As Harry Potter tops all box office records,
November 18, 2001 11:38 PM   Subscribe

As Harry Potter tops all box office records, it seems that some parents don't want their kids to watch the film because some think it promotes witchcraft. Are separation of church and state arguments valid here, or are the parents a bunch of wet blankets?
posted by Rastafari (120 comments total)
By the way, just saw Shallow Hal. Great, funny movie. Highly recommend it. Did anyone see Harry Potter? Any reviews worth sharing?
posted by Rastafari at 11:41 PM on November 18, 2001

All box office records?
posted by ktheory at 11:49 PM on November 18, 2001

I guess all as in the previous record for the best opening weekend previously held by Jurassic Park II.
posted by Rastafari at 11:52 PM on November 18, 2001

Separation of church and state don't have nuthin' to do with it. It's all about the parents' religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
posted by verdezza at 12:01 AM on November 19, 2001

I must admit to not having read the books or having seen the movie but I would give good odds that Harry Potter isn't practicing Wicca.

You know, some people would describe football as a religion.
posted by rocketpup at 12:03 AM on November 19, 2001

Sounds like the school is just covering its ass from potential lawsuits. Now as far as these "some parents and a radio personality" go, I'm curious how they would react if the movie did openly endorse witchcraft. Something like "Then Harry learned to hate baby Jesus and was a better kid for it."

If the religion you're trying to instill into your kids is so fragile that two hours in a movie theater will turn then into raving pagans then I don't think the problem is with the movie. I see two things wrong here: that paranoid parents get way too loud a voice in the media and even today in the 21st century certain Christians still have hang-ups with "witches," something that is mostly their creation. Like someone already posted, Potteresque witchcraft certainly isn't any practiced form of magick. Its obviously fable and tradition based from many sources.

Every so often the ignorant and vocal Christains come out against one movie or anonther, though kudos with the seperation of church and state twist on this one. Now *gasp* parents have to take their own kids to the movie and if there are religious concerns mom and dad can explain the difference between Potter and their brand of cosmology.
posted by skallas at 12:20 AM on November 19, 2001

Some parents, somewhere, probably think that The Little Engine That Could promotes witchcraft. Eh.

Reviews worth sharing? Maybe my own?

Content review:

I enjoyed it. The film stuck very close to the book in details of plot and character. The characters, astonishingly, looked and sounded pretty much looked like what I expected, except that Emma Watson as Hermione was too short—girls that age are often taller than the boys, and I had imagined her as taller in reading the book—and (because Columbus had to cast a short actress) too young. Dumbledore was too old and Gandalf-like. Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall was perfect.

A movie, even a long movie, has the space for the material of a short story, not a novel, and any novel will have to be cut drastically to fit. It's too bad that all but one of the Quidditch matchs were cut, and a lot of the in-classroom material, but overall, the cutting was done well.

I wish they hadn't almost written out Neville Longbottom and his lost toad. And the pivotal moment of reconciliation of Hermione with the boys wasn't as strong as I would have liked. Ron has most of the best lines, even upstaging Harry sometimes.

I know this reads like a bunch of complaints, but note that they're all relatively minor. I enjoyed this film, and I think that anyone who likes films about wizards and British public schools (without the caning and buggery) would like it too.

(If you don't want to forego the caning and buggery, let me refer you to the subculture of Harry Potter slash.)

Technical review:

What I really disliked the most about this film was the presentation. I watched it what is probably a typical multiplex. The projector was underpowered for the screen size, resulting in a truly crappy contrast ratio. Too much ambient light in the theatre didn't help. The blacks and lower grayscale were so bad I would have suspected a DLP projector, except for the presence of 'cigarette burn' reel change marks. In low-light scenes, of which there were many, the dark areas of the screen just dissolved into featureless gray murk.

It didn't help that someone had thrown a soft drink against the screen, resulting in a distracting reflective splotch near the center.

The print was good, with no scratches or dust, which is certainly what you would expect on the first day of release.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:21 AM on November 19, 2001

Seems like every community has a clutch of anal-retentive fundie families that the local media goes to whenever they wanna manufacture a story. I'm pretty sure that the self-righteous mouthbreather the local newsies trotted out this year to rag on "Harry Potter" was the same myopic jackass that babbled about demons (or some such nonsense) last year when the "Grinch" came out. I'm thinking they must keep him on a retainer to demonstrate how fairminded they are.

Let the kids have fun.

"Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. " --H. L. Menken
posted by RavinDave at 12:22 AM on November 19, 2001

The film doesn't promotes witchcraft. But there is actually witchcraft behind the movie. How else can you explain a world in which a Chris Columbus film can gross $93.5 million in one weekend? The man needs to be stopped, but like Simon West, Michael Bay and Joel Schumacher, he will be allowed to make banal films until the end of time.

The whole "smashing box office records" idea is a bunch of melarkey. The film was booked on multiple screens in every multiplex and was shoved and marketed down every American individual's throats 24-7. Factor in the rise in movie ticket costs over the past few years and it's pretty easy to see why it earned the money it did. In about a year or two, when we're sliding a Hamilton over to a minimum wage employee to see a movie without getting so much as a quarter back, "Harry Potter" will be blown out of the water. Hell, it could happen even quicker than expected if the hype for "Fellowship of the Ring" still holds.
posted by ed at 12:41 AM on November 19, 2001

The whole "smashing box office records" idea is a bunch of melarkey.

No one bothers to fix for inflation everytime a box office record is broken and playing on multiple screens just means they were anticipating a huge demand. That's how it works.
posted by skallas at 12:49 AM on November 19, 2001

A movie, even a long movie, has the space for the material of a short story, not a novel, and any novel will have to be cut drastically to fit.

Wow. I'm a screenwriter, and if I believed that, I would probably kill myself.

It takes longer to read a novel than it does to watch a movie, but a movie can have layers of "text" and meaning in ways that a book can't (and vice versa, of course). It might be possible to cram the dialog alone of, say, Goodfellas, Casablanca, or Miller's Crossing into the space of a short story, but you'd be leaving out an awful lot of the stuff that makes a good movie. The reason novels get cut when they're adapted for the screen is that the narrative structures of novels and films simply work differently.

That being said, I haven't read or seen Harry Potter, and for all I know, it could be a bad adaptation.
posted by bingo at 1:02 AM on November 19, 2001

You know, some people would describe football as a religion

Ritual: groups of people wearing team jerseys, high fiving for no good reason
Ceremony: beer, chips, frequent bathroom breaks
Chants: De-fense, de-fense!
Pronouncments of fate: That ref is blind! He was wide open!
Prayer: If you make this kick, I swear I'll be a good father/husband/boyfriend from now on
Crusades/Holy Wars: Packers vs. Bears, Redskins vs. Cowboys
Wizardry: Flutie Magic, Kurt Warner, Jillian Barberie as meteorologist
Control of Space & Time: An hour and a half game is somehow three hours long

Yup, I think it fits.
posted by owillis at 1:28 AM on November 19, 2001

In the Name of the Living Jesus, has anyone here been to Fargo? Remember the movie? Ya, sure, those folk were the Mensa people of the Dakota area. Visualize A freezing-assed Mulla Jerry Falwell spanking children for not clothing the snowmen they build 24/7/365, their pennance for offending Religion by having once allowed their eyes to have fallen on a picture of Michael Jackson..Well, in that case he was right, but usually it is a very perverse place.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:41 AM on November 19, 2001

The fact that some consider witchcraft a religion, the protesters said, meant that the school-led trip to the movie theater would constitute a violation of the separation of church and state and possibly lead to legal action.

So what about, well, you name it--The Ten Commandments, The Exorcist, The Omega Code, Kundun...

