Da Vinci Code author says novel overcomes religious ‘apathy’

By Catholic News Service

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CNS) -- The author of the The Da Vinci Code said his best-selling novel goes beyond its "commercial value" to discuss "big ideas" about the role of religion in history.

The book also has sparked lively debate and dialogue on Christianity, overcoming the "apathy" that can envelop religion and people of faith, said Dan Brown.

His novel, which has been criticized for its treatment of Catholic figures and institutions, has been turned into a movie, which is scheduled to be released nationwide May 19.

"Religion is a work in progress. We learn by our mistakes," he said April 23 on the New Hampshire Public Radio program "Writers on a New England Stage." The program was broadcast from Portsmouth but was made available on the radio station's Web site.

A main plot element in the novel is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children and their descendants live in secret today. Important clues to this are hidden in the paintings of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. The novel has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Controversy is bound to be created "when you write a novel that says history is not what you think it is," said Brown, who lives in Rye Beach, N.H. He was born and raised in New Hampshire.

"It's about great ideas. You can like them or not," he said of his novel.

The ideas about Christianity discussed in the book help overcome a "lazy faith," he said.

"When we turn to faith to become comfortable, we put on blinders to what is uncomfortable," he said.

Brown welcomed Christian critics who debunk the historical and religious accounts in the book.

"These books that debunk are absolutely wonderful. The dialogue created is powerful and positive," he said. "The more we debate, the more we deepen our theology."

Brown said that he has talked with some of his critics but has not read their books.

Religion creates a "God of the gaps" because it attempts to explain things that people do not understand, he said. "We fill the gaps with God."

The ancients had a pantheon of gods to explain natural phenomena, he said.

"Science fills the gaps and the pantheon of gods decreases," he said.

"But the need for God has not decreased. It has evolved," he said.

There are still the big questions of "why are we here?" and "what happens when we die?" he said.

"We still believe in the God of the gaps," he said.

Science and religion are actually partners, he said.

"They are two different languages trying to tell the same story. Science dwells on the answers. Religion savors the questions," he said.

Where people are born often is the key factor in their religion, he said.

"There is nothing in our DNA that determines that we are Christian. We are born into a culture," he said. "We worship the God of our fathers. If we were born in Tibet, we'd be Buddhists."

Brown said that he was born an Episcopalian but his faith "now is a work in progress."

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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