Do unto others

Column: Atheist’s books make the film a broken compass of fool’s gold

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

by Bill Scholl

The fall is passing and thoughts turn from pumpkins and Pilgrims to Advent and Christmas. So as a parent I thought I was through with my yearly candy ritual. You know the Halloween drill: Before you let your kids eat any candy, you carefully check each piece to ensure no creep has tampered with it by poison or pin.

Well, parents, it looks like we’re not done. Scholastic Productions is releasing a film, “The Golden Compass,” based upon books that some have called an atheist’s version of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The trilogy that the film is based on is called “His Dark Materials” by self-professed atheist Phillip Pullman.

In his book, “Dark Matters: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Phillip Pullman,” journalist Tony Watkins quotes the author about his books: “My books are about killing God.” And in the fantasy world Pullman creates with assassin priests, nuns who torture children, and an evil conspiracy called the Magisterium as the villains versus apostate nuns, fallen homosexual angels, and witches as the heroes, he does a very good job of destroying the straw man, God, which he calls the “Authority.”

Thankfully, the film’s creators claim to have toned down the atheistic proselytizing, and press reports cite that atheists are bothered by that fact.

However, one wonders if this is not some Madison Avenue wizard saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” knowing that if Christian parents avoid the film, their kids won’t buy the books, the toys, and the DVDs.

Personally, I take little comfort that this agenda has been “toned down” for the film.

The church teaches that social justice is about giving each person his or her due, so certainly Pullman should be free to tell the story he wants. (Though it does feel duplicitous that if the books were anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, or even anti-homosexual instead of anti-Catholic/Christian, it is certain the film script would never have seen the light of day.)

In this case, I believe that parents are due to know that the books from which the movie is drawn are a thinly veiled attack on our faith. Excerpts from the books paint Catholic bishops and priests as an oppressive conspiracy, the universal church as evil, and God as just a malicious concept that should be destroyed — all wrapped in the candy package of children’s fantasy. While the movie may tone down these themes, do you really want to give the books’ author any of your money and encourage sequels which the director promises will highlight more the atheist themes of the books?

Parents, please check this candy. You may want to avoid this house altogether.

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can e-mail him at:

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Deacon Bill Scholl

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