Episode 210: Religion and Fate – Into the Unknown

From the depths of Hogwarts to the secret rooms of the Department of Mysteries, from Lily’s sacrifice to the creation of Horcruxes, ideas from various world religions throughout time are woven in the fabric of the Harry Potter series. Join hosts Rosie and Alison, along with MuggleNet staffer Nicole, as they discuss how religion and fate are seen in the books.

On Episode 210 we discuss…

→ Predestination vs. free will in prophesies
→ Magic as religion
→ Is there a Wizard God?
→ Wizards reconciling magic and religious belief
→ The stigma of Christians against Harry Potter
→ Resurrection: a common element
→ Are Horcruxes a perversion of religious symbols?
→ The importance of choices
→ Even Quidditch has religious imagery!
→ Trios and the Trinity
→ Repentance and Redemption
→ Ghosts and the afterlife

To listen to the show, simply click the player below or direct download the episode. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information about the podcast and to find out how to be on the show, check out our Be On The Show! page.

Skype users can send us a message to username AlohomoraMN. And as always, be sure to continue the discussion below!

Listen Now: | Download


RECAP: EPISODE 209

On this recap we discuss…

→ Did the diadem bring the DADA curse?
→ Why murder is the thing that splits the soul
→ A different take on the food/soul theory
→ Piggy bank Harry

Listen Now: <| Download

  • Jared Jenkins

    It enlightenment that Buddha mediated to get. On the topic Voldemort potential dieing if he tied to repent reminds me of Zeezrom because of the guilt of his sins caused him to be bed ridden. For someone like Voldemort the weight of his sins could have an enormous effect on his body; especially since his soul his essence is not whole.

    • Alison

      Ah, thank you! That’s the word that kept popping into my head, but for some reason in the moment, it didn’t seem right.

  • DisKid

    One thing that would have been interesting to discuss with conjunction to ghosts and religion is whether or not choosing to stay behind on earth could possibly be in conjunction with afterlife punishment that happens in the wizarding world (Several different terms for that so I decided to make it broad). Sir Nicholas says that the wisest wizards do not choose this path, implying it was the wrong choice. This seems to be backed up by the fact that ghosts do not appear have an ideal time on earth as they are very limited in what they can do. Not in all, but in many religions, afterlife punishment is also a permanent sentence. Coming back as a ghost does seem to be permanent. Myrtle only stayed behind to haunt Olive Hornby, Hornby is now dead so Myrtle’s unfinished business is seemingly over but she is still a ghost. This implies being a ghost is permanent even if the ghosts has finished their business and would possibly choose to move on were they given the choice again. I’ve always had no doubt that a theme in JK Rowling’s book is to not fear death, I do believe ghosts are part of that theme, but I never really thought about how it may be possible that they are symbolic of the afterlife punishments you see in religions.

    • SnapesManyButtons

      Very interesting. I think it is a type of punishment, although self-inflicted, because by staying behind the ghosts are missing out on all the good things that are typically expected to be found in “heaven.” I don’t think they can leave Hogwarts, so they are very limited and they have to watch all these young, active kids enjoying life and food and all the things they are no longer able to partake in. So they not only miss out on the good things in heaven, but they can’t fully participate in the good things on Earth. It seems few of them decide to stay, so it can’t be seen as a great alternative to most Wizards.

      On another note, if this is truly a permanent state, what will happen to them when the sun goes supernova and destroys the earth in a few billion years? Will they just be floating around in the vacuum of space forever? Will they at least have each other to talk to, or will they somehow float off in different directions? Gotta wonder…

      • DisKid

        Apparently, some of them can leave Hogwarts. Myrtle, who came back as a ghost to haunt Olive Hornby, was seemingly haunting her outside of Hogwarts after she completed her schooling. This is seen when Myrtle points out that Olive went to the Ministry of Magic to restrain Myrtle from haunting her and that’s what kept her at Hogwarts ultimately. Still though, I daresay most of the ghosts (possibly all) probably will spend out the end of time at Hogwarts for whatever reason they’re obliged to stay there.

        I did think about the space vacuum possibility when the world ends! Then they may very well really be doing nothing forever.

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        How old are the oldest ghosts? The ones we meet in Hogwarts are all younger than a thousand years, are there older ones? If only witches and wizards can become ghosts, and not many do, when did the first magical person become a ghost?
        This might give us a clue about how long ghosts can stay around after their death, I find it really interesting to wrap my head around the idea that they might outlast everything else on the planet.