Also, I second the question of strength of faith that skallas brings up. If perception and PR are all that matters, paranoia is inevitable. And this protest sounds like the work of socially conservative Christians who would welcome a Christian theocracy. Amazing gall.
posted by aflakete at 1:49 AM on November 19, 2001

skallas, here is a list of inflation adjusted all-time box office grosses.
posted by Potsy at 1:49 AM on November 19, 2001

The whole "smashing box office records" idea is a bunch of melarkey

Why do we never hear the numbers for actual tickets sold vs. the box office gross? Seems like a more valuable stat to me.
posted by crumbly at 2:08 AM on November 19, 2001

I saw Harry Potter last night and thought it was very ordinary. I've also read the book and thought it was very ordinary. I'm one of the ones who doesn't get it and only went in the hope I'd finally see what I was missing. It's sort of diverting in a Bedknobs and Broomsticks kind of way, but there's not much there for adults. I don't think it compares to the Enid Blyton boarding school stories I read as a child where girls were called things like Alicia and Daryll and had bracing early morning swims, midnight feasts and an absolute sense of fair play. Now that's a proper boarding school story. Co-ed boarding schools. Where's the fun in that?
posted by Summer at 2:50 AM on November 19, 2001

100 million crumb-munchers can't be wrong. You can only attribute so much of that to mega-marketing. Somewhere down the line, it has to stand on its own legs.
posted by RavinDave at 3:06 AM on November 19, 2001

Saw the movie. Kids falling asleep all around me. A book is allowable, but when you have to test my attention span with a two-and-a-half hour movie, there are troubles abrewing.

My opinion is that NOTHING happens in the movie for two hours and 15 minutes, then miraculously, in the last fifteen minutes, the entire plot uunnfolds before your eyes. Two hours of special effects. No conflicts. Ugh.

I haven't read the book yet, and I pity anyone who has if it is similar to the movie. Avoid this movie like a plague. Like a big, steaming pile of celluloid plague.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 3:14 AM on November 19, 2001

Wow. I'm a screenwriter, and if I believed that, I would probably kill myself.

Geez, be careful when you say that!

Okay, so maybe the material in the average film would be too much for the average short story. How would it be for a novelette? My point is just that virtually any novel that is made into a film will have to be drastically cut in incident and dialogue. Yes, the storytelling techniques of fiction and film are different, but the total content of plot, theme, character, and mood is also different. Novels, after all, can be tremendously long; most people don't read most novels in a sitting, but virtually all films are designed to be watched in a sitting.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 3:16 AM on November 19, 2001

as the only parent on metafilter who has avoided Harry Potter and his ilk, here is a free peek into my thought processes....

according to my Christian faith, one thing that my God has totally forbidden is witchcraft and/or sorcery-i.e., manipulation and control-in this case, of the physical realm thru unnatural powers....Now i do believe that God has power to do the miraculous, and does so thru his people sometime-that is not what I mean.

Now I do know people who are Wiccan, or into other forms of pagan very much is a "power religion" to them-in fact one reason many of these people in general reject Christianity is their belief that it is a powerless religion(not true-but i can't blame them for thinking it from what they see around them.)

I see no point in reading or seeing a movie whose point is LEARNING about sorcery or witchcraft...i have been a child :-) and i know that kids like to imitate what they see. That is a normal kid thing. Yes, I am sure the books were well written. But I wouldn't want my kids reading about that particular subject.
If you are not the kind of believer that I am, I can see why I could be seen as nuts. But I am not about to follow the crowd just for the sake of following the crowd. In general doing what the mass of humanity is doing at one time is stupid anyway.

Now I am not coming on here yelling and foaming at the mouth about what YOU see. Most of you are not Christians, so where do I get off expecting you to live like you were? I could wish you were, that you knew the Lord, etc., but you don't and that is the reality.
posted by bunnyfire at 3:34 AM on November 19, 2001

But the point about Harry Potter, Bunnyfire, is that it's fantasy. I think you'd have to be a very stupid kid indeed to come away from the book or the film and think any of it was related to the real world, anymore than kids come away from Disney films thinking that animals can actually talk. If you're going to go the logical distance you'd also have to ban your kids from seeing Star Wars because it promotes a different religion (Jediism?).
posted by Summer at 3:45 AM on November 19, 2001

Isn't it great, then, that we also have books and movies like this to keep us safe from the pernicious Godless media, eh bunnyfire?
posted by darukaru at 4:13 AM on November 19, 2001

Could you cite how and where your Lord prohibited sorcery and witchcraft, bunnyfire? Although skeptical, I would like to know the theological argument behind this belief.
posted by cardboard at 4:46 AM on November 19, 2001

I'm not Bunnyfire, but chances are she's referring to Deuteronomy 18 in the Old Testament and Galatians 5 in the New. Both are pretty clear about those who do spells, witchcraft, divination, sorcery and that kind of thing.
posted by Dreama at 5:26 AM on November 19, 2001

If you are not the kind of believer that I am, I can see why I could be seen as nuts.

Amen to that. I can't tell you how thankful I am that my parents didn't let their religious beliefs intrude on my interest in fantasy novels. My childhood would have been considerably poorer without The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the C.S. Lewis Narnia series and about 100 other books. Somehow I don't think Lewis, author of numerous religious titles, shared your belief that fantasy is forbidden by the Lord. I feel sorry for your kids.
posted by rcade at 5:30 AM on November 19, 2001

Cardboard --

ChristianAnswers.Net cites Deut. 18:10-14 "There shall not be found among you anyone who ...practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you." (King James)

This is from the an article that warns parents against the evils of Harry Potter:

The problem is, witchcraft is not fantasy; it is a sinful reality in our world. "J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has gone through an awful lot of research. She is very accurate (otherwise we would have witches all over the country and the world saying 'this is not a true representation of our religion'.) This is a true representation of witchcraft, and the black arts, and black magic. And yet we have people that say this is merely fantasy and harmless reading for our children. Actually, what makes this more dangerous is that it is couched in fantasy language, and children's literature, and made to be humorous, and beautifully written and extremely provocative reading. and it just opens up children to want to have the next one. This is what is so harmful."

Interestingly, the same website also says the following about Muslims in an article about Ramadan:

Superstitions control many aspects of a Muslim's everyday life and often result in them living in constant fear.

I'm glad it's only Muslims who are superstitious.
posted by jameschandler at 5:48 AM on November 19, 2001

I find it interesting that the same people who bemoan the separation of church and state when it comes to prayer in schools, celebration of holidays, etc. are quick to utilize the same argument to promote their beliefs in this case.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 6:01 AM on November 19, 2001

you asked for it:

I was thoroughly disappointed in the movie.

I had heard good things about it and was eager to see it. I was the one that dragged my friends to it.

Too bad it was at least 45 minutes too long. Editting is not the enemy. The Quidditch game was dumb as presented in the movie (senseless rules with only one real goal that gets ignored until it's time to end the scene), uninvolving due to completely unconvincing effects, and played well beyond what was called for to lead into a scene with similar mechanics near the end. In fact, all the Quidditch was unnecessary for that end scene given the memory ball scene that precedes it.

Not only was the Quidditch wholly unnecessary to the movie and unconvincingly executed, the scenes felt derivative of other works, including the speeder bikes from Jedi and the combat training room in Ender's Game (book).

I can only offer an adult's view: way too long, given to poor scene flow, wildly and unconvincingly divergent in tone (the letter delivery finale especially), highly derivative feel from non-Potter sources, and generally bereft of a sense of fun and humour.

Two weeks earlier I saw another kid-targeted movie, Monsters, Inc., and loved it. My recommendation is to take your kids or yourself to Monsters, Inc. and skip Harry Potter. I wished I'd seen Monsters, Inc. again instead of struggling through Harry Potter.
posted by NortonDC at 6:08 AM on November 19, 2001

Voltaire: Superstition born in Paganism, adopted by Judaism, infested the Christian Church from the earliest times. All the fathers of the Church, without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always condemned magic, but she always believed in it: she did not excommunicate sorcerers as madmen who were mistaken, but as men who were really in communication with the devil.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:20 AM on November 19, 2001

Now I do know people who are Wiccan, or into other forms of pagan very much is a "power religion" to them

bunnyfire: Having worked in a Christian bookstore atmosphere for five years of my life, I would say that there are a good number of converts to Christianity for precisely that same reason. The pervasive themes of spiritual power, weapons, warfare, battle, etc. are perhaps some of the biggest selling points of the faith to those who feel powerless over their own lives. Also, of course, there are the showmen on television who claim the power of God as they show their professed God-given ability to make people lose consciousness with a mere touch of their hand. (The one phenomenon - holy laughter - is the one that I think disturbed me the most about the whole Charismatic movement).

