Deus absconditus

by Henry on December 8, 2004

I’m trying very hard to imagine what the film version of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is going to be like if The Times is to be believed. According to an article today, the film’s director is cutting all references to God and the church from the script, for fear “of a backlash from the Christian Right in the United States.” Instead, the sinister ‘Authority’ (read horrid amalgam of Calvinism and the Catholic Church) of the novel will be taken as representing any old repressive establishment that you might care to oppose yourself – totalitarian, Marxist or what-have-you. This seems to me (and I suspect to most of Pullman’s readers) to be utterly mad – the entire point of the series is that it’s an extended diatribe against organized religion. Pullman is a vociferous member of the Devil’s party, even if his vague humanistic alternative to Christianity (described in the greatly inferior final volume of the series), is decidedly droopy.

It also says some interesting things about the comparative state of debate over religion in the UK and the US. In the UK, the Anglican establishment seemed to be quite delighted with Pullman’s books – that someone took Christianity seriously enough to attack it was cause for celebration. In the US, in contrast, the movie’s financial backers are clearly terrified of a backlash from fundamentalists who are anything but interested in vigorous debate about the merits and defects of organized Christianity. Anti-semitic movies about the Passion are all very well and good, but pull-no-punches atheism and criticism of organized religion apparently are not. Of course, this may just be nerves on the part of the money people (in fairness, Gibson’s magnum opus got squeamish responses from potential backers too), but it is interesting how little public space there is for the expression of atheistic views in the US. I’m neither religious nor a card-carrying atheist myself (I’d describe myself as a mostly-lapsed Catholic), but it seems to me that it doesn’t do any great service to genuine religious debate if a well argued and intellectually coherent perspective on religion is denied any space in popular culture.

Update: slightly revised following comments.

{ 57 comments }

1

drapeto 12.08.04 at 8:54 pm

it is interesting how little public space there is for the expression of atheistic views in the US

As Joe Lieberman said, there’s freedom of religion but no freedom from religion.

The other day, I was listening to a Yes, Prime Minister episode about nominating a CoE bishop and I was almost shocked by the taken-for-granted atheism of pretty much everyone in the show, which would never go over on regular tv in the US. I felt rather envious.

2

Russell Arben Fox 12.08.04 at 9:04 pm

When I first heard about the HDM adaptation, I figured that Pullman’s explicit anti-Christianity would have about as much chance surviving the mainstream Hollywood studio-machine intact as the heavily allegorical Christianity in Lewis’s Narnia books will when the film version of them eventually rolls forth. So far, I’m one for two.

3

whorlpool 12.08.04 at 9:27 pm

Very disappointing.

The thing is, the religious right is going to attack the movie sight unseen. It makes no difference what hoops the director jumps through in order to pacify them. So what we’re going to get is a watered down version which will satisfy nobody.

I call it cowardice.

4

Ophelia Benson 12.08.04 at 9:33 pm

“but pull-no-punches atheism and criticism of organized religion apparently are not.”

Uh – yeah, you could say that.

5

robotslave 12.08.04 at 9:34 pm

Henry, I don’t in principle mind your attempt to make a nickle via gratuitous Amazon Associate links, but I do expect you to get your links right.

6

Henry 12.08.04 at 9:37 pm

Russell raises an interesting point – there were mutterings that the overt religion in Narnia was going to be toned down too (although my guess is that the calculus has changed post-Passion).

7

Liadnan 12.08.04 at 9:38 pm

Instead, the sinister ‘Authority’ (read unreformed Catholic Church)

Not quite, surely. The Consistorium is said to have grown out of the last pope, Pope Calvin’s, reorganisation of the church.

But I quite agree, the changes seem mad to me.

8

Russell Arben Fox 12.08.04 at 9:43 pm

“So what we’re going to get is a watered down version which will satisfy nobody. I call it cowardice.”

Exactly. This matter and the matter of the UCC’s ad are related: the arguments over what is too “controversial” for the public square or not worth defending for public consumption so often come down to a weakness in our ability to constructively engage religion, whether positively or negatively. Defensiveness and avoidance are both species of paranoia, and paranoia comes in part from having been able to avoid getting to know anyone from the “other side.”

