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The Info List - Religious Debates Over The Harry Potter Series



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RELIGIOUS DEBATES OVER THE HARRY POTTER SERIES of books by J. K. Rowling are based on claims that the novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts. A number of Protestant , Catholic , and Orthodox Christians have argued against the series, as have some Shia and Sunni Muslims. Supporters of the series have said that the magic in Harry Potter bears little resemblance to occultism, being more in the vein of fairy tales such as Cinderella
Cinderella
and Snow White
Snow White
, or to the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
, both of whom are known for writing fantasy novels with Christian subtexts. Far from promoting a particular religion, some argue, the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novels go out of their way to avoid discussing religion at all. However, the author of the series, J. K. Rowling, describes herself as a practising Christian, and many have noted the Christian references which she includes in the final novel Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows .

In the United States, calls for the books to be banned from schools have led to legal challenges often on the grounds that witchcraft is a government-recognised religion and that to allow the books to be held in public schools violates the separation of church and state . The Orthodox churches of Greece
Greece
and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
have also campaigned against the series, and some Catholic writers and officials have voiced a critical stance. The books have been banned from all schools in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
and criticised in the Iranian state-run press. Religious responses to Harry Potter
Harry Potter
have not all been negative. "At least as much as they've been attacked from a theological point of view," notes Rowling, " have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it's been by several different faiths."

CONTENTS

* 1 Christianity
Christianity

* 1.1 Evangelicalism * 1.2 Catholicism * 1.3 Orthodox * 1.4 Anglicanism * 1.5 Latter-day Saint (Mormon)

* 2 Islam
Islam
* 3 Judaism * 4 Book
Book
challenges

* 5 Responses to criticism

* 5.1 Wicca
Wicca
* 5.2 Occult
Occult
vs. fantasy and fairytale magic * 5.3 Secularism
Secularism
* 5.4 Rowling\'s response

* 6 Christianity
Christianity
in the novels

* 6.1 Rowling and the Inklings
Inklings
* 6.2 Christian allegories in Deathly Hallows

* 7 Dumbledore\'s sexual orientation * 8 References * 9 External links

CHRISTIANITY

EVANGELICALISM

Most of the criticism of Harry Potter
Harry Potter
is from Fundamental Evangelical Christian groups, who believe the series' depiction of witchcraft is dangerous to children. Paul Hetrick, spokesman for Focus on the Family , an American Evangelical Christian group based in Colorado Springs, Colorado , outlined the reasons for his opposition to them: " some powerful and valuable lessons about love and courage and the ultimate victory of good over evil; however, the positive messages are packaged in a medium – witchcraft – that is directly denounced in Scripture ." Harry Potter
Harry Potter
has been the subject of at least six book burnings in the U.S. In 2002, Chick Publications produced a comic book tract titled "The Nervous Witch" that declared "the Potter books open a doorway that will put untold millions of kids into hell." In 2007 Jacqui Komschlies wrote an article in Christianity
Christianity
Today comparing Harry Potter
Harry Potter
to "rat poison mixed with orange soda ," and said, "We're taking something deadly from our world and turning it into what some are calling 'merely a literary device.'"

A common belief among fundamentalist Christianity
Christianity
is that Harry Potter promotes the religion of Wicca
Wicca
, and so keeping them in public schools violates the separation of church and state in the United States . In her response to Laura Mallory 's court case, education attorney Victoria Sweeny said that if schools were to remove all books containing reference to witches , they would have to ban Macbeth
Macbeth
and Cinderella
Cinderella
. Jeremiah Films , a Christian video company largely known for its Clinton Chronicles release, also released a DVD
DVD
entitled Harry Potter: Witchcraft
Witchcraft
Repackaged which stated that "Harry's world says that drinking dead animal blood gives power, a satanic human sacrifice and Harry's powerful blood brings new life, demon possession is not spiritually dangerous, and that passing through fire, contacting the dead, and conversing with ghosts, others in the spirit world, and more, is normal and acceptable."

In 2001, Evangelical journalist Richard Abanes , who has written several books arguing against new religions and Mormonism
Mormonism
, published a polemical text that made similar allegations to the video: Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick. Later editions incorporated comparisons and contrasts between Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the more overtly Christian works of C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
and J. R. R. Tolkien. In an interview with CBN.com, Abanes remarked that, "One of the easiest ways to know whether a fantasy book or film has real world magick in it is to just ask a simple question, 'Can my child find information in a library or bookstore that will enable them to replicate what they are seeing in the film or the book?' If you go to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
what you see in, story magic and imagination, it is not real. You can't replicate it. But if you go to something like Harry Potter, you can find references to astrology , clairvoyance , and numerology . It takes seconds to go into a bookstore or library and get books on that and start investigating it, researching it, and doing it."

