The Da Vinci Code
The 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, speculates that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and they had a female child. Mary Magdalene and the child fled to southern France after the crucifixion where the descendants of Jesus eventually established the Merovingian Dynasty (447-751) in France and were protected by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. It further asserts that the Roman Catholic Church attempted to eradicate the remnants of the Merovingian Dynasty and their guardians (the Knights Templar) during the Inquisition (1184-1834).
In 1998, a book titled The Templar Revelation, by Lynn Pickett and Clive Prince, agrees with the above scenario and claims that the Knights Templar was a secret organization protecting the true account of Christ (married to Mary Magdalene who fled to France with Jesus' child, etc.). It also delves into the Priory of Sion and identifies its succession of grand masters, including Victor Hugo, Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci.
According to Pickett and Prince, Leonardo Da Vinci was often contracted to do paintings for the Roman Catholic Church but, as the grand master of the Priory of Sion, was actually a secret foe of the church, thus he included subtle clues in his works to champion his sentiments. For example, in his famous painting of The Last Supper (Jesus and the 12 disciples), the disciple to Jesus' right is clearly a woman, supposedly to signify Mary Magdalene as equal to the other disciples and close to Jesus. The lack of a wine goblet at the table is considered to be a clue that the Holy Grail is not an object at all but rather the holy bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Using these two publications as a source of reference, author Dan Brown wrote a novel (fiction) in 2003 titled The Da Vinci Code, which became a bestseller, about a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to suppress the true story of Jesus Christ (the holy bloodline through Mary Magdalene) and Da Vinci's attempt to expose the truth.
The hero (professor of religious history) stumbles upon the true story of Jesus after he stumbles upon a dead body in a French museum. He, along with the granddaughter of the head of the Priory of Sion, must escape an assassin from a devout Catholic sect attempting to suppress the truth, the discovery of which would destroy the foundations of Christianity. It's basically a suspense/thriller with a theoretically-historical religious theme.
The Da Vinci Code has been made into a movie by Columbia Pictures, directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks, which will open on May 19. Needless to say, since it has a religious theme that questions popular beliefs, there will be plenty of righteous indignation over this film, thereby giving it plenty of free publicity.
By their very nature, religions are divisive. They separate the "true believers" from the "heretics" by demanding a blind faith and loyalty of their particular beliefs, and consider all others to be unenlightened (inferior). Unfortunately, all too often they worship the messenger and ignore the message.
History is replete with violence in the name of religion. Arabs and Jews have been clashing for centuries. During the Holy Crusades and the Catholic Inquisition, many thousands were killed. In Ireland, it was Catholics against Protestants. In Africa, Muslims attacked Christians. In Tibet, Buddhists were slaughtered. And so on.
These days, Islamic extremists are compelled by their religion to murder non-Muslims. Even a cartoon in a Danish newspaper causes bloody riots in various Islamic nations. In certain countries ruled by Islamic law, a Muslim who converts to another religion is subject to the death penalty. There's no end to religious bigotry.
Faith is an act of trust in the unknown. One person's faith is another person's version of foolishness. And when a person's faith inspires hatred and leads to bloodshed, it becomes a form of insanity. In the end, all we can do is follow our own spiritual path, respect other points of view and protect ourselves from deranged fanatics.
If you resent the premise of The Da Vinci Code, you can get angry and try to force everyone to adopt your belief system, or you can embrace the virtue of tolerance and forgiveness. Who knows, it may even be correct.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.