I, BookObssesserNumberOne, hereby promise that I will not filter facts, cherrypick information, taint arguments, or lie in this evaluation of Harry Potter and its religious controversy. I do not believe that all Christians and Muslims hate Harry Potter, and that all Jews like it. I am merely expresses what some members of these groups believe.
Harry Potter is a very controversial series on religion. While the books go out of the way to avoid this ancient, touchy, subject, religion goes out of its way to make Harry Potter noticeable... and not always in a good way. Harry Potter has many twisting, complicated things that are offensive to some religions.
1. Supposed Wiccanism.
2. Dumbledore's homosexuality
3. How religions other than Christianity reacted.
I shall address these one at a time.
1. Supposed Wiccanism.
Witches in the Harry Potter series are prominent. Hogwarts' full title is, after all, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hermione, Ginny, Bellatrix, and all magical females in this series are referred to as witches. Some Christian groups believe this to be Wiccanist themes in the books. They believe that Harry Potter is an underlying attempt to convert Christians to Wiccanism and thus, send their souls to the devil. Some even believe that Rowling is attempting to make the magic in her books an alluring temptation, creating a thirst for making such magic themselves.
Others argue that the use of witches in the Harry Potter series is not a reference to Wiccanism but to the mythical women themselves. After all, what else would you call a female magician but a witch? They claim that the magic of Harry Potter is simply a plot device, a key to an enchanting world. Witchcraft is not Wiccanism. It's just the magic that the females preform.
However, the argument does not stop here. The two epitaphs at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, one by Quaker William Penn, the other pagan Greek , from The Libation Bearers caused additional argument. Some yelled in offense at this, claiming that this was sacrilege, placing Christianity with Paganism. Others simply said that it conveyed Rowling's subliminal message: that whoever we are, whether a pagan Greek or a Christian man searching for a new home, our hearts beat as one.
This heated argument lasted for months before one, essential, detail came up.
In Deathly Hallows, when Harry is burying Moody's eye, he chooses the most gnarled, tough looking tree he can find. At first, this seems like another Wiccan reference, but then J.K. Rowling surprised us all.
Harry carved a Christian cross on the tree.
After all this time of ignoring religion, Rowling decided to settle whether or not this was Wiccanism. Had Harry and his friends been a cult of Wiccans, they would have carved a pentagram rather than a cross. Thus, very cleverly, Rowling let the whole world know that she was not a Wiccan, neither was she trying to recruit Wiccans.
Did this completely stop all religious debate? The answer is a resounding no. Did it stop most accusations of Wiccanism? Yes.
2. Dumbledore's homosexuality.
In a couple of interviews, Rowling has admitted that Dumbledore is gay and had romantic feelings toward Grindelwald. This seems innocent enough, as it was merely a minor detail, but once again the flames are fanned.
Homosexuality is a very, very, complex moral idea. I will not get into the morals of homosexuality at this time, as such a subject could easily take up the entire essay. Let's just leave it at this: Some believe homosexuality is a serious sin.
Dumbledore's homosexuality was yet another great, shall we say, arena for debate. Mostly, this was yet another reason for those who hate Harry Potter to point out why it is so horrible a book series. Some were disappointed that the supposedly moral Harry Potter books had shown their true colors as an evil book series set out to rob the world of its moral integrity. They do not want their children to read the books, believing that they encourage homosexuality. What is even more infuriating is that Dumbledore is a moral compass for the series.
Others fought back. They thought that 'Dumbledore is gay', no more encourages homosexuality than simply saying homosexuality exists. They also claim that it is wrong to claim that homosexuals are evil. In her own words, Rowling simply said. "Do I think a gay person can be a moral compass? I think it's ludicrous that we are asking that question in the 21st century."
Yet another source came up. " Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay," said New York Times columnist Edward Rothstein, "but there is no reason why anyone else should." He is right. Not once, in the books or the movies, is Dumbledore portrayed as gay. That is purely Rowling's word. Some faithful readers of the Harry Potter series, if they choose not to watch Rowling's interviews, may never know that the moral compass of the series, Dumbledore, is gay.
This did not stop anyone, of course. Still there was claim that the more children get into the Harry Potter series, they will eventually discover Dumbledore being gay. Thus, the argument started up again. Then another, peculiar, thing popped up.
Catholic fantasy author Regina Doman, while writing an essay defending Dumbledore, suggested that rather than promote homosexuality, the books do exactly the opposite. Dumbledore's love, Grindelwald, turned out creating an estrangement in the family, lead Dumbledore to a fascination with the Dark Arts, and, ultimately, made him ignore his sister and later cause her death. Dumbledore's homosexuality, she argued, lead him to nothing good.
This was a new and interesting point of view, but it did nothing to soothe the heated debate. To this day, arguments still remain about the homosexuality of Dumbledore and what it means for the series.
3. How did the other religions react?
In Islam, it is believed that the magical themes in the series contrast with Islamic themes. I am not a Muslim, nor do I know much about their religion to matter, and thus cannot elaborate on this point.I can say, however, that the Harry Potter books were widely rejected across Islamic lands.
Judaism is another matter. Most rabbis believe that Harry has a "Jewish soul", and that the books are " a force for good." It has enjoyed a reasonably good reception across the religion. This may be because many Jews (and Christians), parallel the story of Harry and Voldemort to that of David and Goliath. Harry being this small, meek, talented in some ways but not others, little boy who stands up to this massively powerful man, Voldemort, and wins due to the all-powerful power of good. However, the release of Deathly Hallows offended most Jews, as it happened on Saturday, a day in which business transactions are forbidden.
In conclusion, I state that Harry Potter will always be controversial. The books have too many themes to be argued, too many values to be debated. But maybe Rowling wanted it this way. When she was typing Deathly Hallows, she said. " Some people aren't going to be happy with it, but that's the way it should be." After all, if people didn't criticize, debate, draw moral lines, and think for themselves, where would we be today?