Boston Globe Examines Relationship Between Harry Potter and Religion


Aug 19, 2009

Posted by EdwardTLC

The Boston Globe has published a lengthy article regarding the growing acceptance of the Harry Potter books among the religious communities and scholars. Citing the advancing moderate views by a number of religious scholars and theologians, the article relates their argument that the Harry Potter books “contain positive ethical messages and a narrative arc that is worthy of serious scholarly examination and even theological reflection.” These messages, the article continues, speak to two issues closely examined by people of faith – morality and mortality – as well as issues of tolerance, acceptance, the fight between good an evil, among others.

Russell W. Dalton, an assistant professor of Christian education at Brite Divinity School in Texas, relates his thoughts on the growing religious acceptance of the books by saying:

“When stories become as popular as the Harry Potter stories, they no longer simply reflect the religious views of the author, but become artifacts of the culture, and they say something about the culture that has embraced them. And that is certainly the case with Harry Potter.”

The piece continues, noting particular elements of social commentary found in the Harry Potter books, specifically tolerance, shown by ‘Harry’s refusal to take part in the anti-Muggle bias demonstrated by some pure-blood witches and wizards.’ Lana A. Whited, an English Professor at Ferrum College in Virginia, is quoted as saying, “One of the overall themes of the Harry Potter series has to do with race and race-based persecution.” Mr. Dalton echos this sentiment by saying “To Dumbledore and Harry and his friends… it didn’t matter whether you were Muggle-born, or whether you were a giant, whereas clearly the Death Eaters, the evil ones, were intolerant of people who were unlike them.”

This lengthy piece goes on to cover a number of other subjects, ideas, and arguments regarding the relationship between Potter and religious thought. The article concludes on the topic of life and death, good and evil; subjects found throughout the Harry Potter series. Lois Shepherd, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia, is quoted as saying:

“Death, in the philosophy of the series, is not to be feared. It is in fact those who fear death the most – Voldemort being the supreme example – who engage in unspeakable acts of evil.”

The full Boston Globe article can be read via this link.

