Eric D. Snider

Eric D. Snider's Blog

On informed opinions on ‘The Golden Compass’

Every time there is a controversy about a movie, this topic arises again: Can you have a valid opinion about a movie you haven’t seen? The answer is mostly no — which should be obvious, but I guess it isn’t.

The only way you can form an intelligent opinion on a film without seeing it is if you’re basing your opinion on elements of the movie that are factual and not subject to interpretation — who the actors and filmmakers are, how many F-words it has, things like that.

For example, maybe you don’t like movies set in the Old West. If a movie is set in the Old West, that is a matter of fact, not opinion, and you can easily find it out from watching the ads or reading the reviews. Armed with that knowledge, you can determine whether you would consider it a “good” movie or a “bad” movie (with the goodness or badness here determined by that specific criterion).

Or maybe it’s the objectionable content that helps you decide. Several websites count and list the instances of profanity, nudity, sexual activity, and violence in movies, and you can use that information — all of it more or less quantifiable and not subject to much dispute — to form an opinion on whether the movie is right for you.

But when we get to a movie’s theme, or its message, or its point, now we’re talking about interpretations, and those can vary from person to person. If you and I watch a movie and count the F-words, we’re going to come up with the same number (assuming we don’t miss any). But we could watch the same movie and come out with entirely different interpretations of what its message was.

The only way to form a valid opinion on a movie’s point, message, or theme is to watch it. Period. You can read all the reviews and essays in the world, but all that does is educate you on how others interpreted it. (And what if they didn’t see it, either, but are merely going off what someone else said?) At best, you’d be parroting others’ opinions. At worst, your opinion would look foolish and off-base to people who have seen the movie.

(I ran into this recently when a reader took me to task for recommending “Lars and the Real Girl,” about a guy who falls in love with a rubber sex doll. She was going off that one-line description and concluded it must be a “bad” [i.e., unwholesome] movie — when in fact the film is utterly wholesome and sweet, with no sexual content shown or implied. People who have seen the movie would laugh at her clueless opinion of it.)

Granted, there are plenty of movies where “interpretation” doesn’t matter much because the films are shallow. You and I might have different opinions on the entertainment value of “Daddy Day Camp,” but our understanding of what the film’s “message” is probably wouldn’t differ much. In a lot of cases, the message is obvious, and the film hits us over the head with it.

But for more thoughtful films, interpretations can vary wildly. This came up quite a bit two years ago, when “Brokeback Mountain” was released and people who hadn’t seen it had all kinds of hissy fits about its message. And now this matter of people decrying the messages of films they haven’t seen arises again with “The Golden Compass.”

Many religious people have become concerned about this film because it is based on a trilogy of books that can be viewed as having an anti-religion message. The author, Philip Pullman, is a self-described atheist. People are worried because while the anti-religion message has been toned down for the movie version, it might inspire kids to read the books, and thus succumb to the evils of atheism.

I haven’t read the books, so I can’t comment on their message. (See how that works?) But I do know that while Pullman may be openly atheistic and may indeed have written the books to present an anti-religion message, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the message readers will take away from them. The whole thing is allegorical, of course, and allegories are open to any number of interpretations.

The best thing for concerned Christian parents would be to read the books themselves and determine whether they’re suitable for their children. If you think the anti-religion message is plain as day and you’re convinced your child would have the same understanding of it, then don’t let him read it — or better yet, do let him read it, then discuss it with him. Find out what he thought the author was trying to say. It could be a great teaching moment: “The author believes there is no God. What do you think about that? Why do you think some people don’t believe in God?” I can’t imagine a child’s belief in God being shaken simply by the realization that some authors are atheists.

As for the movie (which I have seen), while there are certainly some parallels to be drawn between the magical fascists and the Catholic Church, the whole thing strikes me more as anti-authority-in-general. It’s like a million other kids stories where young people fight against the Dark Side, or Voldemort, or the Wicked Witch, or whatever else. All of those evil institutions could be stand-ins for any number of real-life authorities — church, government, school, etc. The message I get from “The Golden Compass” as a film is that you should seek knowledge and truth and not let people tell you what to think.

Ironically, we’ve got people doing exactly that with their e-mail campaigns urging the boycott of the movie. I got one forwarded to me by a Provo woman who accompanied it with this note: “Just heard about this [movie] … doubt it will make it into Utah, but the rest of you might want to spread the word.”

Her naivete would merely be amusing if she weren’t an author herself and thus presumably someone who tries to keep up with the world. To have “just heard about” the “Golden Compass” movie is funny; to assume that it’s some fringe anti-God film that no Utah theater would allow on its screens is flat-out hilarious. It means she’s ignorant on three subjects: “The Golden Compass,” the movie business in general, and movie theaters in Utah. (I promise you, there’s no Hollywood-produced movie so controversial that no theater in Utah will show it. Even Utah has arthouses and independent cinemas.)

In summary: If you want to form an opinion of a movie based on its literal content — its language, its images, and so forth — you can do that without seeing it, because those are matters of fact that can be reported impartially. Anything beyond that requires interpretation, and you gotta see it to come up with a valid opinion of your own.

52 Responses to “On informed opinions on ‘The Golden Compass’”

  1. Steve S Says:

    There was a segment on the BBC World Service about this last night. Sounds like it will neither please the readers of the “His Dark Materials” series (some of whom wanted the atheist stance of the books more prominent) nor anyone who would dislike the film solely on the basis of its author’s atheism. Oh, and the kid playing the main character supposedly has “the most annoying Cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins.’”

    If you check out the reporting on the BBC Web site, you’ll notice something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a NEWS article before: a warning that the article contains PLOT SPOILERS.

    I think I have the audio version (adapted for radio) of “His Dark Materials” somewhere. I never listened to it before, but maybe I should check out an episode or two. Presumably they would have gotten actors with more believable accents for the radio. . .

    BBC Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7115300.stm

  2. mommy Says:

    I’m not watching Golden Compass because I don’t want to support the author. I don’t know if his athiestic themes will be carried into the movies (the first book was harmless IMO in that direction anyway). I just don’t want to support the author. I don’t know alot about what slant this movie will take, but I do know the author of the books it is based on…

  3. Turkey Says:

    *Sigh* Then it’s only a matter of time before that email reaches me, too. My relatives LOVE those email forwards and drown my inbox with them.

  4. Eric Nielson Says:

    My bishop warned the entire ward not to see this movie from the pulpit as part of his ‘testimony’. It struck me as odd.

