Screeching Christian Codebreakers

Yeah, I know: Band name!

Recent news articles have cropped up that report the considerable angst the various churches and christian groups are feeling over The Da Vinci Code. In fact, the book has spawned a cottage industry of rebuttals, generating a nice source of income for the “concerned” sky pilots that wrote them.

It’s interesting that all this hoopla is concerning a work of fiction that is putting a spin on another work of fiction. Apparently, the godly bunch feels that their work of fiction is more grounded in unreality than the other. Or something.

I haven’t read the latest work. I have read the other, which was and is in serious need of editing, and found it to be largely unbelievable, though entertaining in some portions. I don’t know if the newer volume is any more credible, or if it’s just a tongue-in-cheek poke at organized religion. If the latter, it certainly provoked the desired response and I say “Huzzah!”

Still, it’s just a book, so why the hand-wringing and squealing? Despite the voiced concerns about it causing people to doubt their faith (cripes, I should hope so), I suspect it’s because it’s a threat to the cash flow into the collection plates and coffers of those who make their livings as parasites on humanity. But as always, that’s just MHO.

As I understand it, the churches are reacting to the fact that a lot of people are falling for the misinformation in the book. It’s riddled with assertions about early Chrsitian history (after the Bible ends as well) that are untrue, twisted, and frequently easily shown to be untrue (such as things Constantine did) --but some gullible people are taking it seriously, since they aren’t educated enough to know the actual facts. Apparently Dan Brown feels that his book tells the truth, but he happens to be wrong about that, as well as about the reality of the Illuminati and the efficacy of antimatter bombs.

People questioning their faith and investigating into the roots of their religion is great and fine, but not if they’re doing it based on misinformation. That’s not fighting ignorance, now is it?

So churches are coming out with rebuttals that go through the accusations in the book and give their side of history. Seems fair enough to me–but then I haven’t read any of it. Perhaps we both ought to before we go further into the subject.

Yeah, since they can’t possibly be concerned about historical accuracy or misrepresentation of their teachings, eh? No, it’s gotta be about the money. Surely greed must be their true motive. :rolleyes:

Look, I’m not about to claim that churhes always act in the noblest of intentions. In this case though, it seems rather irresponsible to suggest that money is their true motivation – especially in the absence of any real evidence for that claim. Why insist on malice, when there are far simpler explanations at hand?

It’s a novel. Last I heard, novels are works of fiction. Works of fiction don’t require rebuttal; they’re created for the entertainment value. The accuracy of the information contained is purely at the whim of the author. I don’t believe that ‘fighting ignorance’ is the prime directive of novelists.

Nobody would seriously question their faith after reading 2001: A Space Oddessy, but it’s clearly a work that contains questions pertaining to faith and humanity.

As to the book being ‘riddled with assertions about early Christian history’, do you really believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale? That whathisname actually parted the Red Sea? That all of the other supposed historical events related in the bible are anything but stories made up by the storytellers of the time, with some basis in the actual historical figures of the time? That’s the definition of an historical novel, as I understand it.

Once again: IT’S A NOVEL. It doesn’t represent itself to be historically accurate, and has little information based on research; anyone who takes it seriously is an idiot. Do you take Cecille B. DeMille’s epics seriously? Did anyone wail pitiously because Anne Baxter wanted to haul Moses’ ashes for him? Get a grip. Do you really consider the bible to be historically accurate?

And yes, it’s about the money. It’s always been about the money and will always be about the money. They’re a bunch of soul-sucking parasites preying on fear, not unlike the party they support and defend. How many skinny, poor ministers do you know? The ones I see are well-fed and live in nicer houses than I can afford. The one down the street from me drives a Lexus and his wife drives a Mercedes. Seems like money, to me.

Hey, I don’t care how much they make; they’ve got a good gig going. But I sure do dislike it when they crank up the holy volume because someone has come up with a better scam than they have and they have to share the pie.