Abanes writes: "The classic passage dealing with divination, along with several other forms of occultism, is Deuteronomy 18:10-12:

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these thing are an abomination unto the LORD."

"If this were the only passage dealing with occultism, it would be enough to forbid all of the practices found in the Harry Potter series. But there are numerous other verses to consider..." Image from satirical newspaper The Onion
The Onion
, which jokingly proclaimed that Harry Potter
Harry Potter
was leading children to Satanism
Satanism

The debate has inspired at least two satirical Internet urban legends . In 2001, The Onion
The Onion
, an American satirical newspaper , published an article entitled " Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Sparks Rise in Satanism
Satanism
Among Children," which said that the "High Priest of Satanism" had described Harry Potter
Harry Potter
as "an absolute godsend to our cause." This article was copied into a chain letter and circulated among Christians as "proof" of their views. The following year the Canadian daily the National Post released a similar spoof article in its satirical column Post Morten, saying that "Rowling—or, as she shall henceforth be referred to and credited as, Mrs. J. K. Satan—said that as she sat in a coffee shop one grey day, wondering what to do with her empty, aimless life, it hit her, 'I'll give myself, body and soul, to the Dark Master. And in return, he will give me absurd wealth and power over the weak and pitiful of the world. And he did!'" This article was also copied into a chain letter and released as "truth" onto the web.

In 2009, Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for US President George W. Bush , claimed that during the Bush administration, "people in the White House
White House
" had denied Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because the books "encourage witchcraft."

While some evangelical Christians consider Harry Potter
Harry Potter
related to Satanism, a poll in 2000 indicated that this position remains a minority view. Seven percent of Americans who have heard of the books have a negative view of them, with 52 percent having a positive opinion and the remaining 41 percent unsure. This compares with 33 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Evangelical and 39 percent who take the Bible
Bible
literally. In 2001 the Alamogordo Christ Community Church in New Mexico burned hundreds of copies of the Harry Potter books. Jack Brock, leader of the church, said the books were an abomination because they inspired children to study the occult. He and his followers admitted they have never read any of the books, and tossed in some Stephen King
Stephen King
novels. Venezuelan scholar Fernando Baez, in a study of the history of censorship and book destruction commented, "There is more than one way to destroy a book, upon being denied a city permit to burn books, the Rev. Douglas Taylor in Lewiston, Maine, has held several annual gatherings at which he cuts the Potter books up with scissors."

Some evangelicals have supported the Potter books: evangelical author Connie Neal, in her books, What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?, The Gospel According to Harry Potter, and Wizards, Wardrobes, and Wookiees: Navigating Good and Evil
Evil
in Harry Potter, Narnia, and Star Wars, wrote that the books preach Christian values and can be used to educate children in Christian tenets. Mike Hertenstein of Cornerstone magazine, in his article " Harry Potter
Harry Potter
vs the Muggles, Myth, Magic the difference between the books' magic and real occult practices; the presence of Christian values such as humility, love, sacrifice and choosing the right over the easy. He quotes other notable Orthodox priests and church officials such as M. Kozlov and S. Pravdoliubov as supporting his position.

The American academic and Orthodox Christian writer John Granger has analyzed the literature in a positive light. Granger, a Christian classicist , has defended the books in his book, Looking for God in Harry Potter. Granger argues that the books do not promote the occult because none of the magic is based on summoning any sort of demon or spirit; he contrasts occult invocational magic (calling up spirit beings to do your bidding) with literature's common incantational magic (saying a set phrase to use power from an unspecified source). Indeed, says Granger, the themes of love triumphing over death and choosing what is right instead of what is easy are very compatible with Christianity.

ANGLICANISM

In 2000, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
refused to allow his church to be filmed as part of Hogwarts
Hogwarts
in the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
film series, saying that it was unfitting for a Christian church to be used to promote pagan imagery. Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
agreed to take its place; the Dean of Gloucester, the Very Reverend Nicholas Bury, admitted to being a fan of the books; "I think the book is a marvellous traditional children's story and excellently written. It is also amusing, exciting and wholesome, and is just the sort of story families should be encouraged to read." The decision still resulted in many angry letters to the local paper, the Gloucester Citizen. Said one honorary chaplain, "Oh yes, there was quite a to-do. There was one particular man, very evangelical, writing in and complaining that it wasn't right for such things to be going on. I don't think it was so much the film's subject matter but the fact that filming was happening at all." Similarly, Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral
also allowed its use for two of the films.