  5. Tom Says:

    allegories are open to any number of interpretations

    Technically, an allegory is NOT subject to multiple interpretations. For example, the book which is perhaps the ultimately example of allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, has only one possible interpretation, which the author is careful to make perfectly obvious at all times.

    This is why J.R.R. Tolkien strongly objected to people referring to The Lord of the Rings as allegorical – he did not want every event or character depicted in the books to be seen as having a specific meaning (ex: The One Ring as the a-bomb).

    I think you’re looking for a different word.

  6. Eric D. Snider Says:

    Tom: Good point. Perhaps “metaphorical” or “symbolic” would have been more appropriate.

  7. B Says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, you know, cause it’s not out yet. But I have read the books, and the books don’t actually have an atheist message. If anything, they take a stance against organized religion, but this isn’t the same thing as saying there is no God.

  8. Shane Lowe Says:

    Here here. Good points.

  9. Crystal Says:

    A couple people on my friends list on myspace have repeatedly posted bulletins about “stopping the movie about killing God,” which it seems a bit late for. They (the bulletins, though to a lesser extent my couple of friends as well) are annoying. The movie is made, and like Eric said, people can interpret it in different ways. When I read the books a couple years ago I didn’t become an atheist, and my 10-year-old nephew started reading about all kinds of religion (not having been exposed to any before) after he finished the trilogy. Doesn’t look like God suffered a loss from at least the people in my family reading the books, and I doubt the movie will stir us to disbelief either.

  10. thejoeinme Says:

    It just amazes me how insanely retarded some people are about this stuff. The Da Vinci Code made $750 million worldwide, and I guarantee it wouldn’t have made half of that if all the religious nuts hadn’t run their mouths about it, making it a must-see movie in the process. They’re supposed to be people of faith, and yet they have no faith in other people. If your faith can’t survive a crappy movie, then you are beyond weak and probably won’t make it into Heaven anyway.

    And, really, how stupid can a parent think their kids are, if they don’t want them to see a movie that may disagree with what they’ve been taught? How lacking in confidence (as a parent) can they be? How insecure do they think an omnipotent god can be?

    Besides, subject matter is never an indicator of a movie’s quality. The great Roger Ebert once said that the quality can not be based on what a movie’s about, but how it’s about it, and I don’t believe a case can be made against that statement.

  11. KimjustKim Says:

    I read the books. I then read some interviews with the author. It’s not so much that he’s against God, it’s that he’s against a God who would sanction all of the atrocities that have occurred throughout the history of Christianity. Pullman doesn’t believe there could be someone up there sanctioning such behavior. The storyline of the book explores the following: If God was really like that, and if you found a way to get to him and take him out, thereby providing the many worlds below with a way to start over without his evil influence and apparent apathy towards mankind, would you do it? That’s a highly stripped-down version of the plot, mind, but it’s actually pretty reasonable when explained. HOWEVER, some of the steps taken in order to accomplish the above scenario are seriously horrifying; not that anyone bothers to mention THOSE aspects since they haven’t read the books and are completely uninformed.

    My point is, there are more frightening things in the books than just the concept of trying to rid the world of a cruel and uncaring god and wanting to start over. Severing children from their souls, sex between twelve and thirteen year olds, homosexual angels…those are some scary issues.

  12. Puffy Treat Says:

    Speaking as someone who read the books back in the late 90s, I’ll offer my impressions:

    Book One (upon which the film is based) was in my opinion the best book of the series, though it should be noted that New Line has had the most controversial portion of the book hacked off, to comprise the beginning of the next film. (If there is a next film.)

    Suffice it to say, Eric…things happen in the climax that make the “general anti-Authority attitude” you note FAR less general.

    And I should also note that “The Authority” is the codeword for God in the series…who the second and third books make clear is an insane bully. And that anyone who follows “The Authority” is misguided at best, innately evil and corrupt at worst.

    I like the series, but the author wrote increasingly harsh, specifically anti-Christian, vitriolic stuff into it.

  13. Bret Says:

    Eric, you stole my blog post content! (and worded it better than I could have, but I’m still writing it:) Well said.

    I’m a huge fan of the books (and saw the movie via sneak preview last Saturday. Loved it, too), putting them better than Harry Potter in every category and I love Harry Potter. The characters have more depth, the world is more unique and interesting, and the themes are enjoyably thoughtful.

    Of course there’s much to interpret however you’d like. However, to help us with the main one, it says on the inside cover that the books are a take on Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost.” When you know that as you read it, it’s obvious, as well as Pullman’s opinion: that seeking and gaining knowledge is better than blissful ignorance. two ironies stem from that. One is that people who form an opinion without watching/reading are proving his point and the other is that at least with the Mormons, they agree with that take on the Fall of Man.

  14. Neil Says:

    There is one opinion that I can form about it without watching it. The movie is going to try too hard to be good, and thus be disappointingly poor. I base this on the marketing blitz that has inundated my television (we don’t have TiVo, so we are watching whatever is on, and wait through the commercials). Not only are there too many of them, but I’m left wondering what on earth this silly movie is about and why they are making a poor attempt to follow in the footsteps of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

    At least that’s what the commercials tell me.

  15. Chocolatestu Says:

    My husband and I are actually rather amused by the uproar surrounding the film. If you ask me, the Da Vinci Code was probably more faith-shaking, since a lot of what was in there was based on actual research. It didn’t mean, however, that you had to believe everything in the book. You simply had to read it with the perspective that this is a work of fiction, and that while it may seem true to the author, that doesn’t mean that it really IS true. I imagine this movie (and the books) would be the same way. If you read it believing that everything in it is based on cold, hard fact, then you could have faith issues. But if you read (or watch) it for the entertainment value, and keep in mind that the author is his own person with his own beliefs and opinions, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it. I personally have a very strong testimony that God exists and that He loves all of His children. Just because the author of “The Golden Compass” disagrees with that doesn’t mean I’m wrong – and it also doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate his talent, creativity, and storytelling ability. Honestly, if you don’t want to watch it, DON’T WATCH IT! As for me, I can’t wait. It looks like a great ride.

  16. Leah Jane Says:

    Of all the opinions I’ve read on the movie, I think Eric’s has been the most fair and balanced. The explosive reaction to this movie is like when Monty Python’s Life of Brian came out. There were people then who were objecting to it. But neither The Golden Compass Nor Life of Brian are anti-religion. Both of them strike me as more anti dogma; respecting the message of religion, but going against the pulpit pounders who use God’s name for their own agenda. That’s my interpretation anyways, I’m always up to new ideas. Though I suppose as a non-believer, my opinion may be slanted.

