The Golden Compass vs. the Church

Behind a family-friendly new movie stands an author who casts a skeptical eye on religion

Laurie Sparham / New Line

The movie stars newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, 13, as the precocious heroine Lyra.

At 61, Philip Pullman is tall and handsome and pink-faced in that way that older Englishmen often are. His conversation easily ranges from theoretical physics to the work of John Milton. He's like one of those wise, stern-but-humorous uncles usually played in movies by Michael Caine or Jim Broadbent. He doesn't look particularly satanic. But then again, neither, probably, does Satan.

Pullman is the author of His Dark Materials, a trio of fantasy novels that has sold more than 15 million copies since the first volume, The Golden Compass, was published in 1995. It has been turned into a radio drama...

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