It’s a novel that claims to depict certain parts of history accurately. Dan Brown has said that he believes it to be accurate. It’s a novel which a lot of gullible people believe tells the truth.

If people weren’t taking it so seriously, the Catholic Church wouldn’t either. It doesn’t come out with rebuttals to every silly novel with Catholics in it. The churches are only reacting to the public wave of falling for yet another conspiracy theory.

Which counts for exactly squat.

So they had no problem with the man on the grassy knoll? I don’t recall the church weighing in on the moon landing conspiracy either, but I may have missed it. Of course, neither of those pesky theories would interfere with the power wielded by organized religion; nor would they challenge the dogma.

Okay, that was a little over the top, sarcasm-wise.

The idea that there is a perceived need to refute any challenge to the established fairy tale preached by most churches is bizarre to me. Could it be that they recognize the frailty of their arguments? That the whole thing is a house of cards?

It could be… it isn’t, but it could be…

Moving this to MPSIMS.

True enough, but Dan Brown is publicly quoted as saying The DaVinci Fiasco is truth. And many people are believing it as truth. That is spreading ignorance. And here we try to fight ignorance. That’s what factual rebuttals are for.

The examples you mention are not “early Christian history”. They’re Jewish mythos, which is included in the Christian mythos. Early Christian history includes things like the ecumenical councils–The DaVinci Travesty in particular mentions the Council of Nicea (or Nicaea) which happened in 325 AD. That council has minutes, and is part of factual history, not part of disputed belief. Here’s how Dan Brown describes it in The DaVinci Disaster:

This is of course woefully wrong. The Council of Nicea was all about the Arian Controversy–Arius proposed the idea of Jesus as divine, but of lesser divinity than the Father, that there was a time when Jesus “was not.” The Nicene Creed was one of the results of the council, which coined the greek word “Homoousious” (commonly translated as “consubstantial”) with the Father. Additionally only 17 of the roughly 300 bishops present initially refused to sign it, with eventually only 3 objecting. Cite, cite.

These are facts of history, not mythos, and not opinion. There are copious records. Dan Brown makes a hash of most of his presentation of history. Furthermore, the characters presenting the information (like the “Teabing” character in the above quote) are supposed to be professors–the most learned in their field. Hence, the authority figure in the book is presenting this misinformation in a matter-of-fact way someone who “knows his stuff”. As a result, many people believe the laughable statments of “fact” in The DaVinci Doot.

But it doesn’t just stop with trashing history. It trashes everyday fact as well. In his agonizing discourse about phi (the golden ratio) Brown pens the following tripe:

This of course is wrong (as well as painful to read). Brown apparently knows nothing about bees. In any hive there are many workers (sterile females) a single queen (fertile female) and a handful of drones (males). Specifically, drones are only produced when the queen needs to mate (which happens once in the queen’s lifespan) and she only mates with roughly 10-20 drones (whereupon the drones immediately die).

The real “phi” in the story of bees is that because males are born from unfertilized eggs (hence they have a father and no mother) the ratio of ancestors of a male bee to that of a female bee approaches phi. This isn’t that surprising: a female bee has the same mother as a male in the colony but additionally has a father. That produces the recursion relation which results in a mathematical sequence whose limit is phi.

Brown also gets other things hideously wrong:

In his attempt at the Grand Unified Women-Hating Theory, Brown screws up again. The left brain is actually the rational side, the right the irrational/emotional side. And he continues to claim that every element of Christian history or symbolism is designed to crush “the divine feminine”.

He also claims the olympiad cycle was based on the cycles of Venus, etc. etc. ad naseum.

Yes it does. That’s the problem. From the book FAQ:

Not the word I’d choose–gullible or uninformed might be better. But much of the populace picks up things like that and then says, “I read somewhere that…” And that requires rebuttal/refutation/correct/what have you. The guy’s in the tin-foil-hat part of society and he’s got millions of people reading his rubbish.

