General Archive

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Golden Compass - Is It Really Atheistic, and Should That Affect You Watching the Movie?

Golden Compass Movie LogoWell, with The Golden Compass movie being released this week, I figured I'd make a little entry for it. I've already posted my review of the books (in short, I liked them, but didn't think they were great), so I won't cover that here. Instead, I'll cover a bit of the hoopla surrounding these books being atheistic, and a bit of the silly rationale I've seen from people trying to claim otherwise.


To be blunt, yes, the books are based on an atheistic worldview. I don't think this gives away too much of the plot, since it's revealed about midway through the second book, but in this story, God is not the creator of the universe, but instead the first conscious being to have developed. He's neither omnipotent nor omniscient. He's basically tricked much of the universe into thinking that he was the creator.

Now, I've seen in some reviews of the book, and in some blog comments, people who claim that the books aren't atheistic, because they're about a war on this character claiming to be God, but who wasn't really the Creator. I think those people are missing something - the character in this book that claims to be God, is (in the book) the same character that Christians worship. In other words, the books show a world where Yahweh is not a god. Now, I guess that strictly speaking, these books don't deny the possibility of some type of a god/gods, but there aren't any gods in these books, in the sense that most people would define a god, and the only character claiming to be a god, isn't.

But, just because the books are based on an atheistic worldview, does it mean that they promote atheism? If we accept what Pullman himself said in an interview, no.

As for the atheism, it doesn't matter to me whether people believe in God or not, so I'm not promoting anything of that sort. What I do care about is whether people are cruel or whether they're kind, whether they act for democracy or for tyranny, whether they believe in open-minded enquiry or in shutting the freedom of thought and expression. Good things have been done in the name of religion, and so have bad things; and both good things and bad things have been done with no religion at all. What I care about is the good, wherever it comes from.

There's another way to look at it - the books are fantasy. I'm pretty sure that even Pullman doesn't believe in the universe he created, so it seems a bit silly to claim that he's trying to promote it. It would be like trying to claim that J.K. Rowling was promoting magic in her Harry Potter books (I realize a few people did claim this, but there are also still people who think the earth is flat - some people are just a few cards shy of a full deck). Pullman's universe is just a way to get people thinking about one of the main themes of the books, questioning authority and orthodoxy. What better way is there to illustrate that than to question the ultimate authority?

One other topic I wanted to touch on was the hypocrisy of the people denouncing The Golden Compass for indoctrinating children, but who had no problem with The Chronicles of Narnia. What's the difference? Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to sling around the term, hypocrite - maybe some of those people do recognize Narnia as indoctrinating children into a Christian worldview, and wouldn't have any problems with people of other religions (or no religion) not letting their children read those books or see the movies based on them.

So, to get to the important question, should you let the atheistic worldview of The Golden Compass influence your decision to watch the movie, or to allow your children to watch the movie? Well, I guess if you're the type of person who avoided Clash of the Titans, because it promoted ancient Greek religion, and you didn't let your children watch it because you were afraid they might start worshipping Zeus, well then, The Golden Compass probably isn't for you. But, if you can enjoy it for what it is, and assuming that the movie adaptation turns out okay (and so far, according to IMDB, it appears to be doing pretty well), then it's probably a movie worth seeing.

Note: Wording in closing paragraph has been slightly modified from original posting, but nothing that changes the overall meaning.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Iraq Death Toll - Rebuttal to a Chain E-mail

The other day, I got an e-mail titled, "Statistics on Military Deaths," claiming to put into perspective the deaths caused by the Iraq War. It examines total military fatalities since 1980, showing that there were actually higher fatalities in the 80's than there are now, during the war. Since the information came in an e-mail forward, I was skeptical right off the bat, and decided to research it a little. The total death statistic is accurate, however, it's misleading in a number of ways - ignoring the causes of deaths, and ignoring the total number of people in the military over that time span. So, for anyone who's gotten this chain e-mail, I'm posting the reply I wrote to clarify it.

Continue reading "Iraq Death Toll - Rebuttal to a Chain E-mail" »

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Note About the Amazon Links

If anybody looks around this blog and my main website, they may notice that I've begun putting more links to Amazon. Yes, I will earn a bit of money if you buy something after clicking on those links. I debated putting the links up, because it seemed an awful lot like advertising which would cheapen this site. But, I figured that since I'm only linking to books that I'd normally be writing about, anyway, that it's not so bad. I could look at it as providing a service, offering people a way to buy the books, instead of having to go search through Amazon on their own. It's not like I'm using Google AdSense or something obnoxious like that. So, I feel justified in putting those links on my site.

If anyone's curious, I've always had a small link at the bottom of my Autogyros page. I think in all the years that I've had my website, I've earned enough comission to buy two books from Amazon, so it's not exactly a huge profit making enterprise. I'm hoping that putting more links on my blog might get me a little more, maybe enough to buy a book per year, if I'm lucky. But it's certainly not anywhere near enough to pay the Web Hosting company that serves this site, or the yearly fee for my domain name, so my website's still a net loss, financially (but definitely worth the cost, as a fun hobby).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

5 Degrees to Kevin Bacon

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Last week, I had my 9 seconds of fame. Carter Aviation Technologies was featured in a segment of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, and they actually used some of the footage they shot that had me in it. Between one scene talking to my boss, and another looking past the back of my head to see what was on my computer screen, I was on screen for about 9 seconds all together.

So, now that I've been on TV, and my boss has been in several documentaries, I can count my degrees to Kevin Bacon (technically, I was very briefly in another documentary a few years ago, but it was so brief you had to pause the video to make me out). Anyway, here goes:

Jeff Lewis -> Jay Carter, Modern Marvels
Jay Carter -> Bob Simon, 60 Minutes
Bob Simon -> Larry King, Larry King Live
Larry King -> David Hayman, The Jackal
David Hayman -> Kevin Bacon, Where the Truth Lies

So, I've got a Bacon number of 5. (Yeah, I realize documentaries and news aren't exactly the kosher way to do it, but that's the only way I can.)

Modern Marvels Screenshot 1Modern Marvels Screenshot 2Added 2007-10-01: Well, I was in a hurry when I wrote this entry originally, and there are two things I'd like to add. First, I wasn't the only one to get some screen time. A few other co-workers who aren't normally in documentaries also got their chance to call up relatives about being on TV. (That shot where they're all walking out of the trailer took 3 takes to get it just right.)

I also wanted to add that we all thought the documentary was very good. Carter Aviation Technologies has been in other documentaries before. Sometimes it's such a short mention that it's hardly worth it, and sometimes the documentary makers just get things wrong. But Modern Marvels did a very good job of explaining our concept.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No New Entries

Well, once again I've been so busy responding to comments in previous entries, that I haven't had time to make a new standalone entry this week. But, I think my two responses in those threads are pretty good, so read them if you're interested.

I've decided to slightly modify my update per week goal. I will still try to post an update per week, but if I make a change to my main website, the entry where I describe that will count towards meeting my goal (I used to not count the Website Updates as a real blog entry towards my goal). It's all to do with the limited amount of time I have to work on this - it's mostly during lunch breaks at work, after all. So, if I take the time to modify my main site, I figure that's enough effort put toward the online world for that week. And hey, it's still new content that I've come up with being advertised on the blog. It's better than simply posting links to other people's web pages.


Selling Out