LONDON – The Church of Scotland is going against the tide of opposition to the soon-to-be-released movie "The Golden Compass" by rejecting calls for its boycott and saying it is instead "looking forward to a major cinematic event this winter."
"The Golden Compass" is the film adaptation of the first book in British author Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" fantasy trilogy, published in the United Kingdom under the title "Northern Lights," and is due for release across the United Kingdom on Dec. 5.
In the movie, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, a young girl's quest to uncover the reason behind her friend's disappearance concludes with the killing of a character named "God" – who turns out to be a phony.
The governing body in Pullman's fantasy world is the Magisterium, which attempts to get to the root of sin by conducting cruel experiments on children, and concealing facts that would jeopardize the power and authority of the Church.
There have been calls from within some sections of the Christian community for the film to be boycotted because of its attack on Christianity.
The Catholic League in particular has strongly criticized the movie for promoting atheism and denigrating Catholicism, and has already published a brochure called "The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked" in an effort to respond to some of the atheist elements in the series.
The Church of Scotland's Mission & Discipleship Council says, however, that the film "provides a golden opportunity to stimulate discussion on a wide range of moral and spiritual issues."
The film's heroine, the young girl Lyra Silvertongue, becomes involved in a struggle between good and evil as she traverses a fantastical universe to find her kidnapped friend.
The Church of Scotland said she is "one of the powerless who turns out to be a saint, and so the film is an invitation to dialogue on human purpose and destiny, the abuse of power, the making of choices and the meaning of life."
Rather than boycotting the film, the Church of Scotland is planning to publish a leaflet to mark its release, which will be made available to Church of Scotland congregations, as well as other denominations all across Scotland.
The Kirk's Mission & Discipleship Council said it believes the movie "will enable congregations to engage with young people, and adults, in terms with which they can relate."
"Far from condemning the film, the Kirk looks forward to its release and the opportunities that it presents," the Church of Scotland concluded.
Pullman has hit out at critics, denying that he is using his books to sell "atheism for kids" on the U.S.-based "Today" show with Al Roker.
Speaking on last Thursday's show, the author said, "Well, you know, I always mistrust people who tell us how we should understand something. They know better than we do what the book means or what this means and how we should read it and whether we should read it or not."
"I don't think that's democratic," he continued. "I prefer to trust the reader. I prefer to trust what I call the democracy of reading – when everybody has the right to form their own opinion and read what they like and come to their own conclusion about it. So I trust the reader."
Kidman, a Catholic, has defended her role in the film by saying she would not want to star in a movie that was anti-religious.
The Catholic League, however, remains unconvinced by Pullman's assurances.
On its website, the group says: "It is his objective to bash Christianity and promote atheism. To kids."
Catholic League President Bill Donohue voiced his scepticism in a statement last Thursday: "The last thing Pullman trusts is the people.
"That is why he tries to sneak his atheism in back-door to kids. If he had any courage, he'd defend his work, but instead he continues to do what he does best – practice deceit."
Donahue also doubted Pullman's claims that the he just intends readers to get a "good experience of a good story," pointing to a comment made several years ago by the writer.
"I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," said Pullman in an article by The Washington Post, adding that C.S. Lewis, the Christian author of "Chronicles of Narnia," would describe his books as the "Devil's work."
"The Golden Compass" releases in the United States on Dec. 7.
Christian Post reporter Katherine T. Phan in San Francisco contributed to this article.