Monday, May 29, 2006

Beyond Belief

I do find it hilarious to watch all these documentaries about The Da Vinci Code. So many of these ideas have swirled around my head during the last 30 or so years, that to hear people suddenly discovering them as if new still actually surprises me.

Actually, Angels and Demons comes closer to the Illuminati stories, and other conspiracy theories, that Robert Anton Wilson kicked into touch way back in the 70s. The 60s and 70s saw a huge burst of stories about hidden and alternative histories, from The Morning of the Magicians to The Magus to Illuminatus!, and movies like Capricorn One, quite apart from the JFK and similar assassination tales.

I did a course on Illuminatus! with the author [click to read a review I wrote of that course, called Believe That, and You'll Believe Anything] , and it became clear that he feels as bemused as anyone that he gets credited with starting off the trend to ‘conspiracy beliefs’ when in fact his book clearly satirises people’s tendency to create such stories to make the unknown palatable or explicable or acceptable. Illuminatus! still works for me as a send-up of all the po-faced people who tell you they have found ‘the truth’. Dan’s whole style of mixing fact and fiction so that the reader has to make their own decision as to what to believe appears lifted from Wilson’s work…but pumping up the ‘certainty’ and leaving out the teasers about how we all create our own realities as we go along, and to me that takes away the real value of such writing.

As to ‘threatening the Church’ – well, hardly. I would guess that they employ the ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ principle. This book has got people talking about religion as if it matters. The church has to enjoy that. All their ancient nonsense can get revived yet one more time, for serious discussion.

Personally, I always hoped for a ‘withering away of established religion’ in my lifetime, just as Marx hoped for a ‘withering away of the State’ – but my wish seems as unlikely to manifest as his. Withering away depends on it losing energy to engage or interest people in its history and stories…a trend certainly visible in the UK over the last 40 years…so I would even hint that Dan Brown wrote these books using funds and assistance from the Vatican and the Tourist Boards of Paris and Rome. Well, start a rumour, why not?

Not only does the Catholic Church (and Christianity in general) have a monopoly on unbelievable beliefs already, they have little fear of people resigning due to heretical revelations. None of these ideas seem terribly new to me, and freethinkers (what religious people probably call atheists) don’t see the big issue. I mean, even if someone lives today with the DNA of Jesus in him or her, why should I care? Through his brothers he may well have bloodline descendants. Yes. And. So. What?

As usual, their nonsensical beliefs just don’t add up. If Jesus doesn’t descend from Joseph (being the Son of God, and all, and all), then he doesn’t come from the Royal House of David through all those damned ‘begats’, so you can’t call it a Royal Bloodline. If you think of Jesus as God, but think he passes on blood and DNA just like a human, then apparently we could have ‘gods among us’. If, like me, you suspect the figure of ‘Jesus’ got based on a real person, an ordinary human, but that his importance in human history got accidentally amplified by circumstances, then his leaving descendants seems merely trivial.

Still, the renewed interest in Art may seem worthwhile, even if people get sent up a few blind alleys…even the renewed interest in reading…

...from The The Ridiculous


Philosopher Jay said...

Good point about the bloodline stuff being ridiculous and not mattering anyway.

However I think the Church is reacting/overreacting in a big way to Da Vinci because they sense that it is an alternative fiction to their fiction that people could embrass. In other words, its competition for the souls/dollars of the faithful.

You may be interested in my book "The Evolution of Christs and Christianities" (see It suggests a literary Jesus as opposed to an historical one.



Bogus Magus said...

Hi Jay

thanks for that feedback, your book looks entirely fascinating.

I realise that I toy with this stuff because I really don't find it that interesting (some friends might suggest that I obsess about religion more than they do) EXCEPT for my interest in how and why people 'believe' anything at all.

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