Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On Dan Brown, Damnation, and Decision-Making

God never fails. Unfortunately, organized religion never fails to disappoint. Rather than point us toward heaven and lift our eyes toward the possibilities, the religious Powers That Be prefer to point fingers and lift their eyebrows at naysayers.

Take the uproar over Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code, for instance. When I read the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Brown's literacy, his wordplay, his knowledge of history, and his verbal tour of Paris. I liked it so much that, when I finished it, I read Angels & Demons, (the prequel, of sorts -- also excellent), and all of his other books.

Never once did I say, "OH MY GOD! This book claims to be a novel. It clearly says it is a work of fiction... but it MUST BE TRUE."

(I also did not run out and buy all the books hurriedly written to ride The DaVinci Code's coattails, debunking Brown's "theories" and tut-tutting over his "assertions.")

I went to see the movie tonight. I thought it was a good adaptation of the book, and a fun ride. Never once, during the 2 1/2 hours I sat in the theatre did I labor under the misconception that I was watching a religious documentary (although the scene where Robert verbally spars with Lee over theological differences was pretty accurate).

Unfortunately, many Religious Leaders feel compelled to tell their sheep how wrong both book and movie are. For the past two weeks, our sermons in church have focused on Brown's book. (Not that our pastor has actually read it, you understand.) This past weekend, as he was gleefully deconstructing a point in the book, I sat and muttered for the millionth time, "...which is why it's called a work of fiction."

Nothing will damn you faster than allowing another to do your thinking.

I happen to believe that the average person is not dumber than a box of rocks.

I believe that people are capable of reading a thing for themselves, and arriving at their own conclusions about its verity.

I believe that people really don't want their religious leaders (or their politicians, for that matter) telling them what they can or can't watch or read.

When leaders start to pontificate about the supposed shortcomings of a work, I always wonder, "Who gives them the right to make a decision about what I see?"

In any given week, Hollywood releases films that depict unspeakable horrors, brutality, and depravity. Rarely does the Church address such fare. But when something comes out that is considered to be "church turf," the Leaders feel compelled to tell their Pew Sheep what to think. (Remember the frenzied kudos over Mel's gorefest "The Passion of the Christ?")

God created us with free will -- the mythology surrounding the Garden of Eden supports the premise. It appears that the Church has never forgiven Him for it. It never ceases to offend me.

Oh, to have religious leaders so upset over a work of my fiction that they drive it to the number #1 seat on the bestseller charts, and enable its movie adaptation to have the largest international opening weekend ever.