25

I can't find the link, but I remember reading a quote that J. K. Rowling said that she didn't believe in witches and wizards and magic, and that the only reason she could write about it was because she didn't believe in it. She also said, "I believe in God, not magic."

The Wikipedia article on her does include some information on her religious views. While she attended church throughout writing Harry Potter, there's also indications that she's ambivalent about religion, saying, at one point, that she hopes her faith will return.

And Harry Potter, with is dying and returning from the dead, is a pretty strong Jesus parallel.

I'm not clear on just where she's coming from. While she was a regular attender of church (while that doesn't prove anything), she talks about her faith returning to her (indicating she feels she's lost it), but is also writing in a setting (a magical one with witches and wizards as the good people) that is not accepted by some churches.

She also has said, "I believe in the permanence of the soul," yet, she writes about how Voldemort's soul is destroyed, piece by piece.

So even though Harry Potter is about witches and wizards and magic, is it essentially a story that was based on her religious beliefs? Are there characters who have parallels in her religion and are many of the stories based on parables? Or are there other ways that her beliefs, or possible ambivalence of beliefs have had a strong influence on her writing?

Note: I am not asking about religion, or what is right or wrong or true or false. The only person's religious beliefs that have any place being discussed here would be those of the author J. K. Rowling and if and what kind of effect those beliefs had on the Harry Potter characters and stories.

  • 4
    I think this might be at risk of being too much about the Author's personal life, and not the Fantasy of the story. It might be better of at the Litrature.SE. – AncientSwordRage Jan 16 '12 at 2:48
  • She also once said she doesn't write fantasy... I think any statements on this topic will just be confusing. – Izkata Jan 16 '12 at 2:53
  • @Izkata: I remember that, but I think I read that she also, later, looked back at her books and realized they were fantasy. – Tango Jan 16 '12 at 2:55
  • 2
    Good question but not quite answerable. It should rather be on Literature (for seeking out parables in HP) or the Bible SE for religious belief analysis. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 16 '12 at 8:21
  • 1
    @DVK: I dunno -- I've had good answers on questions you thought were unanswerable before. I have what I think is an answer, but am hoping there might be more out there that others know about (such as quotes and links) that could either prove my thoughts wrong or prove I'm on target. – Tango Jan 16 '12 at 15:53
28

All the information I can find confirms that the Harry Potter series is indeed a Christian allegory. As a reader, I didn't pick up on it, but apparently it is so!

According to J.K. Rowling, it's not that she didn't want to admit the series was fairly deeply ingrained with the traditions of Christian theology (as she had avoided the topic of religious allegory for many years), it was that she didn't want to tip her hand to readers as to how the series might end. She believed that if she openly discussed the Christian parallels, the major themes/plot-lines of Deathly Hallows might be obvious (i.e. Harry dying and then coming back to life à la Jesus' resurrection)

In The Religion News Blog on 10.26.00, JKR confirms her Christianity. When asked if she is a Christian, she answers:

”Yes, I am,” she says. ”Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

And in 2007, she re-confirms the Christian subtext:

"To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious," [J.K. Rowling] said. "But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going."

J.K. Rowling - Press Conference 10.15.07 - Open Book Tour for Deathly Hallows

JKR believes the series is epitomized by two distinct Bible verses:

"They're very British books, so on a very practical note Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones," Rowling explained. "[But] I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric's Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series."

J.K. Rowling - Press Conference 10.15.07 - Open Book Tour for Deathly Hallows

The Bible verses are:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26 - Inscribed on James and Lily Potter's tombstone.

and

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21 - Inscribed on Kendra and Arianna Dumbledore's tombstone.

The Word of God, I suppose, coming to you via MTV News.

ETA: 01.18.15 On December 16, 2014, J.K. Rowling announced on Twitter that Ravenclaw student Anthony Goldstein is Jewish. So while the Harry Potter series remains a Christian allegory, at least one other religion -- Judaism -- is now represented in her universe. That said, Judaism doesn't seem to be represented in the plot of the Harry Potter stories themselves. I thought this was obliquely relevant to the question, so decided to edit it in.

  • Do you mean tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WordOfGod trope? – Jesvin Jose Jul 17 '13 at 12:53
  • @aitchnyu -- I mean "Word of God" in terms of information coming directly from the author. – Slytherincess Jul 18 '13 at 2:05
  • 3
    Wow. +1 for teaching me something I never knew or even suspected. – Rand al'Thor Sep 1 '15 at 20:24
  • 1
    One thing that struck me when reading them was that Harry's changes of attitude & trust towards Dumbledore throughout the last 3 books seemed very similar to me to a person's journey of attitude & trust in God when life is difficult. – xdhmoore Nov 9 '15 at 6:10
  • 2
    Don't forget the Patil twins, Padma and Parvati. As they are of Indian heritage (the surname Patil at least is Indian), it is possible (likely to me) that they were raised in the Hindu or Sikh tradition, bringing the religion count in the series to three :-) – maguirenumber6 Dec 20 '15 at 6:22
3

I think the first thing to say is that an authors religious beliefs - and their scientific beliefs, and any other beliefs they have - will tend to ifluence their writing. And in a series like HP, which is actually very personal to JKR, this is even more true.

