The War on Christmas… and on the Golden Compass

Two things caught my attention tonight:

First, a Guy in the Pew gives the rational Christian’s take on the War on Christmas. We on the non-believer side of things spend a lot of time bemoaning this phony, bullying crusade for its pandering politics, but Mr. Blanchard reminds believers that those trying to pass this off as a truly Christian cause have some real explaining to do. His argument is similar to what’s always struck me as bizarre about religious support for “In God We Trust” or “Under God. Why get so excited about pushing to get some watered down religious graffiti tagged onto the Pledge and pennies when you live in a country where you can pray all you want out loud and undiluted? Neither atheist nor believer alike should take it for granted.

Second, Hemant over at Friendly Atheist notes the explosion of online religious groups all calling for boycotts of The Golden Compass, a forthcoming film based on the work of outspoken atheist author Phillip Pullman. I’m with Hemant as to how overblown the controversy is. We have to hear over and over that atheists are so militant and uppity, and yet I don’t seem to recall atheists similarly on the warpath over Christian evangelist author C.S. Lewis’ Narnia films. Nor are atheists particularly worked up about the film (honestly, talking animals annoy the heck out of me and I have a hard time seeing myself rushing out to go see it). Again, compare our generally blasé attitude to the marketing mania over The Passion of the Christ, where the amount of grassroots organization and hysterical hype made it seem like the very fate of Christianity rested on its boxoffice returns.

The one thing I sort of sadly expect from Compass is that it will make a convenient target for cultural war spin. The film, which was reportedly plagued by production problems, may or may not be any good on its own rights, and with organized boycott campaigns and media talking heads railing against it, its chances of doing well at the theaters seem slim. That’s going to make it a tempting target for endless overwrought pieces about the film’s poor showing means the recent surge of publicly visible atheism is a fading fad. Conservative news filter Matt Drudge is notorious for juxtaposed stories, especially ones that try to make culture war points by comparing some films to others. I’ll be mighty surprised if he doesn’t start up a section linking every dehyping bit of fluff on the film he can find.

In any case: I’m hard at work composing both a sort of “guide for newbies and journalists” on Expelled, complete with some more information from the pro-science folks “featured” in the recent promotional clip (the ones supposedly threatening Ben Stein for “asking questions”). And as I promised after the recent rounds of back and forth with National Review bloggers over stem cells, I’m also working on a rather weighty piece taking on the common claims about their moral status and proposing a better way.  Plus, hasn’t the aptly named alt-med woo-site NewsTarget published dozens and dozens more wacky articles since I last gave them some love?

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29 Responses to The War on Christmas… and on the Golden Compass

  1. kip says:

    I can’t even begin to list the thousands of great works of art, literature, and music that are “blatantly” anti-Christianity. Why on earth are these conservatives so afraid of Pullman?

  2. Second, Hemant over at Friendly Atheist notes the explosion of online religious groups all calling for boycotts of The Golden Compass, a forthcoming film based on the work of outspoken atheist author Phillip Pullman.

    People get their panties in a bunch over the silliest things, don’t they?

    One has to be able to separate the creation from the creator. Some of the most beautiful religious music ever composed was written by Brahms, Berlioz, Faure, and Verdi–atheists all.

    From the little I know of him, Pullman seems like someone I would disagree with a lot, but so what? I like fantasy movies, the trailer looked interesting, so I’ll probably go see it. I might even buy the books. The only issue here is: is it a good movie? And from what I’ve heard, there is certainly enough of the “supernatural” here to satisfy everyone.

    FWIW, I don’t really care for C.S. Lewis’ cloying brand of Christianity, but I thought the Narnia chronicles were very entertaining.

    -Smith

  3. Bad says:

    Again, I just can’t stand the thought of talking animals that aren’t cartoons. I don’t know why. Maybe too many dumb dog food commercials. People say that the books are pretty good, so maybe I’ll try those someday.

    I didn’t like Narnia all that much as a kid, back when I didn’t even notice the religious cloy (and I was at the time, a believer in any case). The Prydain books were, I thought, monumentally better (they’re really, really good, and that ridiculous Disney “adaption” (barely!) probably scared off or cheapened it for far too many). And of course, then I discovered Lord of the Rings.

  4. The Prydain books were, I thought, monumentally better (they’re really, really good,

    You’re a Prydain fan? I KNEW there was a reason I liked you! ;>) I love those books. And you’re right: the Disney movie was an abomination. If there were any justice in the world, Lloyd Alexander should have sued their asses for the unforgivable crime of bastardizing a fine piece of literature. Interestingly, he was an admirer of Lewis, as well as Tolkien.

    I was surprised to learn that he only died last May, and that his final novel was published last August.

    PS: It’s nice to see I’m not the only insomniac around here. ;>)

    -smith

  5. avid_mass says:

    as far as christmas is concerned i really don’t care if it is renamed to ‘festivus’

    if you take out all the retailers and those folks who concern themselves with celebrating it the way americans are known to (gargantuan consumption of goods) i think you’d see a lot fewer people who give 2 *…

    ..what i care about is the conciliatory paid time off.

