Bookmark and Share
My Photo


    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.


« The Seven Heavens of Narnia revealed? | Main | "You don't need to be a Jesuit scholar..." »

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sandra Miesel

Clueless, aren't they?

Yes, Iorek the talking polar bear has an alcohol problem but solves same without a Twelve-Step program. All he needed was Lyra and his armor.

johnny vino

This is like a woman pretending it's no big deal that her drunk husband calls her a whore in public. The last thing the Bishop's media outlet want's people to think is that they agree with ol' Bill Donohue! The scandal!

Daniel Crandall

I find it interesting that Bishops of the Catholic Church in America can't bring themselves to see what is obvious to at least one decidedly non-Catholic reviewer of the film - Lou Lumenick at the New York Post (

"... Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has been publicizing the movie by claiming it’s an anti-religious tract, as much as it pains me to say so, this self-appointed no-nothing [sic] may actually have something of a point. You don’t need to be a Jesuit scholar to figure out that the film’s bad guys who keep complaining about heretics ... are clearly meant to be reps of the Catholic Church, even before you get a glimpse of their Vatican-like headquarters."

Jack Smith

As former editor of Catholic San Francisco and current editor of The Catholic Key in Kansas City, I've run the current USCCB reviewer Harry Forbes only twice since he signed on. Before he arrived, I ran the Bishops' Catholic News Service reviews almost every week.

Since he's arrived, I've had to pay additional money to other reviewers, including protestant, Jewish and orthodox reviewers, because they have a better Catholic imagination than Forbes.

Forbes reviews movies from personal taste without a scintilla of Christian imagination or moral insight. He is utterly vapid and spends most of his CNS paid time hawking PBS (his former employer).

Forbes is a significant reason why Catholic publications are increasingly looking for sources other than CNS.

Jeff Miller

Since the actors of the movie have been defending the movie as not being anti-Catholic - I sure wish someone would have asked them if the books were. It would at least be fun to see them squirm on that.

If they made a movie about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but took out most of the references to Jewish people they would not get away with what they are trying to pull off here.

Have you seen SF author John C. Wright's comment on Pullman's latest comments? He takes an axe to the novels and shows exactly why Pullman's atheism was more important than the story. John C. Wright was once an atheist himself, though his books didn't suffer from it.



Now the Usual Suspects have even more cover. "But-but-but 'the bishops' all agree the movie is fine, save for the dipsomaniacal polar bear."

Sadly, this review says more about the USCCB than it does about Pullman.


Mark Brumley

John C. Wright's review of Pullman had me rolling on the floor.

I had the same reaction to the ghosts being liberated from the afterlife. Is the only option oblivion? Is someone going to tell me that oblivion is more attractive than trying anything else?

And why is recycling such a great thing? It's not as if it's you anymore. On that point, Pullman simply cheats. He wants to revel in materialism? Fine. Revel away. But don't cheat by smuggling in the sense of some sort of continued existence with "your" atoms spread throughout the cosmos intertwining with everything else.

If materialism is right, there isn't really a "you" and the atoms that make up "your" body aren't "yours". Glory in that, if you can. But don't spew out nonsense about your recycled self ad nausem.

Then again, who wants to spend hours reading the adventures of Pullman's books only to learn there's no one reading anything, anyway, just an aggregate of atoms that will one day no longer aggregate?

Mark Brumley

Oh yes, I forgot. Yet another lame review from the USCCB reviewer. CNS is to blame. The bishops have bigger problems to address than a lame movie reviewer at CNS but somebody needs to deal with the problem.

Ed Peters

Who reads USCCB reviews? Not, who publishes them (we know that, subsidized Catholic periodicals) but whpo reads them? Want great reviews? Go to Decent Films, Steve Greydanus.


How can the schismatics in the USCCB be rooted out?


"How can the schismatics in the USCCB be rooted out?"

Send in the drunken bear?


Seriously, are there ways to root out these shepherds who have joined the wolves? Or can we only wait?


Sorry to make light of your question, Jackson. Maybe we are doing it, at least partly, right here. By drawing attention to them and pointing out the truth to anyone who will look at it, perhaps we are helping to marginalize their influence, at least to some extent. Wolves disguised as sheep generally prefer not to have too much attention because the sheep begin to see through the disguise.

