Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Calling something “evil”

I decide basement cat needed an appearance.

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at what people do.  This Christmas I’m getting my nieces and nephews books.  So, I ask sister in law in an email  “what would the kids like to read about”.  And she says the Hunger Games for the eldest (she also seriously suggested Bill O’Reilly’s exercises in historical fiction which I just laughed at.)  The suggestions for the others were *much* more reasonable.  

So, I replied that that was fine, though I found the book odd in how it’s written (first person immediate), but I would have probably loved it when I was his age, having a predilection for post-apocalyptic books and “young person on their own” books.  I suggested that he might also like the Harry Potter books being that they are the exact same plot, young person with skills ends up fighting evil and saving the world and they are popular so he can talk to his friends about them.  I knew that my brother and she had said that they didn’t’ like them when they first came out.  Hoping against hope, I thought I’d mention them again to see how bad things really were. And how did SIL respond?

“we have stayed away from the Harry Potter because of all the witchcraft theme with a good evil vs bad evil…..he has asked about the Hunger Games……never asked for Harry Potter………hmmmm” 

This is a person who went to college, almost got a masters but didn’t bother finishing it, and has a parent, a pastor, that was so sure that the “tribulation” was coming in 2001 (you remember, the Y2K bug nonsense?) that they put fish in their swimming pool(they are still there). Yes, that last part explains everything unfortunately.  One would have thought she could think for herself, but evidently not. She also seems to think that since the boy hasn’t asked about Harry Potter, she must be right about how evil it is.  It couldn’t be that she’s her own self-fulfilling prophecy, that Mom saying it’s evil repeatedly couldn’t possibly make the child afraid of saying that they want to read it. ;D

I am going to call her on such nonsense.  Maybe in a shorter format than here so she has no excuses about it being “too long”, but I’m going to call her on it just the same. Here, I can stretch my legs. 

Dear SIL,

It’s interesting on how you’ve decided, with no support at all, to claim that fellow Christians and millions of people around the world, including me, are evil and that we do evil things.  Not even every Christian thinks that a book about magic is true or has a hissy when someone talks about magic.  Nope, we have Christians just as “good” as you who have no problems with Harry Potter and his fight against evil beings like Voldemort and using spells to do so. JK Rowling is a Christian though not your sectof Christianity. I admit, the HP stories aren’t that good, but they certainly aren’t evil.  I’ll get your son The Hunger Games, but I wonder about the choice if you have such problems with Harry Potter. It’s always better to read about kids killing each other rather than helping each other?  (I suppose I should be glad it’s not badly written sparkly vampires and whiny girls.)

I’ve heard this “ooh “x” is eeevvviiilllll”  for years.  Let’s see, what has been declared the end of civilization as we know it by a certain variety of Christian?  Rock and roll, heavy metal, and we certainly can’t forget “backmasking”, various books that they try to get banned like Huckleberry Finn because it has “cursing” oh and that boy befriending a black man, tsk, can’t have that and “Hey God, it’s me Margaret” that dares to talk about girls as they are; Dungeons & Dragons, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, video games, Democrats, a president who has ancestry from within 20 degrees of the equator, equal rights for women, for people darker than a tan, for homosexuals, etc. I’ll address a few that are near and dear to me.

I remember very clearly being at church and hearing the claims about backmasking, on how the devil was going to get you because some idiot claimed to hear words when you played a audio tape (this being reel to reel back then) that were “satanic”.  Even when I in my early teens I knew this was purely stupid.  Yes, backmasking is real; and no, making up what you think you hear as back masking doesn’t make it real nor can playing it make you do anything you wouldn’t normally do. 

No Christian who has claimed that there were satanic messages ever first played the music backward and then allowed people to decide for themselves.  In a various obvious attempt at priming the audience and playing on a very human tendency to try to find patterns in nonsense (Shermer has a good article about this), they always say what’s supposedly being said *before* playing the tape on that expensive tape player (and charging for doing so).  Unsurprisingly, the hysteria about it faded as this nonsense always does when it doesn’t have the effect claimed.  Some people still cling to belief in it, unable to admit that they were wrong and people lied to them.  For all of the claims that these magical messages would somehow influence people to do things, it turned out that the only influencing that was going on was Christians trying to force their religion and ridiculous beliefs on others by attempts at legislation.  I still listen to heavy metal (though it’s highly amusing on how KISS was once thought to be heavy metal and single-handedly going to summon Satan right down on the stage) and rock and roll.  I listen to Bat out of Hell and Back into Hell by Meatloaf still and oh did some Christians get their panties in a wad over those songs. I’ve listened to death metal and black metal; it’s awful but still no magical happenings.  SIL, your husband listened to Bat out of Hell when he was growing up.  Doesn’t seem to have done anything “evil” to him, now has it?

