Lev Grossman, atheist, on record again that Ms. Rowling is a Secular Artist

If you missed the latest brou-ha-ha in Time magazine about Harry Potter this week, take a minute to read Lev Grossman’s celebration there of Ms. Rowling’s putting more nails in God’s coffin. In an article titled, “Who Dies in Harry Potter? God,” Grossman confirms both that he doesn’t see anything except what he wants in the series and that he has an atheistic agenda. Travis Prinzi, as usual, has stepped to the plate over at Sword of Gryffindor to reveal the nonsense Mr. Grossman has served up for what it is. Mr. Prinzi’s analysis deserves your attention.

Mr. Grossman affirmed the bias he brings to the books in an interview that Reyhan found on NerdWorld.com and posted in the comment boxes at Sword of Gryffindor:

‘I think some people are reading this piece as an attack on Rowling for being overly secular. Which isn’t really what it says. And not that it really matters, but I am in fact an atheist, so being secular is A-OK #1 with me. Her non-godliness is one of the many things I personally like about JKR’s work…. But she’s framing the story in a non-spiritual way that’s very new. Not a bad thing or a good thing. Just something to think about.’

Now let’s get this straight. The author, Ms. Rowling, has said she is a Christian. The author is writing in a tradition that is almost exclusively Christian. Common sense would seem to point to examining the books in light of both the beliefs of the author and the tradition in which she writes. Mr. Grossman has decided to ignore this approach — the one I followed in 2002 that became Hidden Key to Harry Potter — and jump to “look she isn’t an ardent evangelist! She must be a secularist!”


Thank you, Mr. Prinzi, for meeting each of Mr. Grossman’s points with just the right amount of scorn and counter-argument. It’s obvious the Time article has raised a huff (or Mr. Grossman wouldn’t have had to “clarify” his position) which was, of course, the Daily Prophet way of making sure more people would buy their magazine.

I wrote an article on the pre-WeBlog HogPro about Mr. Grossman’s first elevation of Ms. Rowling as a Secular Goddess. In that piece I said it was obvious that he had an axe to grind with C. S. Lewis and a private secular agenda to advance. I also wrote that, if Ms. Rowling had in fact said the things she was quoted by Mr. Grossman as saying (some of which contradicted comments she had made in many previous interviews about Lewis and his Narnia books), she may have been using Mr. Grossman to protect her storyline as Hermione Granger used Rita Skeeter in Phoenix.

I was savaged by Fandom mavens for accusing Ms. Rowling of lying (!) and for being unable to accept a side of Ms. Rowling that Mr. Grossman had uncovered that “Christian Johnny didn’t like.”

I have since written and published an expanded view of Ms. Rowling’s beliefs in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, where you can read at length how her postmodern Christian beliefs differ from the Inklings — and from pomo ideological atheists like Mr. Grossman. I am not saying nor have I ever said that Ms. Rowling is an overt and transparent evangelist or an apologist; she is, however, what she says she is. That Time magazine and Mr. Grossman (whose name perhaps is a Dickensian Cryptonym?) want to assert the opposite in disregard for the obvious speaks to why Ms. Rowling so savages the main-stream media in her novels.

I think my best guess about Mr. Grossman’s agenda in 2005 has been confirmed by his Potter Week essay. We won’t know what, if anything, can be made of my necessarily-Procrustean (sic) speculation that Ms. Rowling was using him to protect her work from a Lewis finale “compare and contrast” until next Sunday. Stay tuned!


  1. Arabella Figg says

    Like our dear Mr. Bloom, Mr. Grossman is an ivory-tower snob who, like Anton Ego in Ratatouille, needs to have a ratatouille ephiphany. His determination to find a secular slant–why you can almost detect the poor man sweating. Such Herculean efforts must put him to sleep at night like a baby. A cranky baby.

    I was disgusted after his HBP interview. Now I just feel impatient that Time continues to have him cover the books. You’d think he, as a critic, knowing how important these books are and that he’s writing for literary history, would bring some evenhandedness and all sides to the table.

    Non, like Anton Ego writes, “Negative criticism is fun to write and fun to read.”

    He honestly believes Rowling is “a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery”? Did he not read OotP? If any book savages nonbelieving bureaucracy, this is it.

    I feel sorry for Grossman, who is so spiritually blind, he can’t see or accept the obvious. Anyone who says C.S. Lewis would be a Death-Eater (Time, HBP) is in serious denial. The books and their spiritual impact will outlast Grossman. I only hope he can outlast his sad beliefs.

    Even the kitties look sad….

  2. Jessie Love says

    The books are great stories, which is why so many people love them. People of all worldviews. It’s so extreme to argue about whose worldview these books belong to or conform to. Does it matter if Ms. Rowling is a Christian writing “in a tradition that is almost exclusively Christian.” Or if she isn’t? I think a huge message in the books (to me) was that extremes are blinding. Both arguments here have an obvious agenda, to protect their own worldviews, however both miss the point.

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