A movie based on a children’s book with heavy religious subtext has sparked a major controversy this week. But not the one you think.
Parents at a 12:50 showing of “The Golden Compass” in Fort Worth’s Eastchase district were both shocked and appalled to find that the movie was preceded by a trailer for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the novel “Prince Caspian”, which some parents fear may cause their children to read a series that promotes spiritual belief and “denigrates Atheism.”
“I just can’t believe this,” said Leah Jones, mother of three and proud atheist. “I can’t believe that they would allow children to be exposed to this kind of thing without warning!”
Actors Liam Neeson and famous dwarf actor Warwick Davis are slated to star in the movie adapted from the from the second novel in a fantasy trilogy called “The Chronicles of Narnia” by noted Christian author C.S. Lewis.
The series focuses on several groups of children who stumble across various portals leading into a world of fantasy and make-believe. This land is called Narnia and it is here that the children meet fantastic creatures, have adventures and learn valuable lessons about life.
In the story, the four Pevensie children return to Narnia, only to find that a thousand years have passed since they first visited. In the time since then, most of the magical creatures as well the human supporters of Aslan (a talking lion and spiritual leader of Narnia) have been executed or forced into hiding by The Telmarines; a race who conquer and “civilized” the land of Narnia, forbidding any talk of miracles and other “nonsense” things.. By the end of the seventh Narnia book, Aslan decides to bring Narnia to an end and take all of his true followers to join him in the paradise of True Narnia. The children go with him and live happily and eternally ever after – except for Susan Pevensie (the oldest girl) who was more interested in boys and make-up than joining Aslan’s crusade against evil once more.
“The movie is made for the books,” said Don Billohue, president and CEO of the Dallas Agnostic’s Metroplex Native Enlightenment Delegation “The Lewis estate is hoping his books will fly off the shelves as soon as school lets out and parents are looking for summer-reading material.”
In the movie, which is being marketed as a children’s fantasy film, many of the direct references to Christianity have been relabeled. For instance, “God” is only referred to as “Aslan”
“They’re intentionally watering down the most offensive element,” Billohue said in a CNN News report.
While Billohue said he’s not concerned about the movie, which he described as “fairly innocuous,” he charges movie makers for engaging in a “deceitful, stealth campaign” to promote the book. “This is not about censorship,” insists Billohue. “This is about the values we don’t want our children being taught.”
However, while Atheist groups have unanimously denounced the English writer’s books, some are waiting to see “Prince Caspian” before taking a stance on the movie.
“Honestly, I don’t think a boycott will be effective,” noted Bob Tomas of The Atheist Television and Movie Association. “The Wiccans complained about all of the elements of their religion being ripped out of “The Dark Is Rising” a few months ago, and it didn’t do a bit of good. Anyway, we’d have to see the whole movie before we started telling our membership how offended they should be by it.”
Other Atheists think the book will inspire readers to question the world around them.
“It undoubtedly makes people question in general but it also inspires them to look harder for real answers on their own,” said Daniel Fitzpatrick, co-director of the League of Secular Thinkers. “Lewis took great pains to portray the dangers of theocracy and in blindly doing what authority figures tell you to do in his books and encouraged his readers to believe their own senses and intuition as to what was really going on. In that sense, I think he did the world a great service.”
Other critics of the movie also include fans of “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Many fear that the pro-religious and pro-Church themes of the book were “castrated” from the first movie in the series, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, to make it more marketable to audiences in the United States and United Kingdom.
“It was clear right from the start that the makers of these films intended to take out the pro-religious elements of Lewis’s books. In doing that they are taking the heart out of it, losing the point of it, castrating it,” said Peri Anderson, president of Mothers For United Church & King Eternal Ruling; a British women’s organization that promotes traditional British values and the reestablishment of a theocracy with a male monarch as head of the British Empire and Church of England.
“It seems that wanton Atheism has now completely conquered America’s cultural life and it is much the poorer for it,” she said in The Guardian newspaper earlier this month. “What a shame that we have to endure such repression here too.”
“Prince Caspian” is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on May 16, 2008.