I’ve also been a player of Dungeons & Dragons for 30+ years now.  By the claims of Christians, like the amazingly goofy Jack Chick, certainly by now I should have gotten the “real spells”.  Let me tell you, if I had, rush hour would be a drastically different experience. My husband and I have a huge number of the books from those printed in the 70s to those printed just last month. Still no devil, still no spells and still no doing “evil” things, still no going insane and/or committing suicide. So, again, we have claims made by Christians that are simply not true.    We’re not evil, it’s a pity that you ignorantly claim we are.

Now back to books, movies and stories in general.  Let me tell you of a story: 

A young person with special skills (magically given or not) does something important that adults haven’t done and thus saves the world (or some part of it). The End. 

Now, if you know literature, or just kids books, that’s a very, very common plot.  It’s Harry Potter, Star Wars (which your son loves incidentally and you approve of), The Hunger Games, Starman Jones, Lord of the Rings, David in the bible and many, many religious myths in many cultures.  You can expand that to the full hero myth that doesn’t take into account age, but is usually a young-ish person who is the “messiah” sent to do a great thing, and get Jesus Christ in there too, along with Moses and other Christian myths like King Arthur.  All the same and all read with no evidence of magical benefit or corruption.  They are just stories where in a lot of them, the hero casts spells, prays or invokes the Force (one in the same, asking for supernatural help in a certain way to get a certain thing) and proceeds with their adventure.

Back in the late 70s and 80s, when Star Wars was just out, I can remember that some Christians were horrified, that how dare anyone use “their” Christ myth.  It was even funny to young me to hear such arrogance and ignorance based on some delusion that no one else ever came up with such a story. It was painfully obvious that they never opened a book about other religions. I also had a book that insisted that Star Wars was just great and was a Christian allegory, rather like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series.  Oh, which Christians to believe?

You see, SIL, your declaration of one thing to be evil is just as ridiculous as those people who *still* find Star Wars evil.   Just google “Christian anti Star Wars” and see the lunacy out on the internet.

Finally, to address the other part of your claims about Harry Potter, lots of people have claimed that others practice “witchcraft” with all of the consorting with the devil and EVIL that it entails. It’s a great way to gin up hate for someone or something without having to provide a shred of evidence to support that hatred.  Protestants have claimed that Catholics practiced witchcraft.  Catholics did the same for Protestants.  Sects of each type of Christianity have done the same to other sects.  These type of Christians all claim that any other religion other than their own is “satanic” and thus practice witchcraft. They have no evidence of such a thing and they’ve murdered people when claiming such things in some of the most horrific ways possible.  Such claims are no different from claims of witchcraft in ill-educated places like Africa and among African immigrants where children are killed and mutilated because some idiot thinks that spells can be cast for real.  The only thing that holds such horrors back is a strong law system in the US that stands against such things, a law system that finds no religion better than the next.

I do hope you consider what you’ve said and what you believe.  Thoughtless claims that someone or something is evil can hurt and can kill.

Your SIL

 So, bets on if my husband and I are forbidden to ever see the kids again?  That she even acknowledge this in any form?

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4 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Calling something “evil”

  1. Nice! I so look forward to your blog since I discovered it couple of weeks ago. This one, while making me laugh, also started me wondering what on earth some people are thinking (or not thinking). I’ve had so many people tell me the same stuff, particularly about Harry Potter books, without having read them.
    Found your previous post about the century’s most overlooked story, very interesting and frightening. I read a book some 40+ years ago (wish I could remember its name) that warned of the approaching rise of fundamentalism and the dangers associated with it, which would come within 30-40 years. At the time I, along with some friends and family, dismissed it as so much doom and gloom. Boy! was the author right or what? Scary, that!

    • well, it’s been sent, with a few of the more snarky bits removed. I don’t see the kids about three times a year. I’ll keep an eye on things through my parents and be there for them if their parents turn their hatred on them.

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