  6. Stef says:

    Some people get so worked up over something that, Heaven forbid, might open some eyes, hearts, and minds.

    I haven’t read the books on which this film is based, but I understand from those who have that it’s a good story. I might not see the movie until it comes out on DVD, though.

    The whole problem with a religious entity saying that a film, book, music, work of art is against their beliefs is that they assume that all their followers are stupid dolts who can’t make their own mind and need their church to tell them what to think. I like to think that I was given a brain so that I could make my OWN decisions, thankyouverymuch. I left a church years ago because just prior to all elections, they passed out “voter guides” outlining why you should vote for this candidate, and why the others are going to hell. The preacher would actually devote whole sermons to their choices. It was all too 1984 for my liking.

    And about Christmas… for years I’ve felt that it’s too comercialized, and the true meaning is lost. And there are others who don’t believe as you do, so why force Christmas upon them. My holiday cards are for people of all faiths, or lack of one if they so choose.

    Just my .02 US

  7. kristinamoore says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post. I love to read other peoples blogs on here and I had randomly stumbled onto one where the woman was going on an all out tyrade against the Golden Compass. She was basically saying that it will make children “anti-God” which I thought was utterly ridiculous. As someone else pointed out, when you’re a kid you don’t get the big metaphors. So even if the movie was anti-God which I doubt that it is, I bet kids wouldn’t know, nor would it change their whole outlook on the world. I just had to comment and ask the lady if she would disown her child if it didn’t think exactly as she did. She said no, but I’m not sure. Poor kid.

  8. Bad says:

    Well kristina, as to whether the series is anti-God, I think people can in this case legitimately make that point. Saying anything more would give away spoilers about the overall plot, but from what I understand (and I haven’t read the books, mind, this is just what others have told me about them and their message), the story is significantly more explicitly anti-religious than, say, Narnia is explicitly pro-religious.

    Still, the point stands thinking for yourself and not treating every message or idea as if it had cooties is an important one. Just because you expose yourself to a point of view doesn’t magically make you agree with it. If it did, my exposure to all sorts of religious works of fiction and non-fiction would have made me (or, rather, kept me) religious. Other ideas and points of view can be contagious, but they can also help you understand what others think and why without necessarily agreeing with them, which is a skill far too many people seem to lack these days. More exercise of this sort of faculty would be quite welcome!

  9. junezhang says:

    I am like looking cartoon the new person, comes to see your article today, can be the friend with me?

  10. Bad says:

    Excuse me? I’m not following you.

  11. I am like looking cartoon the new person, comes to see your article today, can be the friend with me?

    I think she, like, digs you, you big lug. ;>)

  12. scarlett says:

    Thanks for the link. Much obliged. Although I am a Christian, I do not protest against any anti-Christian related art, media etc. to the point of utter outrage that is. I may speak out as is my right. but can not in true conscious attempt to shut them down. Call me crazy but I happen to appreciate freedom of expression/speech myself. And am not willing to give up my freedoms to stifle others which I disagree with.

  13. Bad says:

    Yep: my point in the link was mostly an example of the sort of persecution of religious minorities (which in many of these countries, unlike the US, are Christians) that’s still going on, and can’t be ignored nor compared to mere arguments here in the US.

    I’m not cultural relativist: if imposing our moral values of “do not torture people for believing something that you don’t” is what it takes, then that’s what we need to do. China terrorizing Catholics is immoral. Muslims oppressing Christian evangelism is immoral. And the story you highlighted from Eritrea is an example of just about the worst of human nature. I’m all for the US taking a much much bigger stand on these issues.

  14. GODSGiRL says:

    YOU PEOPLE ARE RIDICULOUS.. GOD IS THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE IT TO HEAVEN, EVEN IF YOU DO BELIEVE IN GOD AND YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN, GOING AGAINST HIM AND WATCHING THIS AWFUL AND STUPID MOVIE THAT PEOPLE THINK IS COOL.. IS WRONG AND DOES NOT SHOW THAT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN.. THAT WRITER IS AN IDIOT AND HE WILL SEE ONE DAY THAT HELL ISNT GOOD.. HE WILL SPEND ETERNITY IN TOURCHER UNLESS HE FOLLOWS GODS WAYS.. GOD LOVES EVERY PERSON IN THIS WORLD.. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN HE WILL ADMIT EVIL INTO HEAVEN.. I WOULD THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT SEEING THIS MOVIE BEFORE YOU DO.. ITS NOT A GOOD CHOICE.. GOD OVERPOWERS EVIL ANY DAY AND THIS AUTHOR IS STUPID TO THINK GOD CAN BE KILLED.. READ THE BIBLE AND GET A LIFE PLEASE

  15. Bad says:

    GODSGiRL, presuming that you are for real, I’m not sure you should be using a word like “love” in a context that is so far removed from what that word and concept embody.

