Killing God? or free thought?


Sorry that I had to post the below article, it came to me this way, and I am too lazy to search for a link.

Group to protest 'Golden Compass'HOLLY TOWNSHIP
THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
By Christofer achniakmailto:achniakcmachniak@flintjournal.com

A retired grandmother is leading a group that plans to protest the nation's No. 1 movie - "The Golden Compass" - in Fenton this weekend. Bev Suski, 56, of Holly Township, calls the film anti-Christian and wants the theater complex, Fenton Cinemas, to pull the movie. She's asking anyone who agrees with her to join the group outside the theater on the sidewalk during the matinee showing Saturday. They're hoping for 100 people.

"Even though we're late, we need to do something," said Suski, who is retired from the antique business and attends St. Rita Catholic Church in Holly. "As Christians, we need to stand up to be heard." A spokesperson for New Line Cinema, which produced the film, declined to comment on the protest Tuesday, but provided the studio's official statement about the controversy the film has generated that says "the film is neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion."

"The Golden Compass is an exciting, entertaining fantasy adventure that we believe audiences will enjoy," the statement said. "The critically acclaimed, award-winning novel on which the film is based has been praised by countless clergy and religious scholars, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, for its deep spirituality and exploration of important theological issues."

The fantasy movie starring Nicole Kidman opened last week and earned $25.8 million nationwide in what was considered a quiet weekend at the box office. Catholic groups have been advocating a boycott of the film, and locally, the book on which the film is based has been banned from a classroom at Grand Blanc West Middle School, although officials have said the removal wasn't over the content.

Jason Lillmars, owner of Fenton Cinemas, said while he respects Suski's opinion, he doesn't know what material is objectionable. He said he is willing to speak with her about her concerns, but said at this point he won't pull the film, which he's under contract to show. It's being shown at first-run theaters nationwide. "It's a PG-13 fantasy film," he said. "Every movie isn't for everyone, and if you don't like a movie, don't go to it."

Suski, who hasn't seen the movie but decided to act after hearing about the film from her friends and commentators on a local Catholic radio station, said it's her understanding the objectionable aspects of the movie are more "innuendo." She's concerned the film's popularity will lead kids to read the book it is based upon. Written by British atheist Philip Pullman, the book is part of a trilogy titled "His Dark Materials." Pullman has said his books are in response to "The Chronicles of Narnia," the popular children's fantasy series written by C.S. Lewis to teach Christian ideals to children. One of the Narnia books already has been adapted into a successful movie and a second is on the way.

In "Compass," a friend of a 12-year-old girl, Lyra, is kidnapped by the Magisterium or Church, a body that governs nearly every aspect of people's lives. Lyra uses a magical golden compass to free her friend and other kidnapped children. In the trilogy's final installment, the characters succeed in killing a character called God, who turns out to be a phony - not God at all. But Suski, who also has complained about the book being sold during a book fair at her grandson's school in Grand Blanc, said it's a story in which "evil wins" and where "they want to kill God."

Ok, seriously!?

My friend Miss Cellaneous sent me that article and I was surprised to see that it involves my hometown. I actually worked at the movie theater that is mentioned in the article (when I was in high school). The article is "about" removing The Golden Compass movie from the Fenton Cinema. Well, really, in light of all the other protests, the article is really about people who are trying to rally against the book in all its forms.

I am Catholic. I consider myself to be an ok human being. I attend Church every weekend, I pray, I live a mostly good life. And yet, as a Catholic, as a (seemingly) intelligent adult, I have NO PROBLEM with The Golden Compass. I guess I should mention that I have not read the book yet, but even knowing how the last book ends with the idea that the characters need to "kill God" is something that I can deal with. And as a Librarian I will one day fight for the right to keep books like this in the library (and fight for my right to party).

A few points need to be considered:

A. Having different opinions is ok--that is what makes America great. Discriminating against something because it differs from your beliefs is another matter. I thought this quote by the American Library Association (ALA) President, Loriene Roy, was brilliant!

"It is one thing to disagree with the content of a book or the viewpoint of an author; it is quite another thing to block access to that material because of that disagreement. Removing a book from a school or library because the author is an atheist, or because a religious group disagrees with the book's viewpoint, is censorship that runs counter to our most cherished freedoms and our history as a nation that celebrates and protects religious diversity.

We encourage librarians, teachers and parents to resist the call to censorship. Censorship results in the opposite of true education and learning. Young people will only develop the skills they need to analyze information and make choices among a wide variety of competing sources if they are permitted to read books and explore ideas under the guidance of caring adults."

