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Thread: Religion and the Wizarding World

  1. #1
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    Religion and the Wizarding World

    I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but I have been really curious lately as to whether wizards and witches believe in religion. Of course, Muggleborns may have a religion based on their parents' beliefs, however what about Pureblood families?

    It's natural for humans to question things, so why wouldn't Purebloods question the creation of the Earth and our universe. I don't think that they would agree with a Muggle religion like Christianity, but this is a matter of opinion.

    I would love to hear your thoughts.

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    I read somewhere that JKR said that wizards do have religions, she just didn't want to delve into that. The Statute of Secrecy was created in the 1700s right? So that was a time in Europe where Christianity was still pretty big, and if they were not hidden, would they not follow the common belief system as well? That's my thought.
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  3. #3
    Virgil
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    My current long-term fic, Ascendio, delves into this issue [/shameless self-promotion]

    Obviously, traditional Christian beliefs do not support witchcraft, but I think that wizards, just like Muggles, would have differing opinions. We know that they celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts, but the religious significance of the holiday is never really touched upon in canon, so it is probably just celebrated by cultural necessity. I know a lot of atheists who observe Christmas just because it's a good time of year to eat a meal with one's family.

    Perhaps the reason Purebloods didn't feel the need to "question the creation of the Earth and our universe" is because of magic. Early humans often felt powerless, observing the vast heavens and wondering how they fit into it all, and so they began worshiping greater beings whom they thought controlled the cosmos. Early wizards, on the other hand, have the power to create life out of nothing. A spell like "Avis" or "Serpensortia" can conjure life out of thin air. A powerful enough wizard might be able to conjure up an entire planet, so it doesn't seem too far-stretched to say that the lack of religion could be directly related to having magical ability in the first place.

    Once, I was talking to a deacon about why he objected to witchcraft, and he told me that the idea of having the power to manipulate nature completely opposes the Christian belief that God has the power over all things. I suppose he was right. This supports the idea that Pureblood wizards would see no need of religion at all - they have supernatural power themselves, so there is simply no need for them to worship a supernatural being.

    Maybe I'm just rambling. I'm sure some Purebloods have probably adopted religions, but as a culture, I don't think the Wizarding World has need of religion in the most basic sense.

    ~Virgil

  4. #4
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    It could also differ from country to country whether wizards are more religious or not. But this topic has been talked about many times, and it always makes for a good debate because there are so many ways to look at it.

    Here are some past threads we have discussed this topic on.
    Wizards and Religion (specifically Anglicanism)
    Character's With Religion?
    religion?

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    Personally, I don't think most European wizards would be religious precisely because witchcraft was persecuted so strongly.

    Whether they would worship some other deity, or have some other kind of religion, I don't know.

    The wizarding Britain that we see in the books seems quite secular. I know that JKR has said that the wizarding world is as religious as the Muggle world, but Muggle Britain isn't particularly religious either.

    I like Virgil's point about early wizards not feeling the need for religion because they can create life for themselves. I do believe that one of Gamp's Laws that JK never talked about in canon but underlies the system of magic says that wizards can't actually create lasting life. ... or was it food and then we tried to apply it backwards into life? I can't remember. How this applies to things that are transfigured into animals, I'm not sure.

    Wizards also seems to have a better, though not complete grasp of what happens after death if the Veil in the Department of Mysteries is any indication.
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  6. #6
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    Originally posted by Aida:

    Wizards also seems to have a better, though not complete grasp of what happens after death if the Veil in the Department of Mysteries is any indication.
    To me, the Veil's location would suggest a very minimal knowledge of death and the afterlife rather than a working knowledge. I mean, the wizarding world at large really doesn't know very much about the objects contained in the Department of Mysteries. It's more of a wizard Area 51, where you put things that are too valuable to dispose of but you don't really understand. The Ministry knows maybe how to meddle with these things (Inferi, love potions, Time Turners, etc) and they acknowledge the benefits of meddling with them, but I don't think the presence of the Veil in the Ministry necessarily indicates a good understanding of death. They have the Veil illustration of death, which is just souls passing, but they also have a Death entity who swoops down and carries people away (as depicted by the Grim and other superstitions).

    I like Aida's point about wizards not practicing religion because of the persecution of witchcraft. That makes a lot of sense; I imagine a lot of people would continue to harbor a soft spot about that dark era in history. It might even be a "justification" used by pure-blood supremacists.

    However, I don't think you can definitely say one way or the other that the wizarding world is religious or secular. If it's like Muggle Britain, there's probably a mix of beliefs: you probably have your atheists, your agnostics, and people who practice religion. The lack of mention of religion in the books doesn't necessarily mean that few or no wizards practice it; in the modern day, where non-radical religious people from different religions can get along okay, it usually isn't mentioned that much even in most Muggle environments.


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  7. #7
    MissMeg
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    Throughout history we see religion in almost every culture, therefore I would say that religion probably plays a role in wizard culture.

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil
    Perhaps the reason Purebloods didn't feel the need to "question the creation of the Earth and our universe" is because of magic. Early humans often felt powerless, observing the vast heavens and wondering how they fit into it all, and so they began worshiping greater beings whom they thought controlled the cosmos.
    I really donít think that magic would make any difference as to whether wizards are religious or not. As was pointed out multiple times in this thread, the presence of the veil in the Department of Mysteries suggests that death is a mystery (three guesses how I reached that conclusion). Personally, I think that religion is a way of explaining what we see. That is why, in my opinion, people are less religious than they used to be. Muggles have science to explain what we see, so some people now say well that renders the idea of a god or gods a moot point.

    I would be inclined to say that magic has the potential to make wizards more religious. Muggles used religion to explain the creation of the world, the seasons, death, and basically anything that was a mystery to them. Wizards have all the things that Muggles have to explain, plus they have magic, which I donít think they really understand. So, I would say that magic would cause wizards to be just as, if not more, inclined towards religion than muggles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil
    Early wizards, on the other hand, have the power to create life out of nothing. A spell like "Avis" or "Serpensortia" can conjure life out of thin air. A powerful enough wizard might be able to conjure up an entire planet, so it doesn't seem too far-stretched to say that the lack of religion could be directly related to having magical ability in the first place.
    People have already mentioned Gampís Laws of Transfiguration, and I canít imagine that if one canít transfigure food one can transfigure life.

    I also want to point out that we see definite limits to the powers of wizards. I think that there are some things that wizards just canít do, whether thatís because wizards havenít figured out spells to do them or because the magic has the limits. That would be a whole new very interesting topic to debate, but thatís besides the point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apollonious
    I like Aida's point about wizards not practicing religion because of the persecution of witchcraft. That makes a lot of sense; I imagine a lot of people would continue to harbor a soft spot about that dark era in history. It might even be a "justification" used by pure-blood supremacists.
    I donít think that the fact that wizards had been persecuted for their magic would make much difference in whether theyíre religious or not. Throughout muggle history we see groups of people being persecuted by religious groups and it really didnít do anything about their practice of religion. It often actually made their religious beliefs stronger.

    I would guess that there would be multiple wizarding religions. And, that there would be some similarities to muggle religions, maybe we would see some major beliefs that are similar and some that are different. I can see the wizarding world having a version of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and other major world religions. It could be similar to how the Protestant Church branched off the Catholic Church.

    In the books we donít really see a whole lot of the typical wizarding world outside of school. Hogwarts doesnít seem to take any stance on religion, which isnít surprising since children from different ethnic backgrounds go there. Therefore we canít really reach any conclusions from the fact that religion isnít mentioned at Hogwarts. The only people Harry is really close to are Ron and Hermione.

    We never see Ron or the Weasleys display any religious tendency at all. So, either they are a family who isnít religious- or Harry isnít picking up on whatís happening. They could go to church every Sunday, or observe some other religious ritual, and itís just not mentioned. However I would guess that the Weasleys are just not religious.

    I think that itís completely possible that students who are very religious leave the grounds to observe religious rituals. I would just guess that Harry didnít pick up on it, since he never paid much attention to other students.

    -Meg

  8. #8
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    I also think locations would have a lot to do with it too. I know that Americans are generally considered much more religious than the rest of the developed world, and I think the wizarding world would reflect that too, though I can see religion being adapted from the way Muggles would practice. There would probably be a lot of home churches as opposed to wizards going to attend Muggle churches.

    I actually had a rather humorous thought of the Vatican having a secret divisions where the train wizards to be wizards, or even a convent of all-witch nuns!

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    Quote Originally Posted by OliveOil_Med
    I also think locations would have a lot to do with it too. I know that Americans are generally considered much more religious than the rest of the developed world
    Really? Huh, I didn't know that.

    I like Molly's idea, of the home churches and the adaption of reliegion. I also liked her Vatican idea

    I myself say, yeah, why wouldn't they have religion, as I said above, I mean they weren't always hidden from Muggles, and religion is an ancient thing, it's been around for a very long time. They also celebrate religious holidays. This could be a cultural thing, or it may be because there are religious students. I think that religion just isn't something Harry ever thought about or didn't notice. (I'm trying really hard to encompass all religions, not just Christianity.) I personally think there could be religion though.

    (Ok, no I'm just going to focus on Christianity)
    As a Christian, however, this issue gets more complicated. Many Christians believe Witchcraft to be wrong, so does this mean that the wizarding world can't practise Christianity? This is where I get confused.

    However, I still think that the wizarding world could have religion.
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  10. #10
    perceval
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maple_and_PheonixFeather
    Really? Huh, I didn't know that.

    I like Molly's idea, of the home churches and the adaption of reliegion. I also liked her Vatican idea

    I myself say, yeah, why wouldn't they have religion, as I said above, I mean they weren't always hidden from Muggles, and religion is an ancient thing, it's been around for a very long time. They also celebrate religious holidays. This could be a cultural thing, or it may be because there are religious students. I think that religion just isn't something Harry ever thought about or didn't notice. (I'm trying really hard to encompass all religions, not just Christianity.) I personally think there could be religion though.

    (Ok, no I'm just going to focus on Christianity)
    As a Christian, however, this issue gets more complicated. Many Christians believe Witchcraft to be wrong, so does this mean that the wizarding world can't practise Christianity? This is where I get confused.

    However, I still think that the wizarding world could have religion.
    Given how much of the British Wizarding world is built around Celtic Christian Myth (Merlin, St. Mungo's, Avalon), it's safe to say they have religion. Magic was a major part of Celtic Christion Myth which would, in the British Wizarding World, be their history. Avalon, where the Holy Grail was kept, is a very real place, to them.

    Alchemy is a Christian Mystic tradition, and we know there are Alchemists in the Wizarding World.

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