Around 2000, I read an article in "The Onion," a popular satirical publication, which purported to contain a series of interviews of numerous young children, singing the praises of the Harry Potter books, because it taught them how to perform magic and witchcraft, which they found a lot more fun than anything they learned in Sunday School.

The article also contained "quotes" from author "J.K. Rowling," in which she put down Christianity and praised Satan. There were also a number of "satanists" quoted in the article, saying millions had converted to their cause since the publication of the Harry Potter books.

Now, I know this seems obvious, but for reason which will soon become clear, I'm going to emphasize here that the article in question was is a satire. It was published strictly for humorous purposes, and not a word of it was true. When I first read I had a big smile on my face - the same kind of smile I get when I read an issue of Mad Magazine.

All right, a few years later, I was doing research on an article about the Harry Potter books, and performed a search on the Internet. Some of the websites were operated by fundamentalist Christian groups, and I decided to check them out as a matter of course. The sites in question were against the Harry Potter books, which didn't surprise me, but I was shocked to discover that the "evidence" many of them quoted was the article published a few years earlier in "The Onion."

Reading the article, I also found a few more interesting things. First, it was never attributed to "The Onion" - the quotes were just allowed to stand by themselves, as if they had come from those operating the website. Second, the article had been carefully edited, to remove some of the more outrageous sections. Thus, it made the article seem more serious, and by extension, more believable. For those who wanted to believe.

Further research into the matter at Snopes.com (www.snopes.com), a website which specializes in running rumors to the earth, revealed that many fundamentalist who are against the Harry Potter books continue to use "The Onion" article in their campaigns against the series, despite the fact it was completely made up. In addition, the reactions from many who read the article on the fundamentalist websites have been pretty much what you would expect under such circumstances.

What happened with "The Onion," article is something we so all too often in our society - and just about every other society for that matter. Namely, that there are many people who believe something simply because they WANT to believe, even when it's an outrageous lie.

The most notorious example of this in the 20th Century was a publication titled "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Written by Pyotr Rachkovsky, the head of the Russian Secret Police, the protocols purported to be the minutes of a meeting of a secret cabal of Jewish leaders, who planned to take over the world by controlling world financial institutions, overthrowing governments, undermining Christian churches, and gaining control of the press. In reality, Russia was reeling from political unrest at the time, and Rachkovsky was attempting to use the Jews as a scapegoat to turn the peoples' attention from the real problems plaguing the nation.

The ruse ultimately failed - the Russian revolution occurred in 1917 - but the damage was already done with incredible long-term consequences. Although the protocols were debunked as far back as 1921, they continued to be published and re-published throughout the years by people who wanted to believe such garbage. One of the most faithful adherents was Adolf Hitler, who used the protocols as the excuse to exterminate 6 million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II. The affect of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was to even be felt here in America. Henry Ford was a firm believer of them - publishing the information verbatim in his own newspaper. He eventually recanted and apologized for what he did, but even today there are still people who insist a Jewish conspiracy exists as a threat to civilization.

These are but two examples. There are many times I've seen people insist something is true - be it a political conspiracy, a cover-up, suppression of evidence, or any number of other contentions - then provide website links or quote other sources which they claim proves their contentions. Sometimes the facts found on such websites support the argument, but many times a website will simply provide support for a belief without any solid proof.

Most times such things can be harmless, but as the contentions about Harry Potter and satanism prove they are often sad; and in the case of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," extremely dangerous and tragic. When lies become the truth, simply because people want to believe the lies, it becomes more important than ever for those dedicated to the truth to make certain that the truth is heard.