Pushing atheism

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on January 6, 2008

I saw this story from the Portland Oregonian after it came over the wires. It's a profile of Bill Hamilton, a sort-of atheist who famously proclaimed in an essay for Playboy magazine back in 1966 that God was dead.

Reading the profile, it's really hard not to feel sorry for Hamilton -- a man of some sort of faith who apparently finds it impossible to believe that when God made men free he made them free to do anything -- including great evil.

But there's one part of the article by reporter Nancy Haught that tries to attach this article to what in the business is called a "news hook" -- something beyond the narrow reading of the story itself that gives it larger relevance. Here's Haught's news hook:

In 2007, a new atheism surged. Best-sellers bashed religion, Christianity in particular. Published excerpts from Mother Teresa's private journal confessed her doubts. "The Golden Compass," drawn from a trilogy of novels in which a key character wants to kill God, became a hit movie.

Problem: "The Golden Compass" bombed. Thus far it has grossed only $65 million domestically as of today, ranking 694th all time. (It's done better worldwide.) Unfortunately, I can't tell you what movies are 693rd and 695th, because Box Office Mojo only allows you to view the top 385 domestic grossing movies. For the record, No. 385 is "Die Hard: With a Vengence."

Hollywood studio execs were hoping that "The Golden Compass" would follow in the footsteps of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," (No. 29 all time in domestic gross) but it didn't. Hollywood is currently working on creating movies of other C.S. Lewis books, but I'd be surprised if we see another "Compass" movie.

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