Ketih Hoene

I'll tell you who reads bishop's reviews - all my evangelical friends who just love to point out how mis-guided the Catholic Church is.
All the evangelical and pentecostal ministers who make their bread and butter trashing the Catholic church on their pulpits will eat this up and ram it down our throats.
You will also have enough priests that will parrot this review to their congregations and those that know better will rail against the church or even walk out.

I suggest everyone print out the literature from the Catholic League and post it all over your parishes.

Little Gidding

Pullman's message is a nasty variant of Gnosticism's. I believe it's more useful to examine it as such, rather than to label it simply "atheism." Especially telling is his reversal of the characters of the Old Testament--God, for example, being a sort of demented and abusive old man, who, with his minions, keeps everyone deluded and locked up in the prison of the world, composed of evil matter and the flesh. But, with the help of the wise and crafty "savior/serpent"--who is, of course, Pullman himself, no matter who stands in for him as a character in his novels--one can discover the secret that "everything you know is wrong" and throw off the chains of the flesh and destroy the prison walls. From the time of Simon Magus, Gnostics have affected to present themselves as the "real" truth of the savior, which, they say, was hijacked by the Church--which is, in truth, an arm of Ialdaboth (or fill in the blank with some other name for the OT demento god)--and the strategy to revealing that truth has been a "viral" one, in which the liberator disguises himself as "one of them" in order to get inside the belly of the beast and take it apart from there. The basic program for this is contained in the Gnostic "Hymn of the Pearl." So the Gnostics of the first centuries set themselves up as the true Christians, complete with bishops, etc. and a raft of scriptural interpretations that told the "real" truth underlying the "apparent" truths that the Church taught. Not just "alternate" readings of the message of Christ, but readings that were utterly opposed to the teachings of the Church. Like matter and anti-matter. Like the "dark matter" of the universe, sort of, or--in the spirit of Pullman, the "dark material."

Likewise, for Gnostic catechism--the idea is for it to look friendly to the poor folks who are still ignorant, dull, and deluded and stuck in the mire of the world, but, as one learns more and more, to be met with the secrets that will contravert all that and empower the individual with the ability to liberate himself. The technique, in other words, is very much in line with the way Pullman's books are supposed to work--by progressively revealing "the lie" at the heart of things. And very much how the marketing for this movie has been conceived: water down the message to make it comformable to "the masses," mask the ultimate intent as much as you need to in order to give it a pass (and since the guards at the gates of the USCCB are asleep anyway, this is easily accomplished), tie it visually to "Christian classics" films like "The Lord of the Rings," have it out in the theaters in time for the Christmas holidays, etc. etc. Once inside the castle, you take off your disguise and proclaim the message: Join the Proletariat of the Stars! You have nothing to lose but your rosaries!

This is Fifth Columnist work. And there are many many Gnostic Fifth Columnists already in place in the Church. They believe they are freeing the Church from its past.

Otto B

Remember, the Golden Compass always points to BrokeBack Mountain....
Another fine moment for the USCCB.

Otto B

Remember, the Golden Compass always points to BrokeBack Mountain...
Another fine moment for the CCB.


In my post on the same subject, after criticizing the USCCB's absurdly sugar-coated review, I propose that Christians should consider resisting this movie also because it is an anti-Narnia and (I would argue) anti-Lord of the Rings presence in current cinematography:


I have heard that the movie is significantly toned down in it's anti-religion/anti-Catholic message. HOWEVER, what Forbes needs to remember is that many children will see this movie, tell their parents they want to read the books, and their parents will be so excited that little Johnny wants to read; they will buy them. Therein lies the evil. Each book of the three part series gets progressively anti-Catholic, culminating in the last book with the killing of "Yahweh". By not condemning the movie, he is condoning the message and the whole series.

Carl Olson

By not condemning the movie, he is condoning the message and the whole series.

Exactly. And what does it say that Forbes either doesn't understand this or doesn't care? Nothing good, that's for certain.