As for Narnia, Henry, I’m still betting Lewis’s religiosity will be about as invisible as Pullman’s anticlericalism will be; just as his prose in going to be turned into some kind of vague anti-authoritarianism, so will Lewis’s miracles be turned into some narrative about good magic vs. bad. We’ll see. I really doubt The Passion changed things that much, if only because, as you noted, Gibson put up all that money himself.

9

Henry 12.08.04 at 9:43 pm

Robotslave – hope they’re not gratuitous – but in any event the link is fixed.

Liadnan – thanks – had forgotten that bit and will correct.

10

harry 12.08.04 at 9:43 pm

Its true, and the BBC website says Pullman’s agent is ok with it. I share Russell’s reaction — when I heard about the movie rights deal my jaw dropped in disbelief. What can they have been thinking? Well, they must have been thinking they can just drop the central theme.

Rowan Williams is right that the books embody a form of Gnostic heresy, and he’s also right to call for them to be taught in RE (and English, for that matter). The books are too good to produce a good movie (is my guess); as are Lewis’s. If the producers are wise they’ll veer even further away from the books now and make it a cute little movie with lots of glorious photography of Oxford and Iceland.

Can you imagine the end of the movie, though, if it is directed by the man who directed American Pie?

11

Kieran Healy 12.08.04 at 9:46 pm

The Consistorium is said to have grown out of the last pope, Pope Calvin’s, reorganisation of the church.

That’s right. The Church has reformed in the books, but without a schism. We learn that Pope Calvin moved the Papacy to Geneva.

It’s a pity about that series. The first book was just superb, driven along by five or six brilliantly realised good ideas. The second one was good, though not as striking as the first, and the third was just a disaster. Pullman completely lost control of the whole thing.

12

Henry 12.08.04 at 9:57 pm

bq. I really doubt The Passion changed things that much, if only because, as you noted, Gibson put up all that money himself.

I’d disagree, if only because of the whomping amounts of money that Gibson’s movie made. In retrospect, the money folks probably wish they’d backed it. Clearly, the movie identified a new market – to the extent that Hollywood types are profit maximizers, I think that they will be a lot more open to overtly Christian-themed movies in the future. Which in the case of the Narnia books, is not a bad thing at all (I have some problems with Narnia – the fate of the dwarfs in _The Last Battle_ is just plain gratuitous nastiness – but I do heartily agree that their Christian ethos is essential to what they are, and what’s good and interesting about them).

I do think that you’re right on the general point, but I think that there are two related things going on here. On the one hand, there’s a general desire on the part of big commercial entities not to get involved in controversy, which when carried to an extreme leads to the Gibranization of public religious culture – anything that is disputatious or liable to give rise to offense to anyone is expunged. On the other, I think there is a _specific_ additional animus against atheism, which seems to be regarded as actively evil by a large and well organized segment of the population. As Harry notes, Rowan Williams makes a good case that the books are Gnostic (the Authority is a demiurge rather than a creator), but the fact that they can be perceived as atheistic, and certainly attack Christianity head-on, are enough to render them commercially unacceptable.

13

robotslave 12.08.04 at 10:07 pm

Henry, “gratuitous” is a subjective matter, of course.

I tend to think that in a world in which either a friendly librarian or an internet search engine can easily locate the materials in question, given the information you’ve supplied, a link to a particular for-profit vendor is indeed “gratuitous,” for those of us on the reader end of the arrangement. To claim otherwise is to insult our intelligence.

For you, on the other hand, I’ll concede it’s not gratuitous at all, as you might earn a nickle for your trouble, and as I said, I don’t have a problem with that.

14

Jeremy Osner 12.08.04 at 10:08 pm

Could we get Gibson as Aslan?

15

harry 12.08.04 at 10:09 pm

bq. I have some problems with Narnia – the fate of the dwarfs in The Last Battle is just plain gratuitous nastiness

and the fate of Susan doesn’t bother you? And the rest of them for that matter…

16

Sebastian Holsclaw 12.08.04 at 10:12 pm

Pullman’s books without the anti-religious parts? That just isn’t possible. That would be like a pacifist Ender’s Game or Donaldson’s Gap series with sadistic references removed.

17

Henry 12.08.04 at 10:18 pm

bq. and the fate of Susan doesn’t bother you?