It is, I believe, this promise of otherworldly power that gives Christianity (modern Christianity, at least) its appeal. Those who have sworn off drugs during an emotional street revival may eventually give up the drugs, but not the addiction - the hyper-emotional form of worship simply becomes a replacement for the chemical high. As Tommy Chong said in one of his old comedy skits: "I used to be all strung out on drugs, but now that I've found the Lord, now I'm all strung out on the Lord."

I have to say - point blank - that if any modern religious movement embodied what I consider to be "questionable spiritual manifestations", it would have to be some of the Charismatic and Pentecostal ministries. I have seen and experienced a lot of things, but nothing quite so unsettling as people thrashing about on the floor in the aisles, or an entire congregation of people whipped into throes of hysterial laughter for no obvious reason.

I would think that these sorts of things would scare the bejeezus out of a rank-and-file believer more than some fantasy children's book.

And yes, I consider myself a Pagan. And no, I have not read the books. And yes, my daughter has read all of them. And no, I don't push my religious beliefs on her. And yes, I let her go to church - because she enjoys it. And no, I will never try to make up her mind for her about spiritual matters.

And no, I did not become a Pagan for the "power trip". I became a Pagan because I received a traditional Protestant doctrinal education in the person and nature of the God of Christianity, and after ten years of trying, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that it didn't wash for me. I had to find a spirituality that I found personally plausible. Simple as that.
posted by at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2001

"There shall not be found among you anyone who ...practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead."

I am noticing that the verse does not say "There shall not be found among you anyone who goes to see a movie about someone who practices witchcraft, or anyone who theatrically portrays a soothsayer..."
posted by grabbingsand at 6:38 AM on November 19, 2001

There's a story about a monk who was actually a magician.. it's loosely based on writings and letters between the monk and others..

Ars Magica is pretty interesting, since the monk ends up becoming Pope (I forget which one, historically)..

But anyway.. as far as taking a field trip to see the movie, the movie itself is not supporting or fostering witchcraft, unlike "kits" a christian group put together to hand out in schools in New Jersey to help with grief over the recent attacks. The kit had a CD of some hip-hop music and a pamphlet on how turning to God could help in managing your grief.

There is a slight difference in the two situations.
posted by rich at 6:48 AM on November 19, 2001

I saw Harry over the weekend and thought it was well done. It was far less Americanized than I imagined a Chris Columbus film would be. And yet, when it was over I wondered what Terry Gilliam might have done with the material...
posted by schmedeman at 6:51 AM on November 19, 2001

Isn't there a difference between a movie "promoting" witchcraft and a movie depicting it? I mean, is this a conscious advertisement for the Dark Arts? I could argue that because it's got cute kids in it doing heroic things, it's promoting childhood.
posted by alumshubby at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2001

bunnyfire: i do not think you are nuts. i respect your decision to raise your children within the constraints of your religious tradition.

i do wonder if your wiccan friends have truly chosen their path because it is a "power religion". you either misunderstand them or their paganism differs greatly from mine. power exists and a thread within wicca seeks to use such power thru will and wisdom -- but anybody who practices primarily to wield power will inevitably have it backfire upon them. Wicca, instead (to me), is primarily about seeking to understand and live in harmony with the natural world.

as for Harry Potter: it was the most fun i've had at the movies in long long time. i haven't read the books, but my wife and her friends are among the fanatics so i was dragged out to opening nite. the kids in the audience broke out in applause several times and their excitement rubbed off on me. i don't think that was a result of crass marketing as some suggest or (obviously) the devil ... it was a genuine spirit and i look forward to further acquaintance with the harry potter phenomenon.
posted by danOstuporStar at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2001


I understand where bunnyfire is coming from, because my wife used to be involved in wicca before she found Jesus. What she told me is that many of the people involved are seeking power over their environment, other people, etc. . . While this may not be true for everyone (i.e. the spiritualists looking for something to fill the spiritual gap in their souls) it is a reality for many others. As for Harry Potter (and I did take my son to it, and we are reading the books together) the reality of the story is that it is promoting magic, sorcery, palmestry, etc. . . These things are religions, so if people truly want a separation of church and state (and the classroom is one of the primary battlegrounds where this is being fought) then it is valid that schools should be disallowed from attending the movie as a "school-sponsered" event.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 7:15 AM on November 19, 2001

so... how about that monsters inc. trailer-thing?
posted by lotsofno at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2001

I heard of another fundamental group that was outspoken about the evils of this movie, they're called the Taliban.*

Why are kids getting out of school to go see a movie in the first place? Did they plan a trip to Toys R Us afterwards to buy the action figures?

*(or sub 'the Nazis.')
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:29 AM on November 19, 2001

Is it such a stretch to think that those who believe that something is forbidden by their religious beliefs would want to avoid viewing depictions of that forbidden activity as entertainment? And yes, there are a lot of instances of forbidden or sinful activity (in the Judeo-Christian vein) in mass entertainment (murders by the score, adultery, fornication, the list goes on) and I'd hazard that a lot of the people who are against Harry Potter also avoid movies and television shows which are blatant in their depictions of other inappropriate behaviour.

Growing up as the daughter of a pastor/missionary, I knew a lot of my peers (other ministerial kids, plus kids from families in our churches) who never went to the movies, ever, and more than a handful of families without a television in the home. Many who did have TVs had extremely restricted viewing, especially for the kids -- and this was in the 70s. There are people who live by these convictions, and they feel that they are the better for them. If such ideals don't work for you, then you are free to live differently, and ignore other viewpoints until they encroach upon your freedoms.
posted by Dreama at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2001

The Quidditch game was dumb as presented in the movie (senseless rules with only one real goal that gets ignored until it's time to end the scene)

That's exactly as it should be. I read in an interview with Rowling that Quidditch is supposed to be a parody of sports by someone who doesn't like them. It doesn't make any sense in the book either, and it's not supposed to.
posted by straight at 7:36 AM on November 19, 2001

I laugh at the fools who say that Harry Potter books teach witchcraft, because to me what those people are saying is that they believe that people really do fly around on broomsticks and have magic wands that sparks can shoot out of. They're showing their complete lack of intelligence.

Sure, there's always the wacko kid who trys to play Superman by jumping of the garage - but such cases are very rare, and to my mind point more towards lax parents who haven't helped the kid learn the whole "fantasy vs. reality" thing. Emulating Harry Potter is much less dangerous - it would involve lots of studying, bonding with friends and sticking up for them against bullies, maybe a bit of curious snooping about and rule-breaking but you don't learn much of anything by never breaking rules.
posted by dnash at 7:37 AM on November 19, 2001

i have to confess to the primary MeFi sin of commenting in a thread w/o first reading the link (must be that spiritual gap in my soul). i don't have a problem with disallowing the school trip to the movie -- i don't think taking school-kids to the movies in general is a good idea. i would have a problem with the books being banned from public school libraries ... but the catholic schools in memphis should do as they please.

certainly it's true that many pagans are in it for 'power.' i did not wish to imply otherwise. but that is true of any group of people you can name -- all of us MeFites for example have, at times, succumbed to trap of wanting to 'win' a discussion. but generalizing Wicca as a "power-religion" is an attempt to demean it and demonstrates ignorance of some basic precepts such as the three-fold law.
posted by danOstuporStar at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2001

I feel the need to throw in my 2 cents here.
I have been involved in paganism for many years now, part of my training/schooling was the study of other religions, including several forms of christanity, Hindii, Buddist, Tao, etc, etc, etc... I consider myself Pagan.

While I may personally think that the school system is being a _bit_ overcautious in cancelling a field trip to a moviehouse to see a Harry Potter, I can almost see the point. If, in the community, there is a concerned amount of parents that beleive that the movie is promoting witchcraft as a religion, then seperation of Church and State applies. However the flip side of this is that in the future, things such as Prayer in schools, the (revised) pledge of alligence in schools, posting the 10 commandments in public places, should NEVER be an issue for the same reason.