Even if the movie soft-pedals Pullman's atheist ideology-if the movie makes money, so does he. So, even if the movie is innocuous,paying to see it is, indirectly, promoting atheism. A stretch,perhaps but it makes sense to me.
When is CNS, and the rest of the established liberal Catholic bureacracy going to change? Not until the "spirit of Vatican 2 means we can do whatever we like" generation passes from the scene. It'll take another 10-15 years. Stronger episcopal oversight from bishops like Finn, Burke, Dolan and Chaput would help speed things up

Jordan Potter

Little Gidding said: [i]Pullman's message is a nasty variant of Gnosticism's.[/i]

Yeah, that's basically it. I made a similar comment the other day at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's weblog:

Pullman’s imaginary cosmology is basically a variation of the old Gnostic myth in which the Creator God is not really God, so those angels and humans who fight against God and the People of God --- Sophia, Lucifer, Cain, Judas --- are the good guys, and those who serve Yahveh are the bad guys. The enemies of God have discovered the secret about God, and know the path of liberation from God’s service. There is a major difference between Gnosticism and Pullman’s cosmology, however. In Gnosticism, there is a true God, infinitely higher than the false God who created the universe, and Gnosticism claims to have the secret knowledge that will free us from God and this corrupt material world, enabling our bodiless spirits to return to the Father. But with Pullman, there is no God or spirit at all -- only matter. God is a fraud, as in Gnosticism, but there is no higher God, no spirit or soul that must be freed from the material universe. In Pullman’s universe (multiverse), God must be destroyed so everyone can come to understand that matter is all there is, that this life is all we have. So, as Dan Brown did in [i]The Da Vinci Code[/i], themes and tropes and fairy tales from Gnosticism have been borrowed and used, but it’s not Gnosticism that Pullman is pushing, just as it’s not Gnosticism than Brown was pushing.

Pullman isn’t the first author of fantasy to borrow and subvert ancient Christian and quasi-Christian stories and ideas, and he won’t be the last. Pullman’s reimagining of the War in Heaven with Satan and the demons as the good side has also been done before, and probably done better. For example, Brust and Zelazny’s [i]To Reign in Hell[/i] (1984), while not aimed at children, turns the traditional Miltonian War in Heaven story on its head (the book’s title itself is from [i]Paradise Lost[/i]) much as Pullman does, with Yahveh and his allies being the bad guys and Satan and his allies being the good guys. Well, actually that’s an oversimplification. In Brust and Zelazny’s story, Yahveh (like Pullman’s God) is not actually the creator of all that exists, but was the first being to spontaneously generate out of the Flux (like Pullman’s Dust). Unintentionally, Yahveh’s struggle to maintain his cohesion in the Flux caused his “brother” and friend Satan to come into existence, and together they then created heaven and helped the other angels come into existence. (A little like the Paulician/Manichaean/Bogomil/Albigensian myth of Jesus and Lucifer being brothers.) The angels are corporeal beings, and even have sex with each other. The story then proceeds to explain how, through a series of tragic misunderstandings and escalations, the peace of heaven was destroyed and Yahveh and Satan became enemies --- Yahveh is wrong, but not “evil” per se, and actually has great love for his fellow angels, albeit a sometimes misdirected love. The War in Heaven leads to the expulsion of Satan and his allies (Satan never intended to become their leader, and kept giving Yahveh the benefit of the doubt until finally forced by circumstance to oppose his brother), and then somehow the earth is formed from the Flux, and the war between Yahveh and Satan spreads to earth.

Twisted stuff indeed, and all of it a fairly predictable product of the perennial human urge to live life apart autonomously, apart from God and at odds with neighbor.

Little Gidding

Sorry. I entered this thread "sideways" through a link on another site, rather than through the main Ignatius Insight page. So when I wrote what I did above, I hadn't seen Carl's excellent article on Pullman, with Sandra's equally excellent comments. If I had, I would have rephrased my comment above so as not to be redundant.

But there is one other point about Gnostics--ancient and modern--that I think is important to make here. Gnostics hate the world. They hate matter. They hate the flesh. They hate the Incarnation. They long for liberation from all these things, which they regard as a prison. Yet, many of them spend much of their time accusing their opponents of hating the body and the world. And recommending sex for one and all as the way to enlightenment. So, Pullman effects the liberation of the cosmos through an act of illicit sex.

But for the Gnostic, sex is "liberating" only if it is illicit, which is to say, performed in a way that is illicit to the (pseudo-)Church, etc. That would include sexual acts that deliberately counter its natural fruitfulness: contracepted sex, same-sex relationships, etc.--all of which reject the sexuality that produces and nurtures children. This is why "liberated" sex denies the truth of gender distinctions and seeks a person's identity without reference to them. This is literally a rejection of matter, a rejection of the flesh. It uses sex ("All sex, all the time") as a kind of praxis for severing the spirit from the body. So the Gnostic seeks annihilation of the body, and does this either through an extreme sort of asceticism or through an extreme sort of licentiousness, using sex against itself, as it were. This is why modern Gnostics are so keen on simultaneously creating a world in which sex--and physical bodies--have become volatilized through a kind of alchemical process of the will and imagination into pure "spirit," while at the same time holding up for praise those actions which negate the natural generation of the flesh and of matter, including contraception, abortion, "euthanasia," and assisted suicide. At its heart, Gnosticism is one big death wish. Liberation means annihilating the constraints of the material world--indeed, the material world itself--in favor of an entirely spiritual one.