You’re wrong. I can point to any number of counterexamples of people who are deeply involved in their religion (even in positions of leadership) who get zero compensation (in cash or kind) for what they do (oh yeah, I’d be one of them).

emarkp: well-argued, that. I don’t dispute that the book is probably tripe (and apparently badly written as well), but if this is common knowledge, why the uproar? The more noise made, the more attention paid, n’est ce pas? Something that may have died now will most certainly not.

While it sounds like Mr. Brown thinks a lot of himself and that there is an embarrassing lack of supporting fact for his writing, it is in the end fiction. It should either be enjoyed or ignored, but certainly not given the publicity the churches are giving it (not to mention the boost in sales).

Badly paid, underpaid, non-paid workers in the service of various interpretations of god(s) are legion. That doesn’t mean it’s not about money. If they paid you, that would take away from the bottom line. :smiley:

Well, the problem is that “common knowledge”, like common sense, is not quite so common. And the Church figures it’s got enough real problems with corruption, depravity, and political infighting within the hierarchy, to on top of it have a very popular book revive conspiracy-theories about the Church that they thought dead and buried back in the mid-1900s. Make a rough parallel with the brouhaha over whether The Passion has antisemitic content – it’s “common knowledge”, in the sense of being historically well established, that it was really the Romans who whacked JC, and that the Gospels’ portrayal of the Sanhedrin is wrong, but when an artistic representation of the “wrong” portrayal is the most succesful movie in the land for the first quarter of 2004, there will be concern that a lot of that audience is not going to do fact-checking.

To give it proper credit, The DaVinci Soporific is honest enough to sell itself as overt fiction, unlike things like The Celestine Prophecy, the myriad books on the “Indigo Children”, and most of Carlos Castaneda’s work.

And your insistence in reiterating that it must be all about money and market share makes your otherwise very sensible point about not making a bigger deal fo fiction than necessary, come across as tied in with gratuitious religion-bashing.

I know people that think JFK is a documentary I can’t blame the church for reacting to a crappy novel full of incorrect info.


I have know far more poor ministers than wealthy ones and I began my college years as a religious education major. You are misinformed if you think that most ministers have hefty salaries. Often churches have to share ministers in order for the person to have enough income to support a family.

Further, well-fed people are also often slender.

Oh, and while I’m at it, no Bible that I am familiar with claims that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

I point out your errors only to demonstrate how we don’t have to go any further than this thread to see people have an earnest desire to see misinformation corrected even when money can’t possibly be a motive.

FTR, I don’t seriously believe that a “big fish” swallowed Jonah either.

You’re probably right. I see red when it comes to religious dogma, but I’m not an avowed atheist. I just have a real hard-on for organized religion, which is not what this thread is about, and it has probably colored my arguments more than necessary.

However, I think it’s naive to think that churches, for the most part, are not profitable. A poor minister does not mean a poor church. And by church, I actually mean Church, as in the mother ships. It’s a business, and like any business, the bottom line is important. More members=more money. Fewer members=less money. And yes, I understand that it’s not all profit in someone’s pocket (with many notable exceptions).

A true believer in his church’s dogma is not going to be swayed by cheesy arguments in a bad novel. So why the uproar, I ask again. To keep the part-time believers from going elsewhere? If that’s the case, they aren’t selling the faith very well in the first place.

If the ‘maybes’ aren’t invested in the faith, they’re not going to stick around for long. If they already have doubts, a novel isn’t going to make much difference. If they don’t have doubts, a novel isn’t going to make any difference at all.

I suspect the arguments are going to start looping back on themselves in short order here. This thing is getting attention in large newspapers and now on the networks, and it’s worth debating.

As others have already pointed out, the author claims that it is historically accurate. Ergo, your argument is invalid.

I asked for evidence, not assertions. You have demonstrated your ability to make forceful assertions. Congratulations. What I want, however, is evidence to support your hypothesis that these specific Christians are motivated by financial gain, rather than a desire to combat ignorance.