  • DisKid

    I also forgot to add, in regards to the first short podcast, I can’t wait until a video game podcast is done! Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone PC was my thing when it first came out! I couldn’t get enough of it 🙂

  • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

    This comment is going to be pretty vague and high-level, but … Another way to think about this topic is to consider how these books are about the struggle for faith. Not necessarily a religious faith (although the parallels are there, and this is maybe still within the realm of spirituality) but faith that everything has a purpose, including your life, and faith that you will somehow find your way to that purpose. When she has talked about the influence of religion on the novels, Jo Rowling has said that they reflect her own struggle with faith (I assume a struggle following her mother’s death). Harry goes from living in a place where he is treated as worthless and everyone apparently thinks he is a waste of space, to a world in which he suddenly has purpose, indeed, a grand destiny and goal laid before him. He then has to develop faith in himself, in everyone who’s helping him, in the idea that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to (even if not the way he wants). These are struggles that mirror many people’s struggle to find some belief system that you can build your life around, that will help you figure out why you’re here. Put a different way, the books are about the struggle for belief in things or powers or plans that we cannot see or fully understand. I guess that’s the overarching metaphor of a book in which magic is real.

  • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

    I would love to know more about Luna’s perspective on spirituality and the spirit world. She clearly has an affinity, as we see when she helps Harry deal with Sirius’ death, and (is this just in the movies?) in the fact that she’s the only student who has formed a relationship with the Grey Lady. I’ve always seen her as an important character for Harry’s journey of understanding death and the more intangible, hard-to-explain-so-take-it-on-faith aspects of magic. Symbolically, she’s connected with so many of relevant things: Thestrals, the veil, the Diadem (which could be read as representing not only a search for worldly wisdom but higher forms of wisdom and truth as well, whether spiritual or Platonic or anything you like), even the Hallows, through her father. I’d just love to sit with her and chat about her ideas and beliefs of souls, the afterlife or other worlds, the spirits within nature and animals …

  • Lisa

    On repentance: I don’t think it’s fair to say that if Snape redeemed himself, then so could Voldemort if only he had made that choice. Snape may have had a bad childhood and maybe not that many moral qualms as a young person, but he was never a psychopath without empathy which Voldemort is. Snape seemed more misguided than evil, kind of like how kids nowadays join terrorist groups and then regret it and try to leave when they realize what it means. It’s true that Snape didn’t give up the DEs for Lily when she was alive but then again Lily was already married to James, they were no longer friends and unlikely to ever be so again. Even if Snape could leave the DEs (which he couldn’t because obviously Voldemort would have killed him then) it’s very unlikely that Lily would have “taken him back”, and James still hated him.

    Going back to the theme of choices, I never really bought it in regards to Voldemort. He was weird even as a baby, JKR makes sure to tell us, and then at Hogwarts everybody liked him so much and thought he was brilliant that he had no reason to change his personality, even assuming he could. Then he gets that “opportunity” when Harry asks him to show remorse but that’s just mockery rather than a serious offer. Harry knows that Voldemort would never show remorse and at that point it’s unlikely he even _could_ repent considering the state of his soul.

    So yeah, I just don’t see parallels between Snape and Voldemort in this particular aspect. Even as teenagers, they were very different even if they were both evil or nasty. If someone had pulled Tom Riddle’s trousers down and shown the entire school his underwear then you can be sure that person would be found dead in a ditch the next day. I mean he killed his father and his father’s family at sixteen. Snape might have hated his father but I doubt killing him ever crossed his mind. Not to mention that Snape had the capacity to make friends and truly care about them while Tom Riddle didn’t. Perhaps comparing Snape to Dumbledore would be more accurate than comparing him to Voldemort, in this case.

    And also, regarding Snape’s death: he did die for Harry in a way but when Snape was killed he wasn’t yet done with his mission. I think in his mind he probably panicked not just because he was going to die obviously but also because he hadn’t yet delievered the memory to Harry. He had no way of knowing Harry was watching the entire scene and would come in at the right time. I don’t think Snape wanted to die at all but certainly not yet.

  • Gryffindork

    On the subject of the trinity and the mirroring trios of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as compared to Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle: What of the rest of the Big Seven, specifically the “other” trio of Neville, Luna, and Ginny? I think these three can match up both with the “Golden Trio” as well as when directy put against the symbolism of the Holy Trinity. Neville is similar to a Jesus figure in that he is Harry’s counterpart and is ready to directly sacrifice himself in the Battle of Hogwarts. The Death Eaters then ridicule and torture him to use him as an example, just as the Pharisees made an example of Christ on the cross. Luna is the more spiritual aspect of the trio, believing in things that she cannot see or touch and having a deeply grounded moral compass, much like the Holy Spirit that lives within us. Finally, Ginny could be compared to the Father in her take charge nature (which makes her a natural leader) as well as her fiery temperament (think banishment from the Garden, the great flood, plagues, etc.).

    Then we come to Draco. A possible Judas figure? He essentially “betrays” Dumbledore in HBP by trying multiple times to kill him, as well as bringing Death Eaters into the castle. Though he may also be a sort of anti-Judas in that he sees Harry at Malfoy Manor in DH and chooses to not give him up immediately to Voldemort. A sort of re-writing of history in a way?

