I haven’t been to see the recent movie “John Carter”
but downloaded the books on a recent vacation (free to iPad or Kindle etc.), I had read them years ago in the 60s. Dated in many ways, they read fast. There is an angle that didn’t occur to me when I was 12 that I find striking now..
From the wikipedia summary it sounds like the movie garbles one central point in the ‘Mars books’—
In the 2nd book the Gods of Mars ERB describes a religion where people think they should travel down a ‘river Issus’ to a valley of piece and happiness with their ancetors. It turns out that tihs valley has plant- and ape- monsters which eat these poor pilgrims. The “Therns” (who figure in the movie) are a race of fraudelent holy men who steal the money the pilgrims bring with them, take some of them as slaves, and eat people as well.
Burroughs shows layers of fraudelent religion because these Therns worship a god “Issus”, who also shows up to be a fraud preying on their gullibility, just as they prey on the gullibility of the pilgrims.
John Carter has a hard time convincing everyone that their religion is a fraud.
A quote from Gods of Mars apropos to New Atheists:
It is very hard to accept a new religion for an old, no matter how alluring the promises of the new may be; but to reject the old as a tissue of falsehoods without being offered anything in its stead is indeed a most difficult thing to ask of any people
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gods_of_Mars has more discussion of the theme of ‘religious deception’.