Then- Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
George Carey
George Carey
gave positive remarks about the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Philosopher\'s Stone film in his New Year Message for 2002, calling it "great fun," and a film that "asks some very real questions" on moral issues.

In June 2007, the Anglican Church published Mixing it up with Harry Potter, a 48-page book designed to use parallels from the novels to teach the faith to 9–13-year-olds. The author of the book, Kent youth worker Owen Smith, argued that, "These sessions draw parallels between events in the world of Harry and his friends, and the world in which we are seeking to proclaim the gospel to young people To say, as some have, that these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to me both to malign J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling
and to vastly underestimate the ability of children and young people to separate the real from the imaginary."

LATTER-DAY SAINT (MORMON)

The Church of Jesus
Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has expressed no official or unofficial reservations or cautions about the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books and movies, all of which are freely sold at the Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University
campus bookstore. At least two prominent leaders of the church have even recommended the series and spoke of being fans because they teach morality and show good victorious over evil.

ISLAM

The popular scholarly site Muslim Matters has spoken positively of both the books and the films. However a number of Islamic scholars have argued that the books' magical themes conflict with Islamic teachings. A series of online fatāwa have been logged by imams against Harry Potter, decrying it as un-Islamic.

The Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books are banned in schools across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to a spokesman from the education ministry of the UAE government, the books' fantasy and magic elements were contrary to Islamic values. Despite being banned from schools in the Emirates, there are no plans to ban them from bookshops within the country.

In August 2007, police in Karachi
Karachi
, Pakistan
Pakistan
discovered and defused a car bomb located outside a shopping centre where, hours later, the final Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novel was scheduled to go on sale. The book launch was postponed in response. A local police superintendent commented that, "We are not sure so far whether the target of the bombing was the book launch, but the connection cannot be ruled out."

While the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books are available for sale in Iran
Iran
, an editorial in the 26 July 2007 edition of the state-run newspaper Kayhan
Kayhan
, which has ties to Iran's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah
Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei , criticised Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry for approving the distribution of the final Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novel. The editorial claimed that the book, "includes destructive words and sentences which oppose to the values ," and that airport security had failed by " the American-British publisher which has Zionist collaborators, such as Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
." The editorial described the books as a "Zionist project" and claimed that "Zionists had spent billions of dollars" on it.

Feiz Mohammad , the Australian radical Islamic preacher believed to have inspired Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing
Boston Marathon bombing
, decried Harry Potter
Harry Potter
for "paganism, evil, magic and the drinking of unicorn blood".

JUDAISM

Many prominent rabbis have described the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books as, in the words of one, "a force for good". In 2005, a conference at the University of Reading
University of Reading
debated whether Harry Potter
Harry Potter
had a "yiddishe neshama " (Jewish soul). Sir Jonathan Sacks
Jonathan Sacks
, the former chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
, claims that, in "a society in which adolescents are precociously adult, and adults are permanently adolescent", Harry Potter
Harry Potter
has "reclaimed the kingdom of childhood, proving that you don’t have to betray to enchant".

The decision to release the final volume of the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
series, Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows, in Israel
Israel
at 2 AM on a Saturday morning briefly angered many of Israel's rabbis, since it fell during the Jewish Sabbath , a time when business dealings are forbidden.

BOOK CHALLENGES

The books' inclusion in public and school libraries has been frequently challenged for their focus on magic, particularly in the United States, where it was ranked seventh on the list of the most challenged books in American libraries between 1990 and 2000 despite having been first published in the United States in 1998. In 1999, the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books were challenged 23 times in 13 states. According to the American Library Association
American Library Association
, they are now the most challenged books of the 21st century.

However, the ALA notes that overall, opposition to Harry Potter
Harry Potter
in the US appears to be waning; having topped the list of the most challenged books in American schools in many previous years, they have to date failed to reappear in the top ten since 2003. Humanist commentator Austin Cline attributes this decline to school libraries employing "opt-out" policies which allow parents to prohibit their children from reading books they do not wish them exposed to.

A selection follows of the more notable challenges to the books:

In 1999, in response to complaints from three local parents, Zeeland, Michigan school superintendent Gary Feenstra restricted access to the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books to those pupils whose parents gave written permission. Later reports claimed that the parents were concerned about the books' magical and witchcraft-related themes. In response, children began a letter-writing campaign, forming clubs and organising petitions, which ultimately merged into an internet site called Muggles for Harry Potter. Eventually the site took on a broader remit as kidSPEAK!, a forum for children to tackle censorship in general.