80 Responses to Boston Globe Examines Relationship Between Harry Potter and Religion

Avatar Imagewandmastercalum says: First and when I saw this I first thought of Laura Mallory ((If thats her name)) Makes me retch!Avatar ImageWON_TWO says: Very interesting...Avatar ImageTasyaWeasley says: ohh :)Avatar Imageprotoj76 says: Finally a little good news. When I first saw the title I thought it was going to be another negative. I understand that people want to relate HP with everything, I just wish more were positive like this one. Very CoolAvatar Imageiamasquash says: I'm glad some people aren't blinded by their religion, and can see beyond the surface of wizardry.Avatar ImageTriantha says: Haha. I like the picture above the article in the link. Especially with Hedwig flying over them. xDAvatar ImageTriantha says: Btw, my father was the one who introduced the series to me when I was little, and he's a Lutheran Pastor. XP I've never seen a Christian have a problem with the Harry Potter series, but somehow the ones who do get on T.V.Avatar ImageMidnightSun321 says: interesting.. :)Avatar ImageMoose_Starr says: It is so refreshing to read this article. It is by and about people that actually seem to have read HP and not by people that plainly have not read the books but proceed to accuse JKR of promoting all kinds of evil. As the people in this article recognize, HP promotes tolerance and acceptance. It is not about how to become an evil person but, as the article explains, HP shows that evil loses out, love is a greater power, death can not be cheated by committing atrocities ... It is an awesome article and it's great to read some intelligent interviews.Avatar Imagealegria35 says: Funny how they say now that HP series has some religious themes. When in fact they say that JKR is anti-Christ when the first book was out. I wish people will stop judging on first impressions. I know they last, but most often than not, impressions are wrong. You really have to know something/somebody to really know if it is any good.Avatar ImageMidnightSun321 says: i don't like it when everything in Harry Potter is said to be religious! have a bit of fun people!Avatar ImageWingardium Leviosa says: I like that they're going for a more positive, uplifting criticism.Avatar ImagePhylis says: I wonder what JK thinks about the article. It's nice to see it not branded as evil and actually used to discuss and explore such issues as life and death and tolerance.Avatar Imagegryffindor1991 says: thats good. i HATE it when religious people always say negative stuff about HP. my friends girlfriend hates it and said if she finds out he likes it shell dump him. he likes it but he keeps it a secret from her.Avatar ImageArianae426 says: that's a bit of good news!! I'm religious myself and never thought HP was anything bad... it always made me so angry when Laura Mallory & Co would make a big deal of everything... sheesh So this is great! :-)Avatar ImageEeyore says: Glad to see they're finally catching up with the rest of us. It's a good article, and nice to see after all the negative press from people who hadn't bothered to read the books. It's sad, though, that some of them still won't read the books. They are missing out on what has become a cross-generational shared text.Avatar Imagecheeserpleaser says: None of what they discussed in this article particularly surprised me, for we as a fandom have known for a long time that the books have prompted readers and audiences to contemplate a variety of issues and extrapolate the problems afflicting the Wizarding world to our own Muggle one. The books do address a number of ethical dilemmas and present a discussion of them that is both informative but simultaneously engaging.Avatar ImageRhiannon7 says: This is a fabulous article. Several of the speakers at LeakyCon touched on the connections between HP and faith. And it goes without saying that the book says much about bigotry, persecution, and even politics. One of the speakers even called HP a "modern myth" with the power to change lives and possibly even the world. What would Dumbledore do?Avatar ImageHydrus says: This is interesting. I suspect that Joseph Campbell might say that Harry is the latest incarnation of the 'Hero with a Thousand Faces'.Avatar Imagedcsbelle says: Hmmm. And some of us just read them because they're good books.Avatar Imagemdmicro says: completely and totally awesome :)Avatar ImageAesa Haettr says: Finally, some sense.Avatar ImageRobbie Rowe says: Nice news... I s'pose.Avatar ImageBell Dema says: Has anyone even READ IT? ...And she posits that the New Testament depiction of elements of the Jewish community is represented by the goblins (unappealing bankers) . I don't know about you, but that interpretation doesn't sound particularly tolerant to me.Avatar ImageLillylove says: This truly is good news. I am very happy to see that some organized religions are finally coming around the bend so to speak. I think many were way too quick to condemn HP, when in fact it is one of the most beautiful, positively themed stories presented to our youth (& us older folks as well). Avatar ImageAudreyLouiseLovegood says: wonderful!!!!Avatar ImageAudreyLouiseLovegood says: Oh... Bell Dema, true... that's not too cool :( Avatar ImageAudreyLouiseLovegood says: well... I'm STILL happy that they're making baby house elf steps :DAvatar ImageeiVega says: Cool! This is exciting. Sounds as interesting as a John Granger lecture! I love the academic religious analysis of these books! I forget if I'm in a literary or theological discussion! :)Avatar ImageHermione Elizabeth says: A good religious view for once! And yes, it is funny how when the books first came out, the critics said that they were anti-christ books. lolAvatar ImageFresca says: It is really good to see that the moderates in Christianity are speaking up about the themes in Harry Potter from a positive viewpoint. Too often, the loonies like Mallory get all the press. Avatar ImageMikaMaxwell says: Those religious people who wanted to ban the books really anger me. And only NOW are some of them coming 'round? Ridiculous, narrow-minded, self-righteous...Avatar Imagecghambright says: Please they're just telling us what we've known all along. It's nice to know the religious nut jobs have finally caught up. Avatar ImageHorcruxalej says: Damn Straight... i never got why some religious people made a big deal about itAvatar ImageParkinsonpansy says: Suriously why does everything have in some way