Little Gidding

The God of Gnosticism is one who is unnameable and unknowable and completely alien to this world. It does not seem to me that a Gnostic sage would have much quarrel with the atheist Pullman who looks around the universe, as he said, and sees no evidence whatsoever of God. For the Gnostic, anything you could say or positively assert about the true God would be wrapt up in the false patterns and forms of this world, and so you can only make your way out of this prison through a kind of backwards movement of continually rejecting the given forms of this world while edging yourself toward the dark and infinite abyss coming up behind you.

Jordan Potter

"It does not seem to me that a Gnostic sage would have much quarrel with the atheist Pullman who looks around the universe, as he said, and sees no evidence whatsoever of God."

Maybe so, but an atheist like Pullman would probably have a quarrel with a Gnostic sage . . .


I wish the Bishops read and reviewed according to Roman Catholic teaching. I wish that they would get with the times and start being as "wise" as the society around us. People today are completely influenced by the media, visual, music etc. That's where we need to modernize, we need to learn how to use these same tools to Our Lord's advantage. Our perspective should be a Catholic one, properly formed. These Bishops are the successors of the they realize the gravity of that responsibility?? I tremble for them and what they will have to answer for.
I am rambling a bit but I would like to add that as parents, we should read these books and then do our job as parents, protect the children. I have read the complete trilogy as has my seventeen year old eldest child. She found them "awful". Her reasoning is this.... that most kids today are unaware of any spiritual matters, they live in a vacuum, so when Pullman shows up talking about "daemons" and how wonderful they are, kids will be attracted to that. I, too, hate how God, church, spiritually is perverted, inverted whatever you want to call it. "Perception is reality".... and if this is the only "reality" that young people read, they can be influenced by it. His Dark Materials are dark... and dangerous for those who are poorly grounded in their faith... which means most children today being educated in and by "Catholic" schools.

Little Gidding

"Maybe so, but an atheist like Pullman would probably have a quarrel with a Gnostic sage . . ."

Here's my take on this: I think the Gnostic sage would say to Pullman that all those theophanies and archons and demigods and exfoliated cosmologies of spiritized beings that we Gnostics write about--they're all stories for children, so to speak, just like the books you've written.

Jordan Potter

"I think the Gnostic sage would say to Pullman that all those theophanies and archons and demigods and exfoliated cosmologies of spiritized beings that we Gnostics write about--they're all stories for children, so to speak, just like the books you've written."

I think it's more likely he'd say it's the writings of Holy Scripture that are the stories for children, not the alleged secret revelations contained in Gnostic writings.

But we're getting off topic . . . .

Chris Gillibrand

Pullman in the Sydney Herald. Anathema sit.

"I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak. I'm a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people - mainly from America's Bible Belt - who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven't got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

Little Gidding

"My books are about killing God."

I believe that this is what the Gnostic gospels are about, too. In them, we learn that the crucifixion was a fake, in which the savior tricked his persecutors--everyone except his disciple/initiates--by substituting someone else on the cross, while he looked on from afar. They thought their "God" was God, and so they could be misled to kill a surrogate victim, and they did. So, too, everyone who holds on to any worldly "God" is left at the cross, having that "God" die. They won't be in on the real action, which happens entirely "out of the body," so to speak, or "off world."

Mark Brumley

"My books are about killing God"--Pullman
"I'm not dead; I'm not even sick"--God


I pray that someone takes the initiative to create unabashedly Catholic movies about the saints. Fertile ground is being ignored. We need someone like a Mel Gibson to make mainstream Hollywood pictures on the great heroes of the Faith. (And the countless martyrs will still give them their gore if they want it.) Not to slight them, but the saccharine, low-budget films on saints like Don Bosco and Therese of the Child Jesus just can't reach a wide audience.