Yes, that too. Neil Gaiman has a short story about this, “The Problem of Susan,” which I haven’t read yet, but which sounds both smart and interesting.

18

Andrew Cholakian 12.08.04 at 10:25 pm

Maybe if he changed the location to Iran and changed Christianity to Islam there’d be fewer problems.

19

Russell Arben Fox 12.08.04 at 10:29 pm

“…and the fate of Susan doesn’t bother you?”

I was actually thinking about this when I read Henry’s comment, Harry. I know Pullman in some essay or speech made use of Lewis’s dismissal of Susan as “no longer a friend to Narnia” as part of an attack on the heartlessness of Christianity and/or Lewis’s version of it in particular, but I can’t say that Susan’s fate strikes me as particularly scandalous. Simply put, we aren’t given any information on her past the second book or so; we have the few comments made by her family members in The Last Battle as to her priorities, and that’s it. If you prefer your Christianity to be universalist, obviously that’s going to bother you, but beyond that it’s just a narrative point, that’s all.

The fate of the dwarfs, on the other hand, was gratuitous. We’d seen them fight, been misled, and suffered with them; for Lewis to condemn them all (except that I think one, in the end, made it through the final door) as nihilistic refusniks was jarring; it was Lewis the theologian, the Lewis of The Great Divorce–and, it goes without saying, the pre-Joy Davidson Lewis–intruding on the story to make a pedantic moral point. Didn’t like it, and still don’t.

I hadn’t heard of the Gaiman story; perhaps I’ll track it down.

20

John Kozak 12.08.04 at 10:31 pm

Pullman’s rather demented essay in the Guardian last month suddenly makes more sense.

21

Mo MacArbie 12.08.04 at 11:02 pm

…but it seems to me that it doesn’t do any great service to genuine religious debate if a well argued and intellectually coherent perspective on religion is denied any space in popular culture.

Religion ain’t fer debatin’! It’s for me to preach and you to believe. Can I get an amen?

22

Donald Johnson 12.08.04 at 11:31 pm

Odd–I have universalist leanings, but I never thought the fate of the dwarves (or dwarfs?) in The Last Battle was particularly gratuitous. They came across as small-minded people (no pun intended) and the “hell” they end up in is actually heaven, but they refuse to see it. If there is a hell, that seems theologically sensible to me.

Susan was more intriguing. If you’re a Calvinist, you’re not supposed to think a person can fall from grace, and if you’re a universalist (a special kind of Calvinist), then the same thing applies, but if you’re not, then why is it ridiculous for a person to fall because they love shallow worldly diversions more than God? And anyway, nothing is said about Susan’s ultimate fate.

I’m intrigued to hear that Neil Gaiman wrote a story about her though. What book is it in?

23

Chris 12.09.04 at 12:01 am

Sorry, but I can’t let this go without registering an objection to the received wisdom that Gibson’s Passion was anti-Semitic. I’m not going to defend it as a great film — the silly slow-motion sequences alone probably disqualify it — but I have yet to read anything that convinced me that it’s reasonable to see the film as carrying an anti-Jewish message (in intent or in fact). Gibson, after all, filmed his own hand driving the first nail into Christ’s body.

24

Downto 12.09.04 at 12:04 am

The one problem with your observations: “most of his readers” would be upset with the removal of God. Most of his readers are unsuspecting children. Pullman is trying to deprogram the young, not reinforce values for adults. I think it is creepy what he has said he is trying to do, but don’t pretend he is trying to do it openly to adults. This programatic propaganda. Well written propaganda, but propaganda nonetheless.

25

Downto 12.09.04 at 12:06 am

The one problem with your observations: “most of his readers” would be upset with the removal of God. Most of his readers are unsuspecting children. Pullman is trying to deprogram the young, not reinforce values for adults. I think it is creepy what he has said he is trying to do, but don’t pretend he is trying to do it openly to adults. This is programatic propaganda. Well written propaganda, but propaganda nonetheless.

26

Lawrence White 12.09.04 at 12:24 am

I wouldn\’t be too quick to see The Passion as a sign that Christian-themed movies are box-office gold. It was a slasher movie. (Before it came out, I was asking myself how Mel \”Lethal Weapon\” Gibson was going to make a movie about Jesus. Foolish me.) The greater part of its audience were adolescents & young adults. They got their gore & got to feel good about it.

