Golden Compass' Anti-clerical Message Loud and Clear, Humanists Say
December 05, 2007
For Immediate Release
(Washington, D.C.) Humanists responded to allegations from the Catholic League that "The Golden Compass" film is a "stealth campaign" to subvert children to atheism. The claim is that the toned-down anti-religious message in the movie will gull young moviegoers into reading the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy by Philip Pullman.
"After reviewing the film, I must say that the Catholic League is profoundly mistaken," commented Fred Edwords, communications director of the American Humanist Association. "In fact, there's nothing 'stealthy' about the movie's message at all. Rather, it's a direct and plain-spoken argument in opposition to religious and secular tyranny and it forthrightly favors freethinking, human nature, and science."
"The Golden Compass" movie does avoid the overt religious references of the book, such as "the church" and a retelling of the story of the fall from the Garden of Eden. However, it directly confronts the danger of religious authority, a "ruling power fearing any truth but their own" that protects people from "messy thoughts and unhappy feelings." "Freethinkers"-a common term for humanists and atheists-are also mentioned in the movie with a positive intent.
"Though 'The Golden Compass' is clearly against blind acceptance of religious authority-or any organized authority, for that matter-I would stop short of calling it anti-religious," said Edwords. "Rather, the movie and the books stress values that are shared by thoughtful non-religious and religious people alike: kindness, intellectual curiosity, and courage. It's too bad that these important morals of the film and books are overlooked by groups like the Catholic League, who denounce any message, regardless of content, if it comes from a humanist."
"Many religious groups have organized protests and boycotts against the film," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "The AHA has alerted its members across the country to be on the lookout for such protests and launch counter-protests in such an event. 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 film, I am happy to stand behind it," said Edwords. "I would be cautious about letting small children watch it, since it does contain violence and deals with disturbing issues, but I would encourage teens and adults with open minds to see it."
Philip Pullman will accept the International Humanist Award at the 2008 Annual Conference of the American Humanist Association to be held this June in Washington, D.C.
To read previous AHA statements about the "Golden Compass" click here.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.