What happened
The upcoming film The Golden Compass has angered some Christian groups, who claim that the movie is promoting atheism. Based on the first volume in the award-winning trilogy “His Dark Materials” by outspoken religious skeptic Philip Pullman, the film centers on a 12-year-old girl who becomes involved in a battle between good and evil. Earlier this fall, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a boycott of the movie.

What the commentators said
It’s “preposterous” to think that “anyone would make a $180-million movie with the purpose of tricking children into reading a seditious book,” said Laura Miller in the Los Angeles Times. On top of that, “what self-respecting kid ever needed that much encouragement to ferret out whatever the adults are trying to hide?”

The Golden Compass is just the sort of film we liberal-minded middle-class parents want our children to love,” said Cosmo Landesman in The Sunday Times. It’s the kind of movie “that stretches children’s imaginations and stimulates their intelligence with important ideas and issues,” and hopefully turns them into “nice liberal secularists.”

Compass is part of a trilogy that “depicts the God of the Bible as a lying, decrepit angel whose death is brought about by two heroic children,” said Peter T. Chattaway in CanadianChristianity.com. “So if concerned parents are worried” that this movie “is part of a broader ‘attack’ against the faith, and that the story was written to poison children’s minds against the biblical God,” there is “certainly some basis for that.”

Pullman has never been secretive about his feelings toward Christianity, said Stephen Phelan in the Sunday Herald. “In 2001, the author told The Washington Post that he was ‘trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.’” But director and scriptwriter Chris Weitz “has admitted to erasing the novel’s aggressive skepticism—their antipathy to religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular—from between the lines of the screenplay.”

In fact, “most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the book’s or Pullman’s personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations,” said Harry Forbes and John Mulderig in Catholic Online, “and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure.” It would have been nice if the bad guys in the film weren’t called the “Magisterium,” though, “as the word refers so specifically to the church’s teaching authority.”