The Golden Compass (both the book and the film) have stirred up a good deal of controversey. Critics charge that their author, Philip Pullman is an atheist (true) and that his work is a thinly disguised attack on the Catholic Church (much more problematic.)
Nevertheless several Catholic school boards in Canada have pulled the book off school library shelves and the New York based Catholic League is urging a boycott of the film and the book.
The problem seems to be that in the story, a girl named Lyra, becomes a pawn in a power struggle waged by an all-powerful group called the Magisterium. That body, which critics say as a fictional stand-in for the Catholic Church, seeks obedience through social control, especially of children as they reach puberty. The God figure in the novels (there are two others in the trilogy) is called the Authority.
However other Catholics interpret the trilogy as a denunciation of organized religion dominated by a distant, impostor God. Sister Rose Pacatte of the Pauline Centre for Media Studies in California says Pullman is denouncing a kind of religion that should be denounced:
“That’s his image of religion that he’s doing away with and frankly, we can all do away with that image of church and religion because that’s not the church in Christianity that we believe in today. That God, that he kills off, he’s doing us a favour.”
Gisele Baxter of the University of British Columbia says Pullman’s trilogy centres on an anti-authoritarian parallel universe where the characters are antagonistic to authocratic religious institutions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, says the series should be used in religious education because learning about other spiritual perspectives nurtures a more mature faith.
Have you seen The Golden Compass or read any of Pullman’s work?
Do you think people who have not seen the film should boycott it and should school officials who have not read the book (which has been out for 10 years) should take it off school library shelves?