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The Harry Potter™ books

Negative reviews by conservative Christians

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Read thousands of book reviews and/or order the latest book from Amazon.com

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See also a list of positive responses by Christians.

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Reviews:

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CBN News, a fundamentalist Christian news service within Pat Robertson's broadcasting organization, published an article on the Harry Potter books. This was in 1999-OCT, at approximately the time that Book 3 in the series was published. Pamela Newby quoted parent David Williamson from Columbia, SC who said that the stories about  sorcery are just too dark for their nine year old to be forced to listen to in class. The books teach "the overall context of the occult -- witches and how Harry is being trained through this school he goes to to be a better wizard." They quoted Deuteronomy 18:10-12 which ends "For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD...." 1 Their group has asked their board of education to review the Potter books for what they say is violent content. Elizabeth Mounce, a group leader said: "Our child came home; it was being read in his class. The concern we had with the books was the violent tones in here: There's evil, there's death, there's lack of respect for human life, and there's the occult." Stephen Mounce suggests that the use of these books as a teaching school in public school is unconstitutional because it violates the principle of separation of church and state: "The witchcraft, the occult, satanism, all the dark side that we see in these books -- the part about it that disturbs us the most is we believe it's religious. The U.S. Supreme Court has said it's religion." In an apparent reference to his child being ritually killed because of his involvement with the imaginary witchcraft in the Harry Potter books, Stephen Mounce said: "It's better to be pro-active rather than re-active! I don't want to go pulling a white sheet on my kid, screaming and crying on national TV, and saying, 'Why didn't somebody do something?.' " 2

bulletWorld magazine: "World" is a national evangelical Christian newsmagazine. Publisher Joel Belz commented: "We know that what's in the Harry Potter books is not all bad and that lots of Christian families will read them and enjoy them. No one wants to be reactionary. But we have to take issues of good and evil seriously and we just can't endorse the kind of moral ambiguity that we see in these books." World's book division no longer sells the Harry Potter books.

World's 1999-MAY issue was reasonably positive. Their book review stated that: "Magic and wizardry are problematic for Christian readers. Mrs. Rowling, though, keeps it safe, inoffensive and non-occult. This is the realm of Gandalf and the Wizard of Id, on witchcraft. There is a fairy-tale order to it all in which, as (G.K.) Chesterton and (J.R.R.) Tolkien pointed out, magic must have rules, and good does not -- cannot -- mix with bad."

However, a cover story later in 1999 argued that in the third book in the series, Rowling's work has evolved and now resembles the "tangled terrain and psychology of Batman." While the Harry Potter books may seem innocent, this "safety, this apparent harmlessness, may create a problem by putting a smiling mask on evil. A reader drawn in would find that the real world of witchcraft is not Harry's world." [It is not clear what World means by the "real world of witchcraft."] 3
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Family Friendly Libraries: Although FFL describe themselves as a "non-sectarian organization," it appears that they are a conservative Protestant group. 4 Their criticism of the Harry Potter books is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. One of the main featured articles on their web site deals with "Homosexual Ideology within the library system." Their article on the Harry Potter book series was provided by the Freedom Village USA ministry. 5 The latter attacks the book series and its author on eight points:
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The article quotes a portion of the Prisoner of Azkaban which says that if your brain and heart are still working, you can continue to exist. But without your soul, you have no sense of self; you are just an empty shell. The author appears to refer to a commonly expressed thought that a person can lose their soul as a result of a devastating experience. The article contrasts this popular belief with 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 which says that when we die, we are present with the Lord. (The passage does not mention soul or spirit; only body; it appears to be unrelated to the excerpt from the Potter book)

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The article quotes another passage of the Prisoner of Azkaban which describes the death of a loved one -- Harry's father in this case. The book suggests that we can recall them "more clearly than ever in times of great trouble." Apparently referring to Harry's memories of his father, the book continues: "You found him inside yourself." The author of the article seems to interpret the book literally by implying that it means that the spirits of our dead loved ones and friends actually inhabit our body. He criticizes this as non-Christian. There is every likelihood that the author intended that this is to be interpreted symbolically. 

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The author of the article states that the Potter books are disseminating "witchcraft philosophy." As shown in our companion essay, there are six main, unrelated, activities that are commonly called "witchcraft." The Potter books discuss one of them: an imaginary, nonexistent form of witchcraft found only in novels. It is unrelated to the other types of witchcraft. He also attacks Rowling because her "very favorite" time of the year is Halloween. He states that Halloween is a High Holy day for Witches -- apparently implying that Rowling is a Witch. Actually, Halloween is a secular holiday; Samhain, not Halloween, is a Wiccan Sabbat. It is the trick-or-treat celebration that Rowling enjoys, not Samhain. (The claim that she celebrated Halloween as a child is probably public relations hype without any foundation. Halloween was not widely celebrated in the 1960's and 1970's when she was a child.)

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The article criticizes Rowling for an incident in which Harry has a conflict between taking the honorable action or following the instructions of his teacher. This is an apparent reference to an incident in which a student is injured during broomstick-flying lessons. The teacher told the class to not practice with their broomsticks while she took the student to the nurse. One student stole an object and flew away with it, threatening to damage it. Harry disobeyed the teacher and retrieved the stolen item. The author of the article apparently believes that teacher's orders must be obeyed under all circumstances.

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Muggles are portrayed as people who have an inferior knowledge of magic. Freedom Village USA criticized this portrayal of non-witches.

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The book's discussion guide is criticized because it implies that we can find out truths about bravery, loyalty and the power of love by reading imaginary fiction.

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The Sorcerer's Stone states that "there is no good and evil, there is only power" That is, power is a basic element of the universe that can be used either for good or for evil. The author of the article states that "This presents "good" (the weak) as losers." However most reviewers disagree, stating that the main theme of the book is the war between good and evil -- that the book always has good triumphing in the end.

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The Sorcerer's Stone has a professor telling Harry that "after all, to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." The quotation tells nothing of the professor's belief about life after death -- whether he believes that when we die, we go to a heaven and hell, or are reincarnated, or go to live in an alternative universe, or to reach nirvana, etc. The article author assumes it is reincarnation and links it to the Wiccan belief in reincarnation.

Other essays on the FFL mistakenly associate the Harry Potter books with Wicca. They point out that Wiccan covens have been granted IRS status, and that the Army has appointed Wiccan chaplains. Thus, Wicca is a formal religion. They assert that to read these books in the public schools is to violate the separation of church and state as defined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The FFL authors are confusing Wicca with imaginary witchcraft. The Harry Potter books are fantasy novels; they do not teach the Wiccan religion. The army did not appoint Wiccan chaplains; they have appointed existing Christian chaplains to oversee the activities of Wiccan covens on base.

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Related essay on this web site:

bulletChristian urban folk-tales inspired by the Harry Potter books

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Pamela Newby, "Harry Potter Controversy," CBN News, at: http://www.cbn.org/
  2. Pamela Newby, "Harry Potter Controversy," Christian Broadcasting Network, 1999-OCT-20, at: http://www.cbn.org/ 
  3. Terry Mattingly, "Harry Potter 1," On Religion column for 1999-OCT-27. See: http://news.crosswalk.com/
  4. "What is wrong with Harry Potter," at: http://www.fflibraries.org/Book_Reports/HarryPotter/
  5. Julie Foster, "Potter books: Wicked witchcraft?: New documentary claims tales lead kids to the occult," WorldNetDaily at: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/

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More negative views on the Harry Potter books

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Harry Potter > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2007, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2007-OCT-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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