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December 11, 2007

What's so bad about the Golden Compass, anyways?

"Golden Compass" seems like an odd choice for a holiday blockbuster. Once you get past the image of gigantic, armor-clad Polar Bears, the rest of the book is designed to be a sort of atheist parable for what's wrong with organized religion. The author, Philip Pullman, is on the record as stating that his series was intended to be the anti-Chronicles of Narnia, and that C.S. Lewis was a waste of precious oxygen. The movie adaptation is certainly a far cry from the standard-issue Santa Claus comedy, or even last year's eschatological epic, "Children of Men," so perhaps it's not surprising that "Golden Compass" racked in only $26 million in receipts over the opening weekend.Maroon viewpoints columnist Ryan McCarl defends the book and the movie in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, arguing that imagination is a foundation of religious understanding (the column is actually a lot less boring than I made it sound). A sample:

There are a lot of sophisticated theological and philosophical ideas woven into the "His Dark Materials" narrative. The story speaks as positively about religious concepts such as soul, spiritual existence and love as it speaks negatively about intolerance and bigotry. It opens a window in the reader's mind and invites him or her to investigate all of these ideas further.