Consider the music biz: Christian pop doesn\’t move anywhere near the units that smut-pop does.

27

Sebastian Holsclaw 12.09.04 at 12:27 am

It has been years and years since I read The Last Battle (my favorite was always the almost universally reviled Magician’s Nephew) but I’m not sure what you refer to as the problem of Susan. If I’m wrong in my recollection please correct me, but if I do remember correctly:

A) The Last Battle is not about the end of all worlds, just the end of the world created in the Magician’s Nephew.

B) Susan is not condemned with the fallen in Naria, but rather continues her existance in our world.

C) The Last Battle shows an interesting (and non-particularly orthodox) version of the last days where those who worshiped the Devil in name (Tash in this case) but served the cause of good in actuality are allowed into heaven.

D) Lewis is also the author of a small book called the Great Divorce which suggests that damnation isn’t necessarily eternal in that nothing prevents them from choosing heaven later. If the problem of Susan is that she doesn’t make it to heaven at the end of The Last Battle, this suggests that the final word on her is still open.

Have I forgotten some really important detail?

28

Nick 12.09.04 at 12:31 am

I blogged about this earlier today and, to be honest, I think The Times is making a bit of a mountain out of molehill, not to mention that the article’s quite selective in it’s quoting from the original interview with Chris Weitz. For instance, the full quote where he talks about the Authority is:

First let me say that I have visited with Pullman and spoken with him about this subject at great length. His feeling, and I say this with absolute certainty that I am not unfairly paraphrasing him, is that the “Authority” in question could represent any arbitrary establishment…

From what he says in that interview, it seems that the films will still feature the Magisterium et al, there just won’t be the explicit statement that they are the Catholic Church per se, though it’ll still be obvious to anyone who’s read the books (or does after seeing the films).

And yes, it’s a long way from American Pie, but about the same distance as it is from Brain Dead to Lord Of The Rings.

29

Ayjay 12.09.04 at 1:49 am

When the producers of the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe approached the C. S. Lewis Estate with a script that virtually excised the Christian elements of the story, the representatives of the Estate said, No way. Either Lewis’s story gets told in full or it doesn’t get told. But when Pullman was approached with a script that eviscerated the anti-theological basis of his narrative, he said, No problem! It looks like only one “side” here has the courage of its convictions. . . .

30

Ayjay 12.09.04 at 2:06 am

It’s also worth noting that — despite the implicit of explicit contrasts between drawn in this thread between the U.K. and the U.S. — that the blockbuster sales of Pullman’s deeply, passionately anti-theological books in the U.S. are primarily what have made him a very, very rich man.

31

jam 12.09.04 at 2:24 am

It doesn’t surprize me that the Church of England wasn’t offended at an attack on *organized* religion.

32

david 12.09.04 at 2:26 am

I didn’t think the third pullman was all that bad. The first was best, sure, but the next two held pretty well, and I tore through them. Maybe the last pages of the third, but all adolescent fantasy series have a tough time winding down.

33

Angel 12.09.04 at 3:10 am

There is no “Problem of Susan.” She didn’t die with her family, she still has a chance to recapture her beliefs.

That said, as a kid from a purely geek-perspective, I loved Susan’s fate. She was vapid and useless and forgot her true stories for the glossy discontent of magazines. She deserved to be stuck orphaned in our world, trying to trade on her looks.

34

Stephen M (Ethesis 12.09.04 at 3:15 am

I don’t see the problem of Susan at all. She goes with our world, instead of Narnia, a different place on the mountain of God, not a rejection from it.

As for the third was just a disaster. Pullman completely lost control of the whole thing. — that’s true, down to the implied alternative method for crossing between worlds, sexual healing of the holes in the universe, the nature of death and the afterlife, etc.

If Pullman decides to rewrite his ending (which the project will need, if it is to suceed past the initial books to movies), he probably needs to change things up.

After all, the essence of the Authority is misused and corrup authority, not Pope Calvin’s Catholicism. It probably gains from dropping the religious trappings (one keeps looking for the counterforces that a truly religious organization will generate).