  17. Niall Says:

    I’m not a Christian or a subsciber to any other religion, nor would I describe myself as an atheist (although I used to be). I’m more of a fence-sitter. The fuss that elements of the US church are making about this film just underlines the point Pullman is trying to make about dogmatism. Surely the church must be strong enough to allow things to be discussed instead of trying to stop people from seeing the film? I totally agree with Eric – I’m no fan of the book personally, but I’d let a child of mine read it and we could discuss it afterwards. What sort of fascist wouldn’t? If religious faith is to survive, it must be able to survive questioning, and you can’t protect children from everything in the world around them, only discuss it with them. You have to be able to discuss things. Surely people’s religious faith must be strong enough for it to be questioned – why is the immediate reaction of the powers that be always to try to ban things and label them as blasphemy, without any concept of free discussion? It’s vital that beliefs and ideologies are thought about and discussed, otherwise they run the risk of becoming dogmas which people follow and never question. Which seems to be the case a lot of the time. A Christian friend of mine in the US has a bumper sticker which reads “Dear God, please protect me from your followers”, and I’m very much inclined to agree with her.

    Although I’m non-religious and therefore presumably in the target audience, I read the first book and strongly disliked it, mostly due to the low quality of writing and extremely simplistic prose (a comparison to the wonderful prose of “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling would perhaps be apt here, who is light years ahead of Pullman as a writer, despite not having attended Oxford University), the transparent, “dea ex machina” story structure with endless, choreographed event and action yet absolutely zero character depth or growth, and the distasteful, morally dubious finale, in which an event which should be horrifying is extremely poorly and confusingly presented by Pullman and the character central to it is near-entirely glossed over. Based on the first book, I wouldn’t waste my time reading the next two just to further annoy myself, although I’ve read what happens in them. The books do have a specific anti-Christian agenda which is quite clear, and Pullman apparently conceived them as a direct response to CS Lewis’s Christian-tinged “Narnia” books. However, the message is transparent and poorly presented, since the church in the books essentially has nothing to do with the church in our world expect in name. I don’t think it would put children off religion, simply because they wouldn’t grasp the analogy or make the connection.

    The real problem I have with the books is that there is a lack of love in them. The central adult characters around which the story is based – Lyra’s parents – both viciously and unfeelingly murder children for their own ends (in her mother’s case, with definite psychosexual undercurrents), sparing only their own daughter. The only loving adults are peripheral characters such as the Gyptians. This is what I have a problem with. On top of this, the characters are uniformly flat anyway (again, a comparison with the rich, sensitively drawn characters in the “Harry Potter” series is due here).

    All of that said, I was planning on seeing the film this week out of curiousity to see how it’s been adapted, but now that I’ve heard that the climax of the book (the last three chapters) isn’t included and has been held over for the next film after test audiences were “confused and appalled” by it, I’m going to wait and rent it on DVD.

  18. Kyralessa Says:

    Frankly, I’m a bit sick of the whole “don’t judge it if you haven’t seen it” thing. Of course Hollywood doesn’t want you to judge it without seeing it: they only make money if you see it. They’d much prefer you to spend your ten bucks on a ticket, and *after* that, hate it all you want. Meanwhile, they’d like your family, friends, etc. to ignore your opinion and spend their own ten buckses forming their own opinions.

    As for me, I’ve been reading the books…checked out from the local library, of course. Someday my kid may read them, so I’ll see what they’re about so we can talk it over. When I finish them, I’ll decide whether to see the movie. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be getting very good reviews, so I may decide to skip it on that basis alone. At any rate, reading the books from the library allows me to make an informed opinion without forking over any money until I’ve decided.

  19. David Says:

    Someone explain the post to Kyralessa…she didn’t get it.

  20. Speeding Slowly Says:

    Speaking as one who is frequently referred to as a ‘fundamentalist Christian’ (fundamentalist being a word which gets thrown around all the time now with automatic negative implications), I think many good points have been made here. While I was never a fan of the Harry Potter series, I never minded them either. I liked the movies I saw, I just never got into the whole story as much as other people. I could understand the way some religious people (I’m mostly referring to Christians here) felt about them, but I never agreed with the pretty extreme stance many took against it. You ask anyone who knows me, they’ll say I have plenty of bad things to say about the Christian media and special interest groups. However, having gone a bit into the world of the Dark Materials series and seen the mind of Pullman through interviews and what not- I don’t like it and I personally don’t want to support his stuff. He directly attacks Tolkein and C.S Lewis, and it shows where he comes from in his work. That’s not saying I HATE him, nor is that saying I’ll be in front of the theater protesting the movie since as it has been mentioned, that only brings more attention to it :p. But not only does he diss some of the founders of modern fantasy structure for their writings, but he is also directly attacking what I and many others believe in. Not necessarily as much in ‘The Golden Compass’, but in the complete series and message of the books. The Authority is directly referred to as Yahweh, El Adonai, the Lord etc. You can’t get more specific than that. While Harry Potter may have had a watered down version of witchcraft with broomsticks and what not, it was all based on fantasy and had very little real-world parallels in the dark arts. This HDM theme isn’t playing games with all made up characters and altered spiritual principles. He has basically committed a form of blasphemy. Now, you won’t see many death threats made against him or little Pullman effigies being burned on street corners or mass book burnings… but it’s still plenty of ground for some people to come against it. He draws a distinct line between those who fight for progress and make mankind stronger, and those who want mankind to submit- and he doesn’t pull punches on which side is which. Now, like I said, I don’t agree with the rabid response some in the Christian world have taken to it, I think the whole thing should very well be taken in a different direction. He has a voice, he has used it as he should have, and it would be a good time for the followers of Yahweh, El Adonai, etc. to coherently answer it. Of course, that probably won’t happen, and if it did, it wouldn’t be big news since that wouldn’t be very entertaining to report on. I agree with most of you in that the response should be different, but I’m saying that there is definitely ground here for people to be angry before seeing the movie. The story is already there, and unless they completely rewrite the books that isn’t going to change.

  21. Kyralessa Says:

    Well, David, if you like, we could also talk about Eric’s postmodernist notion that the meaning you get out of something is more important than the meaning the author (or director, or screenwriter, or whatever) puts into it, even if the two differ significantly. I wasn’t sure you had the necessary attention span. Also, Kyralessa isn’t a female name.

