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Da Vinci Code and the JFK Assassination


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I have no interest in reading "The Da Vinci Code". As a historian is seems to be completely unhistorical. However, Lynn Garrett, argues that Brown’s novel feeds into “a willingness on peoples’ part to believe the worst about Christianity" and sees it as the religious equivalent of the many theories about President Kennedy’s assassination. To me, the JFK assassination and the Da Vinci Code are not connected. One is based on careful reading of the evidence whereas the other is pure fantasy. Anyway, here is the article that suggests there is a connection between the book and the assassination.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12255363/

As Dan Brown writes in “The Da Vinci Code,” “Everyone loves a conspiracy.”

So here they are — the supposed secrets nobody wants you to know, least of all the Christian church. Jesus never died on the cross. No, he retired to Egypt. Or was it France? He sired a royal bloodline with wife Mary Magdalene.

Can this all be true? No, say virtually all serious historians who deal with the first century.

But that doesn’t matter in the world of publishing. The staggering success of “The Da Vinci Code” — 40 million hardcover copies in print worldwide plus another 6 million in paperback — has given a boost to books marketed as both nonfiction and fiction that play on the idea that great mysteries envelop the “greatest story ever told.”

To people like Lynn Garrett, religion editor of Publishers Weekly for the past decade, the explanation is simple: “Conspiracy theories have tremendous appeal for Americans.”

In particular, Brown’s novel feeds into “a willingness on peoples’ part to believe the worst about Christianity generally and the Roman Catholic Church in particular.” She sees it as the religious equivalent of the many theories about President Kennedy’s assassination.

Riding in the wake of “Da Vinci” has meant success for books about the Knights Templar, ancient goddess worship, Holy Grail hunts, Vatican intrigue, religious texts that early Christians spurned and the never-ending speculations about the “real” Jesus.

The titles on various best-seller lists lately include “Labyrinth,” “The Last Templar,” “The Templar Legacy,” “The Third Secret” and Brown’s earlier novel, “Angels & Demons.”

Michael Baigent last week lost a British lawsuit claiming Brown unfairly lifted themes from his co-authored “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” But Baigent can be consoled by brisk sales for his latest conspiracy tome, “The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.”

Brown’s novel has scholarly characters who purport to present historical facts while Baigent’s writings are marketed as nonfiction. But the two rivals agree about religion. Both write that evil churchmen plotted to conceal the truth about Jesus and distort the origins of Christianity, especially the secret that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and was patriarch to a royal bloodline.

Baigent’s added twist in his new book has Jesus faking his death on the cross with the collusion of Pontius Pilate, after which he becomes a guru living with the Mrs. in Egypt.

Garrett says “Da Vinci” and company have hit a perfect moment in popular culture, given the actual Catholic cover-ups regarding sexual abuse by priests and the nation’s edginess over “the whole specter of terrorism.” Another factor helpful to Brown: “A lot of people don’t know church history so are more open to whatever is put out there.”

Writer Dan Burstein thinks Brown also benefits from current affairs: The Iraq war has made some people more suspicious about official versions of events. “Conspiracy fits right into that,” he said. He also thinks the novel’s depiction of the role of women in religion appeals to female book buyers and that the novel comes at “a time of search for new religious answers” as opposed to old ones.

Maybe it’s not just modern Americans. Writing in the Boston Globe, author James Parker called Brown’s novel “a classic con” and traced conspiracy theories back to 18th-century Europe, where people combined “displaced religiosity” with “ancient longings” — a common phenomenon today.

Burstein is completing a documentary based on the 2006 edition of his fan anthology, “Secrets of the Code.” That book is among some 30 flooding the market that treat themes in “The Da Vinci Code” itself, another extraordinary phenomenon.

Most are attacks on the novel from mainstream Catholics and Protestants. Because so many people believe Brown’s various accusations against the church are “true, or largely true,” Burstein says, religious people have been forced to respond. “They see themselves, rightly, as involved in a propaganda war.”

Brown has long declined interviews. Baigent denied in a telephone interview that he’s a conspiracy theorist.

“I’m in the business of raising questions. I’m not in the business of providing answers. The moment you provide answers, you have a new power structure, so for me it’s a journey of exploration,” he said. An ex-Catholic, he’s suspicious of all belief systems and organized religions. “It’s necessary that we question them constantly.”

Baigent acknowledged that convincing evidence for his revisionist scenarios about Jesus has yet to appear. He followed leads to several alleged documents that fizzled out.

“I would like to think in due course a lot of this material will be proven,” he said, “but it’s just a hope of mine.”

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I have no interest in reading "The Da Vinci Code". As a historian is seems to be completely unhistorical. However, Lynn Garrett, argues that Brown’s novel feeds into “a willingness on peoples’ part to believe the worst about Christianity" and sees it as the religious equivalent of the many theories about President Kennedy’s assassination. To me, the JFK assassination and the Da Vinci Code are not connected. One is based on careful reading of the evidence whereas the other is pure fantasy. Anyway, here is the article that suggests there is a connection between the book and the assassination.

As John says, it's a novel. It's probably not a 'Great Work of Art' but it's good story and well told. What historians of the future will have to explain is not how divergent Brown's book is from 'reality' but how it sold so many copies in the first years of the 21st century. Even then I don't suppose many historians will examine this as an issue.

As the article above notes, people are willing to believe a lot of 'bad things' about the Catholic Church (based on evidence about its present and past) and therefore anybook (and if one wishes to refer to 'factual' books, then probably best to go for "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail") that criticises it as a set of conspiracies is going to find a ready audience. In this respect the Da Vinci Code 'moment' is similar to the JFK debate.

