The Golden Compass is an anti-Christian movie, based on an anti-Christian book. I agree with this, having read and enjoyed all three books in the series. Note I say enjoyed. I’ve read all sorts of heretical books. They didn’t prevent me from eventually rejecting atheism and finding faith any more than the New York Times did.
Compass in particular is not just any sort of heretical book. It is Gnostic in its theology. The God of Christianity who created the world and angels and the carnal and spiritual natures of man is split, in the Gnostic conception, onto two gods: The Creator who begat angels and human spirits then withdrew from his creation; and the Demiurge who imprisoned the spirit sparks of mankind in gross matter and doomed them to hell while demanding worship as Yahweh. Gnosticism, then, reverses the moral relation between Lucifer the Lightbringer and Yahweh the Demiurge. Obviously this leads directly to Satanism and all sorts of dangerous moral choices. So the fact that Pullman went into Gnosticism didn’t phase me, for I had already encountered the glamor and falseness of the Gnostic worldview, and rejected it.
The Gnostic worldview, and its moral inversion, is also on display in National Geographic’s terrible mistranslation of the Gospel of Judas, a gnostic text that was published last year, and retranslated this year, reversing almost all the controversial conclusions.
And of course the whole conceit behind The DaVinci Code, with Jesus shacking up with Mary Magdalene and founding the Merovingian dynasty, was more Gnostic (in the sense of “hidden knowledge”) claptrap spawned from the same conspiracy theorizing that inspired Holy Blood, Holy Grail. It reduces Jesus to just an ancestor of a European King, rather than the Son of God, and is typical of the Arian heresy that has somehow found its resurgence not only in many modern-day Christian sects but also in Islam.
Back to Pullman. The book that the His Dark Materials reminded me of most was Job, by Robert A. Heinlein, which I read probably 20 years ago. The conceit behind Job is that God and the Devil have a wager over whether the protagonist will end up in Heaven or Hell. The twist is that Hell is actually a nicer place, run by a nicer guy, than Heaven.
I believe that one should find inspiration in the knowledge of what one opposes, not in remaining ignorant of it.