a religious connection????!!! I hate people when people cant read something because in some small way it somehow offends (i guess) a religion? why can't we all be opened minded and not read between the lines?!! but i think this article is a positive thoughtAvatar Imagehewy says: Nice to see a main stream paper printing a positive article about the books. Have never felt they posed a problem for any organized religion with one exception. Have encouraged all of my grandchildren to read the books and never felt that there was a problem with language or content.Avatar Imagekayzz says: That's nice that it's the good things about Harry Potter as opposed to the "demonizing factors of the occult of Potter" or something like that. Cool.Avatar ImageRavenclaw98 says: Hp dosnt even mition realigus and is not such a big dealAvatar ImageDawna says: I think this is the difference between someone who has actually read the books and someone who preaches about them without ever having actually read them. If you read them, you see the issues of right & wrong, good & evil, prejudice & tolerance. I am sure Laura Mallory has never read them through.Avatar ImageBlatcher914 says: Fantastic article , I already forwarded it to my uncle who refuses to let his kids read the books because they are "anti-christian". I thoroughly agree with Dawna most anti Potter people have never read the books,in fact I have met many an anti potter person, through my summer job being one of a couple counselors of a Harry Potter camp class and I don't think any of them I've asked had ever read the books. Its all down to fear of the unknown, not unlike Voldemort's fear of death.Avatar Imagehermyone08 says: wow, glad that this is not another negative article regarding this subjectAvatar ImageTommy K says: ...i dont understand...Avatar ImageAlbus Marcos Dumbledore says: cool Avatar ImageNoble Birth Descending says: My church has never shunned Harry Potter. In fact, a few years ago, there was even a study group discussing HP from a theological point of view.Avatar Imagegoldish_red says: finally something insightful.......Avatar Imagegoldish_red says: Finally, something insightful!Avatar ImageHGROSS44 says: Good Job Edward nice article brings to mind what is going on in the world today the fight for rights to be free and the Evil who wants to enslave the world in darkness and repression. to bad for them they go through life with blinderes on and learn to hate everyone who is not like them. Avatar Imageamberleigh says: Maybe JK was just using a familiar story plot so that we might more easily identify with Harry's journey. Good morality doesn't always have to be religious; religion just seems to be the easiest vehicle for it! I definitely want to know what JK thinks of this article!Avatar Imageamberleigh says: Maybe JK was just using a familiar story plot so that we might more easily identify with Harry's journey. Good morality doesn't always have to be religious; religion just seems to be the easiest vehicle for it! I definitely want to know what JK thinks of this article!Avatar Imageamberleigh says: sorry for the double post!Avatar Imagefantasylover12001 says: Thank you! Open minded religious folk DO exist. I was beginning to wonder...Avatar Imagedeadtree says: Wow, Brite Divinity School is part of my university xD Avatar ImageLordAramis says: Intresting... but at the same time not suprising. Anyone with an open mind would be have been able to see from the very first book that the Harry Potter story was about the power of Love, tolerance, and friendship. After seven books and countless copies the world over, the 'Religious Right' finally 'get it'. If you can't beat them... join them.Avatar Imagebecmajec says: interesting Avatar ImagePollytomat says: I'm really happy to read it! That's a good news! I remember the woman Melissa Anelli was talking about in her book. The woman who was against Harry Potter because according to her the whole story of JKR was anti-religious. Her name was Laura Malloy or something alike. Avatar ImageGiant Squid says: thank you!!!!!!!!Avatar ImageGiant Squid says: its really great to find lots of important people who have lots of power really like HP and find all the moral and good stuff in it!Avatar Imagemjkalldaway says: thats cool. its kind of like c.s. lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" And HP almost has become its own religion!Avatar ImageAsta says: i read the whole article....its so interesting and logical...Avatar ImagecrazyforSeverus says: I like that they are finally discussing the good messages of Harry Potter. The last Harry Potter vs. religion article I read talked of how bad it is to engage in witchcraft. I think the fact Harry is a wizard creates the interest, and regardless if they can do magic, there are good wizards and bad wizards in the Harry Potter universe, showing it's not magic that's bad, but how people use it. I think it's interesting in some of the articles I've read about this topic. In one they talk about Hermione, a morally strong character, using questionable magic to control others (petrificus totalus on Neville in the Philosopher's Stone), but she uses it in order to stop evil (Voldemort). I think if you look at the magic as pure fantasy and fun (Harry Potter being well-known for getting people to read) there are a lot of good messages and I'm glad people who attack Harry Potter as being inappropriate due to witchcraft are beginning to see that.Avatar ImageCibele says: As Harry himself would say, "Caught on, have you? Took you long enough..." :)Avatar ImageHermione_Granger1987 says: Cibele that was funny!! Well, I am Christian and I think that there is nothing bad about Harry Potter. I was furious when I read the previous article about Harry Potter vs. Religion. Harry Potter is about friendship, loyalty, love, sacrifice and good against evil. I am glad that some people have finally opened up their minds! Avatar Imagejennibelle says: "Citing the advancing moderate views by a number of religious scholars and theologians..." Most of these scholars and theologians have always held this view but that isn't exciting enough to publish in our media, is it? I am episcopalian and most priests I have talked enjoy the books. But when one of them was called for an interview before a book release and told the reporter this, the reporter was no longer interested in the interview. I would also like to point out that those of you bashing "those religious people" are being just as