Well put!

B. Anyone who knows anything about pop culture knows that if you want to bring attention to anything, talk about it--or in this The Golden Compass's case, CHALLENGE IT! Calling so much attention to something like this book has only peaked curiosity and encouraged more people to read the book.

C. Pullman did not write this book as an evil atheist, trying to lure good like Christians into beliving that all they were taught is wrong, in the same way that C.S. Lewis didn't write the Chronicles of Narnia to convert people to Christianity. Both books were written to show a struggle between good and evil, manifestations of struggles, endurance, and overcoming something.

Many of my friends have read the Chronicles of Narnia and none of them were converted to Christian thought because of their experience. These books are centerpieces to be discussed and mulled over, to make us question what we stand for. Is it so terrible for a child, an innocent voice to ask questions; to question something they do not understand? In reading articles I have come across more than one parent saying they would not let their children read this series. And I am sure the kids will read them eventually anyway. I ask, why miss such a learning opportunity to teach your child something, even if it is opposite of what the book says? That truly is a greater loss than your kid reading the story.

It always amazes me in this modern world where technology is king and books go by the wayside at times that we never seem to see a book as valuable. Yet, when a book comes out with a thought that is contrary to what we like to believe we give the thing so much power, and all of a sudden this book--this thing--is capable of destroying our Christian foundations.

Horse shit, I say.

I wanted to share some of what Philip Pullman had to say about The Golden Compass.

"In the world of the story — Lyra’s world — there is a church that has acquired great political power, rather in the way that some religions in our world have done at various times, and still do (think of the Taliban in Afghanistan). My point is that religion is at its best — it does most good — when it is farthest away from political power, and that when it gets hold of the power to (for example) send armies to war or to condemn people to death, or to rule every aspect of our lives, it rapidly goes bad. Sometimes people think that if something is done in the name of faith or religion, it must be good. Unfortunately, that isn’t true; some things done in the name of religion are very bad. That was what I was trying to describe in my story.I think the qualities that the books celebrate are those such as kindness, love, courage and courtesy too. And intellectual curiosity. All these good things. And the qualities that the books attack are cold-heartedness, tyranny, close-mindedness, cruelty, the things that we all agree are bad things.

What I was mainly doing, I hope, was telling a story, but not a story like Tolkien’s. (To be honest I don’t much care for “The Lord of the Rings." As for the atheism, it doesn’t matter to me whether people believe in God or not, so I’m not promoting anything of that sort. What I do care about is whether people are cruel or whether they’re kind, whether they act for democracy or for tyranny, whether they believe in open-minded enquiry or in shutting the freedom of thought and expression. Good things have been done in the name of religion, and so have bad things; and both good things and bad things have been done with no religion at all. What I care about is the good, wherever it comes from."


Free thought + free expression=a good thing.

Comments

SWP said…
Loriene's words rest on the premise that all information is morally neutral. But in reality, information can be tailored and presented in such a manner that it distorts, warps, prejudices, and misrepresents.

Libraries and other secular institutions excel at providing access to misinformation about the Catholic Church and are rarely so impartial when it comes to providing full disclosure, which would include at the very least news sources and publications that hold a favorable view of the Church and her teachings in addition to the sources they generally stock. Any library that had on its shelves anti-semitic literature would be understandably taken to task. Why shouldn't concerned Catholic citizens expect the same due process?

Pullman, though he claims to be against all forms of religious intolerance such as the Taliban, did not model his antagonist on just any religious organization. He very obviously modeled his antagonist on the Catholic Church specifically among the various Christian denominations. It would be one thing (and really no better) if Lyra's nemesis were some entity that resembles a blend of Buddha, Mohammed, and Christ. But he chose instead to portray the enemy of freedom as a dark magisterium- a word that only has one referent among the world's religions.

To regard Pullman as anything less than a religious bigot for doing so would be dishonest. If you read any of the quoted material Pullman released during the publications of his books, you would find among them statements less-tempered than this one which make clear he very much wants children to question a belief in God. It was very much a goal of his writing these books.

So people are understandably upset when their most cherished beliefs are not only disrespected but maliciously portrayed as evil and when one author makes his career on promoting anti-Catholic bigotry. People are understandably upset when their Church and her flaws are paralleled with the actions of a terrorist agency. Librarians have always been selective about which children's books and periodicals they stock. They usually avoid racist books, for example for fear of offending minorities. So it's hypocritical for Ms. Roy to claim a totally disinterested neutrality.