  • LumosShadow

    Wow, wonderful in-depth discussion this week I love it. Though I really hope one day Alohomora is able to put together a diverse enough group to do a follow-up to this episode that focuses on a non-christian reading of Potter. I’ve never heard of one and am starting to wonder if in the Potter-verse, to reference TvTropes, “A Mythology Is True” and the world does in fact run via Christian belief. JKR’s misuse of Native American religion on Pottermore did nothing to help this suspicion so I hope to be proven wrong.

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    When Nicole was explaining about snakes and mice and how their behaviour can be compared to how Voldemort remote-kills Pettigrew, I started wondering what happened to Peter after his death. He’s not the only one who dies at Malfoy Manor during that year and we’ve seen Nagini being offered a human body as food once before. It’s an uncomfortable thought, and I believe snakes only eat every few months when they have had a “meal”. So I hope Nagini had a different sort of sustenance.

  • SnapesManyButtons

    Regarding the idea that Dumbledore died for Draco, I really don’t believe that to be the case. I believe the only reason Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him was to eliminate the Elder Wand as a weapon to Voldemort. And this was only done because Dumbledore was already dying, so he found a way to use his death to further the Cause. Had he not been dying, Dumbledore would have wanted to remain alive to lead the fight against Voldemort. He would have found another way to keep the Elder Wand from Voldemort and would not have let himself be killed just to save Draco’s soul. In the larger scheme of things, Draco’s soul was expendable because it was not more important than the ultimate defeat of Voldemort. Dumbledore risked Lupin’s life when he sent him to talk to the werewolves, who hated any werewolf who consorted with Wizards. He risked Hagrid’s life when he sent him to talk to the Giants, knowing they might kill him on sight and that Death Eaters were also headed there who might also kill Hagrid. He was often forced to make sacrifices and risk lives for the Greater Good, though I’m sure it was very difficult for him to do.

    Harry explains that Dumbledore’s plan was to allow Snape to kill him by agreement so Dumbledore would never actually be defeated and thus nobody would be the Master of the Elder Wand. He does this knowing Voldemort will think Snape has become Master of the Wand and he will kill Snape thinking, incorrectly, that he’s gained mastery of the Wand. But he can’t tell Snape about the Elder Wand because if Snape kills Dumbledore for the power of the Elder Wand, even subconsciously, Snape might end up its Master after all and ruin the plan. So Dumbledore tells Snape that the reason he must kill him is to save Draco’s soul and to keep Dumbledore from a horrible death at the hands of the Death Eaters. He is using two of the few people Snape cares about to convince him to do this deed. It’s not for Draco’s sake, but for the Greater Good that Dumbledore gives up his life.

  • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

    When it comes to religious or spiritual pursuits, it seems to me that it is more preferable to be a Seeker rather than a Chaser. “To seek” generally means pursue something ardently, so it’s no less energetic of a concept than “to chase,” and it also implies an openness in the way you go about your pursuit, a willingness to go wherever the search takes you. Chasing is often used to describe a futile or misguided pursuit (chasing after money, after someone who isn’t interested in you) and there is even a verse in Ecclesiastes that compares the pointlessness of earthly activity to chasing after the wind. (Sometimes the word has a good connotation, of course, like chasing your dreams.) Also, chasing implies that you need to know exactly what the object of your chase is, that it has to be something fairly specific or fixed, whereas you can seek for something more abstract — truth, wisdom, enlightenment — that will slowly unfold and become clearer as you go. It can be less directed, but therefore richer in discovery. I believe the wisdom of several religious traditions emphasizes the importance of seeking, not just reaching some preconceived, fixed goal — which may turn out to be the wrong goal or incomplete — but continually growing in your faith and understanding and keeping your eyes and heart open. This concept maps onto Quidditch in that the Chasers are just focused on scoring goals while Harry needs to keep his eyes wide open and take in a broader field of vision in order to find the Snitch.

  • frumpybutsupersmart

    With regards to the veil and the way it seemed to call Harry and Luna, I would like to point out that Neville and Ginny were similarly entranced by it. It’s never said if they heard voices in the same way that Luna and Harry did; however, they were standing there staring at it and had to be marched away by Ron and Hermione. Neville is transfixed because he can also see Thestrals – his grandfather was the one he saw die. He also lost his parents, and even though they aren’t dead, he never gets to meet the people they once were. Ginny, on the other hand, hasn’t really lost anyone close to her, but she is the one of the six who has come closest to death herself, nearly having the life drained from her by Horcrux-Riddle. I can’t imagine what kind of effect that would have had on her, but I’m sure she’s thought about death more than possibly any of the Weasley children. JKR has said that Harry is so drawn to the veil because he “has an uncharacteristically strong curiosity about the afterlife” as a result of all the death he’s experienced; I think Ginny would be much the same.