What is also important is that the stories we learn - through church/sunday school, reading fairy tales, watching TV - are also vital for our development. And in the case of HP, I think the stories that JKR knew, which came from all sorts of places, influenced her writing. There may be a Jesus reference in Harry dying and coming back, but there is also likely to be a more generic to death and rebirth stories. C S Lewis always said that Narnia was not an allegory, despite the fact that in TLTWATW, Aslan is killed and comes back to life. I think he was drawing on other stories as well as that of Jesus.

So I reckon that JKRs faith influenced her writing, as much as anyones does. But trying to find specific references is liable to reflect th readers interpretation, not necessarily JRKs.

  • 2
    Not relevant to the OP, but I think you've slightly misunderstood CS Lewis. His insistence that Narnia wasn't an allegory didn't mean that Aslan wasn't supposed to represent Jesus. In fact, the opposite: he claimed that Aslan was Jesus as he would have been in a different world. Tolkien thought that was quibbling, hence his own comment in the preface to LOTR: "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations." – Daniel Roseman Jan 16 '12 at 9:44
  • @DanielRoseman - I don't think we are disagreeing actually. CSL was drawing on other stories and highlighting the importance and significance of the death and resurrection myth in all cultures (myth in the proper meaning of the word ). It is not allegory, because he is not representing this world. It is the importance of the myth that he highlights, as does JKR. And the importance of this myth will point people to the importance of its manifestation in our world, but that is not the essence of his use of it. – Schroedingers Cat Jan 16 '12 at 9:56
  • +1 I agree allegory is too strong a word because my understanding is that it implies that specific story elements were purposefully crafted to match something else analogously. – xdhmoore Nov 9 '15 at 6:05
3

The role of religion in HP is something i have always wondered about and i found the answers posted so far great and very useful, but i'd like to answer on a different ground. Besides the role of religion in HP writing and meaning to the readers, I have always wondered what religion is inside HP universe: what religion do the wizarding community (at least the british one) follow? How much does it mean to them?

Throughout the series we find many references to Christmas and some tombs at Godric's Hollow cemetery are clearly topped with a cross, implying that Christianity is somehow an "official" religion in the wizarding community as well as in the Muggle one.

Paganism also plays a role in HP universe: magical creatures and beings in HP universe (sirens, centaurs, goblins, veelas...), as well as characters names, draw a lot on british and north-european traditional folklore and from greek mythology. Yule (as in Yule Ball) was an ancient pagan feast that was replaced with Christmas when northern europe was christianized. The Yule ball is part of the Triwizard Tournament and the latter cannot be older than Hogwarts itself, which is around 1000 years as for the 1990s, while in real history christianization of Great britain began around the 600 AD: this might mean that the wizarding community might have held pagan traditions and beliefs longer than Muggles. Moreover, everything related to wizardry and witchcraft has always been associated to paganism in traditional cultures across europe, and JKR has no fear of stepping outside her fantasy universe into the real world history discussing inquisition, burning of witches and prosecution against wizarding community in canon sources.

One last point is that when it comes to actual religion-related events in the saga, JKR seems to deliberately omit any reference to a specific religion. Both Dumbledore's funeral and Bill and Fleur's wedding are said to be officiated by the same non-specified wizard whose presence and words are both uninteresting and little or not understandable to Harry: this might imply that he doesn't follow a religion and/or he didn't receive any religious education at the Durslsey's (even if this seems to me highly unlikely since the Dursleys seem to be exactly that kind of persons who think that being good Christians is all about attending church every sunday and then acting like sh* all the rest of the time.) Nevertheless, the existence of a life in another dimension after death is strongly implied in the whole story, and there is a deep sense of relatedness with the hereafter and beloved people passed away.

I think the ultimate meaning of this all, the message JKR wanted to hand us, is that it's not important which specific religion do you follow, or even wether you follow one, to define you as a good person. What matters is to have a spirituality, which is totally different from a religion. Everything that counts is to be connected with something bigger than ourselves: love, values, a mission that gives meaning to one's life, our soul, contributing to a higher and basically good-oriented plan. Just my interpretation!

  • 1
    hey there Elisabetta and welcome to Scifi&Fantasy SE, Your answer is very elaborate and detailed, however could you please provide some quotes or sources of what you advance here so that answer becomes more than just an opinion based answer which are really not encouraged here. Cheers ! – yondaime008 Jan 15 '16 at 13:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.