“No God-stuff in Harry Potter:” Correspondence from Ohio

Over at the Barnes and Noble book club, a writer named “The Apologist” made some thoughtful points about Christians with reservations about these books, all of which points brought the attentive reader to the conclusion that we shouldn’t rush to judge people who act out of sober prudence to guard their children from dissipating influences. Like “The Apologist,” I have no arguments with parents that refuse to let their children read Harry Potter in obedience to instruction from the people they accept as spiritual authorities in their lives. Obedience and humility are the foundation of spiritual accomplishment in every revealed tradition; how could I say "trust my opinion of these books more than the authorities to which you are in obedience"?

What galls me is (1) the authorities who have not read the books but use them as litmus strips of orthodoxy or "right belief" (and to keep their congregations in line with simnple markers), (2) those in obedience who become zealots and evangelists (using the litmus strips as billy clubs in parishs and the public square; obedience sans humility), and (3) the secularist clan that belittle believers as idiots for having sober reservations about a book that does present an exciting, engaging version of witchcraft.

Alas, I get far more letters from these last people than from Christians and true believers that hate Harry. This one was in yesterday’s mailbag:

From: Name deleted
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 10:06 AM
To: john@hogwartsprofessor.com
Subject: Looking for God…

Dearest Mr. Granger,

I discovered your book Looking for God in Harry Potter at my local Library in Marysville, Ohio. I’ve read all of the Potter books and know them forward and back. I’m not a Christian, Satanist , nor am I a bad person, I’m a farmer. However, I am also a literature buff. I’ve read all the "Great Books", the bible, you name it. History also interests me greatly.

Do you realize that there is not one single proven incident of invocational magic, or even incantations? I’m wondering where this fear of magic comes from when it is not real. If you look hard enough you can find "God" in anything or anyone. Christians, since the earliest days of the monks, have destroyed and silenced what does not play to their cause. Why would Sons of Christ act in such a way?

I’m pressed for time so I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts not related to your book.

You have said that all the great stories resonate with the story of God. Perhaps the bible is one of the greatest stories ever told and mabye there was a bit of plagiarism? Look, I could twist Harry Potter into being a story about Satan if I wanted but it simply is not true. Mrs. Rowling is a genius that mixed the Great Book elements to form another great book and that’s all. Christians put so much energy into finding God where he simply is not and never was.

One last thing, have you or anyone you know seen God? If so, in the word of Lucious Malfoy when Harry frees Dobby with his sock, "Why don’t you prove it?"

Dear Name deleted,

Thank you for your note, written at generous length though you were pressed for time. I appreciate your concern about my ignorance and your having taken time to enlighten me on the several points you raise.

The only non-rhetorical question you ask is if I or anyone I know has seen God and my supporting evidence if I have seen God or know anyone who has (quoting, with some irony, Lucious Malfoy!). This may have been more of an assertion of this being impossible than an honest question, I suppose, given the underlining and the note of your comments about the Bible as stories. I try to answer every question readers send me so I will attempt this, even if I am concerned it is something I’m not supposed to do (Matthew 7:6).

I have not seen God nor have I met anyone who has claimed to see God in His Essence or Energies (the former not being possible and the latter reserved to the spiritually accomplished, which is to say, those not likely to talk about it with goofs like me). I have little doubt of God’s “existence,” however, if that term is inappropriate for His state, which, whatever it is, is not spatio-temporal. There is no physical evidence I can sight or show you for my conviction, just as there is no physical evidence for truth, beauty, or love, each of which is important evidence of His reality (if, as non-quantifiable evidence, I suspect you must discount it).

I worry a bit that your straw-man ideas about God and the Christian believers who trust in him are popular anthropomorphic images of an old man with a long white beard sitting in judgment on the human beings who won’t do what he wants. I hope, if this is the case – and my apologies for assuming this is the case based just on the suggestions between the lines of your note, written in haste – that you will read the Sufi writers Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, or Whitall Perry to expand your thinking about What God is. It will certainly help in your appreciation of the Great Books you like to read, few of whose authors have the childish conceptions of the grandfather time-god that conventional naturalists like to bash as “what stupid believers believe.” If you would prefer to read Christian writers on these issues, I am glad to recommend some.

Thank you again for your time and concern about the several points you brought to my attention. If you want to learn more about Harry and the Great Books, please read Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader that just came out this month. It’s a lot lighter on the transcendent elements that irritated you in Looking for God and more about the temporal and literary side of things.


John Granger

Post: Ms. Rowling is a Christian, incidentally, who has made public confessions of her belief in God, baptized her children, etc. Your assertion that you could “twist Harry Potter into being about Satan” is something I hope you will attempt to demonstrate if you have the time. It would make for fun reading!


  1. Not sure where to put this about the cover news so here goes.

    O.K. I am now going to employ my wisdom of how to critique a work of art since that is what my major in college was, Art History. First of all in the U.S. version Harry is in the Christ pose (in the shape of a cross). That was my first hunch, as it goes with the Christian theme. If you have studied as many images, (1000’s) as I have of Christian art, you will notice that right away. Grand Pre would have had to learn art history if she attended any college in the western world and would definitly know about this. Of course it is JKR’s book, and she would know her story. Next I think Dobby is in the U.K cover, bringing the sword to Harry helping him out as he always does. He has his own brand of magic and works at the castle behind the scenes. He had access to gillyweed, why not the sword. I also like the prediction that Harry and lot are at Gringotts, which has been my prediction all the time. That the end will go down at the bank with the goblins and dragons because LV will need something from there and they will try to stop him. Just my take, but you can take the Christ pose symbolism to the bank.

  2. I missed this so add it to my last post.

    Oh and I cannot believe I missed this, but Harry is looking up toward heaven and at his feet are the destroyed fragments of wood, symbol of the cross.

    Also, looking at the U.K. kids cover, could they be in a tomb? As in one of the four founders. Griffindor possibly. If Harry pulled the sword from Gryffindors hat then maybe he could also aquire the things that go with it from his sources, the shield and breast plate.

  3. On this board we have talked extensivly about there being a beheading at the end of book 7. It could possibly be a gallows that has been destroyed under Harry. The curtains look tattered and old, Harry is wearing something around his neck and it is not shiny, more like a cloth bag (medicine). I wonder if Harry is looking at his Father symbol. He has many, but since the patronus is part of the cover, maybe the stag or James.

    I keep making passes on the up close versions and have been studying Harry’s eyes and it looks like there is a definite reflection of some sort in his glasses and in his eye. One eye is normal but the other almost looks reptillian or cat like. I looked closer and tried to see if there was a far away object in the reflectio and it looks like a creature with wings flying and sometimes I look at it and see an owl reflection as if it is up close.

    Wierd or maybe not. If it is a stag or Buckbeak, it is a Christ symbol. Guys we are being bombarded with Christian symbolism at it’s best visually. I am thrilled!!!!!!!!!

  4. I have participated in chat groups where both Christians and Atheists have spent hours hashing and rehashing their ideas about who God is or isn’t. The gentleman who wrote you obviously is concerned about the ‘God-Stuff’, else why would he take time to write you, as busy as he is? But his letter was already full of brick walls which are difficult, if not downright impossible, to break. Sad, really.

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