What do religious people have against the fantastic?

This has been my observation for a long time now but whenever I see dissidents or critics of fantasy (as with the many Harry Potter and now Pokemon threads), there seems to be this aversion among so called, ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’, or ‘spiritual warfare’ gurus towards fantastical elements.

By fantastical, I mean anything that is not of our reality: magical universes, extraordinary abilities turn ordinary, mythical creatures.

Why is that? What do these people have against the imagination? To dig a little deeper, what if all of a sudden, our world became a little bit more ‘fantastic’ in of itself? What if a growing percentage of the human population started exhibiting magical powers or strange creatures just started popping up all over?

Frankly, I actually shudder at the thought of what such folks would do.

The objection is not the idea of magic or fantasy, but the way it is portrayed. The Lord of the Rings has many such elements but is shown as an analogy to the real supernatural battle of good and evil. Gandalf is a Christ figure and as such is given powers beyond normal. Aragorn is also a Christ figure and has the skills of healing. These characters do not abuse or use these powers for their own means, but to assist their fellow comrades in the battle against darkness.
I have not read or seen much Harry Potter, but the use of magic and powers seem to be quite different than in Tolkien’s works. Magic appears to be something to possess and use for yourself to become powerful, in other words;selfishness is okay. Not that those characters don’t show some courage, but it is a misplaced sense of heroism that makes those books objectionable. Even though it is a fictitious work the overall message isn’t very Catholic. I really have no interest in Pokemon so I can’t comment on that.
I haven’t really heard anything against superheroes. Sure they are silly stories showing powerful beings in tights, but usually they are portraying a greater sense of self sacrifice for others and unselfishness. These are good fantastical stories.
I answer to your question,’’ the end doesn’t justify the means’’ in fantastical elements, or in any circumstances for that matter.

I’m afraid you are missing the point. That is not the issue for the religious I’ve seen. It has never been how such powers are used but mainly the powers themselves.

As for Harry Potter, you make the same flawed analysis. How is the use of magic or the use of mutant powers any different when they are both used by those that possess them? Selfishness? Hardly. In such fantastical worlds, people are just born or granted a gift. There is nothing that I have seen in Church teaching that supposedly condemns having such abilities. Furthering the irony is that both genres have expressed it numerous times about how misuse and abuse of power only leads to corruption and evil.

That does not mean it is not counteracted by those who use the same power for good.

Some folks may presume that such ideas are occultish, but as you point out, it’s how the imaginative fiction portrays the thing in question.

Hear Hear!

John Ronald Reul Tolkien was a devout Catholic. Does anyone know if J.K. Rowling or George Martin are even Christian?

I despise fiction that comes from the world. I’m a citizen of Heaven, fiction is the most interesting when it is written by Christians.

Anyways, I don’t think the literary world will ever be graced with the presence of a writer who is in the same caliber as J.R.R. Tolkien. I’d love to be proven wrong.

[quote=Lost Wanderer]Why is that? What do these people have against the imagination? To dig a little deeper, what if all of a sudden, our world became a little bit more ‘fantastic’ in of itself? What if a growing percentage of the human population started exhibiting magical powers or strange creatures just started popping up all over?
[/quote]

What, you mean like the miracles of Saints?

The only supernatural things that happen on Earth come from a conflict between good and evil. So… you have the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and angels, vs. the devil and his works, pomps, and minions.

Other than that, I’m going to have to say in the most sincere way possible: start living in the real world. Outside of the forces of Heaven and Hell there’s nothing unnatural or “fantastical” that occurs on Earth.

I know right? I mean so a character can summon a tornado. Powerful? Definitely. Evil? How so? Where is the logical link between having an ability and having no morals?

The closest I could get is the whole ‘power corrupts’ cliche. And even then, it only distorts in to this twisted idea that any entity that has fantastical powers is in rebellion against God. “God is the only one entitled to such powers uh-huh, yup!” It reeks of the fear, paranoia, and not to mention anti-progressive cliches secularists use to demonize religious belief.

Do we really want more of that breathing down authors necks? Really?

I’m not sure about the Phillipines, but here in the U.S., I think part of it has to do with our puritanical roots as a country. Some people are just overly suspicious of that type of stuff.

Which is exactly why I don’t like living it. You know funny how you say this but are you aware that the very Catholic you hail would also take offense at this statement?

It does not matter if you think the fantastical only occurs in supernatural planes. The fact is Tolkien espoused positive, healthy escapism.

Rowling is a devout Anglican, and allowed Christianity to have a strong affect on how she portrayed the magical powers, as well as how she portrayed the main characters and the struggles of good vs evil.

What, you mean like the miracles of Saints?

The only supernatural things that happen on Earth come from a conflict between good and evil. So… you have the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and angels, vs. the devil and his works, pomps, and minions.

Other than that, I’m going to have to say in the most sincere way possible: start living in the real world. Outside of the forces of Heaven and Hell there’s nothing unnatural or “fantastical” that occurs on Earth.