Now in regards to the people themselves, please remember that King James... embellished... his version of the Bible. As a matter of fact, it is probably the worst translation one could read. Pick up several bibles, and cross check your passages... you will find that "Witch" is predominatly ONLY in the James version. Im guessing that old K'James had issues.
Also, Please note that I cannot find a single Pagan/Wiccian/Polythestic religion (OK, the Hare Krishna) that prostelytise. We are very content to keep to ourselves, and to pass traditions down throughout our own familys and close firends that ask about it. Christains have this built in need to convert "non-beleiver's" to your faith... this is a holdover from when you needed us Heathens to come to your church to increase the numbers of seats filled, and the amount of money in the coffiers. I am not trying to flame, but trying to point out what historians (some even christian, no doubt) have published. If this was not true, then why do you celebrate Christ's birth in December, when historical pundits place he month of his birth in mondern day March? Because the Pagans of then were already celebrating the birth of thier God... and you needed them. Why is it, if I was to go to hold a gathering and talk to kids about my beleifs, I'd be run out of town, but several times a year, childern come to my door peddaling "Watchtower", and thier religion?

SOmething that has always bothered me is the aspect of people thinkning they know what witchcraft is, without ever looking at it with an open mind... "Witchcraft for Today" by Scott CUnningham is a short book that covers the basics of what it is and isn't, and should be mandatory read for anyone that is going to get out there and call what I do the "Black Arts"....

posted by niteHawk at 7:44 AM on November 19, 2001

And yet the Witch of Endor contacted the ghost of Samuel for Saul, and that was considered perfectly normal. Guess it depends on which part of the bible you read.

*(or sub 'the Nazis.')

Godwin! Godwin!
posted by RavinDave at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2001

As for Harry Potter ... the reality of the story is that it is promoting magic, sorcery, palmestry, etc. . .

This movie is not a promotional tool for the practice of witchcraft! It is a movie, a fantasy, fiction. If these parents, or their children cannot discern the difference between reality and fantasy, then they should be placed in sanitarium.

There is no such thing as a chocolate frog.

It's called reality folks, look into it.

and we are reading the books together...

Bravo! That is what this book is promoting. More than any book in the past few years, this book is promoting reading, and even better; reading with parents and child. This can only be a good thing. I would also suggest the "Lord of the Rings", followed by a good biography, or some non-fiction.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2001

Im guessing that old K'James had issues

He didn't translate it himself niteHawk
posted by Summer at 7:52 AM on November 19, 2001

The opposite would be a powerless religion, where people go when they finally realize that we are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God. It is because Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected for your sins that man is able to overcome death and live in eternity with God. If we could overcome sins by ourselves, there would be no reason for us to be separated from Him, but because we are powerless, He sent His only Son so that we won't die, but have eternal life.

As far as why Christians feel they need to spread this message to others, believers and non-believers alike, is because it is true. I know it is true because I have personally experienced the change in my own life, my own testimony to Jesus Christ as Savior. I don't spread the word to do my part in "filling the church" and I don't tithe to "fill the coffieurs", I do it because God uses me for his ends. I tithe because not only is it not my money to begin with (it is not even my life anymore, I gave it to God for His use), it is a demonstration of faith to Him, a demonstration to God that I can do without money even when things are tight. If you are missing something in your life, think about this, and pray, and honestly ask God if this is what He wants for you.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 7:57 AM on November 19, 2001

Schools are reading Harry Potter in the classroom, but if a teacher read one of the "Left Behind" series books in a public classroom, she or he would be fired within the day. Kind of an unfair dichotomy.

I dont believe in censorship or in burning books and if I had a child Id let them read this book or see the movie followed by heavy discussion.

But as a Christian-Catholic--ex Unitarian who had studied Wicca quite extensively and all sorts of the magickal arts, seeing all the promotion of witchcraft in the Harry Potter series was obvious. The books unlike Star Wars and or even the Tolkein series does indeed promote witchcraft for children in that the child hero wishes to be a powerful wizard. Seeing that derivatives of actual demon names exsist in the book was enough for me. Seeing the SS symbol on Harry's forehead was quite enough.

Witchcraft is being promoted as a religion now and instead of just a fantasty thing like in the Wizard of OZ or in fairy tales where witches are the "villians", witches are now the GOOD guys. Witchcraft something to be emulated. When I looked into Wicca as a 19 year old Gothic arty chick, the power within in was the most seductive thing. Thats why people I believe seek out witchcraft. This isnt meant to insult pagans. I have pagan friends but they know where I stand when it comes to their religious beliefs.

Christians believe that magic and sorcery come from the Devil. That they are evil. We are entitled to our beliefs. A movie that promotes magic and witchcraft in a positive fashion is not one we would choose as the best for our children.
posted by Budge at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2001

The books unlike Star Wars
and or even the Tolkein series does indeed promote witchcraft for children in
that the child hero wishes to be a powerful wizard.

Missed Star Wars episode I, I take it?

And given how seriously J. R. R. Tolkien took his fantasy world, I'd be careful about citing him in this context.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:24 AM on November 19, 2001

instead of just a fantasty thing like ... in fairy tales where witches are the "villians", witches are now the GOOD guys.

Budge, are you honestly saying that it is right & proper that pagans be villianized and any depiction of us as good guys is evil? how that fits in with "I dont believe in censorship" i cannot even begin to fathom.

<casts circle to cast protection from MeFi banning spell>
Uncle Joe's Brother: omg.
yr rite... i asked god and he does want to use me for his end. he wants to use me so badly. now i know why you get on yr knees to pray.
</closes circle>
posted by danOstuporStar at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2001

The opposite would be a powerless religion, where people go when they finally realize that we are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God.

Yes, and how repulsive and anti-human is this? Gag.

Re: the movie. I thought it was a good adaptation of the book. It probably tried to include TOO much from the book, in deference to the fans no doubt. The flow between scenes seemed frantic and forced at times. I thought the casting was fantastic, however. A bit lacking in emotional involvement, but gee whiz fun.

There was some scattered applause when it started, but only silence when it ended, if that tells you anything.
posted by rushmc at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2001

read this article --

about Harry Potter to see what the promotion of witchcraft between.

Dont forget to move on to part II to read about the influence of Crowely.
posted by Budge at 8:31 AM on November 19, 2001

When I looked into Wicca as a 19 year old Gothic arty chick, the power within in was the most seductive thing.

Correction: the superstitious illusion of power.
posted by rushmc at 8:32 AM on November 19, 2001

I dont think anyone needs to villianized. Sinners are to be loved not hated. People who are lost should be prayed for and supported. I have a best friend who is Wiccan, I pray for her daily. She has started questioning things. I am not a moral relativist. This means that while I do not believe in state-sanctioned censorship, there are some things that are RIGHT and WRONG to me. Witchcraft is wrong. Full stop.
posted by Budge at 8:35 AM on November 19, 2001

You people crack me up with your madness. It is one thing to promote (of course there's promotion involved--it's Hollywood and the publishing industry!) superstitious bunk as entertainment and fiction, with no claim or pretense that it is "real," and quite another to promote (proselytize) superstitious bunk--God, angels, prayer, miracles--as real. The fact that many religious people cannot see the difference and feel moved to protest Harry Potter is very telling, as it clearly indicates the self-same inability to see the difference between reality and fiction that led them to adopt and "believe" Christianity in the first place.
posted by rushmc at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2001

I do read Tolkien and C.S.Lewis.

I draw lines for myself: others may feel differently.
posted by bunnyfire at 8:38 AM on November 19, 2001

hmm the superstitious illusion of power? Well some would say the power is real, some not. Depends on if a person believes in the supernatural.

Wicca and the New Age promotes people looking for the Goddess or Goddess within. Finding the Godhead in the individual. Using personal power to manipulate the universe through MAGIC.

Christians believe that power lies with God and we are to find our strength in Him.
posted by Budge at 8:38 AM on November 19, 2001

> Im guessing that old K'James had issues

>> He didn't translate it himself niteHawk

Yes, Summer ... but he *did* fancy himself an expert on witchcraft and daemonology. Even wrote a book on it. (Why dyu think Shakespeare tossed in all that atmospheric supernaturalism in MacBeth? He was no fool.) You don't think maybe the translation team sucked up a wee bit mayhaps?

By the way -- if memory serves, the Septuagint Greek source used the word "pharmacos" for "witch" -- taken from the Thracian herbilists (the ancient "pharmacists").
posted by RavinDave at 8:47 AM on November 19, 2001

Well some would say the power is real, some not. Depends on if a person believes in the supernatural.