  22. Christina D Says:

    I sure hope they show the movie in Utah, because I am surely going to go watch it on the opening day! I am a devout member of the LDS faith, and guess what, I read the books, and they are some of my favorite books out there, because of the good story. I love all the elements in the story…. the fantasy, the intellectual nature of it (it actually makes you think!)… It doesn’t come across to me as anti-religious, nor has it shaken my faith in God, Jesus Christ or my church. It’s just another fantasy story. And it’s a good one.

    I doubt any kid reading it would suddenly be like “Oh! There must not be a God, because of these books.” That doesn’t make any sense at all. Any more than the fear that kids will not believe in God anymore and will follow Satan because they read Harry Potter, and it’s all about witchcraft. (I remember that craze… sheesh)

    I can’t wait til the movie comes out! And I can’t wait to see what Eric says about it. It seems like it’s been a pretty mediocre movie from the reviews. But I don’t care, because I love the books and I’ll go see it anyway. I’m SO excited for it.

    Yay!

  23. David Manning Says:

    I must say, reading this post and its following comments has been the high-point of my day. Having said that, I don’t really have anything to contribute that hasn’t already been pointed out concerning “The Golden Compass.”

    I do want to say though that being fair can be hard in certain cases: I don’t have to see “Wild Hogs” to know that it’s horrible (nor would I submit myself to such torture just for the privilege), but since I haven’t watched it, I have to keep my mouth shut, or else I am judging a book by its cover. I mean, when the police tell me heroin is awful, I take their word for it; I don’t experiment with it to find out for myself.

  24. Christina D Says:

    Kyralessa isn’t a female name? But… Kyra is a female name (I know of three)… and generally names ending in an “a” sound are considered female… Christina, Trisha, Jessica, Erica… I don’t know any male names ending in an a.

  25. Christina D Says:

    I also agree with the points made above that religions (or people in religions) that are so worried about what the book will do to their children, obviously don’t have a very strong faith that what they believe is true.

    If your religion is true (or you believe it is), and God does exist, then it shouldn’t matter that there’s a book out there, that your children might read, that might explore the possibility of there not being a God. The world is full of things like that, and trying to shield your children from it doesn’t do anything but make your child a blind believer. In order to have faith, you have to have opposites.

    Children should be allowed to explore all possibilities, so that they can make up their minds for themselves. That way they have their own faith to stand on, rather than their parents. I think parents who think otherwise (that children should be FORCED to believe, and should NEVER be exposed to ANYTHING that’s doesn’t agree with their faith) are going to find themselves with adult children that fall away from their faith, because suddenly the foundation of their parent’s belief is gone and the child never had a chance to find out what was true for themselves.

  26. Andrew Says:

    I’ve got one for you. My mother-in-law’s local church congregation (ward) passed a petition around church last week asking people to sign it in protest of The Golden Compass movie. It was endorsed by the leadership of the congregation and the thought was to deliver it to the local movie theater and strongly suggest that they not show the movie based on it’s supposed atheist themes. Of course, none of them have seen the movie. The lady spearheading the effort has heard about the movie from “friends” she has in the movie industry. Oy.

    By the way, the local congregation is located in LaVerkin, Utah.

  27. marie Says:

    What’s funny is that people somehow believe that the books sell the idea there is no god. There is definitely a god in the Pullman books. It’s just that the main characters, you know, kill him.

  28. Ampersand Says:

    Wait a minute…LaVerkin, Utah is a *real* city? I always thought it was just one of those funny-sounding names that people throw around. Y’know, like “Puyallup” or “Saskatchewan.”

  29. Amp Says:

    “The only way to form a valid opinion on a movie’s point, message, or theme is to watch it. Period. ”
    I disagree. If, for example, Pullman’s intent of writing the books is to advocate atheism, and if the movie stays, um, faithful (for lack of a better word!) to the book, then one can form a valid opinion on a movie’s point/message/theme. Yes, viewers may have other interpretations, but IF the author has explicitly stated a purpose (and I’m not saying Pullman has), and IF the director has adopted the same purpose, potential viewers could form a valid opinion without seeing the movie. I don’t know what the director’s point/message/theme is, but if he came out and said, “I’m a big fan of Pullman’s, and I decided to make this movie because I think Christianity is a fraud and I want to teach children to be atheists,” one could very rationally form an opinion on the movie’s point/message/theme. There could be debate as to how well the point/message/theme is conveyed, but the matter of the particular point/message/theme actually being present would be moot.
    I further disagree with the above arguments such as Christina D’s: “[R]eligions (or people in religions) that are so worried about what the book will do to their children, obviously don’t have a very strong faith that what they believe is true. [...] Children should be allowed to explore all possibilities, so that they can make up their minds for themselves. ”
    These claims are both disingenuous and too simplistic. Just because parents are worried about exposing their children to what could be (in their view) a harmful message does not mean their faith is weak. And similarly, as parents it is our job to teach our children truth, however we define it. Parent have an onus to carefully select the books, movies, etc., that will positively instruct their children as they (the parents) see fit. Taken a bit further, the idea that parents should expose their children to all sides of an issue and then let the children decide seriously overestimates the ability of children to think logically and coherently, and to see the big picture. They just don’t. Even older children and teenagers don’t have the fully developed reasoning ability of an adult. Now, I am NOT saying that children should be forced or coerced into a belief system, but to suggest that parents have to offer a point/counterpoint to the ideals they are trying to instill is both impractical and futile. Like you said, Christina D., the world is full of contradictory messages. There is nothing wrong with parents presenting children with a consistent message at home. If parents feel like a certain book/movie/whatever undermines their attempts to instruct their children, they have every right to ban it, without their faith being questioned or being accused of coercion.
    Finally, while I have not exhausted the research that could be done on these books and the movie, and I haven’t read the books (my children are too young, anyway), I think there is enough information around that we should hold back on automatically ridiculing anyone that approaches them with wariness. (‘Wariness’ excluding people forwarding email petitions without having done their own research.)

  30. kevith Says:

    To be honest, before I was forwarded a “boycott the atheist movie!” email from an acquaintance in Utah Valey I didn’t really know what it was about other than what I had gleaned from a trailer. I had no intention of ever seeing it. Now with all this controversy there’s a much better chance I’ll go see it, especially if it gets some good reviews. I love me some good “religious” controversy :)

  31. Peter Says:

    In Richard Dawkins’s new book, “The God Delusion,” he specifically states that he hopes there will be more atheists in the world as a direct result of reading his book.

    All postmodern speculation aside, would you still read a book like “The God Delusion” if you knew that this was the author’s intent?