In 2000, The Public Library system of Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
was faced with a lawsuit from conservative Christian group Liberty Counsel of Orlando after they began awarding "Hogwarts’ Certificate of Accomplishment" to young readers who completed the fourth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Goblet of Fire. One parent complained that "If they are going to pass out witchcraft certificates they should also promote the Bible
Bible
and pass out certificates of righteousness". The lawsuit was averted after the Library agreed to stop awarding the certificate. That same year, Carol Rookwood, headmistress of St Mary\'s Island Church of England
Church of England
Aided School in Chatham, Kent
Kent
, England, banned the books from school grounds, saying that, "The Bible is very clear and consistent in its teachings that wizards, devils and demons exist and are very real, powerful and dangerous, and God's people are told to have nothing to do with them". In response, the chairman of the Church of England's doctrine commission, Stephen Sykes, said, "The Church's position is that magic and sorcery are contrary to the Christian religion, Mrs Rookwood is absolutely right. children who are capable of reading Harry Potter
Harry Potter
could be told not to take witchcraft seriously, or might even realise that for themselves". In July 2000, Birkenhead Primary School in Auckland
Auckland
, New Zealand placed a ban on the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novels being read aloud by teachers in class after parental complaints regarding the books' supposedly occult content. However, the ban was lifted after a number of students and parents complained. Also in 2000, Christian parents complained to the school board in Durham Region, Ontario about Harry Potter, and managed to get the books removed from school library shelves. The books were reinstated after a public outcry.

In 2002, in York, Pennsylvania
York, Pennsylvania
, local parent Deb DiEugenio, along with her pastor, attempted to have the books banned from her daughter's school. DuEugenio said that "It's against my daughter's constitution, it's evil, it's witchcraft ... I'm not paying taxes to teach my child witchcraft". The school board eventually voted 7–2 to keep the books, with an opt-out for concerned parents.

In 2003, Billy Ray and Mary Nell Counts, a couple in Cedarville, Arkansas , brought suit against the local school board on behalf of their daughter to contest a rule requiring parents' written consent to read the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books. A parent, Angie Haney, had requested such a rule on the grounds that they were "not based on fiction," at the prompting of Pastor Mark Hodges, who was also a member of the school board. A district court judge decided the rule was unconstitutional. The decision was cited as precedent in subsequent censorship cases. Also in 2003, a Russian woman filed charges against Rosman Publishing, responsible for Harry Potter's Russian translation, saying that the books "instilled religious extremism and prompted students to join religious organizations of Satanist followers". A probe found that there were no grounds for a criminal prosecution.

In September 2005, Laura Mallory, a mother of four children in Loganville, Georgia
Loganville, Georgia
, attempted to have the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books banned from her children's school library on the grounds that they promoted a religion, Wicca
Wicca
, and thus for a public school library to hold them would violate the separation of church and state. On her website, she states, " Harry Potter
Harry Potter
is being used to teach and promote witchcraft, Wicca, a U.S. recognised religion, in our schools, classrooms, and to this entire generation." Mallory said the books carry "evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and teaching children all of this." Mallory, who is a Christian missionary , said that she believed the books encouraged children to practice religious witchcraft or become Wiccans. Mallory also commented that she has not read the entire book series because "they're really very long and I have four kids. I've put a lot of work into what I've studied and read. I think it would be hypocritical for me to read all the books, honestly". Following her case's rejection by the school, Mallory then took her case to the school appeals committee, but was rejected again. On 20 April 2006, Mallory took her case to the Gwinnett County School Board, but on 11 May, the board voted unanimously against her. In June 2006, Mallory launched an appeal against the County Board's decision with the Georgia State Board of Education; that appeal was rejected the following December. In January 2007, she appealed to the Gwinnett Superior Court; that appeal too was rejected three months later. She considered taking the case to federal court, but spent the following summer with her husband and four children. She is now an ordained minister for children and young adults, claiming that her case against Harry Potter
Harry Potter
has inspired her to a new calling.

In July 2006, Sariya Allan, a teaching assistant at Durand Primary School in Stockwell
Stockwell
, South London
South London
, quit her job after she was suspended for refusing to listen to a seven-year-old pupil read a Harry Potter
Harry Potter
book in class. A practising Pentecostal , she told the girl that "I don't do witchcraft in any form," and that she would be "cursed" if she heard the novel recited. Allan took her dispute with the school to an Employment Tribunal , citing religious discrimination and claiming for damages. The school's lawyer claimed that, "her suspension was due to her obstructive conduct over time. It was not down to that day alone." The case was heard in June 2007 and the tribunal found in favour of the school.