If A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and BECKET could be so successful, it can be done today (even if the studios shied away from it). That's why a guy like Gibson could be so instrumental in funding such films himself. We've seen movies on Elizabeth I and a Showtime series on the Tudors; the audience is out their for a feature film on someone like John Fisher or Edmund Campion.

The Church has always been the greatest patroness of the arts. Why is it that after the Council that wished to engage the culture we've become irrelevant in the arts. We need to reclaim that mantle.

Sandra Miesel

Now the UCCB review is being used to persuade Catholic diocesan newspapers to take ads for THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Let's buy the hangman some more rope, shall we?


Isn't it interesting to note how the people in another country reacted to the teacher who was convicted of inciting racial hatred and jailed for allowing children in her class students to name a teddy bear Muhammad. And now they want her killed. Yet here in the US everyone hides under the bushel barrel and makes lame excuses for what is a perversion of our faith. Shame on the UCCB and their 'example.'

Little Gidding

"Let's buy the hangman some more rope, shall we?"

And let's put our shoulders to the wheel and get this big wooden gift horse inside the gate.


the uscb went bad AND crazy with the arrival of the movie reviewer of uscb-Henry H----,a misguided-retired Army sergeant who said that it was perfectly o.k. to see movies with the bad 4-letter words. Have you noticed that even our 'Catholic' local newspapers in their movie 'reviews' do not tell their Catholic readers to stay away from offensive language! Catholics should DEMAND that Bishops and Cardinals bring back the Legion Of Decency pledge that we had to say once a year in our churches!

sherri Irvin

Why is it so difficult to comprehend that the idea of "killing God" is ok? Bless us all and forgive us all our sins. This is a very bad thing that cannot go on. God help us all.

Cristina A. Montes

An advertisement with the following text has been appearing daily in the movie page of "The Philippine Star":

the golden compass:
is the film anti-religion?

"not anti-religion but anti-oppression and anti-authoritarian.
it's opposed to the use of theocracy for political gain".
- award-winning author philip pullman (the golden compass)
from the talk at the oxford literary festival, 2007.

"pullman's portrayal of 'the church' in his book amounts to
an attack on dogmatism and the use of religion to oppress, not on
CHRISTIANITY itself. i proposed that THE GOLDEN COMPASS be taught
as part of religious education in schools."
- his eminence the archbishop of canterbury, dr. rowan williams

"the golden compass is not an atheistic work but a higher
spiritual and reverent piece of writing. those who attack it
as an assault upon religion are mistaken."
- the golden compass director chris weitz interviewed
by british sfx magazine.

"the basic essence of the film believes in faith and all the
original christian ideas of love and charity. it's a film
againts oppression. and ther's nothing wrong with that. i don't
want the movie apologizing."
- daniel craig interviewed at the 2007 cannes film festival.

"i was raised catholic, the catholic church is part of my essence.
i wouldn't be able to do this film if i thought it were at all
- nicole kidman from an entertainment weekly interview.

Mark Brumley

Yep. Thank you, Dr. Williams. Let us assume you are correct about "the Church" in Pullman's book. What about "God"? Yes, Pullman's "God" doesn't really have the attributes of the God of the Bible. In that sense, he is not God. However, Pullman's point is that the God of the Bible doesn't really have the attributes of the God of the Bible. He is a phoney. The "God" Christians worship is a fraud. Is that a lesson we should teach in schools, Dr. Williams?

Of course, Dr. Williams, you will say that many Christians have a defective idea of God, the idea of God as one being among many in the universe and that Pullman demolishes that "God". Even so, Pullman also attacks the Creator God of the Bible as an impostor. He says that everything biblical religion says about God isn't really true, that he is really just one more creature, one pretending to be something more and that people who treat him as if he were something more, who treat him as "the Authority", are fools. That's his message, Dr. Williams. You can try to pretend otherwise, but pretending doesn't make it so. Just as the "God" of Pullman's books doesn't, in the story, become truly God by pretending, neither does he cease being identified as Yahweh, as God the Father Almighty of the Christian Creed, by pretending, Dr. Williams.


“But when you look at organised religion of whatever sort – whether it's Christianity in all its variants, or whether it's Islam or some forms of extreme Hinduism – wherever you see organised religion and priesthoods and power, you see cruelty and tyranny and repression. It's almost a universal law."

What a fool. Poor guy doesn't even know what he's saying.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight


Ignatius Press

Catholic World Report


Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad