Dawkins vs. Potter

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In a bizarrely ironic twist, Richard Dawkins has joined the anti-Harry-Potter bandwagon. I wonder if his allies in this fight will appreciate his help.

It reminds me of when secular feminists decided to recognize the harm pornography contributes toward women. The difference here is that Dawkins' reasons don't seem to be anything like the usual anti-Harry crowd's. Religious opposition to pornography typically involves some reasons the recent feminist opposition hasn't included (such as its being wrong to lust after someone you're not married to), but Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups that have opposed pornography have long accepted many of the same arguments that feminist opponents of pornography have more recently come to. It objectifies women. It sends a message about women that harms them and psychologically influences the men who view it in a way that leads them to do things that further affect women negatively. I've seen one prominent feminist, Catherine MacKinnon, claim that her religious allies against pornography didn't share any of her reasons, but when I read that I couldn't help but conclude that she hadn't actually talked to James Dobson, Josh McDowell, or any others among the most prominent evangelicals opposing pornography. I'd heard almost all of MacKinnon's arguments from evangelicals while growing up.

Dawkins, on the other hand, shares very little in reasoning with other Potter foes. He doesn't fear that kids are going to become Satanists because they read fantasy literature, and he doesn't care a whole lot about whether the series teaches kids bad morals. (By the way, David Baggett's chapter in Harry Potter and Philosophy gives an excellent response to such arguments, especialyl on the latter issue.) Dawkins just worries about whether it's a good thing to stir kids' imaginations about things that aren't possible given the way the physical world works in real life, and his reason for that is that he expects fantastical literature to open kids' minds up to the possibility that naturalism is false, which might make them more likely to become creationists or something.

3 Comments

That is an interesting twist. After viewing Dawkins in "Expelled", I can see how this works for him, though. He is a crusader for his cause... and in his mission to promote atheism everything else is filtered through the sieve of his "cause". As Christians we often do that ourselves, which is why this strange alliance in hating Harry makes perfect logical sense once the factors in the set are understood.

I have a different take on this.

At this point, I'm more or less of the opinion that the "new atheism" movement is really just out to make noise and annoy people. In order to do that, he needs attention. So, he gets into the Harry Potter question because Potter is still big news. Having something in common with Christian groups gives him a hook to sound even more interesting.

The fact that his complaint makes even less sense than that of Christian groups doesn't seem to factor in.

kinda tangential, but whenever i see this headline, i think you're comparing brian dawkins, the philadelphia eagles free safety, to some dude named potter. every single time, i'm like, who?! every. single. time.

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