In September 2007, Pastor Ron Barker of St. Joseph Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts
Wakefield, Massachusetts
received international attention after pulling the books from the shelves of the parish's K-8 school. According to the ALA, this was the first time the books were banned in Massachusetts. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
claimed this was an independent action in which the Church played no role. "It may be a great series, but for some it is a vehicle for entering into some occult practices," he said. "Sorcery and witchcraft are not appropriate subjects for a Catholic school and I do not want parents or children thinking we approve of them in our library." He claimed his actions were no different from protecting children with a peanut allergy ; "What I did is start a spiritual peanut butter ban on Harry Potter," he said.

RESPONSES TO CRITICISM

WICCA

In response to the criticism that the books promote Wicca
Wicca
, a number of Wiccans and other commenters have argued that the critics' definition of Wicca
Wicca
tends to lump together many and various spiritualist practices that actually have little in common. They have also highlighted the differences between magic within Wicca, which is invocational and derives from the divine powers, and that depicted by the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books, which is a purely mechanical application of spells without invoking any deities. A Wiccan review of Harry Potter: Witchcraft
Witchcraft
Repackaged pointed out that "communing with the dead and spirit world, sorcery, curses, occult symbology, black magic demon possession"—all cited by the book as evidence of Harry Potter promoting Wicca—are not part of Wiccan belief.

Divinatory practices such as scrying and astrology , although occasionally employed by characters in the books are neither unique nor central to the Wiccan religion and are treated in the novels in a condescending, tongue-in-cheek manner; the school divination teacher is, according to writer Christine Schoeffer, "a misty, dreamy, dewy charlatan," who is ridiculed by the students and staff alike. In the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
universe, Schoeffer claims, "the entire intuitive tradition of fortune-telling … is discredited."

The website religioustolerance.org says, in their analysis of Chick's "The Nervous Witch", that the comic's heroine cries that 'she got into "The Craft" (i.e. Wicca) "Through the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books! We wanted his powers … so we called for spirit guides. Then they came into us." In reality, spirit guides are unrelated to the Witchcraft
Witchcraft
in the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books and are not sought by Wiccans. They are a New Age phenomenon.'

OCCULT VS. FANTASY AND FAIRYTALE MAGIC

Regardless, statements such as those in Witchcraft
Witchcraft
Repackaged that the books depict actual occultist practices of any kind have been roundly criticised. Christian writer Stephen D. Greydanus writes that the magic of the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novels is not the ritualistic, invocative magic of Wicca
Wicca
or occultism but the same "fantasy" magic practised in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
and C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
; "If anything, the magic in Rowling's world is even more emphatically imaginary, even further removed from real-world practices, than that of Tolkien or Lewis; and, like theirs, presents no appreciable risk of direct imitative behaviour." Christianity
Christianity
Today columnist Charles Colson asserts that the magic in Harry Potter
Harry Potter
is "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don't make contact with a supernatural world. the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible
Bible
condemns." Austin Cline notes that, "The Harry Potter books simply aren't about Wicca
Wicca
as it is currently practiced. J.K Rowling researched Wiccan practices and incorporated a few elements in order to give her books a bit more of an air of reality, but she and Wicca
Wicca
are drawing upon the same corpus of ancient traditions and stories so similarities are inevitable. They certainly aren't a sign that the books work to "indoctrinate" people into Wicca as a religion."

In his book, John Granger makes a critical distinction between what he calls the dangerous invocational magic (calling a spirit) and Rowling's incantational magic, in which the formula one speaks gets the job done, and says that her presentation to the materialistic world that there is more out there than is visible is doing a service for the cause of Christian evangelism.

Connie Neal has commented that, "there are 64 real references to witchcraft in the first four Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books, but you have to see them in context to know they are not teaching witchcraft or sorcery. Many of the detractors who have actually read the books already have made up their mind that Harry Potter
Harry Potter
is evil before they read. They have taken a magnifying glass and picked at the books, using literary reductionism to find what they want to find. You can pick up Dickens ' A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
and do the same thing that these people have done with Harry Potter; it is ridiculous."