These things are born of our God-given imaginations, and always have been. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fantastical. Or are you saying that partaking of our imaginations, through which we attempt to discern or understand a being who would not only create us, but then sacrifice Himself for us, is inherently evil?

God has to have an imagination, of some form; otherwise, where the heck did we come from? Not to mention all the gloriously wonderful and varied creates that have existed on our planet throughout history.

No, I would say that the imagination is just like everything else. Neither good nor evil by its own accord, but colored one way or another by how we use it. In terms of Potter, it is used to create a magical world where there is a true, visible battle between good and evil. It’s a refreshing representation of our own battle with Satan and with sin, which is far less visible. There is the constant temptation to give in and use the abilities for personal gain (the felix felicitatous (sp?) potion, for example), and any time the characters give in to rage and anger, they are made to regret it in a visceral and directly apparent ways (when Harry Uses Secusempra in rage). The stories are full or very good life lessons about what it means to stand on the truth, regardless of the mockery you receive for it (basically the entire fifth book), and the entire story is prefaced by the truth that love is sacrifice (The sacrifice of Lily and James)

No, if you actually read them, you would see that, far from Pagan and occult, these books are truly inspiring, and manifest of a beautiful understanding of the human person, and the true and invaluable nature of the soul.

Maybe so but it’s also been my observation that the most ardent critics on these boards are somewhat Euro-centric as well (and British, apparently). Much of the same material which they cite seems to stem from the pool of European fundamentalist thought.

I don’t think I’ve read the exact threads in question, but it seems to me a key element is the fact that there is real witchcraft in the world. It’s one thing to imagine a secondary world with its own fantastic workings, but when the fantasy gets too close to reality in what it portrays things start getting complicated, particularly if something very similar to a real evil is portrayed as good.

Personally, I think the Harry Potter books are sufficiently unrealistic/fantastical to present only a minimal danger of luring kids into the occult. Unfortunately there is more sex (usually quite veiled of course) than I would like to see in children’s books, even if it goes over the heads of the youngest readers. There’s also an odd concept of the soul presented and a hint that a more or less Buddhistic philosophy perhaps ultimately underlies the magic. By far the worst thing of course is the intense and explicit endorsement of mercy killing, which is the primary reason I’d say quite firmly that children should not be exposed to the material.

Erm… i’m not a young reader, and I definitely do not have what one would term a clean mind, and I don’t recall a single instance of sex or sexual innuendo in any of the books. True, in the fifth and sixth they place a strong emphasis on Harry’s desire fora relationship, but pretty much every relationship in the book is a fairly chaste and good one, except for Ron’s first, which he quickly comes to regret. The family also plays a huge role in the story, and the happiest family int eh story is the one with many children and friends, with a mother and father who care for every child deeply, even the one who has scorned and hurt them. Heck, even the worst child in the books (Draco) was raised by two parents who care for him.

No, I’d say these books paint a fairly positive outlook on relationships, and how important family is.

Ah you mean the one named after a type of painting. Actually his views are pretty odd by British standards and would be considered quite flaky in the UK.

This is an interesting question. with regards to the Harry Potter example, I confess to enjoying them simply for entertainment value, or light reading- they are interesting, fun, albeit a bit repetitive, stories-
Still, as I see in them the obvious battle portrayed between “good” and “evil,” (as defined by Ms. Rowling) I can’t help referencing Christ’s comment in my own mind, from Mathew 12-: “how can Beelzebub cast out Beelzebub?” and “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” and with this in mind one has to wonder just exactly what Ms. Rowling is trying to say with her story…? :confused: The only conclusions that seem to make any sense to me, is that she is either just telling a fun story that happens to have magic and wizardry as it’s “interest point” -and is not trying to say anything at all- or, that she is subtly, perhaps unconsciously trying to promote relativism in the minds of young people-. Who knows?

I think the books are either very insidious or entirely innocent- I’m not sure which.

I can’t tell anything about anime, I think it’s odd that some kids who are involved/dabbling with the occult seem to like anime so much- but beyond that I know nothing of it. It seems innocent enough to me, but- I’m not a reader.

As for Tolkien…and C.S. Lewis- these are fantastical par excellence- I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard any Christian person defame them, or doubt their value- either for entertainment value, or underlying intent.

“I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

I wouldn’t call it… innocent… It’s like any other media, it is abused and misused more often than not. There is some anime that truly examines the nature of the human, of reality, and of costs and consequences to our actions. Then, there are some that are basically softcore pornography… and many, many that are hardcore pornography. You have to pick and choose carefully.

I know, right? It IS silly indeed to ban and badmouth books in the fantasy /scifi realm. And it is funny that they only concern themselves with books that are popular. :slight_smile: Funny that they are really missing another point. Kids are READING and they WANT to read! That is a wonderful thing!

