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‘How Hollywood saved God’

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 16, 2007 | 10:34 am


Hanna Rosin has an article in this month’s Atlantic titled “How Hollywood saved God.” This is familiar territory for Rosin, who just published “God’s Harvard” and has written before about the evangelical Christian movement in Hollywood.

This month, New Line Cinema will release The Golden Compass, based on the first book in a trilogy of edgy children’s novels written by the British author Philip Pullman. A trailer for the movie evokes The Lord of the Rings, and comparisons have been made to The Chronicles of Narnia. All three are epic adventures that unfold in a rich fantasy world, perfect for the big screen. But beyond that basic description, the comparisons fall apart. In the past, Pullman has expressed mainly contempt for the books on which the other movies were based. He once dismissed the Lord of the Rings trilogy as an “infantile work” primarily concerned with “maps and plans and languages and codes.” Narnia got it even worse: “Morally loathsome,” he called it. “One of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read.” He described his own series as Narnia’s moral opposite. “That’s the Christian one,” he told me. “And mine is the non-Christian.”

Pullman’s books have sold 15 million copies worldwide, although it’s difficult to imagine adolescent novels any more openly subversive. The series, known collectively as His Dark Materials, centers on Lyra Belacqua, a preteen orphan who’s pursued by a murderous institution known as “the Magisterium.” Or to use the more familiar name, “the Holy Church.” In its quest to eradicate sin, the Church sanctions experiments involving the kidnap and torture of hundreds of children—experiments that separate body from soul and leave the children to stumble around zombie-like, and then die.

The point of Rosin’s article is that after five years and a bunch of rewrites, not to mention $180 million in production, producers have taken the anti-religious out of Pullman’s epic. I think.

See, I don’t have a subscription to The Atlantic anymore. (I rarely enjoyed reading it.) So all I got for free online are the two paragraphs above. If any God Blog readers have a subscription, please, inform us of what the article is really about.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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