Before we get to address the question of whether Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code would still be relevant by the year 2070, we will need to discuss what caused this novel to win instant favor with readers today. Even though some critics suggest that it was due to novel’s particularly high literary quality, we cannot subscribe to such a point of view.
After all, novel’s plot appears unnecessarily overcomplicated, the situations that characters find themselves dealing with – unrealistic, and the characters – utterly predictable. For example, the character of Leigh Teabing does not only appear but also talks as if he was the incarnation of ‘Englishness’. Nevertheless, as we are all aware of – after having been published, The Da Vinci Code became a bestseller within the matter of few days. How can it be explained?
The reason why Brown’s novel was able to attain such popularity is that the motifs, contained in it, correspond to the unconscious anxieties, on the part of those for whom it was written – the dwellers of Western post-industrial megalopolises. In its turn, these anxieties derive out of the process of urbanites growing increasingly non-religious.
Nowadays, the process of Western countries’ secularization became unstoppable. Even today, the number of native-born Westerners who consider themselves truly religious is best defined as utterly neglectable. The validity of this statement appears self-evident, once we assess the strength of people’s religiosity in countries that feature world’s highest standards of living – Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
According to most recent sociological surveys, only 1% of these countries’ native-born citizens affiliate themselves with any religion, whatsoever. The reason for this is simple – people who enjoy a nice life, do not need some tribal God, with a lot of rules and little mercy, representing an integral part of their worldviews.
One of the most important aspects of post-industrial living is the fact that such living becomes increasingly rationalistic. Nowadays, we are fully aware of the fact that, in order for an individual to attain prosperity, he or she would simply have to obtain good education and start working hard, as opposed to praying to Saint Mary, so that material riches would fall out of the sky, as many people in such ‘culturally rich’ but intellectually backward Catholic countries, as Mexico, Peru and Philippines do.
It is namely Westerners’ tendency to rationalize life’s challenges, which explains why The Da Vinci Code connects with these people’s mode of existence – even before having been exposed to Brown’s novel, they felt that the story of Holy Ghost impregnating Saint Mary was nothing but the fairy tale of the worst kind.
People simply became tired of self-proclaimed ‘servants of God’ popularizing two thousand years old nonsense about talking donkeys, sun standing still in the sky and universe’s creation in six days, as the ‘word of God’. This was the reason why reading of The Da Vinci Code came to them like the breath of a fresh air.
In his novel, Brown was able to confirm something that rationalistically minded citizens have been suspecting since long time ago – Jesus was just as sexual and mortal as we all are.
As one of novel’s most prominent characters, Sir Teabing had put it: “A child of Jesus would undermine the critical notion of Christ’s divinity and therefore the Christian Church, which declared itself the sole vessel through which humanity could access the divine and gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven” (216). Today’s Christianity is best described as ‘dying’ religion, as opposed to the ‘alive’ religion of Islam, for example.
What Brown achieved by publishing his novel, is depriving Christianity of the remains of its theological validity – hence, driving one of the last intellectual nails into this religion’s coffin. Therefore, we cannot agree with Catholic critics of The Da Vinci Code, who often refer to the plot of Brown’s novel as being based upon pseudo-historical speculations, and therefore – not worthy of readers’ attention.
Apparently, it never occurred to Christian critics that, while referring to novel’s affiliation with the literary genre of fiction as the foremost proof to the sheer fallaciousness of the claims, contained in it, they actually contribute to promoting Brown’s cause even further – whatever the improbable it might sound. The reason for this is simple – while being encouraged to analyze what accounts for fictious motifs in The Da Vinci Code, readers are being simultaneously provoked to analyze what represents fictious motifs in the Bible.
In his book, Dawkings (2006) had made a perfectly good point, while stating: “The only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction” (97). Despite the format of Brown’s novel, it does operate with a variety of historically proven facts, which Christians do not like discussing, simply because these facts leave very little doubt as to the Bible being anything but the actual ‘word of God’.
For example, in his dialogue with the characters of Langdon and Sophie, Sir Teabing provides readers with the insight onto the fact that, before being incorporated into Christianity’s dogma, the divinity of Jesus was actually voted upon by attendees of Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.): “At this gathering (Council of Nicaea)… many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon – the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus” (199). In other words, Brown’s novel is in fact utterly effective, for as long as dismantling Christian myth is being concerned.
Thus, the significance of The Da Vinci Code should be discussed within the context of an overall process of Christianity’s desacralization. And, there are good reasons to believe that by the year 2070, this process will result in the status of Christianity being reduced from that of one of world’s most influential religions, to two thousand years old folklore of Jewish sheep herders. In very near future, science will become people’s ‘religion’, at least in Western countries.
When this happens, Brown’s novel will be deprived of its actuality. After all, if someone today wrote a novel, aimed to expose ancient Greek god Zeus as such that never existed, it would be very unlikely for this novel to become a bestseller – people already know that. In a similar manner, since by the year 2070 just about everybody is going to be fully aware of the imaginary essence of Christian fables, this will result in Brown’s novel being deprived of its controversial appeal.
Therefore, it would only be logical to hypothesize that by the year 2070, The Da Vinci Code will no longer be considered relevant, simply because by that time, the foremost idea contained in it (namely, Jesus being mortal and sexual man), would be recognized as self-evident.
Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code. Sydney: Anchor Books, 2009. Print.
Dawkings, Richard. The God Delusion. Toronto: Bantam Press, 2006. Print.