Every so often I write a post that is more of a thinking out lout kind of thing, this is one of them. Please excuse the meandering nature of it. It’s a third a lament on bad reporting, a third a plea to understand faith, and a third a review on Dan Brown’s books.
Anyway, as I read this quasi-review of Dan Brown’s new book (which happens to be one of the books I’m currently reading) I was immediately turned off by the language the piece uses. For example the headline, “A Rerun of the “Da Vinci” Kook. What does that even mean? Then the article bashes Brown for being anti-religious. He says he’s not, but they point out how he clearly is. They go on to lament how he picks on Christians, Catholics especially. As if Christians haven’t been picked on before. It’s called “persecution” fellows, look it up!
If you like Brown’s books or not based on your own personal tastes in books I can’t argue that point. We all like what we like and hate what we hate. There are plenty of books I just haven’t been able to get into that others love. Dune for example. I’ve tried on no fewer than five separate occasions to get past the first chapter of Herbert’s “masterpiece” and just can’t do it. But the authors of this article seem to toss in discussion of Brown’s writing as an aside. It seems clear to me their real objection to his work is the fact that the antagonists are often devoutly religious people often working within a deeply secret religious organization. This seems to bother them tremendously.
Personally, I feel what one gets from a book depends on what one brings in. For example, you get those people (I consider them extreme) who won’t read Harry Potter because it has witches, wizards, and magic in it. They see these things as dangerous. May I suggest that if you are swayed away from your religion by Harry Potter the reason is your own lack of faith and not the boy wizard.
The same is true of Dan Brown’s books. I am a fan. I very much enjoyed the DiVinci Code and found the central premise to be utterly interesting. I am not quite sure why someone would be offended by the idea that Jesus was married. I’m not finished reading Origin just yet but so far, it’s enjoyable. Yes, the book plays on themes of religion and science being at odds.
I feel that the religious person should use such examples to ponder their own beliefs. That’s the issue really. They probably are forced to do that when they read a book like this and aren’t really familiar enough with their own religion. I’m not bashing people here, please don’t get me wrong. I’m pointing out a behavior I see frequently. In my experience religion can stand the test of scrutiny for the faithful who actually know what they believe. But, a lot of people don’t. I’ve spoken to people who don’t understand the Trinity, or what happens after they die as taught by their own religions. They have this common notion of heaven that isn’t born out by the actual doctrine of the church they follow. This is true not just of various Christian faiths but of other sects as well.
If you are afraid that Harry Potter, or Dan Brown are going to turn you away, then I respectfully suggest you are worried about the strength of your own faith. That’s okay. People often are. Though many in this world deride faith and the faithful, I won’t do that. I understand the importance of these things to humanity, to the human psyche, and to our general well-being as people. I’ve often said that I respect a man of faith who says he knows, or a man of an agnostic mind who says he’s not sure but maybe, but I think the atheist, who is sure he knows, is one of the most unimaginative people on the planet and though he claims his belief is science, it isn’t, it’s faith.
Faith permeates all aspects of life. It’s not something to mock because we all use it. Take global warming for example. If you have not performed the experiments yourself you are having faith that they are what they are and mean what they mean. When I say that people love to say “but they can be tested by others and get the same results so it’s not faith”. It’s not faith for those who actually DO test it and get the same results but for everyone else, they are having faith in the results. Faith that what they are being told by the “authority” is actually true and accurate. It’s not less faith just because the man saying it is wearing a white lab coat instead of a black cassock.
My point in all this is to simply suggest that people who shut their minds to certain books reconsider. Don’t get me wrong, do think there are reasons not to read certain books. I personally won’t read books (or see movies) that are graphic in their violence. I don’t need those images in my mind. I’ve seen enough death and damage in my life that I don’t need it for entertainment. But that’s not because I don’t want the ideas. I see that as different. These people are shutting down ideas from entering their own minds. I read books that totally disagree with my world-view. For example, the Communist Manifesto. Clearly I am anti-communism but that doesn’t mean my own mind will be swayed by what I read. I don’t think Dan Brown writes his books with the intent to destroy religion. Perhaps if I believed that I would have a different perspective on them. I think he writes them to make money and entertain. He’s found a formula (as most authors do) that works and that people enjoy. I allow myself to get sucked into this formula and enjoy the ride. I don’t believe all that I read in a book of fiction, nor am I threatened by it. However, I have had fun with it and picked up a few points to ponder along the way.
Know yourself of course, don’t read anything that would damage your psyche, but also trust yourself to know when you are strong enough to entertain old ideas and combat them with new. Yes, it’s a fight but if the old ideas are good, they will win. I’m not afraid of Dan Brown, Ayn Rand, Robert A. Heinlein, or Kurt Vonnegut, or the various holy books I’ve spend a great deal of time with. Often what happens is that my own mind remains unchanged in terms of my own beliefs but I understand others better.
Anyway, as I said, this is a bit of a ramble that this particular article took me down. More often than not I’m sparked to one or two ideas, but for this one it ran the gambit.
Dan Brown, the author of “The DaVinci Code,” is back with another blockbuster anti-religion novel, and CBS “Sunday Morning” rolled out the red carpet on Oct. 1 to honor him and his massive commercial success.