In 2001, Massimo Introvigne
Massimo Introvigne
, an Italian expert in emerging religious movements, criticised the Fundamentalist impulse to distrust fantasy. "Fundamentalists reject, or even burn, all products of contemporary popular culture, because their modes of production, languages and styles are not intrinsically Christian Most children understand that magic is used in fairy tales and juvenile supernatural fiction as a century-old language, and that this is fiction, not reality. If we dismiss the use of magic as a language, we should at least be fundamentalist to the bitter end, and go against "Mary Poppins," "Peter Pan," and "Sleeping Beauty," and insist that Cinderella
Cinderella
puts a burkha on."

SECULARISM

Another response to the claim that the books promote the religion of witchcraft, which has been raised as much by Christians critical of the books as those who support them, is that, far from promoting religion, the books do not promote religion in any way. Apart from celebrating Christmas
Christmas
and Easter
Easter
and a non-denominational clergyman presiding at both Dumbledore's funeral and the Weasleys' wedding, religious practices are largely absent from the books. In her critical editorial on the books, Focus on the Family 's Lindy Beam comments, "The spiritual fault of Harry Potter
Harry Potter
is not so much that Rowling is playing to dark supernatural powers, but that she doesn't acknowledge any supernatural powers at all. These stories are not fueled by witchcraft, but by secularism." The Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books have been lauded by atheists and secularists for their determinedly non-religious outlook. Mika LaVaque-Manty of the liberal website Left2Right notes, "Religion plays no role in the books. There are no churches, no other religious institutions, nobody prays or meditates, and even funerals are non-religious affairs." When considering the role of religion within Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows, Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens
observed the apparent secularism in the novel, stating that the characters of Harry and Hermione possess certain moral virtues while also expressing an ignorance of Christian ideas. In an article written for Time magazine before the publication of the seventh and final book in the series entitled "Who Dies in Harry Potter? God," Lev Grossman argues that, " Harry Potter
Harry Potter
lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn't." Grossman goes on to contrast Harry Potter
Harry Potter
with other, more explicitly religious fantasies, such as C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
' The Chronicles of Narnia and J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
's The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
.

ROWLING\'S RESPONSE

J.K. Rowling has repeatedly denied that her books lead children into witchcraft. In an interview with CNN
CNN
in 1999, she said,

"I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft. I'm laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd. I have met thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, "Ms Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch."

In an interview on the Donny I couldn't pretend that I'm not doubt-ridden about a lot of things and that would be one of them but I would say yes." When asked if she believed in an afterlife, she said, "Yes; I think I do." In a 2008 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País
El País
, Rowling said, "I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty. I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul."

ROWLING AND THE INKLINGS

Several Christian writers have compared Rowling to the Inklings
Inklings
, a group that included C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
, J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
, and Charles Williams , who explored Christian themes and morality in a fantasy context. Dave Kopel, citing John Granger's book, draws comparisons between Rowling's and Lewis's common usage of Christian symbols, such as lions, unicorns and stags. He compares the work to Lewis's Christian allegory: "In the climax of Chamber of Secrets, Harry descends to a deep underworld, is confronted by two satanic minions ( Voldemort
Voldemort
and a giant serpent), is saved from certain death by his faith in Dumbledore (the bearded God the Father/Ancient of Days), rescues the virgin (Virginia Weasley), and ascends in triumph. It's Pilgrim\'s Progress for a new audience." (This quotation predates Rowling's revelation that Ginny Weasley
Ginny Weasley
's full name is Ginevra, not Virginia.)

Other Christian writers find Rowling's treatment of magic less acceptable than Lewis's and Tolkien's. In his essay " Harry Potter
Harry Potter
vs. Gandalf," Steven D. Greydanus notes that in the works of Tolkien and Lewis, magic is confined to alien realms with their own laws, whereas Rowling's world coexists with our own; he thinks this is wrong: "Lewis goes to great lengths to make clear just how dangerous and wrong, how incompatible with Christianity, is any form of attempted magic in our world." John Andrew Murray similarly observes that Rowling's work portrays magic as a natural force to be manipulated, while Lewis and Tolkien portray magic as a gift bestowed by a higher power: "Despite superficial similarities, Rowling's and Lewis' worlds are as far apart as east is from west. Rowling's work invites children to a world where witchcraft is 'neutral' and where authority is determined solely by one's cleverness. Lewis invites readers to a world where God's authority is not only recognised, but celebrated — a world that resounds with His goodness and care."

