AlethiometerNo, I haven’t turned this blog into a Golden Compass fan club blog. But with the movie debuting on Friday, there’s a lot of stuff in the news about Philip Pullman, atheism, and the His Dark Materials series.

And yes, sorry, I admit it; I am a fan.

First of all, there are some good quotes from author/children’s book editor Anita Silvey, as well as Mary Landrum of the McConnell Center for the Study of Youth Literature at the University of Kentucky, in this Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader article, “Young readers likely to miss book’s references to religion.” Silvey says the controversy demonstrates why we rarely see religion playing a central role in mainstream children’s literature, particularly if an author has a “message”:

If a person’s vision of God isn’t your version of God, it begins to get books pulled from libraries,” Silvey says.

But in the case of The Golden Compass, she says most young readers aren’t really paying attention to the issues that have many adults in such a bother.

Landrum says that unless a reader is aware of Pullman’s religious philosophy, it’s easy for readers to miss the religious message until it becomes more overt in The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the series.

And then we have the American Humanist Association, which is preparing to present Pullman with the International Humanist Award at their 2008 Annual Conference, to be held in June. They seem excited that religious skepticism is getting some attention in the media, courtesy of Pullman’s work. In their press release, Fred Edwords of the AHA says:

Humanists support a free exchange of ideas, and we haven’t come out against films with subtle religious messages, such as ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.’ So we expect that humanist movies should be afforded the same opportunity to be seen, free from such shameless stunts, even if people don’t agree with the message.”

After seeing the movie, I thought it was frankly pretty tough to see any real relationship in it between the Magisterium – who come off as a cultlike conspiracy of generic movie bad guys – and religion. If the film of The Amber Spyglass is ever made, things may become interesting – if you remember, near the end of that book, Lyra and Will cause the “death” of the Authority, who is the false God (Pullman makes it clear that the Authority is not the Creator) worshiped by the Church.

But I think the biggest danger to young people from The Golden Compass film is the violence (which except for one scene, which I won’t spoil, isn’t even all that bad).