Actually, the reality of the power is independent of whatever a person believes. It either exists or it doesn't. Belief alters; reality giggles.
posted by rushmc at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2001

The comparison between Left Behind and Harry Potter isn't valid here.

Left Behind (and the endless line of sequels that followed and continue to follow) was written by two pastors with the explicit aim of converting people to an actual existing church. The L.B. books aren´t fiction, per se...they're a description of how the authors think the world will end and why they believe that converting to their religion will save the reader. In essence, they're tracts. Like most tracts, they use fictional characters in what the author believes are real situations in order to convince the reader to convert to a sect the author supports. (It's worth noting that this sect isn't identical with "Christianity" - as the books make clear, the authors believe that most churches outside their own are sinful and invalid. They are advocating conversion to a particular group of churches.)

The Harry Potter books, on the other hand, are NOT IN ANY WAY RELATED TO ANY ACTUAL RELIGION AT ALL. There is no Hogwarts School, there are no flying brooms, there is no existing faith that a child could convert to in order to emulate Harry Potter. Anyone who seeks out modern neo-pagans trying to do this is going to be disappointed. Luckily, I'm pretty sure that most people are bright enough to see that Harry's world is a collection of fantasy literature tropes, and not an existing faith.

A closer analogy could be between H.P and The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis was a very religious man, and was motivated by religion when he wrote his books. They are full of Christian messages and metaphors. But they are not tracts: they were not intended as conversion tools, and they do not proclaim faiths outside the author's own to be evil.

The Harry Potter books aren't influenced by any actual paganism, but they were clearly influenced by the author's ideas about justice, tolerance, and proper childrearing. They aren't tracts, but, like the Chronicles of Narnia, they might still contain ideas that some people find objectionable. They should, therefore, be treated exactly like the Narnia books, or any other book which contains controversial ideas and is read in public schools: parents should be able to opt out of allowing their children to read them with no adverse consequences.

That said...I can't believe that the school, in such a conservative community, was dumb enough to even plan this excursion in the first place. I also can't believe that they were ready to give up an entire school day to take kids to see a massive Hollywood film in wide release.... That, in my mind, is the scary part about this.
posted by 23lemurs at 8:50 AM on November 19, 2001

You people crack me up with your madness

At last rush, someone with some perspective. Some threads just make you say 'oh for fuck's sake'.
posted by Summer at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2001

i read the first harry potter book on friday night for the first time, wanted to check it out. Reminded me of a lot of young adult fantasy i read in grade isn't as if kids haven't been reading about witches and goblins and trolls for a long time. The Hobbit, Narnia, The Black Cauldron...maybe i'm the evil atheist i am today because of my early exposure to such things.

those christians who really think that this flick will corrupt their kids somehow need to just relax and instead concentrate on getting ready to celebrate Saturnalia--err, i mean Christmas. 'Cause santa isn't a magic using pagan elf or anything, much better role model.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2001

>The Quidditch game was dumb as presented in the
>movie (senseless rules with only one real goal that
>gets ignored until it's time to end the scene)

That's exactly as it should be. I read in an interview with Rowling that Quidditch is supposed to be a parody of sports by someone who doesn't like them. It doesn't make any sense in the book either, and it's not supposed to.

In the movie, the game is played, well, straight. There is no indication of parody nor satire nor even humor.

And how something is used in the book says nothing about how it plays in the movie. In the movie, which is what we're discussing, the game is unnecessary, irrelevant, poorly executed, and emblematic of the film maker's poor editting choices.
posted by NortonDC at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2001

I had some actual answers to some of the posts, but decided this pretty much covers it... forgive me forjumping all over the place...

I would ask that all of us attempt to look at this objectivly. Religious beleifs are very personal, and none of us here are looking to have our convictions changed.
More people have been killed in the name of Deity, then any other reason. And this thread is a good showing as to why...

If you truly beleive that your child is so easily influenced by outside forces, perhaps you need to spend more time with your children.

If you truly beleive that Paganism is "Devil Worshipping", then you have never done any real research into what most Pagan's beleive. There are more polythestic religions in the world, then Christains. Pagans seem to be an easy target since we have no central organization, but would you really be having this debate if Harry Potter depicted a boy being given Angelic powers? How about if he got magic from Shiva, or through reading teh Kaballa?

"Evil" is a Christain concept. In almost all other religions, you do good, to receive good In christainity, you do good to avoid the bad.... Also, How does one define the difference between Magic, and divine intervention?

And finally... to make this somewhat topical to those in the US.. do any of the posters, know what the basic following of Muslim is? The short answer, is picture the Christain faith, except with a guy named Mohammad, instead of Jesus. While I know that is simplified, you would be surprised how close it is. Fanatical Muslims,beleive that the christain world is evil, and that the US is the central meeting place for all that... and attacked - since they cannot convert you, you should be killed... besides the obvious link to the crusades, this should if anything teach us all to perhaps learn about others...

ah well...

posted by niteHawk at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2001

Yay Rush! My first thought is "people actually believe in magic? Real live affecting-the-universe-through-spells-and-symbols supernatural magic? How ridiculous!"* My second thought, however, is that if someone who has accepted the supernatural "magic" of religion, well, they've already bought in to something fundamentally irrational, so why not? Reality, symbolism, what's the difference? But it's hard not to laugh.

*Lovin' Spoonful fans excepted
posted by rodii at 9:11 AM on November 19, 2001

do any of the posters, know what the basic following of Muslim is? The short answer, is picture the Christain faith, except with a guy named Mohammad, instead of Jesus. While I know that is simplified, you would be surprised how close it is.

If "simplified" = "wrong" and "close" = "far", that is.
posted by rodii at 9:15 AM on November 19, 2001

Budge, Seeing the SS symbol on Harry's forehead was quite enough COME. ON. You cannot seriously think that. That's the silliest thing I think I've ever heard.

I had a huge, long, anti-christian rant here that I just deleted. Why bother?

I saw HP and thought it was beautiful and wonderful. Visually stunning. I loved the Quiddich scene. It was a little long but I thought it was great.
posted by aacheson at 9:36 AM on November 19, 2001

Magic itself, and the belief in it I don't think is really irrational. It's the ability to affect the universe around yourself.. I'd say science falls into that kind of realm, really.. and we all know that science used to be vilified by the church as magic.. and of course, you have those crazy people who don't let doctors help their dying children.

Oops, I was being judgemental there about those crazy people.

Hey - if people want to believe in something bigger than themself for any number of reasons, and it helps them out, ok, peachy. Don't go praying for me, though. Once you start praying for me, you're no longer focused on religion being for yourself, but instead in what other people should do, too.

(for the purpose of this post, ignore any fact that I may have been raised roman catholic)
posted by rich at 9:37 AM on November 19, 2001

When I looked into Wicca as a 19 year old Gothic arty chick, the power within in was the most seductive thing.

When I was a 19 year old boy, 19 year old Gothic arty chicks were actually the most seductive thing...
posted by bingo at 9:45 AM on November 19, 2001

Children realize that Harry Potter is fantasy. If only these Christians were as intelligent.

I wonder if the Christian community realizes how many moderate people they are alienating when they take such high-handed and disingenuous stances.
posted by rks404 at 9:45 AM on November 19, 2001

I am a mild fan of the books: liked #1, disliked #2, thought #3 was pretty good, disliked #4. I'd probably stop reading the series if my wife wasn't wild about the Potter.

The movie was okay, but, as others have mentioned, too long and too static. It was a very faithful rendition of the book, but it was so faithful that it wasn't well adpted to the big screen. Some scenes which fit very well into the 200 page book were complete irrelevant here (like Hagrid and the baby dragon -- a great subplot in the novel, but having nothing to do with anything in the movie.)

I distinctly remember the moment when my mental review of the movie switched from "this is pretty good" to "this is too long". They were out in the forest, and I thought to myself "Cripes, I hope they cut out the freakin' Centaurs -- this scene is already too long, we don't really need to see another special effect and/or mythical creature, and the Centaurs don't really add anything to the story." And a moment later, in came the Centaurs ...