Rowling's attitude toward the Inklings, and to Lewis in particular, has undergone change. In 1998, in one of her earliest interviews, she said that she had a lifelong love of C. S. Lewis. "Even now, if I was in a room with one of the Narnia books I would pick it up like a shot and re-read it." However, in later interviews she expressed a different opinion. "I adored when I was a child," she told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2001, "I got so caught up I didn't think C. S. Lewis was especially preachy. Reading them now I find that his subliminal message isn't very subliminal." In an interview with Lev Grossman in 2005, she said, "There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She's become irreligious basically because she found sex. I have a big problem with that."

"I did not set out to convert anyone to Christianity," she told Time in 2007; "I wasn't trying to do what C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
did. It is perfectly possible to live a very moral life without a belief in God, and I think it's perfectly possible to live a life peppered with ill-doing and believe in God."

As regards Tolkien, Rowling said in 2000 that "I didn't read The Hobbit until after the first Harry book was written, though I read Lord of the Rings when I was nineteen. I think, setting aside the obvious fact that we both use myth and legend, that the similarities are fairly superficial. Tolkien created a whole new mythology, which I would never claim to have done. On the other hand, I think I have better jokes."

CHRISTIAN ALLEGORIES IN DEATHLY HALLOWS

A number of commentators have drawn attention to the Biblical themes and references in her final Harry Potter
Harry Potter
novel, Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows . In an August 2007 issue of Newsweek
Newsweek
, Lisa Miller commented that Harry dies and then comes back to life to save mankind, like Christ. She points out the title of the chapter in which this occurs—"King's Cross"—a possible allusion to Christ's cross. Also, she outlines the scene in which Harry is temporarily dead, pointing out that it places Harry in a very heaven-like setting where he talks to a father figure "whose supernatural powers are accompanied by a profound message of love". Miller argues that these parallels make it difficult to believe that the basis of the stories is Satanic. There is also speculation from The Leaky Cauldron\'s podcast , PotterCast , episode 115 entitled "Those Deathly Hallows," in the Canon Conclusion segment with Steve Vander Ark , that the Hallows act as a parallel to the Holy Trinity; Harry accepts death as did Jesus, they both come back from death, and defeat the Devil/Voldemort. Jeffrey Weiss adds, in The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Morning News
, that the biblical quotation "And the last enemy that shall be defeated is death," featured on the tombstones of Harry's parents, refers to Christ's victory over death at the end of the world. The quotation on Dumbledore's family tomb, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also", is from Matthew 6:21, and refers to knowing which things in life are of true value. "They're very British books," Rowling revealed to an Open Book
Book
conference in October 2007, "So on a very practical note Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones, I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric's Hollow, … almost epitomise the whole series." Tom Willow stated that "Harry Potter going knowingly to his death at the hands of Voldemort, willing to sacrifice himself to save his friends, is reminiscent of Aslan similarly sacrificing himself in C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . There is no doubt that Aslan's sacrifice was modeled by Lewis on Jesus
Jesus
Christ going to Golgotha
Golgotha
. It is logical to assume that, directly or indirectly, that was also the model for Harry Potter's sacrifice."

Deathly Hallows begins with a pair of epigraphs, one by Quaker leader William Penn
William Penn
and one from Aeschylus
Aeschylus
' The Libation Bearers . "I really enjoyed choosing those two quotations because one is pagan, of course, and one is from a Christian tradition", Rowling said. "I'd known it was going to be those two passages since 'Chamber' was published. I always knew if I could use them at the beginning of book seven then I'd cued up the ending perfectly. If they were relevant, then I went where I needed to go. They just say it all to me, they really do."

Raymond Keating also outlines several Christian themes of the last book in an article in Newsday
Newsday
, concluding that "It's possible to read Lord of the Rings and Narnia without recognizing the religious aspects. That's even more so the case with Harry Potter. But Christian themes are there nonetheless". Christian commentator Jerry Bowyer says of Rowling's "fundamentalist bashers", "So much of the religious right failed to see the Christianity
Christianity
in the Potter novels because it knows so little Christianity
Christianity
itself The gospel stories themselves, the various metaphors and figures of the Law and the Prophets, and their echoes down through the past two millennia of Christian literature and art are largely unknown to vast swaths of American Christendom." As regards Rowling's belief that discussing her faith would spoil the books, Bowyer says, "For once, I disagree with her: I don't think would have guessed the ending. Most of them can't recognise the ending of the story even after it's been told."

In her appraisal of the series, The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide, author Nancy Carpentier Brown writes,

"After burying the remains of Mad-Eye Moody, Harry "marked the spot by gouging a small cross in the bark with his wand." Now, if they were true Wiccans, wouldn’t he have gouged a pentagram? When Harry finally has the chance to face Voldemort
Voldemort
(Tom Riddle) and possibly kill him, Harry pauses and offers Voldemort
Voldemort
a chance, saying, "Show some remorse." ... Giving a person a chance to redeem themselves, to begin to realise your own sins, by showing remorse, shows a Christian theme to the story."

