Monday, May 08, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown's novel of Catholic Church intrique and Christian mystery has been turned into a major hollywood production starring Tom Hanks among others set for release this month.

While the plot of the story, that the catholic church covered up the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and is attempting to prevent the discovery of this fact through the use of nefarious Opus Dei albino monks, is entertaining, it is not, as commonly alleged, anti-Christian at all. The whole premise, that Mary could have traveled to France and that anyone would have cared a wit at the time plays right into the Christian myth that Jesus was anything other than an insignificant Jewish peasant who, like many others during that period, claimed to be the much heralded messiah of the Jews. Also, the book does not portray the whole notion of Christ's bloodline having legitimate monarchical rights or any descendents of that line (Sofia) being some sort of mystical descendents of a demi-god as ridiculous or evil, instead the Catholic church is the villain for usurping the legitimate claimant to the power of Christ.

Added to this is the ridiculous notion that the "Priori of Scion" an organization of which relatively little is known but which claims as members Da Vinci and Isaac Newton, was responsible for protecting the Jesus-Mary bloodline. On top of that duty the Priori engages in sexual rites to commemorate the consummation of the Jesus-Mary relationship. Now while it is not hard to imagine the libertine Da Vinci engaged in such activity, the idea of Newton playing the role of Jesus in a primitive sexual rite is absurdist in the extreme. The historical pitfalls aside, the fact remains that the book, and movie, challenge nothing about Christianity at all. The underlying premise acknowledges that he was, indeed, the messiah (since the messiah is supposed to be descended from David, and thus the King of the Jews) and therefore was not a wackjob carpenter.

So while Catholics will no doubt be distraught over the notion that their church usurped from the children of Jesus the official mantle of Christendom, they should relax. The book is an affirmation of everything of any import to Christianity. It does not question Christian ethics, divinity, origins, death, etc., etc., etc. Also, goofy organizations like Opus Dei deserve ridicule even if they don't send out psychotic albinos to perpetuate elaborate coverups. Certainly this is not a moment for Atheists and friends of reason to rejoice, not for this book and movie.

At some level, even if Brown's theories within the novel, which have been published in other books of non-fiction, were true it's irrelevant. Religious people are not at their core concerned with evidence. People who buy into religions believe (depending on the variety) that dead people can come back to life, that the dead will be reborn (perhaps as a different species), that one man can carry an unmovable boulder a hundred miles, that a person can leave their body if they empty their heads for long enough, that they are eating human flesh and drinking human blood but not cannibals, that forgiving those who injure them makes them superior, that mutilating male genitalia is a sign of a compact with an invisible menace in the sky, that worshipping dead relatives will have an impact on the present, that every object has a spirit, that one can effect reality through wishes and hopes alone, etc. etc. The point here is that if evidence and reason actually meant anything fundamental to those who belong to religions there would not be any religions to plague mankind's existence.

The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining book more for its puzzles and plot twists than the dopey back story and pulp history. At it's core it is unoffensive to religion while carrying the guise of being a challenge to religion, a perfect formula for a bestseller among the faithful anf the skeptical.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Posting

OK, so my posting has been very spotty for a while and on some strange topics at times. Now that my second semester of graduate school is winding down I will be making more frequent and, hopefully, more coherent posts. There are many depressingly interesting things going on right now, i.e. immigration debate, gas price hysteria, Iranian nuclear weapons procurement, etc, etc, etc.

I will do my best to offer any insights I can into these issues in the coming weeks and months. I am shifting all of my history related postings onto a new blog, "The Blog of the Early Republic," which is linked on the sidebar of this blog if you're interested in what I am doing on that front.

I don't plan to do any extended writing with this post, but I'll throw a few predictions out there (which I promise to come back to when that which they address is decided) for those of you reading to mull over and possibly dispute. 1) the Republicans will lose control of at least one of the houses of congress in the November elections, I am inclined to the Senate given the heavy gerrymandering of house districts, but I can see both possibly switching if things continue as they are. 2) should any legislation against price "gouging" or fixing prices, etc. towards gas and oil companies go into effect the price of gas will go higher almost immediately. 3) Hugo Chavez will not reliquish power voluntarily and will assume a formal dictatorship (or its equivalent) at some point as he is quickly becoming the hero of marxists and fellow travelers all over Latin America as well as the world. 4) this is a long way away, but I am pretty confident that there will be a Democrat in the White House as the 44th President in 2009 unless (and this is very unlikely) a moderate or liberal Republican emerges as the nominee and (much more likely) the Republicans lose at least partial control of the congress, the Democrats could mess this dynamic up is they nominate a real wackjob, but I anticipate that whoever makes it out of their nominating process will not be such a person, for what that's worth.

Anyway, when or if any of these things comes to pass, or does not, I will pull the prediction back up and explain my reasoning and how brilliant I was to anticipate such a result or (unlikely) why I turned out to be wrong.