DUNN LORING, VA — Newsweek ended the year with a cover
story hyping the forthcoming movie version of The Da Vinci Code, Dan
huge bestseller, to be directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks.
The novel is a brilliant thriller with an absurd anti-Catholic premise:
that the Church has been trying to hide the truth about Jesus’ marriage
to Mary Magdalene (and their offspring) for two thousand years, which
would be quite a feat; but the facts have been known to a few people
anyway, one of whom was Leonardo Da Vinci, whose ostensibly religious
paintings subtly subverted the Church’s teaching. When anyone
starts catching on, the Church resorts to murder to keep the truth
hidden. The dirty work is handled by Opus Dei, one of whose priests
has recruited a crazed albino to knock off a scholar who is hot on
The story begins when the victim’s nude body is discovered at
the Louvre, and a Harvard professor (who happens to be lecturing in
Paris) is wrongly suspected. He must not only escape the police but
solve the crime and the larger mystery, in which he is assisted by
a young Frenchwoman, a brilliant cryptologist, who turns out to be
a remote descendant of Jesus.
If you think all this is a little implausible, wait until you meet
the British historian the hero turns to for assistance. He explains
that nobody ever claimed divinity for Jesus until 325 A.D., when the
emperor Constantine foisted the idea on everyone and it was adopted
by the Church, though we never learn just why the Church existed at
all for three centuries, if its central doctrine hadn’t been
thought up yet. We are, however, informed by this learned historian
that the Church has been hostile to women throughout its existence,
and during the Middle Ages burned much of the female population of
Europe — several millions of women — as witches, apparently
without protest from the male population.
All this is not so much bigoted as just psychotic; but Brown boasts
that it’s all meticulously researched, and that only the modern
characters are fictions. In an earlier novel, he disclosed that the
Church had executed Copernicus for his theory, so it may be time for
him to hire a new research assistant with access to, say, a children’s
Nevertheless, millions of readers are buying into this nonsense and
thanking Brown for his illumination of the history which the Church
had kept hidden from them. Among these is Howard, who says he loves
the novel and is not toning down its controversial theses in his film.
Many of us first knew Howard as Andy Griffith’s little boy, Opie,
little suspecting his latent intellectual depths. He has obviously
put Mayberry far behind him.
The Triumph of the Darwiniacs
Dan Brown’s stunning success should give pause to anyone who
has ever assumed that literacy is the antidote for ignorance, error,
and superstition. In an age when most of us have been to college, you’d
think there were some limits to popular gullibility. I am not myself
a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, but I wouldn’t have expected
to be widely believed if I wrote, for example, that Lincoln was actually
a werewolf. Maybe I was mistaken. I guess you really can fool some
of the people all of the time.
Are people really that stupid? Some, yes. But I think we should be
careful to distinguish stupidity from obtuseness.
Many people make incredible errors not because they lack intelligence,
but because on certain subjects they simply refuse to use their heads.
Brown has found one of those subjects: the Church. He’s not
the first. Some of the great frauds of modern history have been perpetrated
by highly intelligent men who have appealed to the desire for relief
from the unbearable demands of Christianity; and other intelligent
men have welcomed their doctrines. Think of the worldwide appeal of
atheistic Marxism in the twentieth century. Or of the parallel appeal
of “liberal” Christianity among some nominal Christians.
After all, wouldn’t our lives be easier if we refused to believe
in Christ? This tempting thought can pervert the highest intelligence;
in fact the term “intellectual” has become almost synonymous
with unbelief. And the people we call “intellectuals” are
often ready to believe in almost anything rather than Christianity,
Today Marxism has been so falsified by disastrous experience that
few still believe in it; but we are finding that Darwin has outlived
Marx. Darwinism also appeals to godlessness, but Darwin, in contrast
to Marx, didn’t make predictions that history could refute in
a generation or so. Today, in consequence, the Darwiniacs, as I like
to call them, are going strong.
A federal judge named John E. Jones has overjoyed the Darwiniacs by
ruling that the teaching of “intelligent design” in public
schools, even as an alternative to Darwinian evolutionism, violates
the U.S. Constitution. Apart from being legal nonsense, that would
outlaw even Aristotelian teleology as “religious.” Children
must be taught that nature has no purpose, beyond “survival of
the fittest” — though even survival is, strictly speaking,
an accident rather than a purpose. We owe our existence, our humanity
itself, not to anything intelligent, but to the chance mutations of
This is the dogma of Darwinism, which passes for “religious
neutrality” (at least among the modern mainstream of the irreligious).
As always, liberalism is playing its old game of “Let’s
compromise my way.” The happy medium between theism and atheism
is atheism. As long as you don’t call it atheism, of course.
(You should call it Science.)
So much for the idea that Nature makes nothing in vain. But why, then,
does man seem to be, as cultural anthropology seems to suggest, religious
by nature? Maybe because religion has (or once had) some survival value,
even if religious beliefs are in fact false. Or maybe such beliefs,
though generally false, at least don’t prevent the survival of
those who hold them. Perhaps they represent a harmless mutation we
can live as well without. Or something.
Obviously there is no end to this kind of thinking. It follows that
we can believe pretty much whatever we want to, since Nature’s
only commandment, so to speak is “Thou shalt survive.” I’m
not sure why this particular belief is held with such evangelical fervor.
Why is it so urgent to teach the kids that life is absurd? Are little
Darwinists better equipped for survival than little Christians? Is
that what the Constitution tells us?
This Sobran classic appeared in The Wanderer's edition of January 5, 2006.
Copyright © 2010 by Joe Sobran and the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.
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