P.s. I hereby award bunnyfire 35 points, for bravely breaking up MeFi groupthink.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 9:48 AM on November 19, 2001

yes, rodii, people actually believe in magick, and you're right to quell your instinct to laugh in our (and the Christian's) face. you are also right in your characterization of religion as fundamentally irrational.

FWIW, i believe the world is fundamentally irrational. the fact that physical matter and chemical reactions which comprise my body also somehow, miraculously, comprise my consciousness is fundamentally irrational to me. the fact that i share this consciousness with a nearly infinite variety of other beings is preposterous. and yet it exists. hence i believe there is more to reality than the rational.

from there, my logic concludes that every action a being makes is magick ... i.e. has an effect upon the mundane world that you apparently limit yourself to and upon the irrational world that cannot be immediately seen. some actions are very physical...such as typing this comment. but it is magick nonetheless. the fact that metafilter is more than matthowie and a bunch of typists attests to that. with study and practice, certain acts can become more concentrated in their power, such acts are spells.

it is wonderful if you think differently. the more variety in thought and action the more chance somebody might actually get it right one day, and i applaud you for recognizing this and not mocking anyone in your post. I wish i had done the same re: Uncle Joe's Brother.
posted by danOstuporStar at 9:49 AM on November 19, 2001

my logic concludes that every action a being makes is magick

That's arguable dan, but people flying about on broomsticks and wearing invisibility cloaks? That's what we're talking about here.
posted by Summer at 10:02 AM on November 19, 2001

More about harry potter and religion.
I don't think the two have anything to do with each other. It's just a book about good, bad and the...., and the witches happen to be the good guys in this one.
Love the books, haven't seen the film yet. (have to wait a few more weeks, till it shows)
posted by ginz at 10:03 AM on November 19, 2001

more about harry and religion
posted by ginz at 10:05 AM on November 19, 2001

merde, 3rd time around
yes it works now
posted by ginz at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2001

I grew up in a christian family, and believe me, when I practiced christianity, I was a hell of a lot more scared of demons than I am now. I remember sitting in my room at night, shaking, sweating, and praying to God, in order for him to keep these "demons" away from me that I just "knew" were swarming all around me in the darkness. Now that I am an adult, I no longer choose to follow christianity and it's teachings.
I am an atheist, but my entire family is christian, and have married into a christian family. I am very sensitive to their views and concerns, as I have at one time in my life felt the exact same thing. They have their beliefs, I have mine. And I can honestly say that yes, a lot of christians do indeed believe in living breathing Warlocks and Witches, and their abilities to perform supernatural acts. Yes, they believe in demons, and all that goes along with it. The Harry Potter movie is an actual threat to them, and to them it represents everything opposite of what they practice and teach.
To me, I cannot fathom believing in such acts, and treat the books and movies for what they were meant to be, works of fantasy. But this fantasy is every bit as real as the book itself to most christians. Most christians realize that the book is a work of fantasy also, but believe that it influences our children to not be so critical of Satan and his followers, and that it paints a faulse image of evil in our world as being something fun and something to fool around with. In christianity, this is very dangerous, and they have every right to try to prevent their children from seeing the movie.
If you want to criticize these people for their beliefs, do it in a sensible, logical manner. The bashing of christianity on this thread is, in my opinion, a waste of time. We all are individuals, and we all have different opinions on topics such as this. Not everyone believes in The Easter Bunny either.
I do.
Hippity Hop.
posted by bradth27 at 10:17 AM on November 19, 2001

yes, rodii, people actually believe in magick, and you're right to quell your instinct to laugh in our (and the Christian's) face. you are also right in your characterization of religion as fundamentally irrational.

We have a nice mix of agreement and disagreement here. We agree about the "fundamentally irrational" bit, but I bet you think I'm using that pejoratively. I'm not. Provocatively, maybe. Credo quia absurdum*, and all that. Pace Thomas, if faith could be justified by reason, it wouldn't be faith.

But I also think you're being unclear about the causality of action. (Note to holgate: this is the point where you bring up Hume.) In the non-magic kind of action, things are mediated by a fairly well-understood causal chain; in the "magic" kind, either there's some unknown/unknowable force (like "will") or some sense in which manipulating symbols actually manipulates the objects they refer to. Since I don't believe in unknowable forces or symbolic manipulation, I'm skeptical.

And, I have to confess, I was mocking a little bit.

*"I believe because it is absurd"--Tertullian (a church father, not a heretic)
posted by rodii at 10:21 AM on November 19, 2001

From the Gospel according to Bill Hicks:

I've been traveling a lot lately. I was over in Australia during Easter. It was interesting to note they celebrate Easter the same way we do; commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit... left chocolate eggs in the night. Gee, I wonder why we're so messed up as a race. You know, I've read the Bible. Can't find the words "bunny" or "chocolate" in the whole book.
posted by holgate at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2001


This is the simplest and quickest link that I cuold find to help illustrate my point. Taken from the Soc.Religion.Islam FAQ

Again, I was (and still am) simplifing an entire religion in a paragraph, but since this seems to be how others are defning some of the other religions.. I thought it fits.

Muslims believe that the religion of Islam was revealed by Allah
through a long line of human messengers, starting with the Prophet
Adam and culminating in the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet
Muhammad. Some of these Prophets are well-known to readers of the
Bible, such as Prophets Abraham, Jesus, and Moses (peace be upon
them.) They carried the same essential message of submission to
Allah, though some details of religious laws varied with time and
place. With the passage of time, however, much of the revelation sent
to these earlier Prophets was lost or changed. The Prophet Muhammad
was thus sent down by Allah to renew and complete the message of
posted by niteHawk at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2001

"More people have been killed in the name of Deity, then any other reason. And this thread is a good showing as to why"...That is so silly; Uncle Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao killed AT LEAST 75 MILLION people in the name of Communism,the antithesis of Deity/Religion...
posted by Mack Twain at 11:06 AM on November 19, 2001

you're being unclear about the causality of action

so you were mocking, just not pejoratively? :) even if i hadn't already spilt too many words on this thread and it was on topic, i don't think i'll bite on this one. your post was a fair 'in other words' for what i was trying to get across so i couldn't have been too unclear.
posted by danOstuporStar at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2001

Communism was a state religion.

Organized religion is mostly about politics, anyway. (Do protestants in Ireland hate catholics because of their religion, or is it a stand-in for their political beliefs?, etc)

As for "invisibility cloaks".. what happens when a scientist does finally come up with a way to bend light effectively enough to render someone invisible?

Is it magic?
posted by rich at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2001

From the second article : " All the students....had parental permission to attend".
So what freaks me out is that the school bowed to a few local nutjobs who didn't want other people's children to see Harry Potter. How disgusting and spineless.
posted by Catch at 11:40 AM on November 19, 2001

Is it magic?

No. Why would it be?

Dan: if there is such a thing as "gentle mocking" or "mocking with sympathy", that's what it was.
posted by rodii at 11:50 AM on November 19, 2001

Catch, that link sickens me. To refer to the local religious community as being one and the same with that incident shows, to me atleast, a gross misrepresentation of the christian community as a whole. Sure they want other people's children not to attend. This is what their religion tells them to do, to try and save other people's souls. Come on, lighten up.
posted by bradth27 at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2001

niteHawk: Pick up several bibles, and cross check your passages... you will find that "Witch" is predominatly ONLY in the James version. Im guessing that old K'James had issues.

Nope. From the following, all used witchcraft/witches:

The RSV subs "augurer" for witch. The origin word, from the Ta'anakh, is Kashaph, or one who divines by communion with spirits. Not markedly different from Sorceror, Wizard, or other words used in the same section. For this one, it is the masculine form, mekhashshepheth (enchanter, sorceror, witch, etc).

But, you are right -- the Greek word there is pharmakos, as used in Galatians 5:20, meaning one who administers potions and the like. Fire burn and cauldron bubble, and all that.
posted by dwivian at 11:55 AM on November 19, 2001

I would like to have the record show that in this thread, which has become yet another religious debate, the Christians have been by far the most civil group involved. Not to say that they haven't hurled some thinly disguised insults, or that those who disagree with them have been uniformly rude (some have been very restrained), but in general the poorest showing has come from the secular debaters.