35

Russell Arben Fox 12.09.04 at 3:16 am

“Lewis is also the author of a small book called The Great Divorce which suggests that damnation isn’t necessarily eternal in that nothing prevents them from choosing heaven later.”

As I said above, I don’t consider Susan’s fate as described (in a couple of toss-off lines) in The Last Battle, whatever it is supposed to tell us about the metaphysical status of her eternal soul, to be particular significant or scandalous. That said, I don’t think what you suggest about The Great Divorce is correct, Sebastian. TGD packs a very deep message for such slender volume. In one sense, you are right: there is, as Lewis imagined it, a way in which death can bring one to their senses, and lead to the sort of repentence and change necessary to leave behind Hell and enter Heaven. However, the whole point of the book is that there is no common ground between the two; Lewis’s argument is that Susan, and all of us, will ultimately be wholly one or wholly the other. So question isn’t whether Susan should get a “second chance”; according to TGD, there aren’t any second chances in the eternal sense. The question is whether the account in TLB is supposed to reflect Susan’s final choice or not.

36

Lee Scoresby 12.09.04 at 4:34 am

Damn. I’m pleased that Pullman’s reliance on gnostic texts has gotten serious discussion.

The third book is certainly weaker than the first two, but it makes thematic sense. The afterlife as “concentration camp” communicates pretty well Pullman’s belief in the pointlessness of abdicating this world for an imagined next one. What would be a second Fall without a little sex? Makes sense to me. And then there’s the fate of the Republic of Heaven, which I thought was pretty brilliant.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine how they would make this film given its content. But that doesn’t stop this from being upsetting news. Still, how the hell can you make a film of the third book with these changes?

37

Lee Scoresby 12.09.04 at 4:39 am

“After all, the essence of the Authority is misused and corrup authority, not Pope Calvin’s Catholicism. It probably gains from dropping the religious trappings (one keeps looking for the counterforces that a truly religious organization will generate”

Quick comment: the fact that the parallel world is marked the triumph of the Reformed Church is thematically important. An important element of Pullman’s criticism of religion is its disciplinary power, and what form of Christianity has more to do with discipline and self-monitoring than the Reformed Church?

38

fyreflye 12.09.04 at 4:59 am

“Fearing a severe backlash at the box office from animal rights activists, producers of the new film version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm have decided to change all the main characters in the story to human beings. ‘We see the story as the sort of conflict that might occur in any small rural town,’ they said in a press release issued today. Orwell scholar Christopher Hitchens was reportedly working on a rewrite of the original script.
“Attorneys for the film company said they expected no complaint from Mr Orwell.”

39

bellatrys 12.09.04 at 6:30 am

Whooee, yes, *finally* someone else who saw the architectonic problems in the DM trilogy! Book one was great – okay, they’re Evil Catholic Clerics, this is a) what Pullman always does, b) part of the English literary tradition going back before Bronte, so no biggie, because he’s drawn them well and vividly and they’re *good* villains, not cardboard ones. Strong stories need strong villains as well as interesting heroines.

And then in 2, Lyra regresses – she who defeated the forces of the Churchstate and mythical Bear-warriors, and all the sudden she can’t even wash her own hair any more? (This is a classic case of bad continuity to weaken canon main chara to make another chara, author’s new fave chara, look stronger, this reads like classic badfic, the kind of thing we canonistas particularly zero in on.)

Then book three – bozhemoi, what the hell happened? what a train wreck! where did the plot go? where did even the remnants of our Lyra go? she was killed and bodysnatched and we got a zombi back is all. And he turned the Evil Inquisition Clerics into cowardly cardboard idiots! And made the kid-killers into heroes because they were Strong and Selfish and Fearless – those Nietschean users Mrs. Coulter and Lord Azrael should have *not* been rewarded with liebestod, and set up as noble in the end!

The only reason I was not devastated was a) I had been warned by a librarian friend that the release date had been pushed back because Pullman had taken the MS back for rewrites, which was a *very* bad indication that he had no idea where the plot was going when he started it, and b) this is what he always does with his series, loses hold of the threads and gets bored with characters and kills them off or loses them. (This is not simply my conjecture from reading the Ruby books, but also interviews with him in PW about what he was doing in the Ruby books, which explained a lot.)