judgemental as those few who are judging our beloved books.Avatar Imageharrygetsme says: I'm really glad a piece was done on this issue. People really seem to be opening up their minds and coming around. I definitely like to see this :)Avatar ImageRin68nyr says: I read the article on Sunday...thought it very ironic compared to what used to be said about the books. I never thought they needed to be judged by how they relate to religion....but JKR does say (in the article) that she thought the religious themes were hard to miss. ErinAvatar ImageLoyalGryffindor90 says: It's great to hear that theologians and religious scholars are giving a reassessment of the Harry Potter series. I am a devout Christian, and I have never believed that the HP series are a substitute to the Bible. However, I do feel that they take themes from the Bible which only strengthen my religious beliefs. Contrary to teaching wickedness and evil, the books, in my opinion, discourage evil and show the choices people must make in choosing sides. I have been disappointed in fellow Christians who have burned the books, and have said awful things about them. Yes, there is witchcraft, potions, flying, and other magical happenings which are condemned by the Bible. But if people can look beyond the magic, they can find a story that reflects some values from the Bible, including risking your life by choosing good over evil. Again, the books should not be used as a substitute or supplement to the Bible, but they can be used to encourage morality, goodness, etc., which values Christians and non-Christians alike should aspire to. Avatar ImageLoyalGryffindor90 says: Sorry for double-posting, but I have to say that I personally never experienced opposition to Harry Potter. This never occurred in my church or elsewhere. I only saw such opposition on television, and in occasional new reports. That alone should show how minimal the opposition is. I feel that the books are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and if I read the Bible word for word, I'm sure there will be parallel's between Biblical stories and HP. At any rate, it didn't take long for me to separate the magic from the moral and spiritual lessons.Avatar ImageBewareoftheNargles says: Some of this sounds pretty true and I'm glad it's positive for once. Harry Potter does have some very good moral messages about death, love, good & evil, and I feel I've learned a lot from it ... Avatar Imagelevi-OH-sa not levio-SA says: printing it out so i can read it later...that picture on the article is hysterical! lolAvatar Imagevicky granger says: Oh, it's so nice to see an article written by people who actually know what they're talking about, who are Christians and scholars, yet have read the books and approve of them. Because people who criticize without even reading the series just makes me wonder at how stubbornly ridiculously irrational people can be ...Avatar ImageLivelaughlovepotter says: Interesting.. I, personally, have never noticed the religious themes, except the qoutes on the gravestones in Godric's Hollow. I wish people could just see that this IS just a book.Avatar Imagejerseypopopx6 says: Amazing finally an article that really shows the true feelings of informative religious readers who read for enjoyment. A real Christian will always enjoy reading books that entertain and give an opposing view to bigotry in any form. HP is a book I read alongside the Bible, Bill Cosby, etc. Those who called JK an anti Christ are the ones who will not be in heaven ( judge not lest you be judged) and thank GOD for that. Oh did I mention that I am an ordained pentecostal minister in the COGIC. Avatar ImageDartFrog says: As, is quoted: "Rowling herself, in the wake of the final book’s publication, says she thought the religious themes had “always been obvious,” Given this, why is this now "news?" Come now, friends, haven't you sought out other HP resources which have been bearing this out all these years? My other fave podcast has been having fun sharing these connections since 2005! BTW, the opening citation was not only a quote lifted out of context but also an incomplete quote. As has been stated, if the news isn't controversial, it isn't news. Leave it to an HP connection to show us that better reporting still exists.Avatar Imagecleber says: at last they have started to understand what hp fans had seen since the beginning Avatar ImageCalamity Jamie says: Most western literature contains so-called religious themes because politics and religion have fused various times over hundreds of years to the point where it is integrated into most of our world's cultures. However, I prefer to regard the Harry series as spiritual (containing ethics and religion-based moral tales) and ethical rather than religious per se, which can often refer to the blind adherence to a particular faith. You can be religious and spiritual, you can be spiritual and you can be religious without being spiritual. I think it rather presumptuous to presume that all moral and ethical behavior (loyalty, choosing others over one's self, kindness, honesty, etc.) is necessarily religious. As many athiests and agnostics embody those characteristics as "religious" people. I will say that the rather loudmouth Religous=Blind Dogma types who are a significant minority were given far too much press in light of the fact that most people who consider themselves religious are moderate free-thinkers who did like Harry Potter, or at least thought it was nonsense to believe the books were somehow Satanic. The only so-called religious person I knew that disapproved of Harry was very proud to state that he had never read any of the books. His wife and son, however, had no problem buying and reading them. :)Avatar ImageCalamity Jamie says: "presumptious to presume...." ::sigh:: if only I had read more carefully before posting that redundancy. Sorry. Avatar Imagex_Potter_Lover_Forever_x says: This is so great! I love that they have some positive news concerning religion and Harry Potter. (Ha ha, Laura Mallory!!!)Avatar ImageHermioneRon4ever says: I'm happy this isn't ANOTHER negative artical :) Avatar ImageMercyMercy says: With all due respect, I think comparing it to religious thought might be going overboard. Still, I understand that Jo puts a lot of ideas about life (and the afterlife) into the books. There are a lot of good messages behind them.Avatar Imagejuhuudi says: hmmm interesting

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