As I was passing the reference desk yesterday one of our grad assistants was fending off a solicitor who had stopped in to hand out Anti-DaVinci-Code materials. If I had been behind the desk I would have handed the stuff back and politely said "You can't solicit in here. You have to be twenty feet from the building to do that." But then I hate solicitors of any kind, even the ones I agree with.
But she had a great way of handling it. She simply looked him in the eye and said "Why do people bother getting upset about this stuff. It's fiction. That means it's not real." The guy had no response and spent the rest of the afternoon handing out his flyers in the courtyard. Besides that don't they realize that they're actually drumming up more business for Dan Brown?
I won't spend much time on the Da Vinci Code I haven't seen the movie. I won't until it's at a second run $1 theater. Not because I have a problem with its "message" or its god-awful casting, but because I thought it was a poorly written book. I can't even figure out (other than the cash) why somebody would claim this shit was plagiarized. Read Angels and Demons, Brown's first book with this character. The plot is identical with a few incidental changes: Same protagonist with the secret society, the led-by-the-nose henchman, the oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-it-was-him-all-along villain, the predictable love story, and of course the how-can-you-believe-that-and-call-yourself-christian subtext. The only difference was that Angles and Demons, was actually exciting. It was fast paced and interesting. The Da Vinci Code, not so much.
But...the real point of this post... don't under estimate the power of fiction. The great things about books is that they can change lives. Will reading the Da Vinci Code make someone believe in Dan Brown's theory about Christ, Mary Magdalene and the real meaning of the Holy Grail? Probably not, but it might get people to think about the possibility. It might get people to re-evaluate the Bible, how it's changed and how the canonical books of the Bible are chosen. It might get people to consider the roles of women in organized religion and lead them to make decisions on whether or not they're happy with those roles. But it can't make any one suddenly believe.
The scary part is, though, that thinking is enough.
With out going into too much detail...the movie the Matrix got me to thinking about free will and the christian theory of being created to have free will, the existence of evil and the devil. I concluded that following the christian mythology... humanity needs the devil in order to exercise free will. Sounds fairly obvious, but the religion I had grown up with believes that the devil will eventually cease to exist and humanity will flourish in a peaceful and perfect state. Now...compare that to the creation mythology that includes free will...doesn't add up does it? I came to the conclusion that religion I had grown up with couldn't possibly be true. And yeah, that screws me up because now I don't think any religion is true. Now...did watching this movie make me reject my religion? No. The movie just made me think a little more logically about my own beliefs. I'm sure that there are believers out there who can reason around those two statements so that they can co-exist or for whom the Matrix was nothing, but a fun action filled sci-fi adventure (which it is to me too actually).
But still, it's all just fiction right?