The Da Vinci Code, fiction and free speech

The Da Vinci Code movie posterThe release of the film version of The Da Vinci code has seen widespread condemnation by religious groups, in particular the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church has set up The Da Vinci Code Response Group, which has condemned The Da Vinci Code as “fiction trading as fact”. There is also the news that one Christian group is distributing scratchcards at cinemas in the UK, with questions such as, “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is a matter of historical record: fact or fiction?” (with the correct answer being fiction). Surely I can’t be the only person who sees a certain irony in this? Isn’t this rhetoric coming from a religion that is based upon a book that is not exactly an accurate historical record itself, and at least in part presents fiction as fact? That’s not to say some people shouldn’t find it a good read; but so too The Da Vinci Code.

Dan Brown’s book is the story of a conspiracy theory – a work of fiction that describes people trying to uncover clues. It’s not supposed to be a non-fiction volume presenting academic research. But even if it was, why worry about a conspiracy theory? Even that paranoid control freak George W Bush doesn’t see the need to ban films depicting conspiracies by the US Government (for example, involving UFOs or international terrorism) irrespective of whether they claim to be fact or fiction.

One cardinal, Francis Arinze, has called on Christians to take legal action against the book. He said, “Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget.” which, strangely enough, is contrary to what I always thought was one of the teachings of Christianity. He didn’t specify what “legal action” should be taken, and it’s hard to see who would have a valid claim as libel can only be committed against a named individual, not a group of people (and not someone who may or may not have lived 2000 years ago). He goes on to say:

This is one of the fundamental human rights – that we should be respected, our religious beliefs respected, and our founder Jesus Christ respected.

Actually, Cardinal Arinze, it’s your right to to manifest your religion or belief, that’s what is enshrined in, for example, Article 9 of the European Convention. However, nowhere does it say others may never criticise your religion. What’s more, Article 10 says that people have the right to freedom of expression.

With all the genuine human rights abuses around the world: people imprisoned without a fair trial, people who are unable even to practise their religion openly, etc., don’t you think Christians could be making a more useful contribution to the world by speaking out against some of those things, instead of thinking of themselves and their own religion – a religion in which they seem to have so little faith, they are worried that a simple film and novel might undermine it?

4 responses to “The Da Vinci Code, fiction and free speech”

  1. It's A Free World, Baby

    Good post. Another example of the Catholic contradicting their speeches and their book is this story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/5301334.stm

  2. Paris

    The same happened in the late 80’s when martin scorcese released the last temptation of Christ ( based on the novel of the great Nikos Kazantzakis , author of Zorba the Greek) I remember many riots in Greece and the Christian world becacause the movie presented Christ with all the human realities and weaknesses….

    Unfortunately faith is such a sensitive subject.

    When younger i was so naive i grinded some of my pork chop to a fellow muslim friend’s beef bolognese dish…..
    I said to him “see ? pork wont harm you and i dont think you ll go to hell if you eat pork” but he never spoke me since that… such is religion i am afarid… religion can come in many forms, in England football can be religion…..

    I bet if Shearer and blair decide to mak a speech in newcastle at the same time same day , more people will attend shearer’s speech. Or Sunderland supporters think that their team is the best in the world….

    anyway … although not the biggest fan of “best sellers” i got to admitt that the way DB writes captivated me, especially his book angels and demons. Maybe thats what worried the hardcore Christians, DB’s ability to captivate audiences….

  3. Common Viewer

    Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ is bolder than The Da Vinci Code. The later also points to the importance of FAITH to everyone especially the kids under the well (people being helpless or hopeless) as to retrieve the situation of offending Christians. And it stresses more than one time that the Vatican doesn’t know anything about the conspiracies.

  4. Lena

    Once I talked with my grandfather about religions. I asked him, Christ, Mohamed, Sakimuni and other Gods and Goddesses, how do they get along with each other on the heaven? My grandfather said “U.N.”

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