Posts Tagged ‘harry potter’

The early reviews of the new Harry Potter are in, and they’re pretty good:

The Vatican lauded the latest Harry Potter film on Monday, saying Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince made the age-old debate over good vs. evil crystal clear.

Wait, crystal clear? I read the book, and I’m pretty sure that the battle between good and evil was anything but crystal clear.

I suppose it’s possible that the movie changes all those parts. But I’m guessing it’s a reasonably faithful adaptation.

Which means that the Vatican must be referring to their own idiosyncratic notions of good and evil.

For instance, perhaps they consider Dumbledore “evil” on account of his support for gay marriage and euthanasia. And maybe they consider Voldemort “good” because his pursuit of horcruxes demonstrates that (unlike those nasty Darwinist muggles) he believes in an immortal soul.

Or perhaps the priests are merely using moral language to disguise an affinity for watching horny teenagers:

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano even gave two thumbs up to the film’s treatment of adolescent love, saying it achieved the “correct balance” and made the stars more credible to the general audience.


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As we’ve discussed before, many religions are struggling to keep their flocks. However, all is not gloom and doom.

For instance, there’s a cute article this weekend in the New York Times about a non-religiously-raised kid who suddenly insists his (ex-monk) dad start taking him to church on Sundays:

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.

“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

What follows is a touching story of redemption. Little Ryan joins the confirmation class; his dad stares at the beautiful stained-glass windows; even the mom eventually tags along and volunteers to bring a carrot salad to the church picnic. (Shrewdly, the article manages not to bring up theology, which might have made it controversial and/or interesting.)

At this point you’re probably wondering if there are any lessons your church can learn from this story.

Among the many reasons Ryan wanted to go: he’s a big reader, enjoys fantasy literature and has seen theories suggesting the world may end in 2013 due to the configuration of magnetic forces. In that case, he said, it would be nice to be on good terms with God.

None of these are traditional elements of church outreach, but they could quite easily be incorporated. Therefore, churches that are hurting for parishioners might consider one or more of the following:

The obvious caveat is that, if parents were to start teaching their kids that fantasy books are fiction and that the Mayan prophecy is nonsense and that “the reason we don’t go to church is because your religion is false,” these plans might not work. But what are the chances of any of those?

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While secular scientists and religious fundamentalists may find themselves at odds over many issues, they’ve come to the same conclusion when it comes to at least one.

Both sides agree that “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling doesn’t research thoroughly or deeply enough when writing her best-selling novels.

In the weeks ahead of the release of the movie “The Half-Blood Prince,” based on Rowling’s best-selling novel, conservatives such as Catholic League president Bill Donohue have been slamming Rowling for claiming as “factual” some details in her book that experts say are not.

“J.K. Rowling says in her book (Half-Blood Prince) that the Horcruxes are ‘factual’ and that they were ‘created ruthlessly by the Dark Lord,’ ” noted Donohue, referring to the soul-piece-storing secret objects that are the focus of the upcoming movie adaptation of Half-Blood Prince, which hits theaters in June.

Furthermore, as Donohue pointed out, Rowling said in a promotional interview that the Death Eaters “vowed vengeance against Muggles in their early days.”

“The early Death Eaters – those of Voldemort’s day – were expelled from Hogwarts by the Dumbledore and hunted mercilessly,” the author had said.

Donohue, however, said “all of this is a lie,” noting that the Death Eaters were founded more recently.

“It is obvious that Malfoy and Crabbe could not possibly have been members,” he argued, referring to the two pure-blood wizards. “Hogwarts never expelled a single member of the Death Eaters.”

More recently, scientists have also come out to clarify for book lovers and moviegoers the truth behind claims made by Rowling, though most are well aware that her books are works of fiction with snippets of facts interwoven – not vice-versa.

Marcela Carena, a senior scientist at the lab and a professor at the University of Chicago, told the Courier News this past week that the concept of wizards in Half-Blood Prince is right, but the quantity that appear in the story is “impossible.”

According to Carena, it would take the largest school of wizardry in the world about 190 million years to make the dozens of Death Eaters that threaten the world in Half-Blood Prince.

Rowling apparently “didn’t do a lot of research” about the magic involved in her book, Carena told the Courier News.

Despite its inaccuracies – historical and scientific – “Half-Blood Prince” is expected to score big in the box office this year.

The movie had been reviewed by semi-official Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano as “harmless entertainment” that “hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity.”

While it praised director David Yates for the “magnificent” reconstruction of the cave storing Slytherin’s locket, L’Osservatore Romano stopped short of endorsing the film and compared it to a video game that “first of all ignites curiosity, and then, perhaps amuses a little also.”

Furthermore, the newspaper noted that the Catholic Church is on the side of the good guys in “Half-Blood Prince,” unlike “Order of the Phoenix,” to which the upcoming movie serves as a sequel.

In Order of the Phoenix, author Rowling had vilified the Ministry of Magic as a secretive and murderous cult – a depiction that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced as “deeply abhorrent.”

In “Half-Blood Prince,” however, it is Muggles like Catholics that protagonist Harry Potter is working to defend, and the group suspected of trying to destroy Muggles is one, unlike the Ministry of Magic, that is no longer operating today.

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Over at Kingdom of Priests, David Klinghoffer poses (possibly disingenously) the question: “Anyway, I have a challenge for atheists and secondarily for agnostics. From where do you derive meaning in life?”

As you might suspect, this is one of the topics addressed at length in my book:

Another common objection to the points raised in this book is that religion serves as a source of comfort or meaning or purpose for people. I have no doubt that this is indeed the case; however, serving as a source of comfort does not make a belief true. After all, the “Harry Potter” books serve as a great comfort to me (or at least they did until J.K. Rowling callously outed happily-in-the-closet headmaster Albus Dumbledore), but you will rarely find me arguing that Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft is a real place, that use of the Avada Kedavra killing curse is actually unforgiveable, or that Quidditch merits inclusion as an Olympic sport.

Furthermore, if you’re going to choose something false to give your life meaning or purpose, there are many more exciting choices than whatever religion your parents happened to practice. Why not the belief that the eight-year gap in your life starting in the mid-seventies was caused by aliens who abducted you and took you to the planet Phaelon and studied you and filled your head up with star charts in an attempt to demonstrate that humans only use 10% of their brains? Or the belief that you might have been brainwashed into becoming a killing machine by Chinese Communists in league with your mother, Angela Lansbury, during the Korean War? Or (especially) the belief that the new green variety of processed food-wafers from the Soylent Corporation are not made from high-energy algae at all, but are in fact made out of people?

Personally, I choose to look for meaning in beautiful, mundane events, and (with the revelation that your religion is false) I suggest that you do the same. In case you have trouble finding your purpose, here are some possibilities:

  • Prove to Amy Fleming that she was a fool for breaking up with me
  • Get the high score on the Galaga machine at the bowling alley
  • Read all the books in the Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins series
  • Use every restroom in every major league baseball stadium
  • Finish writing anti-religious polemic
  • Try every flavor of Jelly Bellies
  • Sing “Don’t Stop Believing” at karaoke
  • Learn to say “duty” without giggling
  • Get to spin the big wheel on “Price is Right”
  • Meet Morrissey without crying

If you have further suggestions, just leave them in the comments.

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