Harry Potter, the Devil and Emanuel Swedenborg

Yesterday I wrote about a patron at our library who checked in both Christian, and, what my mother would term, “occult” books. Today in light of my reading the Harry Potter series, which my mother definitely would consider “occult,” and my regular (not so regular lately) reading of the Liturgy of the Hours, I thought I’d write in a slightly more serious vein about reading books that are, or seem to be, contrary to your own beliefs or world view.

I went to a Christian liberal arts college, emphasis not on “Christian liberal,” but emphasis on “Christian.” My college roommate, though, read The Satanic Bible, not because he was trying to become a Satanist, but because he wanted to understand more about Satanism than he did. I now know a blogger whose blog I regularly read who is making his way through Capital by Karl Marx. “Does reading Capital make one a Marxist?,” Jeremy asked himself and his readers in one recent post.

Emanuel Swedenborg's work, especially Heaven a...

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Myself, I have a book on my shelves that my mother considers “occult.” It’s by Emanuel Swedenborg. I had a great-great uncle who was a Swedenborgian, and he had a box of Swedenborg’s books that my parents once had in the basement of our house. I say “once had” because my parents said they felt they were evil and burned the box of books. Whenever I bring up the subject with my parents, once every few years — mostly explaining that I feel it is wrong to burn books under any circumstances — they get angry and say that I don’t understand because I wasn’t there and didn’t “feel” the evil that was emanating from the books. So when I later saw the book by Swedenborg at a book sale, I immediately decided to pick up.

Have I read it? No, but not because I think it is evil. In fact, the reason I have kept it in my collection is because I don’t think it is evil — and also because I am curious about what my great-great uncle’s fascination was with Swedenborg. What attracted him to Swedenborg’s philosophy? Some day I will read it to find out about Swedenborg — and maybe about my great-great uncle too.

Thomas Dixon, Jr.

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I also have a copy of The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr., which was the basis for the movie The Birth of A Nation. I haven’t read it either, but some day I’d like to read it.

So bottom line: No, I really haven’t read any  books that  are contrary to my world to my world view or beliefs, because –despite what some might think of Harry Potter — I don’t think that the series is contrary to my beliefs. However, I do have some books on my shelves that I believe probably are contrary to my beliefs and I still would like to read them eventually.

How about you? What do you think of reading books contrary to your world view or beliefs? Have you read any? What did you learn from them, if anything?

Author’s Note: Please don’t get the wrong idea about my parents. They both are lovely people and don’t go around burning books as a habit. It’s just on this one matter — well, and a couple of others, including politics — that we have to agree to disagree.

18 responses to “Harry Potter, the Devil and Emanuel Swedenborg

  1. Pingback: Patron of the Week: Mrs. I’m-Old-Enough-To-Desire-Under-The-Elms-Now | an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  2. i read Mein Kampf and found it tedious and rambling. Still, I read things that I know I don’t agree with. I’ not religious so I find most books on the subject of religion rather off-putting. I watch Fox News although I am a liberal (registered Republican but very “moderate”) but I also watch MS NBC although they are ludicrous too. How can we criticize views that we don’t agree with unless we know what the points of view are?

  3. Who the heck is Swedenborg? I’ve never heard of this fellow.

    Meanwhile, I have Mein Kampf on my bookshelf, although admittedly I haven’t read that either. Does that make me a Nazi?

  4. I totally agree with Jeremy. In order to not only confirm your beliefs, but to defend them, you should know what the other sides are saying. Expanding ones’ understanding of the world and the various beliefs within it only makes your beliefs stronger.

    PS – I think Lisa The Sister really wants a post all about her : )

  5. I read ALL sorts of books, no matter if they support or are the opposite of my morals and beliefs because how else can I argue with someone if I don’t understand their point of view. I have, and have read parts of, Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Does this make me a Nazi? No, because I do not condone his beliefs. I just want to understand what started the world on its course towards a second world war.

    I personally believe that a person cannot grow if they are not exposed to all beliefs and views because that is what helps us become empathetic.

  6. That was a total joke! A joke! Don’t write a blog post about me! 🙂

  7. They wouldn’t have to agree to disagree on the politics issues if you would just admit you are wrong!!! Haaaa!

  8. Great topic! I used to not read books that contradicted my world view or belief system. However, a few years ago, that changed. As you mentioned, I’ve been working on reading Karl Marx’s Capital, and have completed my reading of the first volume. I feel that it’s imperative that we expose ourselves to all sides of the argument, whether we believe that point of view or not. It makes us broad as individuals, and the more we understand arguments that differ from our viewpoints, the more we can appreciate, not only what we believe in, but what others do too by understanding them better. Great post!

  9. hmmm…well I am not a very religious person, although I DO believe in god – I don’t subscribe to any particular brand of faith.

    So to answer your question:

    Have I read any books contrary to my world view or beliefs? Not really, because I am extremely open-minded.

  10. Hello, I agree with you. I don’t see why people get het up about Harry Potter. So what if it’s based on magic? The message about good and evil is clear.