Clash of Fantasies
By Crispin Sartwell
My policy, by and large, is to express respect for the great
world religions in public, while ridiculing them in private.
I'm going to make an exception, however, and engage in public abuse of
Christianity with regard to the "controversy" surrounding the film of
Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. As
the protests continue, The Da Vinci Code is quickly shaping up as one of the alltime self-basting turkeys in the
history of film.
Various religious groups - notably the Catholic and Russian Orthodox
churches - have protested that the film is historically inaccurate.
The Da Vinci Code asserts that
Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and that their bloodline continues today. This
contradicts orthodox Christianity.
it true? It's obvious, I should think, that there's not a speck of evidence
The standard of historical accuracy deployed by those objecting to the
film is the New Testament. According to the gospels, Jesus didn't marry or have
However, according to these same gospels, Jesus raised the dead, fed a
multitude with a tiny amount of bread, healed sicknesses with a touch, and so
on. The "historically accurate" account, that is, involves the
nonstop violation of the known laws of nature.
The defense of the film is that it is a work of fiction. Fair enough.
But then again, so is the New Testament.
Christians' problem with The Da Vinci Code is that its bizarre fantasy contradicts their bizarre fantasy. It's
certainly a disagreement, but not one that it is possible to take seriously.
It's like condemning The Lord of the Rings on the grounds that it doesn't match up with The Chronicles
Now when someone's fantasy contradicts your fantasy, when their bestseller
contravenes your myth cycle, you might get upset. You might say that they are
blaspheming against your faith. But you surely do not want to let your point
rest on historical accuracy, because then you are embroiled in questions of
evidence, which is the last thing you want.
Indeed, claims of historical accuracy for any religion's account of its
own origins are laughable. Every religion, according to itself, rests on divine
direction, as demonstrated in an ever-escalating set of paradoxes and impossibilities.
Every fabrication - the less plausible the better - becomes a new proof.
The only way to be sure that your God existed would be his supernatural
intervention in everyday life. The way in turn to be sure of that intervention
would be the occurrence of events so obviously impossible in the normal run of
things that the only reasonable explanation would be an exercise of
And so every religion spends its early years jacking up the miracles,
making itself extremely impressive and patently absurd.
No doubt the New Testament contradicts the Da Vinci Code. But it also contradicts the Upanishads, the Koran, Greek mythology, Rastafarianism's assertion that Haile Selassie is
God, and so on. For that matter, it contradicts itself, resting as it does on
some assertion like this: the eternal God has appeared in time and died.
You might defend this on the grounds that we could reason it out
somehow, or that it is a noble thing to believe a paradox, calling for intense
faith. But if you assert it on the grounds of its historical accuracy, I can't
even understand what you're trying to say.
Perhaps one day the film version of The Da Vinci Code will be the scripture of a new religion. Then all
its ridiculous fictions - not to speak of its wretched dialogue - will be
regarded as exempt from criticism.
Until then, you might want to go see X-Men. It's historically accurate. You can tell because it's so much like
the original comic books.