Will People In The Future Think Harry Potter Was A Religion?

Photo: Warner Bros./Photofest.
Harry Potter is known to have an incredibly zealous fan base. J.K. Rowling's magical fiction has charmed us with best-selling books, box office-busting movies — plus memorabilia, theme parks, online communities, and, most recently, a stage play. In fact, we worship the franchise so devotedly that some divinity scholars might compare it to a religion.
That's exactly the premise behind a thought-provoking new podcast from two Harvard scholars, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Vanessa Zoltan, an assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and Caspar ter Kuile, a graduate of Harvard’s Divinity School, co-host the show. In it, they analyze the book series chapter by chapter, as if it were a traditional sacred religious text.

"We’re trying to talk about the books the way that people talk about religious texts in religious settings," Zoltan explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. "The way that you talk about the Bible in church, the way that you talk about the Torah in temple, the way that you talk about the Quran in mosques." For instance, Harry Potter's themes of generosity and nonviolence echo Christian values. "I think Jesus would really dig the Harry Potter books," Zoltan said.
Now, think about what our Potter obsession could look like in retrospect. It's not crazy to imagine that thousands of years from now, archaeologists or extraterrestrial visitors studying our civilization could view Potter-mania in the same light as Judaism or Hinduism. "I, at minimum, think it would confuse them," Zoltan argued to HuffPo. There aren't ancient Harry Potter temples or scrolls now, "But we have Harry Potter World, which is a church, of sorts," Zoltan said. "[And] you only have one Bible on your shelf but you have seven Harry Potter books on your shelf."
But there's much more to it than the books themselves."The Harry Potter universe has a lot of things that look a lot like a religion," Zoltan continued. "It has rituals. It has sayings. You say, 'mischief managed!' Or, 'Raise a glass to the Boy who Lived!' You have certain arguments; there are these [conventions] where they do all sorts of rituals... The midnight release parties are absolute rituals. There are movie-watching parties. There are all sorts of rituals associated with it. There’s a central text associated with it. I mean, it has a lot of the requirements of being a religion."

People have Harry Potter tattoos, for goodness sake. And think about how seriously we theorize about the HP universe. It looks like the Boy Who Lived might just live on forever.

More from Books & Art

We're admittedly in a golden age of television. That makes tuning into Netflix on any given evening kind of a no-brainer. But while there's a ton of good ...
What could be as breathtaking as seeing ballet dancer Misty Copeland on stage in all her glory? Seeing Misty Copeland in all her glory — between the glossy...
"The story contains many references to Bo being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers...
Vanessa Bayer of "SNL" interviews author Jessi Klein
We all know what it means to call someone a trainwreck. It refers to a person who has gone off the rails — a hot mess who always seems to be in the ...
Sneak peek inside book ^^^^! Link to order in bio. #carrythisbook A video posted by @abbijacobson on Sep 25, 2016 at 10:33am PDT Abbi Jacobson, ...
Back in the early 1970s, Pierre Le Guennec was Pablo Picasso's handyman and electrician. Le Guennec had such a good relationship with the artist that he ...
Whether rooted in reality or a glamorized rom-com, job stereotypes make it easy to assume the voices behind most runway reviews, PR pitches, and cover ...
J.K. Rowling, the reigning queen of the Wizarding World, has a present for you. That present is a quiz in which Pottermore will select your patronus. We ...
I do not recognize Mara Wilson when she arrives at an ice cream shop in Brooklyn, wearing a red dress and a sweep of black eyeliner. When she says hello...
In honor of National Support Teen Literature Day, we've collected the best books to pick up if you're in the mood for a little young adult lit. YA has only...
There are some books you pick up because you know they'll be tear-jerkers, and you're not opposed to a good cry. Then there are the books that sucker-punch...
It's been a big year for the Winnie the Pooh characters. This summer, the original stuffed animals the literary characters are based upon (who reside in ...
Even if you're not actually going back to school, there's something about September air that makes it feel as though it's time to go buy pencils and ...