    Also, you’ve got to explain to me: since all people are supposedly inherently evil and sinful, it does seem like God will admit evil people into heaven, no?

    And why is it such a big deal anyway: God can do anything. He can obviously tolerate sin, because he created an entire world that was by design full of it and he permits it to exist just fine. So what’s the point of frying people in hell if he doesn’t actually have to do it, given that it’s sort of pointless anyway? The very existence of this sinful but decidedly NON-hell Earth demonstrates that it isn’t necessary.

    I’ve also never quite understood the significance of death as a cutoff as to when one decides to repent or not. It seems to me to be a decidedly sadistic idea to deny someone the right to change their mind at and ever only after the exact moment that critical information is delivered to them that shows that this or that religion actually is true.

  16. GODSGiRL says:

    GOD ALLOWS PEOPLE FREE WILL.. ANYONE CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT.. HE WILL NOT STOP YOU.. BUT IF THEY DO NOT FOLLOW HIS WAYS THEN THEY WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE IN HELL.. ITS EVERYONES CHOICE OF WHAT THEY DO.. BUT IF PEOPLE DO THE RIGHT THING AND BELIEVE IN THE LORD AND LOVE HIM THEN THEY WILL GO TO HEAVEN.. BASHING GOD OR HEAVEN IS NOT RIGHT..

    THIS MOVIE BEING MADE IS BASHING GOD OR “KILLING” HIM.. WHICH IS NOT POSSIBLE AND NOT RIGHT.. THAT MAN IS GOING TO GO TO HELL UNLESS HE FIGURES OUT THAT GOD IS THE MOST REAL THING AND THE BEST THING EVER.. DEATH WILL HAPPEN TO EVERYONE ON THIS EARTH.. AND THEY WILL GO TO HEAVEN OR HELL.. IF YOU’VE FOLLOWED GODS WAYS, LOVED HIM, REPENTED OF YOUR SINS, THEN HEAVEN IS YOUR HOME.. IF NOT, YOU SHALL HAVE TORTURE FOREVER..

    I SUGGEST TO EVERYONE PLANNING TO SEE THIS MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD NOT, DO NOT READ THIS EVIL AUTHORS BOOKS.. GO TO CHURCH AND BE SAVED.. I PROMISE HAVING GOD IN YOUR HEART IS THE BEST FEELING EVER AND YOU WILL SEE HOW WONDERFUL IT IS WHEN YOU HAVE EARNED YOUR SPOT IN HEAVEN..

    GOD LOVED THE WORLD SO THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON AND WHO EVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT DIE BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE ( IN HEAVEN )

    ITS YOU PEOPLES CHOICE OF WHAT YOU DO AND DO NOT DO.. MAKE THE CHOICE TO LOVE THE LORD AND FOLLOW HIS WAYS.. ITS THE RIGHT CHOICE

  17. scarlett says:

    Bad

    In reply to your last comment to me. I agree 100%.

    GODSGiRL

    Good God girl. Why are you screaming? It is so rude.
    Breathe in…breathe out would ya.

  18. Bad says:

    ITS EVERYONES CHOICE OF WHAT THEY DO..

    I would say that asking someone to make a choice but withholding all of the critical information isn’t really giving them a choice at all. Absolutely no one would choose hell over heaven freely. They would only do so if they were honestly duped, unaware, or simply mistaken as to what the situation was.

    I’m not sure I see the sense in denying that goodness can ever qualify one to receive heaven (since all fall short) and yet saying that a propensity to luck out and believe what turns out to be the “correct” thing does qualify you.

    And personally, I suggest people not go see this movie because it features talking animals, which are just creepy and wrong.

  19. GODSGiRL says:

    k i give up.. i am trying to spread the word of my Savior, God, so you should really listen to me

    read the bible and go to church and be saved

    you’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt

  20. Bad says:

    If you really feel that is your duty, I wouldn’t want to stop you, especially seeing as it costs me nothing and hurts me not at all.

    I’m just glad you’re not spreading the word of “free” sex drugs or insurance scams, like the vast majority of my salesperson-style comments are.

  21. GODSGiRL says:

    well as one of Gods childs.. my duty is to spread the word of his love and faith.. believe and be saved

  22. Godsgirl, Thanks for looking out for us. I believe you’re sincere. I believe that Christ and Buddha get along just fine–philosophically speaking. Some Christians could agree while others would find this heresy. I think that the history of the Bible’s construction tells me that the Bible’s isn’t necessarily the inspired word of God. Then again, as a Buddhist I’m not supposed to proselytize. What can I do but beg for your compassion? I can still wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you get the chance to check out a Vesak celebration in May.

  23. My, my, Bad. You DO get the most interesting sort of people here. ;>) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get a tarot reading. ;>)

  24. GODSGiRL says:

    God is the only way to Heaven

  25. Bad says:

    I’m interested: exactly what was your motivation, your thought process, in coming a comment thread that’s six months old to post a seven word claim that’s basically a repeat of what you’ve already claimed, and doesn’t really answer and question or contribute to any sort of discussion?

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