So I had been kind of braced for it, particularly with the wambling of Subtle Knife, but still–

I did kind of want to go and kick him afterwards. Perhaps this with the film is some sort of insta-karma…?

40

lars gustafsson 12.09.04 at 6:37 am

1) C.S.Lewis always vigorously denied that the Chronicles of narnia were religious.

2) The Amber Spyglass was just as good as the other two books.

3) “with lots of glorious photography of Oxford and Iceland.” Svalbard is part of Norway and we have polar bears and Iceland doesn’t.

41

Anna in Cairo 12.09.04 at 6:43 am

My son, who’s 12, and I, (36) have both read the 3 volumes of His Dark Materials and they made us think a lot and feel rather uncomfortable precisely because of the fact we are religious (practicing Muslims). My son, in fact, had a lot of trouble with the trilogy’s unsubtle attack on organized religion and it led to many interesting discussions between us. But even as a religious person, I don’t feel this is a negative thing. After all, isn’t any really true work of literature supposed to make people uncomfortable a bit? If they take out all the religious elements from the story what’s left will be a really stupid movie. By the way I find that I also really wish to say I wholeheartedly agree with the person who said the 3rd book is not nearly as strong as the other two.

42

Alison 12.09.04 at 10:45 am

I’m late to the thread. Lots of guys saying they don’t see anything wrong with ‘what happened to Susan’ in The Last Battle.

I think it’s made pretty explicit that what she did ‘wrong’ was to get interested in boys. I picked this up as a ten year old girl reading it, and I can still remember what went through my mind at the time. What Benedict said: ‘The World Must be Peopled’.

Kick all the sexually active women out, and the population of utopia will get pretty sparse.

43

Alison 12.09.04 at 11:07 am

oops I meant ‘Benedick’

44

Donald Johnson 12.09.04 at 2:43 pm

What was wrong with Susan was that her interest in boys made her shallow. Interest in boys doesn’t absolutely have to do that.

By the way, getting back to the dwarfs, they weren’t exactly innocent victims either–they killed Narnian good guys at a climactic moment in the battle, which makes them more than just misguided cynics.

45

MikeN 12.09.04 at 2:58 pm

Isn’t it pretty obvious that the Dwarfs in “The Last Battle” are just a nasty dig at the unions/Labour Party?
To (possibly) stretch the analogy, the Dwarfs helped defeat the invading Calormenes (Nazis) but wouldn’t accept the restoration of the rightful ruling order (rejecting Churchill, the ungraeful swine).

46

Stephen M (Ethesis 12.09.04 at 3:21 pm

But there may be some modification of terms. You will probably not hear of the “Church” but you will hear of the Magisterium. Those who will understand will understand. I have no desire to change the nature or intentions of the villains of the piece, but they may appear in more subtle guises.

So, does the movie really have to be a blatent anti-Catholic screed or can it allow itself to have a suppressing authority, the Magisterium?

There is a lot of use of the Catholic Church to model the evil empire. The structure, history and social spaces work very well, they almost build themselves for an author. I’ve had friends use the technique out of convenience and it is almost a staple in some sub-genres because it is so evocative and direct.

However, that doesn’t mean that most of the people using the motif are anti-Catholic or that the bad guys really need to be Catholics. Far from it.

I would suggest that in our continuingly secular world, quasi-Marxist state structures are the new form that fits what used to be filled by para-Catholics. Leftists as demons rather than religious types. Does that mean that Crooked Timber is any more close to the regions of darkness than Mother Teresa? Probably not. But it is an easy riff to use in writing.

Anyway, looks like the initial books will be true to the series, though I hope they fix the end.

One real problem is so many writers start without having a conclusion in mind. They take classic elements, “the blessed child” or “the evil Catholic Church clone” or “anything for science” and toss them up in the air.

It is captivating as it starts — there is good reason that classic elements are classics. But the real test comes in pulling it all together. Exactly why does the blessed child need to make their own choices without help (in Pullman’s work that has no answer)? How do they save the world (again, they seal up all the leaks anyway, what need for a child porn interval)?

Etc. Come on. How does Pullman’s entire afterlife system self-organize from his premises?

Lots of easy elements to start with, and an engaging style in laying them out, but the proof is in whether or not he can bring them home.

