Book Burning or Fahrenheit 451 for the Golden Compass?

A friend’s blog/post that she thought should go here:

So here’s the scoop: I was on a list for one of my AI diseases that shall remain nameless. I was brand new, and should have lurked for a while, but I had just gotten into a minor dust-up over some stupid thing on the other health list that I don’t even recall, so I thought – fresh beginnings. Not so, I’m a stinky old fish.

I was looking at the back messages list on the web for the group, and they show only the top few lines of each back post. The majority had some sort of religious slant, and one kept starting with a biblical quote – the poster puts her sig line at the top so that’s what always shows. The intro had made a point about how they welcome people of all beliefs and were tolerant towards all. So I was a little concerned as I am an agnostic/aethist (depends on the day) and had rejecting trying religious oriented groups. Then I see a post on The Golden Compass, a popular teen book by Philip Pullman. I was curious what it had to do with this disease, so I looked at the message. The poster warned everyone at the top about this message she was passing on and to beware…

The message she was forwarding was from someone about a religious watchdog type organization called Snopes. It was on the Golden Compass and the new movie with Nicole Kidman.

Here’s what the message said: (I feel free to quote as this part wasn’t the poster’s and wasn’t cited)
Check out what snopes has to say about this new movie coming out. It is kind of scarry to think that it is targeting kids.

Subject: New Children’s Movie–The Golden Compass
You may want to check into information on a children’s movie that will be coming out in December. It is the atheist response to C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The intent is to entice children to purchase a series of anti-Christian books for Christmas.
The movie stars Nicole Kidman and will be heavily promoted. It would be too bad of well-intended parents took their children to see it, not knowing that it attempts to glorify the “darker side.”

For further information see

Okay, now this made me start to burn a little around the edges, just crisping. So I went to the link and read the article. Nice piece of incorrect, intolerant, and out of context imflammatory work. They cite an interview with Pullman (although no info or actual cite is given to check on it) in which he says he wants to kill God. Now he is an aetheist, a self-avowed one, so they say. In actually, on his website, Pullman states:”Question: His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?”” I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.” Does that sound like he wants to kill god for kids?

When interviewed in the Guardian in 2003, it was said:”If all that didn’t fuel a chap’s vanity, Pullman has also been labelled anti-God because his good guys take on God. This, though, is to misread His Dark Materials, which tells the story of Lyra. In his trilogy, Lyra re-enacts the story of the original Eve. He takes, I say, the Jewish view of Eve. Namely, that what happened in the Garden of Eden was the beginning of the world as we know it (the story appears in Bereishit, the beginning of the Five Books of Moses, for that reason), and not the great Fall, or end of all good, which is the Christian version. “Exactly right,” says Pullman”,,1103617,00.html

So what he is doing is using the Jewish form of the creation story, not the Christian form of Armageddon and the end of God.

I read two of the articles listed as sources, and neither presents such a negative view of Pullman or his books. Instead he is portrayed as a secular humanist:”

That religious theme [Lyra’s struggles] drew heavily from On theMarionette Theatre, an essay by the 19th-century Prussian playwright Heinrich von Kleist, which had made a profound impression on Pullman 15 years earlier.”‘ Everything that I managed to say in 1,300 pages is in that essay. Kleist says we exist on a spectrum that goes from the unconscious to the fully conscious, and once we’ve left unconscious grace behind we can’t go back, we can only go on – through life, through education,through suffering, through experience to the thing we come to call wisdom, which is right at the other end of the spectrum.'”

Also, I AM concerned over this controversy on The Golden Compass which I see as a modern day book burning. They have the aim/philosophy of the book wrong, and are publicly condemning the book, the author and the movie, many without having read or seen it (it isn’t out yet as far as I know). So I guess I see it as a warning of things to come…

For those of you who are younger and may not know the book, Fahrenheit 451 is by Ray Bradbury and is the story of a futuristic society in which all books are banned as subversive and anyone caught with one would be punished severely. The central character is a fireman, one who burns books, while the rest of society lives meaningless, hedonistic lives. 451 degrees is the temperature at which paper burns.

Interestingly, although generations have been taught that the story is about censorship, in reality, according to a recent interview, Bradbury claims it’s about the damaging effects of television on reading habits. In the book, the inhabitants have large colorful wall-sized TV screens called “walls” that continuously stream endless junk (the show’s characters are called “family).”

Although I’m not that certain that was the focus back when he wrote it, as very few people had TVs and they were small little B&W sets, with little programming. But his use of the term wall for TV and the TV charcaters as family – as I recall you were encouraged to care about them and their happenings, begs otherwise. It is possible to me, that over the years, and as he aged, he came to see the book in a different light. Or else why bring it up now and not when the books first came out? Or after the 1960s movie? But most likely it is an amalgam of the two.

Indeed Wikipedia states:

“Yet in the paperback edition released in 1979, Bradbury wrote a new coda for the book containing multiple comments on censorship and its relation to the novel. The coda is also present in the 1987 mass market paperback, which is still in print.

‘There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib / Republican, Mattachine / FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse….Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.
… Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn Del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place…'”

So I will use it as my example of narrow thinking and censorship and will always love the ending. But I will take into account his current view of the book. I’ll have to read it again, and see if I can find more info. Check Wikipedia – “Fahrenheit 451” for more info and links. Bradbury has always been controversial.


One response to “Book Burning or Fahrenheit 451 for the Golden Compass?

  1. hi kristin, i saw this movie being advertised on t.v. yesterday. your post has sparked in interest for me, or maybe a curiosity, i should say.