Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shut Up, Harry Potter, Shut Up

Let me be clear: I love Harry Potter. Not in a dress-up-as-Dumbledore-for-the-finale-part-2-type thing, but I will admit that I have watched the entire series a number of times and gotten way more into it than a 30-year-old professional woman probably should. But still it is difficult for me to express in simple words the FURY I felt when I read the following interview with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in Parade Magazine.* In response to the question "Your dad is a Protestant from Ulser and your mom is English and Jewish. Were you raise in a particular religion?" Radcliffe responded with this RIDICULOUSNESS: "There was never [religious] faith in the house. I think of myself as being Jewish and Irish, despite the fact that I’m English. My dad believes in God, I think. I’m not sure if my mom does. I don’t. I have a problem with religion or anything that says, 'We have all the answers,' because there’s no such thing as 'the answers.' We’re complex. We change our minds on issues all the time. Religion leaves no room for human complexity.

I'm sorry you wizardly little jerk, but let's get real: At some point, even when you are famous and rich and young and talented, you're going to need to grow up and develop a more nuanced view of the world, one that can take into account that yes, we are all complex and we all have different ways of processing that complexity. To say religion leaves no room for human complexity betrays that you know as little about the religion of the world as you do about the religion of your parents.**

Religions are some of the most fascinating and ancient and intricate responses to human complexity that there have been. Traditions that seek to reconcile what it meant to be a human 5,000 years ago with what it means to be one today, traditions that try, with varying success, to make meaning of the sanctity of human life across geography and time and culture, and traditions that ask, amidst all that, what it is to be the best humans, to transcend all that makes us beasts and to try to enact compassion and wisdom and awe in meaningful ways; these traditions are, to me, respectable endeavors and should be treated as such.

Do you need to make use of these particular forms of addressing the complexity you so astutely observed in humanity? Of course not. Are there aspects of religion that detract from human joy and dignity that could benefit from articulate, reasoned critique? Certainly. But to get on the anti-religion PR band wagon*** just to seem cool for a magazine that most people will toss aside in favor of the Sunday funnies is flippant and thoughtless and makes me wish I never heard the word "Expeliarmus."

*Why was I reading Parade Magazine is an area which needs a bit of investigation?
**Maybe instead of processing this with Parade Magazine, you could start your learning with a candid conversation around the dinner table.
***Why is it SO cool just now to be anti-religion? I don't mean to sound like a paranoid fundamentalist here, but seriously, it seems every time I turn around some privileged, self-absorbed hipster is writing a content-light, cliche-heavy book or a blog post about how enlightened they have become in giving up religion and becoming spiritual in the wilderness. Does this really have to be such a thing? I stopped eating hot dogs, but I don't know enough to write a book about it, so I won't. I'll leave that to the experts.

1 comment:

  1. I love that Radcliffe says that he rejects religion because it oversimplifies reality, and by doing so, he completely oversimplifies the complex reality that is religion today.