And another one for the censors…
I have, in the past week or so, mentioned my excitement about the coming movie The Golden Compass. Interspersed with my enthusiasm for the movie has been my praise of Philip Pullman’s books. They are deep, thought provoking, imaginative, well written and enjoyable. Of course this makes them prime targets for the censorship hungry masses. Yup, you guessed it, the censors are at it again.
I recently received an email from a friend of mine (also a fan of Pullman’s books) which had been forwarded to her. It was a petition for concerned parents to take a stand AGAINST free speech and boycott not only Pullman’s books but also the upcoming movie.
Here is the email as it is being distributed:
“Please click the link below and take a moment to read the attached page. BEWARE!!! There is much controversy over this children’s book which is now being released as a movie in theatres on December 7th. Many people have been deceived and refuse to see the message it is sending. Make no mistake, the author is a predator and is attempting to poison the minds of our children and he will do so if we allow him to. This series, “His Dark Materials,” was written as a direct response to The Chronicles of Narnia. The author has admitted to being an atheist and has commented that his books are about killing God in the minds of children. As parents we have a moral responsibility to protect our children from harm. It is extremely disturbing to know that Phillip Pullman has successfully marketed this trash to so many young minds already. This book has crossed into some of our schools and is being assigned as part of our children’s reading curriculum.
I implore you to take a stand to stop allowing others to deceptively corrupt our children’s minds. We must not turn a blind eye and brush it off as just a book/movie. It is time to stand up to these people that believe they have the right to corrupt the minds of our children because of their right to free speech. They may have a right to free speech but we also have a right, as well as a responsibility, to protect the minds of those who are the future of our great country. Please do not let your children get sucked in by this monster.
Now, I would like people to take a minute to think about the implications of this matter. The authors of this petition are concerned for the moral well being of their children because children will be taken in by the Atheistic beliefs of the author and will therefore slide down that slippery moral slope and lose their faith in God. Ignoring for the moment what that says about the flimsy state of the “belief” these people have in their own religion, let’s focus for a moment on their complaint that Pullman is a “monster” who, responding to C.S. Lewis’s work The Chronicles of Narnia, expressed an alternate view to theology and religion through fiction.
I ask you, why is it worse for an Atheist to write a children’s book about using one’s own intelligence to question the actions of a political/theological body than it is for a Christian to write an allegory of the life and death of Jesus? Is every person in the world a Christian? I think not. Is it more wrong for a non-Christian to express his philosophical and theological views than for a Christian to do so? Through literature? Should Buddhists be refused the right to write stories allegorizing their beliefs? How about Jews? Why not boycott Lewis for trying to brainwash generations of unsuspecting children into believing in the Christian faith? Why not start petitions to have the movie based on his works removed from the shelves of video stores everywhere?
Obviously, I do not believe that Lewis should be banned or censored. In a society that allows free speech censorship should never be an issue. The laws of free speech protect the rights of Westboro Baptists (no, I will not provide links to their websites because I find them vile and repugnant) who maintain publicly that “god hates fags” and “god hates America” while they picket the funerals of American soldiers who have fallen in combat in Iraq. If laws of free speech can protect these hate mongers why should they not cover Pullman, who in no way suggests trading in belief for hate or violence.
Religion is a subject that I find best kept private. My feeling on the issue is that I won’t bother people with my religious views if they don’t bother me with theirs. Each person has the right to believe what he or she chooses and that choice should have no impact on me. Having said that, I have mentioned at least once on this blog that I am an Atheist. I mention this again here only in the interest of full disclosure. Did I read Pullman because he is a self professed Atheist? No, I read him because I was informed by a close friend that the series was one that I might enjoy. She, a Christian herself, enjoyed them and thought they would appeal to my taste in literature. I have also read C.S. Lewis. In fact, I’ve read C.S. Lewis more than once, more than twice, and the first time was when I was young and ‘impressionable’.
But guess what? I read Lewis and I’m still not a Christian. I found the stories entertaining, albeit a little heavy handed, but reading his work did not covert me. Does that mean his talent isn’t as great as that “predator” Pullman? No, wait. Let me guess; the Pullman is the snake in the garden of Eden. Well, if that’s the case, I have no faith in the faith of others.
Honestly, what does it say about a person’s strength of will or belief if they can be so easily swayed by children’s fiction? Is not the job of a parent to educate children? Help them understand wrong from right? Teach them how to live morally and hold true to their beliefs? How can you do this if you ignore any possible intellectual challenge to your belief system?
I don’t understand people who have so little faith (although they profess the opposite) that they feel the need to pretend opposing views don’t exist, or worse yet, try to squash them. Should the fact that one is a capitalist prevent one from reading Marx? If one is a pacifist should Sun Tsu be avoided too? Of course not. The only way to learn is by facing what is out there. Communist ideals don’t go away because you deny them. Nazis and white supremacists don’t disappear because you refuse to read Mein Kampf.
It seems to me that the people who are so worried about the moral decline of their children through the literature they read should bear two things in mind. One : at least the children are reading (but more on that tomorrow). Two : talking to your children about the reasons for their faith will be much more effective in the long run than a knee jerk reaction calling for the removal of books from a library or school reading list.
When I began rereading these books last week I had no intention of writing up one of my “reviews”, not because I thought the series was unworthy but because I had read them twice previously already and my trend for book reviews has been to only discuss books that are new to me. However, now that I have had the brouhaha surrounding the impending release of the movie drawn to my attention I feel compelled to discuss the book.
Honestly, when will these people learn that the fastest way to draw the crowds to a book or movie is to publicly proclaim that people should not see it? It’s like flies to honey.