    If no, why?

    Irrelevant? No interest? Waste of time? Made up your mind? Don’t want the author to get your money? Afraid?

    If you gave an atheist a bible or a Book of Mormon and said, “I hope that you will become a theist after reading this book,” he or she might say no for all the same reasons.

    Except one.

    I doubt that the atheist would be *afraid* to read a bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Bagavad Gita, the Talmud, the Popol Vuh, etc., because atheists, in my view, are generally unafraid of evaluating new information.

    Many theists are likewise unafraid of evaluating new information.

    What intrigues me, however, is the way that some (many? most?) theists are afraid and unwilling to take a look at information which they’ve pre-judged as threatening to their faith (beliefs, worldview, psychological schematic construct).

    I suppose believers see this type of devotion to their faith (and shunning of threatening or opposing information) as a virtue. Most religions have a way of scaring followers away from exploring contradictory information.

    What I’d really like to know is why some atheists and some theists are able to look at new information, yet others (mostly theists) don’t seem to be willing or able to do the same.

    It seems to me that if someone really wanted to help the cause of theism, they should want to know the basic arguments (i.e. listed and discussed in Richard Dawkins’s book), and develop responses to them that will help an atheist, an agnostic, or a fence sitter step towards theism. Ignoring the arguments seems to me, well, ignorant.

    “The only way to form a valid opinion on a movie’s point, message, or theme is to watch it. Period.”

    I think the keyword here is “valid.”

    According to LDS theology, when you die, there is a partial judgment which determines whether you go to Spirit Prison or Spirit Paradise. Later, you will be assigned Celestial, Terrestial, Telestial. Why not use this concept as a metaphor for forming an opinion of a movie?

    Based on the limited information you’ve seen or heard about a film, you might be able to form an temporary opinion about whether or not you personally want to see it (similar to the partial judgment). But this cannot be seen as a full or valid judgment of the film’s message, point, or theme.

    I have not read the books or seen the film. But I plan to go buy the book tonight. My temporary judgment is that it’s something I want to read. I also feel that the book’s themes and metaphors will help me become more intellectually vigilant.

    It seems to me that the author’s aim is to help readers see the virtue in questioning the status quo that they find themselves in, whether than be a Matrix, a nationalist regime, a religion, a family, etc.

  32. Paul Norman Says:

    Peter – there are many of us theists who enjoy looking at new information. I have read (what seems to me) plenty of atheist arguments over the years and I seriously doubt Dawkins has anything new to say to me. Convince me that it is not the same old stuff and I will read his book. As to your observation that no atheist is “afraid” of new information, I am amazed that you have never noticed how hysterical atheists become over any mention of God in public school. Why should a theist parent not want to exercise some control over what his/her child reads or sees at the movies?

    As to whether this particular movie is “dangerous” to anyone’s faith, I have no idea. I suspect the stuff described above (petitions passed around the church, etc.) is a big over-reaction. I will wait for the reviews and friends reactions before I decide whether to see it. I am not that impressed by the summaries and trailers I have seen.

  33. Fritz S. Says:

    Ah Eric, it’s stuff like this that makes me smack my forehead. Not the logic you presented…but, for lack of a better word, crazy people boycotting it without said logic.

    side note: Being a Mormon, and hearing a chain letter from someone in Utah doubting the movie would make theaters in Utah, warning everyone, really makes me laugh (And again…smack my head, because it’s idiotic in my mind). And I’m an East-Coast Mormon (oh so edgy), having visited Utah only twice, both times while under the age of 10.

    Personally I could go either way with the book or movie. I’ve heard a lot of stuff about it from both sides, but I wouldn’t write off the possibility of reading it JUST because an Athiest wrote it, and because some people speculate anti-religion, anti-God content in the book (Most of the time it’s just Anti-Authority period).

    After all, if I believe in God, it’s not like I have anything to worry about when reading material that puts it to question, because I’ve already validated my stance on the subject. In fact, it might even educate; I’d learn other view points and at least understand why some people don’t have/do have those beliefs.

  34. whome Says:

    Raiph von Williams was an atheist and he wrote some of the greatest music, including some of the music in the LDS Hymnal. Phillip Pullman himself has written many great books and is a very good writer. Read some of his other books.

    When I read the Golden Compass I found it to be a rip-roaring tale that pulled me along, but when it ended, it felt wrong. Now I often like books to have disturbing or unusual endings, but when I finished this book, I just felt like “I read all that for this?” It was rather a let-down. Now I think that the ending is something that they can easily fix in the movie, so I’d be willing to bet that the movie can be pretty good.

    The anti-religion aspect of the book reminded me of the same general anti-authority feeling Ursula K. Le Guin uses in her Earthsea trilogy.

    After a few months, I forgave the poor ending and tried book two, which again was a fun adventure novel, but ended poorly. I didn’t know exactly how he was doing it, but the books really felt like they failed as stories at the end, despite the great writing. I decided book three wasn’t worth my time.

    Then over half a year later, I forgave Pullman again and picked up book three. This is the book that really draws the Judeo-Christian ire.

    **Spoiler Warning for the book**

    You find that in ancient times Enoch, yes that Enoch, the grandfather of Noah, became an angel and took over heaven from God, putting the world under his domineering power and issued evil proclamations like “no sex until you are married” and other such terrible dictates, all to keep the world under suppression. Lucifer, humankind’s hero, has been trying to free us from said oppression. Specifically, the 14-year-old hero and heroine must save the world by defying the above law of chastity to save the world, which somehow causes the spirits of the dead to finally be destroyed and recycled back into the universe.

    Of course, it’s all done more artfully and literately in the book, but book summaries never capture that.

    It’s easy to see why anyone who holds the Bible to be sacred would be offended by the story, as was the clear intent of the author. Even so, I find the specific example of which law to rebel against to be far more disturbing than the anti-Christ message itself. That message is as old as the hills. (For Mormons: compare to the teachings of Korihor).

    **End of spoiler warning**

    Am I ready to boycott the movie because of the third book? Am I going to forgive Pullman a third time? I don’t think I can ever support the third book. It’s too driven by spite, clearly designed to offend. But a movie of the first book might be fun.

    I don’t like the fact that to participate in the debate I am required to financially support one side. Maybe I’ll wait until it’s out on video and check it out from the library. By then the debate will largely have run its course.

  35. GP Says:

    None of you have a valid opinion on stuffing potato chips up your nose.