Unfortunately I think many of them think that magic spells and such are real. Um, well gee folks not sure where YOU live but it is not, no matter how many of us wish we could fly or turn invisible or conjure a million dollars, we cannot.

Great observation. I don’t know why people invent hangups like this.

Well not just him really. I’ve seen other places outside CAF where the supposed ‘occult and witchcraft’ in fantasy is also a major concern among fringe European Christians (particularly in France and UK).

How much have you studied the occult? Not the occult itself, of course, but about it. Many of the imagery used in fantasy derives from the occult and from paganism. The reason so many people in our time do not have a problem with it is because we are post-moderns living after the era of the enlightenment. It is not a Puritan thing, Catholics burned witches or supposed witches at the stake too. To be honest, I just don’t think we take that stuff seriously enough. MY home church, which is a Pentecostal church, was graced by a wonderful Haitian family. The grandmother of this family used to be prominent in Voo Doo. I wonder how sensitive she would be to some of what we find in fantastical media. Suppose a Wiccan renounces her practice and converts to Catholicism. How do you think the Wiccan convert might feel about these books? I think many people in the Western world are sheltered from magic and have come to the decision that it simply doesn’t exist. A book that is neutral to you, however, may be quite controversial to the ex-occultist, yes?

I am simply pointing out that you are looking at these things from a particular point of view that is far removed from considering it reality. In some places and cultures, to some people groups, these issues are not a game. Spiritual warfare is very really, and they do not like to see it trivialized. I enjoy fantasy games, I won’t lie. I am not trying to outright condemn them, or even say you should not read, play, watch such things. However, I am saying that you have to realize the nature of what is there and not try to downplay it from ignorance. I do not see a problem with fantasy genres as long as ne can be mature about the content… imitating, idolizing, or glorifying the wrong things though, I think that can be dangerous. Hope that did not come off as a condemnation, I just want the other side to be adequately represented.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the books, but to name a few examples there are:

-The students, including Fleur and her then-boyfriend, sneaking out into the bushes during the Yule Ball. In the case of Fleur at least it seems to be more than making out, as the couple retreats into further seclusion after already doing this.

-The “study sessions” or whatever they are called mentioned between Bill and Fleur long before they are married.

-The song, on some magical version of a radio or record player, in which a witch sings about stirring her cauldron to brew up some “hot strong love” (for a mature reader this is an amusing parody on the same kinds of references we hear in songs in the primary world, of course).

-A book Ron gets Harry about pleasing witches, “and it’s not all wand-work either.” Considering that Ginny is Ron’s sister we can probably safely assume that the double-meaning in this case isn’t meant by him but soley by the author.

-Hermione’s statement in the same book that some wizards like to brag that their wand is “bigger and better” than other wizards’, though in truth the difference lies entirely in the wizard who uses it (though she turns out to be wrong about this). Again of course the double-meaning is obviously intended by the author but not the character.

-The assumption that Ginny would know whether Harry has a tattoo on his chest.

-The incident in which Ginny takes Harry into her room on his birthday, says she wants to give him something remember her by, in case he meets a Veela or someone else in his exile, then she kisses him in a way she never had done before (and we know they had spent many a time in secluded corners before this). What are we supposed to think she intended to happen, if Ron had not interrupted?

These are just off the top of my head. All things considered it could be a lot worse of course, and this was not my primary concern about the books.

Well, I took a class on religious themes in Harry Potter, so I can tell you that the books are thoroughly Christian, even though it’s not always readily apparent. Perhaps the easiest Christian reference to grasp is Harry’s sacrifice in the seventh book. Through his willing sacrifice, his friends are protected from the Death Eater’s spells (a.k.a death). Harry is a Christ figure, most certainly.

There are other themes in the book as well, but a really big one is how sin affects us and makes us different from the good person God creates us to be. Have you noticed how Voldemort looks like a snake? Or how Wormtail has rat-like features even outside of his animagus form? Other characters, like Fenrir Greyback, also add to the theme. That is, sin defiles us and corrupts our God-like (in the image of God) qualities; we become so different from humanity that we are more like animals or beasts. And if that didn’t make the horror of sin clear enough, the horcruxes do–in order to harm ones soul, one must commit a mortal sin. One must murder another human being, must wipe the image of God from the face of the earth.

Well, I’ll get down off my “I love HP!” soapbox now. I think the problem that many people have with books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings is the magic, even if that magic is used to portray Christian themes. Magic and the occult is a bad thing, and some people just don’t want their kids exposed to even a little bit of anything that smacks of pagan or New Age ideology.

As for sexual overtones in HP, I think I missed those. I mean, it is blatantly clear the characters love one another, and Ron does have a run-in with the local Hogwarts floosy, but all in all I think Rowling was just trying to keep the events in line with her character’s ages. She really allowed them to grow up in the novels and experience things like love, etc. I grew up with Harry, so it was always enjoyable to read a book I could relate to. Rowing really tried to grow with her readers and keep her original audience, which means the later books are more suited for older children.

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