I finally read the Da Vinci Code. It was a fun fast paced read. It was much better than Digital Fortress.
In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown put together a nice coherent plot, likeable characters and enough controversy to get people talking. Apparently, people are eating the book up. It has been in print for over a year and there is still a waiting list at the library and used copies of the book have not dropped to the dollar level which generally happens as a best sellers move into the yesterday news category.
Overall, I found the book a fun work of fiction that provided some interesting insights into my favorite characters of history.
I do have to admit. In many ways, I am turned off by the message from many pop books and movies that paganism is somehow a superior (more rational and or more balanced) form of spirituality than christianity.
Yet, overall, I think the primary message of the book was on target. The book gives a strong reminder that the victors tend to rewrite history. Trying to actually base our life on any form of ancient writing is rather foolish as ancient writings have been seriously manipulated throughout the years.
The political forces of the dark ages led to a systematic destruction of the science and culture of the ancient Greeks. The destruction was similar to what we saw the Taliban doing in Afghanistan and we see the Islamic clerics doing in Iran. In order to add more legitimacy to one set of books and icons, there is a concerted effort to destroy other competing systems of thought.
As for people destroying history for religious reasons, here in Utah we actually have an extremely large and powerful University that actively works to falsely interpret the history of the Maya, Aztecs and other native Americans to fit what is, most likely, a fictional account of the Americas.
To add an element of conflict to the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown gives the reader the grand daddy of all conflicts...the conflict between man and women. The primary premise of the book is that the Vatican has conspired to destroy the sacred female. The priory of sion is actively engaged in trying to preserve the ancient religious texts that hold a different role for women.
The idea of a central conflict ruling the entire history of mankind is extremely compelling. This is much like what Hegel was doing with his Philosophy of History. He had the world moving through these thesis/antithesis conflicts. Claiming to be a scientist, and claiming his conflicts were scientific, Hegel gave the world a very compelling history.
Having fictional scholars speak authoratively on a controversial subject is a strong literary device. I can see why the book shelves are now full of refutations of the Da Vinci Code as the different fictional accounts of history battle eachother for supremacy.
As for real history. A few days ago I saw the tale end of an interview by Richard Rubenstein for a work called Aristotle's Children. I placed an order for the book, and am looking forward to its arrival on my doorstep.
If we really want to look at fundamental conflicts at the foundation of society, I think that looking at the ebb and flow of interest in logic is far more telling indicator of the progress of civilization that the conflicts of religion. It seems to me that when there is a due appreciation of logic, the society rises. When the society is dominated by revelation and mumbo jumbo...it declines.