Misplaced Pride and Prejudice

20 Jul, 2005 | Written WordTdp

I like to think that we live in an enlightend and open-minded world and at a point in time when we've learned to embrace different views, every now and again you read something that shows that while the majority of people have common sense, some, don't.

That's right folks, a school has been forced to abandon plans for a Harry Potter event designed to encourage reading because parents and a local rector have stepped in with concerns that the head teacher was going "to lead our children into areas of evil." I kid you not. I'm going to guess that none of the parents or the rector have actually read a Harry Potter novel. This has got to stop.

I find this rather ironic since I was reading some interviews by GP Taylor earlier this week. Taylor is/was a reverend who is author of a children's fantasy series with two published books from a proposed trilogy (Shadowmancer and Wormwood) and was touted as 'the next JK Rowling.' In the interviews I've read he generally states that his books aren't religious and stays away from calling the Harry Potter books a corrupting influence, but I caught the interview he did for Christianity Today and this quote disappointed me:

But if it doesn't attract people into the occult, why has the Pagan Federation of Britain appointed a youth officer to deal with all the inquiries from young people who've read Harry Potter and all these other books and now want to become witches?

That sounds like a direct accusation to me. This is from a man who is a self-confessed expert on wicca and the occult. I imagine that's something to do with knowing thy enemy. He's kind of a poster boy for Christian fantasy fiction authors and I wonder whether there would have been complaints if the school event was based around his new novel. Somehow I doubt it. The fact that the only reason Harry Potter gets attacked is that it features witches, wizards and magic in it and yet Taylor's books likewise share the same and yet they survive unscathed makes me suspicious. If Rowling was a big Christian with pre-defined views against wicca I wonder if she would still be attacked, perhaps not.

I have to confess I haven't read any of Taylor's books (not for any real reason, they just haven't grabbed me) but they've been compared to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (mainly because they're set in a similarly styled universe). Having read Pullman's books, I'm suprised he hasn't come in for more of a kicking from the religious sector, he does deal directly with religion. Interestingly I got the following quote from his website in response to the question: His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?

I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them.

A little bit of surfing shows that Pullman may not have escaped untouched, possibly he passed under the radar, but according to this article, the film is to be considersably toned down before release. James Bow has some interesting discussions about Pullman and Harry Potter, and he's a Christian. I like James' view, it makes sense, it's logical, I have no problem with people liking or not liking the books, it's the zealots who won't engage in any debate and condemn it without even reading it while refusing to enter into a discussion. That's out and out stupidity. I think this quote from James in his review of His Dark Materials sums up a lot of things:

In a way, it is surprising that Philip Pullman hasn't received more attention than he has. Here we have somebody who has written a set of popular novels that are explicitly critical of Christianity. Despite this, the attention of fundamentalist, evangelical loudmouths (er, speakers), has been routed solidly on J.K. Rowling's totally innocuous Harry Potter series. Phillip Pullman clamours for attention, and he is not getting it. It just illustrates how ma[n]y of these speakers are more interested in getting attention for themselves and their causes than they are in rationally debating the merits of various books.

That, and the fact that Phillip Pullman would probably trounce the book banners to insignificance if he was allowed to go against these people in a meaningful debate.

He also compares the banning of Mein Kempf, Hitler's handbook, to banning Harry Potter. In two of his articles he suggests people attack Rowling's work because it's such a phenomenon and that they're seeking headlines for themselves as much as anything else. James also links to a funny article about the banning of Harry Potter by Judy Blume at the National Coalition Against Censorship.

This article started out as a quick 'stop it you dumb nutters' excercise, but I got carried away, it's an issue I'm passionate about. Maybe the zealots should concentrate on getting their own house in order first. I can't help but remember that these were the sort of people who burned, hung and drowned innocent people and started wars a couple of centuries ago.

Also see:
An article on Slate comparing Harry Potter to Left Behind
A Guardian article on Harry Potter's appeal