‘Compass’ Spins Out?

Observatory, Reading & Writing, The Arts


I came late to Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, having stumbled over the first few pages and wrongly assuming it would be another Harry Potter. The college setting, the masters with secrets, the talking animals – I set it aside and came back to it during a recent hospital stay. Discovering that it was in every way superlative to the Rowling books I finished it and went to watch the film, which makes the disastrous mistake of attempting to explain a large piece of the plot at the beginning, like a vaguely academic powerpoint presentation.

However, it was a decent stab at a complex story, and gradually hit its stride in the running time. It certainly did not deserve to be killed off with two more episodes still to go (the film ends before the end of the first book). But this is what appears to have happened, for it has now emerged that in the US the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had called for a mass boycott on the grounds that Pullman’s books introduced children to atheism, and that the campaign has proven successful.

Catholic League leader Bill Donahue has said he is “delighted” by the effectiveness of his religious boycott – “I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie.”
Pullman said of Donahue’s triumphalism: “It’s disgusting, but only the sort of behaviour I expect of these people.’

What shocks me most is that Pullman’s masterwork is about the development of rational thinking, not the automatic acceptance of control, so an organisation with the phrase ‘civil rights’ in its title should not be helping to close the minds of the young. Catholic hypocrisy is nothing new of course, but crowing about limiting the reading of the young does nothing to dispel the notion that this kind of religion is the new stupid.

3 comments on “‘Compass’ Spins Out?”

  1. Christopher says:

    I thought the movie mad a good attempt. Really slow at the start but by the end I wanted to see where they would go with it. I am no longer Catholic (grew up that way) and their boycott of this movie is one of the very many reasons I left their faith. Close minded bigotry should never be something to be proud of.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    The books require a considerable amount of effort to read. My feeling was that anything that makes students think is good. The conclusions they reach are their own and the author can’t take credit for them which is something that Mr. Donahue obviously doesn’t get. Why do these people have so little faith in the truth of their faith that they have to “protect” their young from other viewpoints?

  3. Makes sense: to believe in the Bible, you must swallow without arguing a lot of absurdities, contradictions and outrights stupidities. The frontier between reality and fiction has been dangerously erased and religious leaders are now afraid you might start believing other stuff. Because, of course, no one can tell the difference, if not told where the boundaries stand. The petty literalism of religion, which has helped launch countless wars and bloody struggles over trivial details, never ceases to sicken me.

Comments are closed.