DUMBLEDORE\'S SEXUAL ORIENTATION

On 19 October 2007, Rowling spoke at New York City
New York City
's Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
. When asked by a fan whether Albus Dumbledore
Albus Dumbledore
, the books' wise mentor-figure, "who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever in love himself", Rowling replied,

"My truthful answer to you … I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. … Dumbledore fell in love with Gellert Grindelwald , and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was … falling in love can blind us to an extent … he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him."

The statement was met with an ovation from the audience. "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!" Rowling said. In an appearance three days later in Toronto
Toronto
, she responded to questions about Dumbledore's "outing" by saying that she had decided his sexuality "from very early on. Probably before the first book was published."

Christians critical of both Harry Potter
Harry Potter
and homosexuality responded pointedly to the revelation. Christian author Berit Kjos wrote,

"My first response was, "Thank you, Lord," because this helps us show others that these books should not be used in the churches to illustrate Christianity. Because Dumbledore has been revealed as a homosexual, it helps me communicate my message. It helps Christians who are concerned about the use of Harry Potter
Harry Potter
books in churches, because it makes it very clear that these books are not intended to be Christian, that Rowling isn't speaking as a Christian. She has introduced values that are contrary to the Biblical message."

Laura Mallory responded to the Rowling's statement by telling U.S. network ABC, "My prayer is that parents would wake up, that the subtle way this is presented as harmless fantasy would be exposed for what it really is: a subtle indoctrination into anti-Christian values … A homosexual lifestyle is a harmful one. That's proven, medically." Linda Harvey, the president of Mission America , an organization which "monitors both the homosexual agenda directed at children as well as paganism among American youth," wrote an opinion piece for WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily
, asking:

"Will we allow our kids to believe it would be perfectly appropriate for the headmaster of any school to be homosexual? … Will some find ways to re-cast homosexuality into something different than the "abomination" it's called in Scripture? Will it become something more like a sad disability, one that the "mean religious right" targets for nefarious purposes?"

"It's very disappointing that the author would have to make one of the characters gay," said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America , "It's not a good example for our children, who really like the books and the movies. It encourages homosexuality." On 27 October 2007, Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson
's Christian Broadcasting Network called for a ban on the books.

Rowling commented on the dispute in an interview with the BBC. "Do I think a gay person can be a moral compass? I think it's ludicrous that we are asking that question in the 21st century. The Christian fundamentalists were never my base."

John Granger, in his blog, reposted the negative reactions of many Christians:

"The media presentation of the event as Ms. Rowling’s endorsement of homosexuality and an anti-faith agenda was straight from Rita Skeeter’s notebook and part of their endless campaign to convince the public that Ms. Rowling is the enemy of their enemy, namely, the Church; the anguished and disappointed response of many Christian readers to these reports was also according to Culture War formula and in keeping with a hyper-extended understanding of the word gay. "Dumbledore is gay" no more makes the books an invitation to homosexuality or contrary to orthodox Christian belief than Sorcerer’s Stone made them a "gateway to the occult."

Catholic fantasy author Regina Doman wrote an essay titled "In Defense of Dumbledore," in which she argued that the books actually support Catholic teaching on homosexuality because Dumbledore's relationship with the dark wizard Grindelwald leads to obviously terrible results, as he becomes interested in dark magic himself, neglects his responsibilities towards his younger sister and ultimately causes her death.

Despite Rowling stating that "he (Dumbledore) is my character and as my character, I have the right to know what I know about him and say what I say about him", a number of commentators have argued that Rowling's claim has no weight, as there is no indication anywhere in the novels of Dumbledore's homosexuality. "Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay," said New York Times columnist Edward Rothstein, "but there is no reason why anyone else should." According to John Mark Reynolds, assistant professor of philosophy at Biola University and the founder of Torrey Honors Institute , "there is just no way to know this “fact” about Dumbledore from the books. It is not there, it is not relevant, and Rowling’s opinions about her characters are now only of historical interest". Others doubted that Rowling's claim was true to her original intent, and some considered it a publicity stunt. American writer Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card
criticised Rowling's revelation as "appallingly hypocritical", saying that "Instead of making us know and understand the character as a gay man, we are slapped with it at the end, as if being gay were just an afterthought".

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