  36. FinalElysium Says:

    This is just overtly hypocritical, since there were far less people complaining about Narnia, which is the most heavy-handed and in my opinion one of the most clumsy allegories ever, because that movie happen to have a pro-Christianity slant. Fair play would suggest that a movie presenting a anti-religious should get a fair shot.

    The most amsuing thing to me in all this, is how quick people are to say that this movie will undermine their religon. When’s the last time you switched your faith based on a book/movie that bills itself as a FANTASY novel. That’s ludicruous! Did they really have that much faith to begin with if they turn atheist by a movie with fighting armored polar bears? The reverse always struck me as odd to: the people who preach on the street corner. Does a religon really want a person who switches faiths at the drop of a hat as they do there morning shopping?

    The point is no fantasy book or movie is going to change an intelligent person’s ideologies (stupid people who think it is real are a different story, but they are stupid so who cares?). The most they can do is to make them think about things in a new way, which is usually a good thing. If they end up switching their faith then their faith really wasn’t that good to begin with.

    Really people should just drop it an watch it for what it is, a fantasy movie about fighting polar bears. I doubt many people other that PETA would have an issue about that!

  37. mommy Says:

    I am choosing not to go are choosing so, not because my faith is weak, but because I don’t want to support this cause or this author. He is actively Anti-God. Not all three books present that, but the author does…that is why I’m not going…not for what is or isn’t in this specific movie. I know others that feel the same way…they are not avoiding the movie in fear that it will rub off! I am choosing to NOT support someone who is very anti-God.

    As for “letting children decide”…none of my children are old enough to be in that boat. I’m fine with teenagers seeing and reading different world views and discussing them. Children are different. They need consistancy and simplicity. Children cannot develope in a vacume or in a flood of ideas…they need guidance and teaching. They need clear black and white, good and bad…They are not ready to make their own decisions about crossing a road or what to eat…or later the judgement to drive well…. why would I turn them loose on deciding morality, theology, or philosphy? I prefer to teach them what I know to be true, then as they mature and are ready, open up a world of ideas to them to judge for themselves what they want to believe and follow.

  38. mommy Says:

    UGGH…the first sentence should read…I’m choosing not to go not because my faith is week…I was going to make it plural and include others I have disucssed this with, then changed it to singular…never did proof that…

  39. Peter Says:

    Paul Norman – “As to your observation that no atheist is ‘afraid’ of new information, I am amazed that you have never noticed how hysterical atheists become over any mention of God in public school.”

    I’ve noticed it.

    It’s not the same thing.

    I think God in public schools is more of a tyranny/ACLU/church-state issue than an atheist issue, or a “new information” issue. If the pledge said, “one nation under gods,” or “one nation under goddess,” or “one nation under Allah,” then the Christian majority would become hysterical (because it directly challenges their worldview), and in such a case, the ACLU (and the atheists) would be on there side. But that whole phenomenon more a matter of discrimination, not a matter of willingness to look at new information.

    Right now, the U.S. is promoting secular governments in foreign countries (Iraq, Iran). Do you think this is a good idea? I do. Because I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. I just wish our country was a good example. I believe in democracy, too. I just wish our country was a good example. I believe in doing good to others. I just wish our country was a good example. I believe in the (pre-Christian) humanist values recorded in the New Testament (i.e. the beattitudes). I just wish our country was a good example.

  40. Brazen Hussy Says:

    “Amp” (above) described my very valid opinion PERFECTLY. Thanks for the intelligent comment!

    There is no way I’m going to see Pullman’s movies (because there will be a trilogy with the same director for at least the second one–and you know I mean Pullman’s movies-from-books movies) for several reasons, not the least of which is that I believe that MY ONE LITTLE VOTE COUNTS. I’m going to vote against this movie by not paying for it, checking it out, or renting it. Most of all, I don’t want to support the author, nor do I want to support the genre (which is stretching it to call it fantasy, in my humble opinion–Pullman calls it realism).

    Have I read excerpts from the books? yes. All three in their entirety? No. Do I still have a valid opinion? Hell yes. I’d have to agree with the writer above who referred to people not having valid opinions of stuffing potato chips up one’s nose if they haven’t done it themselves….eh, Eric? (Gotta beat ya at your own game sometimes, Eric, since I agree with your other writings 98% of the time!) Nope, I haven’t stuffed chips up my nose but I think I’ve got a pretty valid opinion that it would be nasty. Have I read every cotton pickin’ interview and article on Pullman you can find online? yes. Have I read everything researchable that Pullman himself has said re. this trilogy? yes. Am I an “informed” person? Yup. I think I’ve done enough homework t to know that these works are not inspiring or beautiful TO ME. Would I repress others from having the freedom to choose to watch or read them? Hell no. But just as I have the freedom to pass on this crap, so too will I respect someone else’s right to call what I like crap. That’s what being grown up is all about. But this movie isn’t really meant to be a “grown-up” movie, it’s supposed to be a “growing up” movie. And with two talented superstars and dazzling CGI how can you go wrong? I imagine it wouldn’t be hard to walk in, grab the popcorn, and sit down for an entertaining ride. But that’s hardly the point of Pullman’s trilogy, which I refuse to vivisect from the mainstream-pleasing movie. Have I ever enjoyed movies from books which I’d never read? Yes, but these are different books. These are written specifically toward a young and impressionable audience with the intent to harm (you can translate that as “shake up their conceptions of everything stable in their life”). After watching the movie there will be millions of children reading the works but there won’t be millions of children becoming atheist, but that’s not the danger. It is sooooo much more subtle than that. These works are nowhere-near the same level as Harry Potter magic stuff, because these are crafted with different goals (and telling a story is only one of them) which just don’t effect adults the way an impressionable youth can be. I think it is the normalizing of evil which is the greatest stain on our generation. And, yes, every single thing counts to help us or hinder us as a worldwide “brotherhood” no matter what your creed, background, or gender.

    As far as the messages in the literature (from which the first movie departs significantly) are concerned, my utter disgust at this tripe begins with the author’s portrayal of the God-figure as a bumbling fool at times and evil at others, as offensive and blasphemous as that is (to anyone, regardless of religion or none, simply by the notion that blaspheming a tradition’s source, or god, who they esteem and worship, exemplifies uncouth and spiteful behavior.)

    My disgust continues at the characterizations–where those which should be trusted and protectors are villains…..yet are glorified throughout the trilogy. You don’t come out of it feeling like there is redemption (according to one of my friends who read the trilogy in its entirety but doesn’t read your website, Eric, so I call on artistic license to quote him here).

