Having been written by an atheist/agnostic, Phillip Pullman, and allegedly carrying an anti-Christian message it is causing quite a stir in the religious community. This is to be expected.
My Irony-O-Meter nearly popped a sprocket when I saw this.
[Bishop Rubin] Phillip said he was saddened because the film was aimed at children, saying this was cowardly.As opposed to what exactly? Teaching children from birth that if they don't follow the difficult and even impossible laws laid down by an invisible man in the sky, they will suffer indescribable torment for infinite time. That seems much better.
The Golden Compass is a fantasy movie. I can't imagine it carrying an atheistic message any stronger than the pro-Christian message carried by C.S. Lewis' Narnia series... which wasn't very strong.
Even though I would love to see more children's entertainment with an agnostic or atheist bent, I don't expect the Golden Compass to be as controversial as I would like. I don't expect it will do any more damage to the theists' systematic indoctrination of the young and feeble-minded than Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings have done.
On the plus side, my interest in seeing this movie has risen from 0 to 1.3 on a scale of 10.