GoldenCompass071105.jpgTwo weeks ago Christians across the United States were abuzz about accusations that British author Philip Pullman allegedly is selling “atheism for kids” (or so says Bill Donohue of the Catholic League) through his multi-award winning, fantasy trilogy “His Dark Materials”, which has already sold over 12 million copies worldwide and is coming to the big screen in December in the form of the movie “The Golden Compass.”
Last week, during a visit to New York City, Pullman finally got a chance to respond to these accusations and made big headlines once again–this time for not promoting atheism in the trilogy. On Friday he appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, saying that:

What I was mainly doing, I hope, was telling a story, but not a story like Tolkien’s. (To be honest I don’t much care for “The Lord of the Rings.”) As for the atheism, it doesn’t matter to me whether people believe in God or not, so I’m not promoting anything of that sort.

It didn’t take long for Pullman fansites like and to pick up this side of the controversy.
As I’ve argued in recent posts, and as a religion scholar who spent the last two years with my co-author and colleague Jason King working on a book about both Philip Pullman’s vision of God and God’s major significance to the trilogy, the last thing I’d say about Pullman and his stunning story is that his agenda is to sell atheism to kids–or even that he has an agenda at all!
Pullman has been unfairly treated by religious groups that I highly doubt have even read his trilogy.
Unfortunately, Pullman is not out of the woods yet with Christians here in America. Bill Donohue released a statement saying that “Pullman’s deceit is appalling” virtually minutes after Pullman’s appearance on “Today.” reports that “the evangelical-activist group Focus on the Family… plans to release a statement about the film early next week, [and] says it’s in agreement with Christian leaders and organizations on the issue [of Pullman].” Adam Holz, associate editor of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In magazine, told MTV News he fears the movie would “plant seeds” to “ultimately encourage some fans to reject God.”
I suspect that many of these alarmists ranting about Pullman and the forthcoming “Golden Compass” movie have read the trilogy in much the same way they read their Bibles: by skimming the stories in order to extract the verses that serve their own agendas, without paying a bit of attention to the larger context or story in which they find the juicy bits.

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