The Catholic Church is widely regarded as an enemy of freedom by civil libertarians. Pullman wrote a book that nourishes that bias. And libraries welcome the opportunity to make that bias available to the public. Would they do the same if a children's book featured Jews as babysnatchers? Would they defend that author's right to have such a book granted unfettered access to children in the name of open-mindedness?

Doubtful at best. Yet that's precisely how Pullman portrays his dark magisterium, as sucking the life force out of young children. This is barely veiled hostility towards the Catholic Church from a man with an agenda. It is not harmless fiction; it's deftly packaged information. And it is NOT morally neutral information.
SWP said…
Furthermore--

Free thought and free expression are given by God so that we can opt for the Good, but they do not therefore result in good things. The many horrible acts perpetuated by the Church as a result of God's gift of free will are not the fault of the magisterium. On the contrary, the magisterium of the Church has only ever upheld Truth and the Good as the only worthy pursuits.

Freedom of expression was given that we might proclaim that Truth and live that Goodness. For Pullman to equate in the minds of children kindness, democracy, and open-minded inquiry with characters bent on destroying a dark magisterium and its God is not only fanciful but maliciously errant. Because the real magisterium on which Pullman has based his character has only ever promoted Christian virtue, religious liberty, and higher learning.

It introduced to the world the very concepts Pullman claims it opposes.
SWP said…
Public libraries routinely withhold from their shelves materials that would be deemed offensive. This is not viewed as censorship when such removal protects the library from negative lawsuits. Likewise, when the inclusion of certain works in the library's inventory satisfies the staff's belief systems, such accomodations are made, often without consultation with the public.

My point is that subjectivity and particularity reign among the Information Mavens in today's public library. What books make it onto the shelf has less to do with the ALA's supposed neutrality and more to do with who controls the purchase order.

And if they find offensive books and periodicals that uphold certain teachings of the Church, they will not stock those materials. Yet, when Catholic parents find certain materials offensive, they are told that the ALA does not support censorship.

Horse shit indeed. Yet you seem content to swallow it.
And you swallow it for the Catholic church...am I too feel bad that a church who has a spotty history at best is attacked? And you point out that Pullman makes the point saying that he has issues with the Taliban, etc., and you wonder why he did not make them the villains instead? Watch any movie or TV show from 1980-1999--who is always the villain--anyone from the middle East. Read C.S. Lewis for shit's sake, he all but comes out and calls Middle Easterners evil in The Last Battle.

You only see this as a personal insult and injury because of your love of the Church "institution." I see this book as a teaching opportunity and am all for it.

In the future SWP, you have my email address and any such Catholic banter you can kindly send there--I don't want a Pro-Catholic novel posted in my comments.

Cheers.
Also SWP,

I want to draw attention to part of why I wrote this:

"In reading articles I have come across more than one parent saying they would not let their children read this series. And I am sure the kids will read them eventually anyway. *I ask, why miss such a learning opportunity to teach your child something, even if it is opposite of what the book says? That truly is a greater loss than your kid reading the story.*"

It always amazes me in this modern world where technology is king and books go by the wayside at times that we never seem to see a book as valuable. Yet, when a book comes out with a thought that is contrary to what we like to believe we give the thing so much power, and all of a sudden this book--this thing--is *capable of destroying our Christian foundations.*

Those who are strong in faith and a real belief in the foundations (built over centuries) of Christianity shouldn't worry that much.

I also believe that in 10 yrs. this will be another distant memory, like all the other books the Catholic Church has tried to ban over the years.

The Catholic Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum listed had works banned by these authors:

Francis Bacon
Simone de Beauvoir
Nicolaus Copernicus
Daniel Defoe
René Descartes
Denis Diderot
Alexandre Dumas
Gustave Flaubert
Galileo Galilei
Thomas Hobbes
Victor Hugo
David Hume
Immanuel Kant
John Locke
Martin Luther
Niccolò Machiavelli
Karl Marx
John Milton
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jonathan Swift
Voltaire
Émile Zola

And to think how some of these people have been thought of over time--interesting.
Anonymous said…
A point that is often left out of articles such as the one you posted, is that the "god" of the book that must be killed is actually an imposter...The children do not actually go out to kill god, but the imposter who is pretending to be god. I think most of the people protesting the book either haven't read it or did not pick up on this fine point.

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