    To the peanut gallery who thinks that someone’s an idiot for rejecting this trilogy: A number of the comments above (previous to mine) are reviling and dissing those of us who won’t see the works or read them in their entirety because we’re “not faithful enough” or “closed-minded” ; gee, it sure does sound like anyone who doesn’t agree with your “elevated” opinion isn’t as open-minded as you are. Pardon me. I’d better remember that if I have a different outlook from yours then I must have a stick up my butt.
    Ouch!
    Finally, I must comment on the insinuation that if I don’t expose my children to THIS (not from Eric, but from certain comments above) then how can I truly follow a higher power in my life (because if I truly discipled myself then I wouldn’t be naiive or wear blinders in this life experience). Let’s see, our oldest is nine. If I used your logical advice and exposed her to Pullman’s trilogy, then these are some of the enlightened, open-minded ideas or scenes she’d be exposed to at such a tender age: homosexual angels, female and male circumcision, cynicism of figures of authority or trust (within family and within church), a humanistic worldview, yet again more media support for the superiority of female gender (boys and girls aren’t equal in this day and age), superiority of one race over all imperfect others (sound like Neitzsche yet?), extreme torture, nihilism in all its forms, the condoning of premarital sex, the condoning of children sex, the condoning and promoting of deceitfulness, lying, and murder, the promotion of murder by a child, the dehumanization of the supreme being….that’s enough to make me say: LET MY CHILD ENJOY A CHILDHOOD and don’t rob her from it. Don’t let others rob her from it either, as these books are cropping up in public school districts’ required reading around the world.

    And don’t criticize those parents who try to do everything they can so that their children develop healthy mental attitudes toward life, relationships, and religion.

    If you believe your children will grow into better people from watching this movie, reading these books, then good luck. You know your kids better than I do, and I’m inclined to believe that you’d use it as a teaching tool (cuz Eric’s readers are smart), but I personally know dozens of parents who do everything they can to avoid spending time with their young, adolescent, and older children…very few use literature for dialogue, and I can see millions upon millions of kids reading this with no balance offering up a counterpoint against its harsh anti-everything-that-should-be-wholesome-and-good conclusions in each novel. It is a travesty on a global scale to not allow polar-opposite opinions to be aired on such a controversial topic–in other words, why would you look down on movie picketers or email senders? Seriously, if that’s what floats their boat…then let them be. Do you actually know beyond a doubt that none of them have opened up a single page of the books? (Because if they had then, surely, they’d think it’s stupendous like an intelligent you does!) Sure, there will ALWAYS be people who don’t know a thing about something except that someone told them about it, but there will be people like me who do a crapload of research before I get my brazen hussy opinions going….and then when that happens, you’re going to hear it. Because I’m not going to be silent every time I believe my opinion is just as valid as the Joe sitting next to me.

    Now, Pullman won the most prestigious international awards (look who the voting panels are), but we shouldn’t forget that he has said several times that his trilogy was written with the hope that he could get to children’s hearts (essentially, the exact quote escapes my memory) before they’d be perverted by their parents and religion!!!!!!!!!

    It’s Eric’s job to review the movie based on what he sees, but it’s a parent’s job to review the movie based on everything you know to decide if it will be good or bad for your family. And I’ll cast my vote against all of His Dark Materials.

  41. Neil Says:

    Um, I got a question…

    If I take whomes spoiler as fact, isn’t Pullman’s argument most compelling under an idea that religion is right, in that it just presents what God wants, but that God himself (or in this case Noah) is the one that is wrong? Pullman’s own atheism runs at odds with this this idea by denying the oppressive God’s existence.

    I’m more confused now than I was before.

  42. whome Says:

    Actually, in the books, God wasn’t good himself, but Enoch was worse. Remember that to Pullman, the Bible is folklore. So he’s using “Christian folklore” much in the way C.S. Lewis uses pagan folklore in the Narnia books. He’s not saying God exists any more than Lewis was saying Bacchus exists.

  43. Steve S Says:

    I guess those emails didn’t work:

    http://www.film-finder.com/Detail.asp?ID=45868

    At least they called the film “a convoluted mess.” I can’t imagine it being more than that but here in Philly & in NYC it has gotten decent notices. I probably won’t see it myself. There’s only so much time and one has to make choices. . .

  44. Weezy Says:

    “I think it is the normalizing of evil which is the greatest stain on our generation. And, yes, every single thing counts to help us or hinder us as a worldwide “brotherhood” no matter what your creed, background, or gender.”

    Well said, Brazen Hussy.

    Going back to Eric’s original article, I do feel it is possible to have an opinion about the film’s SUBJECT without having seen the film itself, especially after having read all of the varying worthwhile opinions expressed here. And since no one has discredited the spoilers from the book presented in these posts, I will take them at face value and abstain from both the books and the movie. I think my family and I will be none the less intellectual for skipping such distasteful (to us) subjects. But I have no problem with the fact that it is out there for others to exercise their free agency.

    Oh, one more thought. Regarding His Dark Materials intended as a foil to the Chronicles of Narnia, there is a significant difference as Narnia merely advocates Christianity without disparging the opposing viewpoint, while HDM seeks to discredit and destroy Christianity/organized religion. One seems so much more intolerant and hostile than the other.

  45. Eric D. Snider Says:

    I think maybe I didn’t explain myself very well, because some of you are claiming to disagree with me, yet what you say is exactly what I had in mind in the first place.

    Of course you can have an opinion on a film’s subject without having seen it! The subject (i.e., the general storyline, the events of the plot, etc.) isn’t a matter of opinion. What’s a matter of opinion is what the film means — what it’s trying to say, what point it’s making. That’s where different viewers will have different experiences.

    Of course you don’t have to shove potato chips up your nose to know you wouldn’t enjoy it. Why? Because of facts: You know what potato chips are like, you know how small your nasal cavity is, you’ve had things accidentally lodged in there before, etc.

    By the same token, you can absolutely have a valid opinion about a movie based on facts. You don’t like sci-fi movies. You get restless when a movie is over 2 1/2 hours long. A movie based on a Jane Austen novel sounds boring to you. Those are all opinions based on factual elements of the film — its genre, its running time, its source material — so you’re on solid ground.

    Here’s what it boils down to. Think of your opinion. Now think of what that opinion is based on. Is it based on something factual about the film, or is it based on something that could be open to interpretation? If it’s the latter, then unless you’ve seen the film, all you’re doing is repeating someone else’s interpretation — which could vary wildly from your own, if you were to see it yourself. Best to couch those arguments in terms of “This person whose opinion I trust says the movie is anti-God,” not “That movie is anti-God.”

