Friday, August 10, 2007

What are you talking about?

I'll try to be as brief as I possibly can here. Your criticisms of both me and Easterbrook are based on the notion that "(Rowling's) non-discussion is simply her default position on religious matters."

Once again: EXCEPT FOR THOSE QUOTES FROM THE BIBLE SHE PUT IN THE LAST BOOK!

When an author starts quoting the Bible, she's bringing religion into the discussion. And do you really think that Gregg Easterbrook is the only person of the millions who read the book capable of recognizing a quote from one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians? Or Matthew 6:19? We're talking about two relatively well-known passages in two of the most often-read books in the most widely distributed, studied, and taught document in the history of the world. And you're seriously going to claim the following???:

"No one knew they were Bible quotes. Not the reviewers, more than likely not the children, and as far as we know, no one besides Easterbrook."

I really hope you're just searching for premises on which to base your disagreement, arguing for the sake of arguing, because that's one sorry-ass piece of support. Two sentences later, you say it's the most widely read and quoted book in the history of the world -- but none of the literally millions of people who read Harry Potter can recognize well-known quotes from it? None of those legion children who attend Sunday school every week? None of the book reviewers who probably had to study Paul's letters in Lit classes (I did)? Only Gregg Easterbrook? Come on. Even most of your baseball arguments make more sense than that.

Other issues:

-- In terms of spiritual content, quoting the Bible is always a whole hell of a lot different from quoting Shakespeare. That's because there's a religion with hundreds of millions of followers based on the Bible. With Shakespeare, not so much.

But rather than acknowledging that she's pretty clearly invoking the Bible in those passages, you'd have us believe that, after writing a few thousand pages of an incredibly successful series of books for children and making millions of dollars while not mentioning God, J.K. Rowling decided to throw a couple of direct Bible quotes into the final one not because she was trying to get something across, but because "the quotes sounded good and fit the scenes she was trying to create." Or that she didn't know they were Bible verses, and just happened to quote them verbatim, anyway.

This is the kind of argument on which D-level literary analysis papers are based. Things like Biblical quotations don't happen by accident in books. Successful authors tend to be a bit more selective than writing whatever sounds good and seems to fit.

-- I never said most 200-page novels discuss god at some length. I said they mention him in some sense. There's a big difference. But you know that, since you so love semantics.

In other words, it's a significant absence when a book doesn't mention God at all. Moreso when a multi-thousand-word series doesn't. If you'd like to contend that point, please do.

-- I'd like to respond to this, which I'm quoting here lest I be accused (again) of misquoting your argument.

However, what really made no sense to me — honestly — was you additional take on children's books and religion. Are you saying that religion should be addressed in children's books (as Easterbrook suggests)? Or are you simply saying that any religious material should be well-documented so parents are aware of what's being fed to their children (a position I whole-heartedly support)? Part of my confusion here stems from the fact that Rowling made no real mention of religion or god in her books — I'll get to the Bible passages in a second — so there's nothing really here for parents to worry about in that regard (the mystical/supernatural/whatever stuff is another story, but I think(?) everyone's at least anecdotally familiar with that aspect of the series by now, so it's not like parents are flying blind here). The only person who brought up religion visa vis the Potter series is Gregg Easterbrook. It's an invention of his, not Rowling's. Thus, Rowling need not concern herself with disclosing anything about religious content with her books; there is none.

This is really puzzling. Where did I (or Easterbrook, for that matter) say anything remotely like "religion should be addressed in children's books"? Or that religious material should be "well-documented"? Find me a place where I said that. You're pretty blatantly putting words in my mouth for effect.

And you really support requiring "documentation" of religious material in books? What kind of documentation? Do you want warning stickers, a la Tipper Gore, or do you want Yellow Stars on the covers of Jewish books? A pretty strange stance for a Libertarian, no?

Your confusion stems from your stubborn, illogical belief that Rowling made no mention of God. Once again: her books have no religious content EXCEPT FOR THE FUCKING BIBLE QUOTES! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

My "take" on religion in children's books was stated pretty succinctly in my original post: The issue of God and religious belief is even more important in children's books, I think: parents should understand and appreciate whether and how their children are being indoctrinated by what they read (and watch, and hear, for that matter).

So no, I don't think there should be warning labels on children's books that say "Parental Advisory: Religious Content." And I don't care one way or the other how (or whether) their authors choose to address God -- that's their prerogative. What I think is that parents should read with their children and discuss the books so that they can be aware of and counteract any possible indoctrinating effects. I know that's probably a pipe dream in contemporary America, but I think it's the most reasonable solution.

-- I don't want to belabor it too much, but your use of "mystics" was a stretch at best. The world is almost invariably defined in relation to religious knowledge. TV psychics don't have that, and most of them, I would assume, don't even claim to communicate with a god. And since you're an atheist, and don't believe in god, using the word to defend psychics from a guy you're calling a zealot is a particularly odd choice.

4 comments:

Diesel said...

Meh. I had written the better part of a lengthy response, but then I realized I'll never be able to out-insult you when it comes to writing; you have more practice with the shrill, catty workshop put-downs than I do. "D-level literary analysis?" J'accuse!

Pepe B. Secessionist said...

Yes, Diesel. I'm shrill and catty. You know, because I'm a girl.

Don't you patronize me with your fancy I-talian.

Anonymous said...

"I don't want to belabor it too much, but your use of "mystics" was a stretch at best. The wor[l]d is almost invariably defined in relation to religious knowledge. TV psychics don't have that, and most of them, I would assume, don't even claim to communicate with a god. And since you're an atheist, and don't believe in god, using the word to defend psychics from a guy you're calling a zealot is a particularly odd choice."

No, it was an appropriate choice of words.
The question of who has religious knowledge has been answered for the atheist. No one. To define mystic as you do would require the atheist to read the book of Mormon.

The phrase "brand of mysticism" lumps psychics and the Pope together the same way magician includes your uncle's wedding performance at the kiddie table, with Chris Angel.

I don't believe in magic, but I can call someone a magician.

Mark

Pepe said...

Hi Mark,

As I said, I don't want to belabor this, because it has nothing to do with the post. But ...

I'm not clear on what you mean by this: "To define mystic as you do would require the atheist to read the book of Mormon."

No, it wouldn't. The definitions of words don't depend on the beliefs or knowledge of the people using them.

My point was only that psychics (generally) don't claim to be communicating with a religious figure. And so calling them mystics is a stretch, because most of the definitions you find of "mystic" and/or "mysticism" reference a religious communication.

And so I think lumping TV psychics and the Pope together as practitioners of the same "brand" of anything is definitely a stretch. Regardless of who says it, whether it's a priest or an atheist -- their beliefs have nothing to do with it.