47

RA 12.09.04 at 4:05 pm

I would like to point out that it is you humanists that are doing all the censoring in the “condom on the banana” school system. Those bad evangelicals should know their place and be silent in the presences of superior intellects.

48

RA 12.09.04 at 4:14 pm

The reason Hollywood occasionally tones down anti-Christian screeds is that people will not go see them. They will loose money. You see, the anti-Chritan bigotry you people exude is not shared by the vast majority of Americans.
As far as criticizing it before we see it. You don’t have to taste a cow pie before you know you don’t want to step in it. Yes we will advertise the reviews and let the folks make a decision. Hateful minorities don’t get far in free America.

49

fyreflye 12.09.04 at 4:37 pm

“The reason Hollywood occasionally tones down anti-Christian screeds is that people will not go see them. They will loose money.”

Could you possibly provide the name of a single Hollywood movie based on an ‘anti-Christian screed,’ toned down or otherwise, that one might find listed in the IMDb database?

50

AlanC9 12.09.04 at 5:06 pm

“How does Pullman’s entire afterlife system self-organize from his premises?”

Well, the concentration camp thing isn’t self-organized from the premises. It’s an irrational add-on. And the replacement system isn’t any kind of afterlife at all.

51

Dan Hardie 12.09.04 at 5:08 pm

I read the Narnia books, with sheer delight much of the time, between the ages of 7 and 10, and haven’t re-read them since the age of 11. Probably the best thing to do- I’ll always have the memories of reading them and I won’t spoil them by realising that this or that character is in fact down to Lewis’s Christian apologetics, rightwing politics or sadomasochism. I did re-read ‘Huckleberry Finn’ last year, having last read it aged 11: of course there was a lot I’d missed the first time, but there was also a lot that must have meant more to me as a child, when I found adults as terrifying and incomprehensible as Huck does. Both the 11-year-old me and the elderly me agree that the last few chapters, from the reappearance of Tom Sawyer, are absolutely appalling. Next time I re-read it, I’ll stop at that point.

52

anon 12.09.04 at 8:07 pm

Killing off large swaths of Susan’s remaining family doesn’t strike you as rather an extreme punishment for shallowness?

The people who think there’s no problem with Susan, probably think there’s no Problem of Evil in the first place. It may be that philosophers of religion have some reasonable solutions to the PoE, but Narnia clearly doesn’t.

53

Alison 12.09.04 at 8:40 pm

I think reading the Last Battle I got the first inkling that ‘judging Susan’ was a bit – I don’t know – creepy. It was an important step for me in the process of leaving religion behind. It kind of gives me the creeps now.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 12.10.04 at 12:21 am

“Killing off large swaths of Susan’s remaining family doesn’t strike you as rather an extreme punishment for shallowness?”

Once again it has been quite some time since I read the book, but aren’t the family members who died those who went to be with Aslan in the eternal Narnia after the Last Battle? That wasn’t a punishment for her, it was the side effect of a reward for them. Right?

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a different chris 12.10.04 at 1:25 am

I am not acquainted with the books or have any intention of becoming acquainted with them.

I am still compelled to say this seems like typical Anglo misreading of America. If the storys truly attack the idea of an Invisible Superhero In The Sky, they won’t go over well.

But if it is just against organized religion, this is pathetically simple. Fill in the details so everybody can nudge each other and say knowingly “that’s the Catholic Church.”

Because the Catholics really won’t mind, and the fundies LOVE bashing the Catholics. They’ll show up in droves and say “see, that’s what we’re up against!!”

You guys hate them even more than us atheists, right “ra”? Admit it.

People like “ra” simply aren’t perceptive enough to see themselves in their enemies, so no problem. The common sense God/Allah gave to “anna in cairo” and her son is sorely lacking in them.

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John Quiggin 12.10.04 at 1:26 am

This isn’t the only example of this kind of thing. Here’s Ursula K Le Guin on Earthsea (via Bill Tozier)

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Ray Davis 12.13.04 at 4:16 am

“Could you possibly provide the name of a single Hollywood movie based on an ‘anti-Christian screed,’ toned down or otherwise, that one might find listed in the IMDb database?”

Easy: Lonelyhearts.

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