You are viewing an archived page on our old website. Click here to visit our new website.

Home | Join/Donate | Current Voices | Liturgical Calendar | What's New | Affirmation | James Hitchcock's Column | Church Documents | Search

The Da Vinci Code Raises Secular Questions

by James Hitchcock
May 24, 2006

The Da Vinci Code, book and film, raises obvious kinds of religious questions. But it also raises issues that are secular in nature.

Defenders of the work use bait-and-switch tactics -- putting it forward as an “interesting” hypothesis concerning Christianity, then when challenged falling back on saying, “But it’s fiction.” The last line of defense is then to insist, “It‘s supposed to make you think.”

But think about what? The author, Dan Brown, has deliberately confused things by claiming that it is a work of fiction with many factual elements in it. But he is not very specific about what those are, and the most controversial elements in the book are almost completely fictional.

This actually undermines critical thinking, for the obvious reason that neither the book nor the film gives any help in distinguishing the true from the false and in fact deliberately keeps people in the dark. To think properly about The Da Vinci Code it would be necessary to spend hours in a good library, painstakingly sorting through arcane volumes, which is not exactly what people mean when they say, “It made me think.” (Fortunately that tedious work has been already been done by a number of competent scholars.)

But without that kind of research “thinking” can only mean pointless speculation, as though in a history class students were told to think about the Civil War based only on having seen Gone with the Wind. What then passes for thinking is wishful thinking, the enjoyment of one’s personal reveries about what might have been or the thrill of entertaining unfamiliar ideas that are in fact not true. (Films like They Came from Outer Space do not help people to think productively about the possibility of life in other solar systems.) 

The other secular issue with The Da Vinci Code involves the protests against the book and the film. As usual where religion is concerned, these protests have been treated as the panicky reactions of insecure people who feel their faith threatened, and there have been the usual cries of “censorship,” the implication that the protestors don’t believe in the American tradition of free expression.

The reality is quite the contrary. Where Hollywood is concerned, there is no such tradition of freedom -- the film and television industries have always practiced censorship. At one time that censorship was mainly in the hands of Catholics, and today various favored groups are allowed to review scripts before they are produced. The difference is that now religious groups are no longer part of that inner circle and can be offended with impunity.

But not quite with impunity. The American tradition of free expression includes the freedom to protest, something that in fact the country was founded on. Those groups who remain silent are ignored, and only those who make noise have any chance of influencing their fellow citizens. That is simply the American way, and those who remain silent are opting out of their responsibilities as citizens.

James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press. Dr. Hitchcock's The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life, Vol. 1 The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses and Vol. II From 'Higher Law' to 'Sectarian Scruples', were released by Princeton University Press September 2, 2004.

E-Mail: Dr. James Hitchcock

**Women for Faith & Family operates solely on your generous donations!

WFF is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible.

Columns copyright © 1995 - 2006 by James Hitchcock
. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without permission. (Permission is granted to download articles for personal use only.)

Voices copyright © 1999-Present Women for Faith & Family. All rights reserved.


All material on this web site is copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without prior written permission from Women for Faith & Family,except as specified below.

Personal use
Permission is granted to download and/or print out articles for personal use only.

Brief quotations (ca 500 words) may be made from the material on this site, in accordance with the “fair use” provisions of copyright law, without prior permission. For these quotations proper attribution must be made of author and WFF + URL (i.e., “Women for Faith & Family –

Generally, all signed articles or graphics must also have the permission of the author. If a text does not have an author byline, Women for Faith & Family should be listed as the author. For example: Women for Faith & Family (St Louis: Women for Faith & Family, 2005 + URL)

Link to Women for Faith & Family web site.
Other web sites are welcome to establish links to or to individual pages within our site.

Back to top -- Home -- Back to James Hitchcock Column Index

Women for Faith & Family
PO Box 300411
St. Louis, MO 63130

314-863-8385 Phone -- 314-863-5858 Fax -- Email


You are viewing an archived page on our old website. Click here to visit our new website.