Of Dan Brown’s four books, The De Vinci code certainly wouldn’t rate as my favourite. I liked Deception Point best, with Angels and Demons coming closely behind it. I’m really not sure what it is about De Vinci Code that has made it such a phenomena, but nobody can dispute that it’s one of the best selling books of all time.
What makes the De Vinci Code special to me is not the read, but the opportunity to study the public reaction to the book and forthcoming film. Throughout history religion has been a delicate subject. Of the topics not to be discussed in public, it’s right up there at the top of the heap with politics. In recent times, politics has become a subject for humour and even ridicule. This is a good thing IMO, it’s an important subject and a lighter, less dry perception of it helps people to associate with it which inevitably leads to a better, more balanced understanding of it. Who knows, one day people might even vote for what they believe in rather than letting the gutter press decide for them.
Whilst politics becomes more public domain as time goes by, religion conversely becomes an increasingly delicate subject. Silly pictures of a Muslim prophet recently led to wide-spread riots, death threats and the burning of embassies. Now we have Christians up in arms about the De Vinci Code, to the extent that hunger strikes and threats of violent protests are already in the press, along with demands for it to be banned. Why are these religious groups so fearful of a fictional film? Nobody is claiming that it’s historically accurate but Christians find it so offensive that they aren’t content with not watching it themselves, they want to prevent anyone else from seeing it too.
The only answer I can think of is that religions don’t want the public taking an interest in their affairs. Unlike politics where greater public awareness is encouraged, religion is something that should be blindly accepted. As the world has highly divergent religions, all believing different things, it’s no wonder they end up fighting over which one is correct. Of course none of them is really correct, they are simply beliefs and faiths. A book or film that encourages non-religious interest in religion is clearly a bad thing as religion simply cannot stand up against cold analytical interest. Close on the heals of the De Vinci Code came the factual reference material; analysing, poking and prodding at these delicate beliefs. Suddenly it’s an interesting subject to non-believers who want something more substantial that two thousand year old scriptures as evidence.
In time religion will have to face up to greater scrutiny as modern times make it unacceptable to simply believe in something with no evidence to support it. I wouldn’t like to see religion completely vanish, (the buildings are nice) but it needs to soften it’s sharp edges that try to keep intruders out. It’s not a crime to ask why I must have faith and why I must believe.