Don’t let anyone else direct your compass

I f you read and enjoyed “The Golden Compass” when you were younger, you may be surprised to learn of the controversy surrounding the film version, which opens for wide release in the United States Dec. 7.

At first this seems like a re-enactment of the Harry Potter situation, when religious groups boycotted the books and films because they claimed it promoted witchcraft and atheism, but there’s a twist.

The Christian groups behind the boycotts, such as the Catholic League, oppose the film because its anti-religion message is not as strong as it is in the book.

“It is not our position that the movie will strike Christian parents as troubling. Then why the protest? Even though the film is based on the least offensive of the three books, and even though it is clear that the producers are watering down the most despicable elements — so as to make money and not anger Christians — the fact remains that the movie is bait for the books. To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman’s books for Christmas. That’s the problem,” the Catholic League’s Web site said.

Basically, they’re afraid that because the intended message is watered down, parents will be tricked into buying books for their children that they would not normally approve of.

Amid the controversy, the book’s author, Philip Pullman, who wrote the screenplay of this newest children’s book to film adaptation, has not denied his position on religion:

“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. Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them,” he said on his Web site.

Looking at both sides of this situation, there’s no way to come to any conclusion. Religious decisions are too personal to be dictated by any widespread boycott or endorsement.

And even though most of our audience is neither a child nor a parent, and so not as affected by this issue, we still felt that something needed to be said.

Think for yourself. It sounds trite, but bear with us.

Don’t be a cog in anyone’s machine. Do not take the Catholic League’s argument at face value. The more people just listen to what they, or any interest group, has to say without question, the more power institutions have over your decisions.

Likewise, don’t take what anyone says about a book, film or album without checking it out for yourself. If you feel uncomfortable giving money to a person or group you don’t support, wait for the release for rental from stores or libraries.

If your opinions and values are strong, then whatever agenda is being pushed by the media you consume, will be lost on you.

And you will have retained one of your most basic rights — the right to think for yourself.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.