A recent article featured in the online magazine The Onion described in sinister terms the enormous popularity of the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. In a shocking article entitled “Harry Potter Books Spark Rise in Satanism Among Children”, the article describes how young people are turning off to Christianity and turning on to Satanism in droves. One child described her favorite character in the book and compared him to Christ, reportedly stating, “Jesus died because He was weak and stupid.” According to the writer, the popularity of the Rowling series has resulted in an astonishing 14 million children joining the Church of Satan.
But there is a problem with this article. It’s a hoax. The Onion is a satirical publication, boasting countless articles on totally fictional events. Currently featured stories have titles like “God Wondering What Happened to That Planet Where He Made All Those Monkeys” and “Historical Inaccuracy Found in Wild West Strip Show.” Although the banner heading describes The Onion as “America’s Finest News Source”, the not-so-subtle humor is a clear parody of authentic news media.
Sadly, the twisted humor of this article was missed by at least one sincere Christian, who mistook this gag for genuine news and thus gave rise to a new urban legend. It’s not hard to imagine how someone searching for information on Harry Potter happened upon this article while searching “Yahoo”. Of course, this isn’t the first time sincere Christians have been duped by a whopper that plausibly validated our worldview.