  46. Carina Says:

    I may have been the Provo woman who forwarded Eric that letter.

    Just kidding.

    I didn’t see Brokeback Mountain because I can’t stand Heath Ledger’s massive forehead and beady eyes.

    Not kidding.

    If a child is old enough to read a complex series they are old enough to have a discussion with their parents about the contents. We will not withhold honest reading material from our kids. We WILL discuss ideas, symbolism and themes. That’s how my parents did it and that’s how I ended up reading The Master and Margarita at 11 years of age.

    I have no problem going to see The Golden Compass at the Provo Towne Center theater. Anyone else want to come too?

  47. Amp Says:

    I think it ought to be stated that the decision to expose/not expose your children to Pullman’s work should not be some sort of litmus test for how good of a parent you are.

  48. Cafe_Au_Lait Says:

    Although sometime I’ve proven wrong, when it comes to big event movies, I base my opinions on whether or not I’ll like it on the trailers. Usually, if studios will create a trailer ouf of some of the best and most tantalizing scenes from the film in order to draw as much of an audience as possible. If that theory is right, and the scenes that were shown in the trailers for The Golden Compass are among its best, then, well, blah. The pacing seems slow, the child actors came across as bland, and fierce Iorek and the daemons all looked obviously CGI; in fact, the only part of the trailer I liked were the scenes with Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby. Though somehow I don’t quite believe the idea of a man who pilots a hot air balloon for a living wearing a cowboy hat, even if he is from “the country of Texas.” From all of that, the trailers give the overall impression that the storytelling is going to be a little off. It looks — as Neil said way back in the comments — as if the movie’s trying so hard to be good, it’ll be a disappointment instead.

    Also, though, I gather some idea of what a movie will be like from reading critic’s reviews. Roger Ebert and Eric Snider are both favorites. I’ve seen so many movies over the years that I”ve gotten to a point where I’m more likely to agree with a professional critic’s opinion than with friends who fawn over mindless drek like The Wedding Date.

  49. Cafe_Au_Lait Says:

    Sorry, I don’t know how that first “if” got in there. Anyways, the point was that I could care less about the message; I won’t watch The Golden Compass because it looks dull. The books had more life in them.

  50. Jessica Says:

    I love the idea of boycotting some of the best-written books in the young adult genre just because you disagree with the author’s philosophy. Being an author myself, I know many of my fellow writers. Would you like me to provide a list of jerks, drunks, and womanizers so that you can avoid their books too? Heaven forbid you should read something thought-provoking and gorgeously written if the author, who you will most likely never meet, is unpleasant!

  51. Queen of Everything Says:

    Final Elysium, I am going to say this to you but it was because your comment caught my eye and there were a few that alluded to this, so hang on:

    You said that there was a definite Christian slant in the Narnia books. Duh. The books and movie were written and made in a dominantly Christian society, they are going to dominantly portray Christian values. Things made in Iraq, granted that things are stable enough that the culture can safely get to that point, are probably, if they portray religious anythings at all, will portray mostly Muslim values. As far as Narnia not getting it’s share of flaming that The Golden Compass has so far gotten, once again, refer to what I said about our American (and European and Canadian and so forth) dominant religion: ta da! Surprise! Christianity! People aren’t going to try to take the other position against something they already believe in and support; they don’t need to, nor do they want to. And why should they? To keep their minds open? Naw, that takes too much time and energy and life is kind of full of other important things to worry about.

    Anyhow, on to other subjects discussed here, I have no opinion on the movie or story or books or author myself, as I was not aware any of these things existed until I happened to see some banner about the movie on myspace not too long ago, and even then I thought, “Is that some new dating site or something?” Therefore, I won’t discuss the content but I can discuss people in large groups, and mostly it’s the ones who happen to be a part of a large belief system who are getting all the attention because it smells scandalous and people love scandals, who try to oppose things like this without first educating themselves.

    I think it is a little sad that after wide-spread email account possession for several years that people can’t seem to discern from badly-worded and written forwards about things of this nature (I’m talking about several emails banning things like this or warning me of this or that…I just got one telling me that aspartame in diet sodas causes MS) usually are fake or mere over-reactions. Take the aspartame for an example: the email went on and on about how “doctors” found in many “diet soda drinkers” that “nearly everyone who drank diet sodas had MS.” Were there links to the JAMA website? Were specific doctors’ names or credentials spelled out for me? Was there an admonition Moroni 10:4-style to seek out the information and learn it and read it for myself? No. My point is this: when people jump the gun and try these mass email list banning-things, it isn’t usually based on well-formed opinions, but they say just the right things to fire people up and then they get their heads all wrapped up in strong opinions that they refuse to let more informed and passive people talk them down from.

    The Bible-thumpers who try to ban stories and things like this are running on their own agenda. Naturally, they are functioning from a belief that the whole world, or as many people as possible, should believe as they believe because that little clause is right there in most belief systems, so they think that by mass-banning this book and movie and other such books will be fulfilling that duty to their beliefs, and as someone said earlier in this thread (I would look you up but that’s an awful lot of comments and I am too lazy right now to go to the work) they take those actions of banning as values in their religion, and they take it that they are adhering to their beliefs. Fine. However, as is said in the LDS religion, it’s not just the Mormons who will go to Paradise; it’s those who have followed what they believe to be true with all their hearts, and if they did not know any better and the opportunity was not presented to them to know any better.

    From what I read here, not with any other research, I can say that if the atheist and anti-God messages are portrayed as blatantly as many of your peoples’ posts have lead me to believe, then I personally do not support that, and I don’t really have a desire to read the books or see the movie right now, partly because deep down I still think that it is all just a new dating website, and because I don’t hold with a message like that. Maybe my faith is weak, or maybe I just don’t want to have those ideas bouncing around my head and constantly in battle with other ideas out there that my mind and spirit have been exposed to.

    Basically, my opinion on this issue is: even if it is in your belief system that something is blasphemous and evil, it is not your right to try to take it away from everyone else. You cannot and should not be able to practice that type of mind-control, because that’s what it will come down to. We have our free agency, and it is not man’s place to try to take it away. One guy tried that once, and he lost out probably as much as any being could.

    Those are my thoughts.

  52. smrtpants Says:

    an ironic conundrum – you must expose yourself to something in order to decide if that something is harmful to be exposed to…or is that a paradox?

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