experiences and maybe even sex, but not exposing children to literature and alternate viewpoints is just asking for them to grow up to be ignorant, intolerant tools. And if you're going to criticize something at least do a little research.

*disclaimer: I know that not christians are the same, some of them probably read and are educated.

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