Mocking the beliefs of others is a very common criticism of Christians. I was very surprised to see that in this thread at least, none of the Christians overtly mocked anyone's beliefs. However, the same respect was not given to them. Some examples:

You people crack me up with your madness.

I laugh at the fools who say that Harry Potter books teach witchcraft

They're showing their complete lack of intelligence.'s hard not to laugh.

That's the silliest thing I think I've ever heard.

Children realize that Harry Potter is fantasy. If only these Christians were as intelligent.

Which is very disappointing. Not trying to shame anybody here, but I may want to quote this thread later as an example of hypocrisy in religious discourse, and it's good to have so many good quotes in one place.
posted by Hildago at 12:03 PM on November 19, 2001

niteHawk, you said:

picture the Christain faith, except with a guy named Mohammad, instead of Jesus.

In Islam, Mohammed is not God, nor is he the son of God. He is simply a messenger.
posted by rodii at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2001

bradth27, sure, it's a harsh comparison. The link made me wince too. But there's a common line being crossed. People who are immoderate in their religion are the last people that society should allow to set standards.
Hey, they're only interfering with other people's children, lighten up. Hey it's only a book-burning, lighten up. Hey, it's only koolaid, lighten up.
posted by Catch at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2001

bradth27: "Sure they want other people's children not to attend. This is what their religion tells them to do, to try and save other people's souls. Come on, lighten up."

See, it's that "save everyone" virus-like nature of christianity that is so offensive.
posted by yesster at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2001

virus-like nature

If Christians believe that (1) man is separated from God because of sin, (2) the punishment for sin is death, and (3) God sent His only son to die and be resurrected so that man can have eternal life with God, then I don't think spreading this great news can be considered virus like. The virus, in the above scenarios, is mankind's sin, and Jesus is the cure to that sin. The only reason why I would share this with you (and a month ago, I probably would not have been bold enough, but now I am walking with Christ) is because I care about you, and love you, and do not want anyone to live etermally in Hell. If you believed this, then you would want to share it with others, wouldn't you? Please, ask God for the truth, seek the truth, and the truth will be made obvious to you. I am not sure if you know this, but C.S. Lewis was originally an atheist, and while he was studying, he decided to make an honest effort to find truth, a scientific endeavor if you will. The result is a book called "Mere Christianity" and a testimony of the life of a man who found redemption through the Son of God.

I apologize if I am offensive, but I would rather offend a few people than tickle your ears with the status quo and what everyone wants to hear.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 12:21 PM on November 19, 2001

Hey, they're only interfering with other people's children, lighten up. Hey it's only a book-burning, lighten up. Hey, it's only koolaid, lighten up.
This only proves my point. If you want freedom of speech, (as shown in the book burning comment) you have to take the good with the bad. You have to let the other side talk also. It's the school system you should be angry with, for deciding in their favor after all the students had permission, not the christians who proposed that they should not attend the trip. Say what you will, things like this happen because christians tend to show up at town meetings, and their opposers tend to stay at home and bitch a lot. I am not supporting their views, just stating what I have seen from attending many years of meetings.
As for the Kool-Aid comment, I think that's pretty much the same as before. Not a proper representation of christianity as a whole, and I don't want to even comment, lest I start recieving death threats through the mail.
Hippity Hop.
See, it's that "save everyone" virus-like nature of christianity that is so offensive
Why? just tell them no thanks, and be on your way. They care for your well being as they see it. I tend to think of that as a nice thing to be concerned about.
Remember, I am an atheist. But I do tend to believe in the freedom of religion and speech. And believe me, they have just as much right as you do.
posted by bradth27 at 12:22 PM on November 19, 2001

Hildago said:

in this thread ... the Christians have been by far the most civil group involved.

Hear hear. I find myself utterly rejecting their arguments against fantasy stories, but both appreciate and applaud the respect and restraint that has been shown by the "Christians" in this debate. Laughing at others does nothing to enrich discussion or understanding. The condescending, superior tone of some of the atheists here does nothing to combat the standard (false) perception that without God morality is impossible.

By the same token, thanks to bradth27 and others for demonstrating that non-Christians can show equal respect and restraint.
posted by Marquis at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2001

Now, myself, I find the "save everyone" nature of Christianity to be cute, warm, and welcoming. The average and rare above average Christians I have met have been neato take-anywhere types.
It's the foam-flecked few that you find in any faith (including football, if you like) that disturb me, and what is even more disturbing is the social tendency to bow to their whims.
posted by Catch at 12:31 PM on November 19, 2001

I think most of the quotes, Hildago, relate to the fact that people are saying Harry Potter actually promotes witchcraft and the dark arts. That's what seems like madness to people. I don't see this as an argument between Christians and atheists, but between those who are able to see the innocuousness of a childrens book and those who really should get a grip.
posted by Summer at 12:41 PM on November 19, 2001


I was the one who wrote

Children realize that Harry Potter is fantasy. If only these Christians were as intelligent.

I did not mock Christianity as a whole, but referred specifically to the Christians in the article ("these Christians") who have decided to prevent every child in a class from watching a movie based on their belief that a Harry Potter-style sorcery is real.

There was no blanket condemnation of Christianity or of Christians, although in my post, I did later state my belief that many moderates (such as myself) are turned off by this kind of political grandstanding.
posted by rks404 at 12:42 PM on November 19, 2001

IIRC, I did see an article where Wiccans complained that Harry Potter was not an accurate description of their religion, and even cursed the studio. Can someone find this? Needless to say, I don't believe that J.K. Rowling was attempting to portray Wicca in any way, or that she has any kind of religious agenda. She does have an ethical/moral agenda, but that's more about non-discrimination etc.
posted by Charmian at 12:45 PM on November 19, 2001

It's the foam-flecked few that you find in any faith

Forget "faiths", how about in any movement - political, ideological, or racial.
posted by Marquis at 12:48 PM on November 19, 2001

here's a link to what you were asking about.
posted by bradth27 at 12:51 PM on November 19, 2001

bradth27: It's hard to have a conversation with someone who insists on jumping to conclusions the way you do.
I've never said I am angry with anyone. I have said I am disgusted by the school in question by letting people other than the parents veto a kiddie field-trip.
I don't consider the dissenters to be "Christianity as a whole", nor book-burners, nor Koolaid spikers.
You also turn "book-burning" into a Freedom of Speech issue. I could care less. I happen to like books.
You might find it easier to participate in Mefi discussions if you take the time to read posts and think about what people are saying.
The "death threats in the mail" comment puts you beneath contempt.
Anyone with any class doesn't need to threaten....
posted by Catch at 12:56 PM on November 19, 2001

Review of the movie: I really enjoyed it, and would recommend anyone who likes boyhood / fantasy type movies to go and see it. Even the specially designed trailers and ads were funny (i.e. Monsters, Inc.). I don't want to give it away for anyone who has not read the first book, and for those who have, it sticks very much to the story line, and was not a let down for me at all. Also, my nine year old loved it.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 12:56 PM on November 19, 2001

Marquis, agreed. I'd definitely include all those in my definition of "faiths".
Couldn't you see I had a nice alliteration thing going?
: )
posted by Catch at 1:01 PM on November 19, 2001

Jumping to conclusions.
My posts have generally been a way of trying to figure out what exactly you were trying to say. Was I being aggressive in my comments? If so, I apologize. I am in no way supporting either side. I happen to like the books, and happen to have liked the film.
As to the comment about jumping to conclusions, though, I have to say my posts have shown no real reason to support that particular comment. My posts were only in reference to your own comments.
you referred to the "local nutjobs", and I tried to show that they had a legitimate reason for what they did. the link you provided for the "local nutjobs" referred to someone who beat their child to death, and was in no way related to the story we are discussing. By doing so, you set yourself up for that "conclusion jump".
I don't really care if you think I have "no class". Attacks on my personal nature have no place here, as you do not know me, atleast in a face to face fashion. Yeah, I will admit, I was raised "Po' White Trash". I am proud of the fact that I was raised. Those people did a hell of a lot better job raising me than most people I know who people refer to as "classy". And class, in my own experience, shows no window into the intelligence of a person. So to me, it means nothing.
If you feel I misread your comments, then I apologize. Otherwise, let me get on with my lunch here. :)
By the way, book burning IS a freedom of speech issue. There's no other way around that one.
posted by bradth27 at 1:21 PM on November 19, 2001