Indeed, the curious phrasing of your reply (“It’s always been about the money and will always be about the money”) suggests that your claim is mere supposition, devoid of actual evidence.

First of all, there are a great many pastors who are barely getting by. I personally know of several, including one Calvary Chapel pastor who gave up a six-figure annual income, and now lives at a subsistence level.

Second, I happen to know a great many “skinny, poor ministers” – people who serve in impoverished Third World countries, not knowing where their next meal will come from. This demonstrates that Christian ministers are not all motivated by financial interests.

Third, the fact that you know a pastor who drives a Lexus proves nothing. You cannot generalize from this sample, and conclude that all pastors are motivated by money. Indeed, you cannot even conclude that this particular pastor is motivated by financial gain, since his choice of car does not prove that contention.

And fourth, so what if most of the pastors you see are well-fed? In case you haven’t noticed, most people in the USA are well-fed! Heck, most people who earn a decent income are well-fed! This does not, by any means, imply that all those people are money-grubbing deceivers.

In short, you have yet to provide even a shred of evidence for your outrageous claim.

I don’t think it’s the full fledged believers or even the “maybes” that the writers of these books are worrying about. Christianity is very focused on spreading the religion around. It makes it a lot harder to do so when people think that Christianity and the Church are just lies to oppress women. The fact that the author of the book puts out as fact many things that aren’t wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but since his “facts” tend to cast Christianity (not just the Church) in a negative light, many people, who may be potential Christians, have an incorrect view of things. That’s not to say that the Bible itself isn’t full of mythical stories that are being told as literal truth by many Churches. But that’s completely besides the point. The debate lies in the fallacies being presented as truth by Dan Brown’s book, and the fact that many people believe them.
As for the money issue, well, yeah, I’m sure the author’s of the books will make money if the books do well. I’m also sure that plays a part in their decision to write the books. Why is this so bad? It’s not like they’re doing a horrible thing by writing a book to combat ignorance and also make some money doing it. Cecil himself has to be making some money doing just this thing.

Partly. And as mentioned by a later poster, partly to preempt well-poisoning among potential converts. The Christian churches have a “commission” (I think that’s the term biblical scholars use) to reach out – paraphrasing Jesus, the doctor goes not to the house of the healthy, but of the sick. And also, the commission does NOT consider the “weak” believer as expendable, on the contrary, the “weak believer” is to be aided to strengthen his faith. Something that erodes the “weak believer” is not good in the eyes of the churches.

As it stands, though, this is nobody’s fault but the churches’ – most have done at best a mixed job at either being convert-attractive or giving a hand up to the still-wobbly follower. Very often they have incurred in the same failure of teaching, of letting their followers off with just the most superficial education in the faith and doctrines just as long as get to the point where they show up every Sunday and shut up and repeat the right answers.

It’s not really surprising to me that now that there’s a wildy popular phenom involving “heretical” teachings, we have writers frantically attempting some damage-control, and dusting off the apologetics. In the particular case of DVC there is also the element that a few of the theories stated as “as everyone knows…” facts do rub hot nerves in segments and factions within Catholicism and general Christianity (Opus Dei, e.g.) Of course, knowing that joining a “debate” within a popular phenomenon will drive up sales of your apologetics treatise has got to weigh on your editorial decisions. Not all theologians have taken a vow of poverty :wink: and you end up with a nice synergy between heretic and apologetician.

But I believe that popularity is what has the most to do with the reaction. The movie Dogma also gives exposure to a lot of the Christian Conspiracy Theories, with much, much better creative execution IMO. But we did not see a wave of apologetics filmmaking in response, or people doing the talk-show circuit to denounce it, did we? Well, it helped that it (a) wasn’t really that big a blockbuster and (b) came across as clearly a satire on orthodoxy. Sort of a “Smile when you say that, pardner” approach. DVC (and The Passion, FWIW), though, comes across as setting forth that theology in all earnestness.