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TRILOGY Oct-30-2007 (800 words) With photo. xxxn

Author of book behind 'Golden Compass' criticized as anti-Christian

By Denis Grasska
Catholic News Service

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- To all of those Christian critics who have denounced the "Harry Potter" series as a subversive effort to lure unsuspecting children into the occult, Baylor University professor Perry Glanzer warns: Quit crying wolf.

In a commentary appearing in early August in the Austin American-Statesman daily newspaper, Glanzer noted that while social critics have blasted J.K. Rowling's tales of Harry Potter and his seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they have uttered nary a word about British writer Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials," which Glanzer and others say is an overtly anti-Christian trilogy of fantasy novels for young adults.

The trilogy includes "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass."

"I think that as long as people are agitated about whether Harry Potter makes you into a satanist, they're not going to be very bothered with me," Pullman said in an interview with Amazon.com. "So, I'm happy to (take) shelter under the great umbrella of Harry Potter."

A film adaptation of "The Golden Compass," starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, is set to debut in theaters Dec. 7. The Aug. 24 issue of Entertainment Weekly reported that the film will make no direct references to the Catholic Church.

The article also quoted Kidman, who recently reconnected with her Catholic faith, as saying, "The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn't be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic."

The Academy Award-winning actress also said that the material "has been watered down a little" in the transition from page to screen.

Critics of Pullman include the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which said its position is not "that the movie will strike Christian parents as troubling," noting that it is based "on the least offensive of the three books."

But, the league said in an Oct. 9 statement, viewers of the film "may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman's books for Christmas. That's the problem."

Glanzer also pointed out that Pullman told The Washington Post that through his work, "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." But those who praise his work say he is not attacking Christianity itself, but criticizing dogmatism and how religion is used to oppress people.

"His Dark Materials" recounts the adventures of Lyra Belacqua, a 12-year-old girl in an alternate universe that resembles our own. With the assistance of several other characters, she sets out to overthrow the Authority. The novels depict him as a weak, false god and, in the final book in the trilogy, he actually dies.

Also, an angel informs one of the main characters that "God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty" are really all just names the first angel gave himself in an attempt to set himself up as a divine being.

The novels also take a harsh view of the church, which is called the Magisterium and is depicted as an oppressive institution that appears to have fallen for the Authority's ruse.

The church's minions are the books' principal villains, who are obsessed with a substance called Dust, which is connected to original sin. They are not above kidnapping and performing experiments on innocent children.

One character states that, since its beginning, the church has "tried to suppress and control every natural impulse," and that all churches share the same fundamental goals: to "control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."

"His Dark Materials" has amassed a collection of prestigious awards, including the 1995 Carnegie Medal for children's literature in the United Kingdom, which he earned for "Northern Lights" (published in the United States as "The Golden Compass"), and the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award for "The Amber Spyglass."

British columnist Peter Hitchens has dubbed him "the most dangerous author in Britain."

"In his worlds, the church is wicked, cruel and child-hating; priests are sinister, murderous or drunk," Hitchens wrote for the Daily Mail newspaper in January 2002. "Political correctness creeps in leadenly. There is a brave African king and a pair of apparently homosexual angels. The one religious character who turns out to be benevolent is that liberal favorite, an ex-nun who has renounced her vows and lost her faith."

In an interview with Third Way Magazine, a Christian publication, Pullman said he agreed with his character Mary Malone, who states in "The Amber Spyglass" that Christianity is "a very powerful and convincing mistake," and he rejected the "ugly vision" presented by C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia," a popular Christian fantasy series.

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Contributing to this story was Julie Asher in Washington.


Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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