(left out a sentence in my post there, but I am sure you get the point.:))
and also, to clear it up where I stand on this issue, I am the one who gives this book to kids every day. Believe me, we have ordered more copies of the Harry Potter books than any other book in the library. Anything that sparks the interest of reading in a child is a good thing, as far as I am concerned. And these books have burned their way past the circ desk faster than any book I can think of, except for maybe.....
The Left Behind series.
odd coincidence.
Maybe not.
posted by bradth27 at 1:28 PM on November 19, 2001

Child, you did it again.
"blah blah blah if you think I have "no class". Attacks on my personal blah blah blah"
posted by Catch at 1:49 PM on November 19, 2001

Okay! You're right! I understand now! I was SO wrong! How could I have been so stupid? If we play dodgeball, I'm picking you for my team! Golly, I feel so foolish.
posted by bradth27 at 4:09 PM on November 19, 2001

I guess my big question in all of this is "why are kids going on a field trip to see a movie?" Yeah it's popular and yeah kids are a tough audience in schools these days, but gosh, did anyone think that the movie grossed so high because of similar [semi-optional] field trips? It's just a movie and school is nominally for educating, not entertaining.
posted by jessamyn at 4:25 PM on November 19, 2001

Real wizards to be on the telly. Experts uncover the magic of Harry Potter's ancestors: "Experts in fields as diverse as history, archaeology and botany are about to report on how Harry Potter and other wizards were far from being fictional many thousands of years ago in Britain."
posted by Carol Anne at 4:27 PM on November 19, 2001

Rks404 - You're right, I just didn't read your post as well as I should have when I was looking through for quotes. I scanned for key words and didn't reread enough of your post. Consequently, I totally misrepresented what you said. I really do apologize.
posted by Hildago at 4:42 PM on November 19, 2001

Uh...just like to take the time to point out (again) there is NO relationship between wicca and the traditional notions of witchcraft. Why people who involve themselves in magick want to refer themselves as witches is beyond me (unless they just happen to like the idea of being persecuted through the ages). Even a cursory glance at the primary source material on witchcraft is enough to show anyone that the witchcraze was more about creating a strawman enemy and hunting it down than it was about pagan revivals or whatnot (for which, btw, there is absolutely no evidence). I have yet to see any evidence of anyone who would qualify as a modern day witch getting persecuted in medieval or early modern witchtrials.

Ergo. Harry Potter plays with traditional notions of witchcraft: pointy hats, cloaks, broomsticks, charms and such. If anything, this reflects more on the history of Christianity than it does on modern day Wicca. J. K. Rowling looked at the traditional witch image and said, 'let's say there was something more than that, and that it was a whole other society.' Modern day witches have played the same game. Christians should stop letting neo-pagans take over their own intellectual history.

You can use the same words, but it doesn't make it the same thing.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:20 PM on November 19, 2001

Hildago - thanks for the apology! I was worried that I had inadvertently offended, which was why I was so quick to defend myself.
posted by rks404 at 7:15 PM on November 19, 2001

As for "invisibility cloaks".. what happens when a scientist does finally come up with a way to bend light effectively enough to render someone invisible?

Is it magic?

No. See Clarke's Law.
posted by rushmc at 9:00 PM on November 19, 2001

I watched Bewitched for years and didn't turn out half bad, or even a pagan.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:02 PM on November 19, 2001

Well, as for field trips, let me tell you that the two or three days before Thanksgiving are often pretty useless from an educational standpoint. So I'm sure some of these field trips are of the "let's find something fun to do to keep the kids in line" variety.

But with that said, Harry Potter meant something special in my classroom, when I was teaching. It crossed the usual classroom lines - all kinds of kids liked it: rich kids, poor kids, whiz kids, kids who struggled. It hooked many of the reluctant readers on reading. It was sort of a lingua franca - everyone knew what you meant if you said something about Harry Potter. And because I'd read (and liked) the books, it gave me another way to connect to my students.

And this, despite the fact that it was never assigned, and at that point it wasn't even in my classroom library or the school library.

For all of the marketing hype and such, for me that will be the magic of Harry Potter, and why I still like it even now that it's become a packaged "phenomenon."

Even if I were still teaching, I don't think I'd have taken my class on a field trip to see it, really (probably because of expense more than anything - with a limited field trip budget it wouldn't have been a priority). But if the opportunity to do so landed in my lap, I'd probably have gone ahead and done it.

And you know what? If, after the movie, I led the kids on a movie-to-book comparison which led to some literary and artistic criticism complete with a writing assignment? There might be some educational value to be had, after all.
posted by Chanther at 9:39 PM on November 19, 2001

Perception is reality:

  • Magic exists
  • The Harry Potter books are entertaining
  • Harry Potter is a whimsical, yet harmless, fantasy world
  • Harry Potter promotes/establishes witchcraft/magickal arts
  • Harry Potter encourages young minds to imagine and explore
  • Harry Potter corrupts young minds with evil deeds/actions/practices
  • The movie was/was not an accurate depiction of the novel
  • Schools are meant for children to learn, not to see movies
  • Schools should let children appreciate the arts, and that includes film (especially one that they wanted to see anyways)

...It's all up to you.

posted by Down10 at 1:11 AM on November 20, 2001

Okay, so it's not just me:
Movie Reviews: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone

In what is likely to be regarded as a backlash to the buzz and hype, few critics have welcomed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with unqualified praise -- and a several have expressed growling complaints about it. "The most highly awaited movie of the year has a dreary, literal-minded competence, following the letter of the law as laid down by the author," writes the New York Times' Elvis Mitchell. "But it's all muted flourish, with momentary pleasures." His critical flak aimed at the movie builds to the end of his review: "Someone has cast a sleepwalker's spell over the proceedings, and at nearly two and a half hours, you may go under, too." But Mitchell's reaction is extreme. More typical is Jay Carr's in the Boston Globe, who comments: "No, Harry Potter hasn't been ruined in the move from the printed page to the big screen. There's more right than wrong with it, at least visually. It looks great. Still, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, while having blockbuster written all over it, remains a thing of calculation rather than inspiration." Many critics have faulted the film for remaining too faithful to the book. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News writes, for example: "It is powered solely by the book, and in this satellite role lacks a beating heart of its own." She then quickly adds, however: "But that is surely quibbling." Rita Kempley in the Washington Post puts it this way: "Everything is just as you might expect. ... Potter-philes are sure to get what they want -- if what they want is, in fact, an exacting version of J.K. Rowling's charming children's fantasy. If it's enchantment they are after, that's quite another matter." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times complains that the filmmakers have treated J.K. Rowling's text "like holy writ." The problem, Turan concludes, is that the film merely copies the book and "copies don't leave much to object to or get excited about." He then reins himself in. "It won't do to be unyieldingly grumpy about Harry Potter," he comments, then remarks: "There are moments -- not nearly as many as we'd like, but still moments -- when some of the magic of the books rubs off on the screen." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal also complains of the "cautious approach" the filmmakers have taken by remaining so faithful to the novel, but, he notes tellingly, "the most magical part of the movie is what kids will bring to it." Among the major newspaper reviews, there are two out-and-and-out raves. Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, anticipating the complaints of his colleagues, writes: "Scrupulous in design, faithful in execution and boasting a near-perfect cast of faces new and old, it will delight the many who want the big screen to match the images they have in mind of boy wizard Harry and his friends and foes. ... It's a case where giving the people what they want outweighs any grander artistic pretensions." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times hails the film as "triumphant," and goes on to describe it as "an enchanting classic that does full justice to a story that was a daunting challenge." Ebert puts it in a class with The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, Star Wars, and E.T. "It isn't just a movie," he concludes, "but a world with its own magical rules."
posted by NortonDC at 4:37 AM on November 20, 2001

"... they would just as soon not be embroiled in a controversy.''

Sigh. Choice of the day: be embroiled in a controversy for showing backbone and principles, or be embroiled in a controversy for acting like weak idiots.

Where do they dig up these 'educators', anyway?

posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2001

"It isn't just a movie," he concludes, "but a world with its own magical rules."

And yet, when the day is done, just a movie after all.
posted by rushmc at 7:13 AM on November 21, 2001

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