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I have no interest in reading "The Da Vinci Code". As a historian is seems to be completely unhistorical. However, Lynn Garrett, argues that Brown’s novel feeds into “a willingness on peoples’ part to believe the worst about Christianity" and sees it as the religious equivalent of the many theories about President Kennedy’s assassination. To me, the JFK assassination and the Da Vinci Code are not connected. One is based on careful reading of the evidence whereas the other is pure fantasy. Anyway, here is the article that suggests there is a connection between the book and the assassination.

As John says, it's a novel. It's probably not a 'Great Work of Art' but it's good story and well told. What historians of the future will have to explain is not how divergent Brown's book is from 'reality' but how it sold so many copies in the first years of the 21st century. Even then I don't suppose many historians will examine this as an issue.

As the article above notes, people are willing to believe a lot of 'bad things' about the Catholic Church (based on evidence about its present and past) and therefore anybook (and if one wishes to refer to 'factual' books, then probably best to go for "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail") that criticises it as a set of conspiracies is going to find a ready audience. In this respect the Da Vinci Code 'moment' is similar to the JFK debate.

Where I think Lynn Garrett is wrong is the suggestion that Kennedy’s Roman Catholic beliefs had anything to do with the assassination. It is true that Kennedy moved to the left in 1963: plans to end the oil depletion allowance, investigations into government corruption (TFX and Bobby Baker scandals), began secret negotiations with Fidel Castro, the refusal to start a war in Vietnam, an unwillingness to support anti-democratic military dictators in the America, etc. However, I think this was more due to his experience of government rather than a reflection of his religious beliefs.

It is true that there is a large interest in political conspiracies. I like nothing better than reading a book or watching a film that involves a political conspiracy. Probably my favourite conspiracy film is Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099768/

My interest in political conspiracies is based on my own political ideology and is part of a much wider conspiracy that dates back to emergence of democracy in the world (it has been necessary for the power elite to conspire against the masses in order to maintain their privileges). For example, see my thread on Tony Blair:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=6382

I am surprised that the left shows little interest in conspiracies. I believe they are victims of the successful smear campaigns mounted against conspiracy theorists. They are presented as a group of weirdoes and most respectable historians are unwilling to spend their time investigating these theories. In my view most on the left are suffering from “false consciousness” when it comes to conspiracy theory.

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"Where I think Lynn Garrett is wrong is the suggestion that Kennedy’s Roman Catholic beliefs had anything to do with the assassination. It is true that Kennedy moved to the left in 1963: plans to end the oil depletion allowance, investigations into government corruption (TFX and Bobby Baker scandals), began secret negotiations with Fidel Castro, the refusal to start a war in Vietnam, an unwillingness to support anti-democratic military dictators in the America, etc. However, I think this was more due to his experience of government rather than a reflection of his religious beliefs.

It is true that there is a large interest in political conspiracies. I like nothing better than reading a book or watching a film that involves a political conspiracy. Probably my favourite conspiracy film is Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099768/

My interest in political conspiracies is based on my own political ideology and is part of a much wider conspiracy that dates back to emergence of democracy in the world (it has been necessary for the power elite to conspire against the masses in order to maintain their privileges). For example, see my thread on Tony Blair:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=6382

I am surprised that the left shows little interest in conspiracies. I believe they are victims of the successful smear campaigns mounted against conspiracy theorists. They are presented as a group of weirdoes and most respectable historians are unwilling to spend their time investigating these theories. In my view most on the left are suffering from “false consciousness” when it comes to conspiracy theory."

John, I believe you are missing an important point here. Certainly Kennedy had experiences that changed what he did. 'Moved to the left' is perhaps a good summation of this. Why didn't he move to the right? Why did he make the choices he did? To make political buddies? Or perhaps being the sort of person he was, and most of us are what we are according to what we become as youth. The Kennedy that moved to the left predates presidency. Not unlike Castro.

It is hard to make a revolution. It's expensive, dangerous and risky. To do it properly you have to play the opposition until you are firmly in power. Castro had practice and he got it right. Kennedy perhaps can be accused of having been naive, or as Castro would say: 'beardless'. Perhaps Kennedy believed in apple pie too much. Or perhaps he was savvier than most imagine. He knew the very real risks he was taking, and he wasn't backing down. Did being a christian make this easier for him? Probably. (Is it possible for a-theists to also exhibit altruism? Certainly.)

Obviously Kennedy was a typical wandering christian with shortcomings. That's normality. Seeing a religious type conspiracy in the Kennedy question is absurd. Nevertheless, mindsets and raisons d'etre are important. The antipathy of the deluded ignorants who huddled in their ancient bigotry in parts of the south towards the catholic is a matter of record. As is racism, anti semitism, and anti communism.. This is the underpinning of KKK , christian identity etc. And this is the environment that Kennedy entered when he went to the heart of Texas, Dallas.

Edited by John Dolva
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The history of the catholic church is very messy. As messy as any history can be. If you can believe that rational people can be responsible for the inquisition and the crusades, why can't you believe that they might have hidden some important facts about their history?

Conspiracy theories have gotten a bad rap. Intelligent, well-informed people should not believe such things. I remind those people that there are plenty of examples of real consiracies: Watergate, Iran-Contra, the first "election" of George W. Bush, Joseph Kennedy's role in the election of JFK, FDRs pre-knowledge of Pearl Harbor.

In the final analysis, The Da Vinci Code is just a very well-written thriller. You can enjoy the read without taking sides on the accuracy of the history.

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