I’ll admit right now that I haven’t read The Golden Compass, nor seen the movie (which comes out tomorrow). So I’m not going to review the book or the movie. I’m just going to talk about in what sense the books are anti-Christian and whether they should be condemned because of it.
Now, there have been great works of literature that were anti-Christian, and I don’t know if we can condemn the Golden Compass and its sequels solely on the basis of their philosophical claims. And I’m going to ignore, for now, that the books and movie are directed towards children and the significance of that fact. Even without using those to condemn the works, though, it seems to me that the books and movie are both extremely deceptive in their presentation of their anti-Christian claims, and thus they are little more than the worst kind of propaganda.
To start – the author, Philip Pullman. has said that he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” That’s not an ambiguous statement – he’s attacking, or at least trying to attack, the Christian religion.
But in a sense, the books don’t attack Christianity; they attack the general idea of tyranny. (Incidentally, I suspect I wouldn’t like The Golden Compass if I read it because I don’t like works that preach about evils that don’t exist…) Essentially, Pullman claims that “every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”
I’m not going to bother going into why – if someone finds this an interesting topic, I’ll make another post on it later – but this doesn’t really make any sense if you know anything about Christianity. Christians would agree with the idea that it’s evil to “control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling”. In fact, some Christian groups (the USCCB among them) have come out and said that the movie and book aren’t anti-Christian, they’re just anti-tyrannical and pro-freedom, both things that Christians are also in favor of.
The problem is that, even though the books don’t actually argue against Christianity, they claim to do so. They explicitly state that the bad guys are Christians, the evil organization is the Church, etc. (In the movie the evil organization is the Magisterium, which supposedly makes it less anti-religious, but it doesn’t actually do so if you know what Magisterium means.) Even though it’s just attacking a straw-man and actually promoting some Christian values, by presenting its attack as one on Christianity it makes itself anti-Christian – indeed, it becomes the worst kind of anti-Christian propaganda.
Essentially, anyone who reads the books or watches the movie without knowing what Christianity actually teaches will be convinced that Christianity is a great evil in the world – because who wouldn’t be convinced that an organization whose goal is to “control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling” is evil?