The Raving Theist

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Boycott the Anti-Boycott

May 25, 2006 | 31 Comments

Calling for an anti-boycott of the Da Vinci Code, Dave of NoGodBlog, the blog of American Atheists, urges us to flock to the theaters to show the Passion crowd “that seculars can make a hit too.”

What would “show” Christians something would be a high-quality film addressing important philosophical and theological issues. What Dave proposes however, would merely show believers that seculars are capable of jacking up the box office of a mediocre film in an attempt to show others that seculars can make a hit, too. Even if the believers don’t see through the ruse, I don’t see what the movie’s popularity would show them — were atheists supposed to be convinced of the truth of Christianity by the Passion’s gross receipts?

I suppose one benefit of a movie’s popularity is the public debate it sparks over its subject matter. Unfortunately, I don’t see a particularly fruitful debate coming out of The Code. Its focus is on a conspiracy to cover up Christ’s love life, rather on the one to promote His divinity. But His love life doesn’t matter unless you already accept the notion that He’s God. So The Code just promotes a different, more liberal form of theism. You may like the principles The Code espouses more than those of the people who find it blasphemous, but neither side is on higher intellectual or rational ground.


31 Responses to “Boycott the Anti-Boycott”

  1. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    seculars can make a hit too

    This isn’t in dispute. If anything, Evangelicals think Hollywood is already atheistic.

  2. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    seculars can make a hit too

    This isn’t in dispute. If anything, Evangelicals think Hollywood is already atheistic.

  3. "Q" the Enchanter
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    seculars can make a hit too

    This isn’t in dispute. If anything, Evangelicals think Hollywood is already atheistic.

  4. Some Guy
    May 25th, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    I don’t know why Christians are making such a big deal about the movie. The Christian Civic League here in Maine called for a boycott of the movie, as well as movie theatres in general. Also, there are dozens of fliers around my college’s campus for an anti-Code study group sponsored by the Methodists, called ‘The Da Vinci Deception.’ Weren’t some groups even trying to pull some kind of plagiarism lawsuit against Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code?

    Correct me if I’m wrong; I don’t think the author actually asserts that his book is based on any facts. Is anyone aware of any evidence that actually supports the Code’s assertations?

    I’d understand an ‘anti-boycott’ for something like The God Who Wasn’t There or Dawkins’ The Root of All Evil?, but don’t you think boycotting Da Vinci Code boycotts is kind of petty? To me, the Da Vinci Code is fiction. I’m not aware of anyone buying into the conspiracy after seeing the movie or reading the book.

  5. bernarda
    May 25th, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    “Is anyone aware of any evidence that actually supports the Code’s assertations?”

    That is a good point and maybe the main point if you look at it this way:

    “Is anyone aware of any evidence that actually supports the bible’s assertions.”

    That is the problem for the bible-thumpers. They don’t have any more evidence of their version than Brown has for his.

    One of the few things that you can say there is evidence for in gospels is that a town called Jerusalem did exist at the time of the related events. Even the village of Nazareth probably didn’t exist at that time.

  6. Darius
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:07 pm

    Why do many atheists sound as shrill as right wing Christians? Both groups often sound highly theatened.

    I understand what the Christian right is scared of – they make religion all about beliefs they can’t demonstrate and that, moreover, are all but demonstrably false. (I mean, you can’t absolutely disprove the existence of a giant Carrot in another dimension controlling us, but that’s not a good argument for its existence either.)

    But what are you afraid of? I’m referring to the tone more than the content. Maybe it’s the times we live in. The rise of the Christian right, especially in politics and “science” disturbs me as well, for sure.

    But are you sure that’s all there is to it? A couple posts back I suggest that there might possibly be something substantive to religion – and that religion as an institution has largely missed the point of that – and it’s instant “slams” just because I mention this idea! And one atheist posts back to my blog and doesn’t understand the post.

    I think it’s because I use the word “God” – but not at all the way believers do. And I refer to scripture – but most Christians would say I’m “perverting” it.

    So unless there’s a Pope of Atheism out there with a prefab creed who wants to suppress the idea that religion and spirituality might have something to do with reality, give me something substantive. I expect name-calling from right wing Christians – and reason, not vituperation, from atheists

  7. Jason Malloy
    May 25th, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

    Fuck middlebrow airport fiction. How embarrassing that anybody would want to associate themselves with it, much less buy into the fundy paranoia that this is a “secular assault”. Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:

    The religious objection hangs on a misconception about audiences and popular phenomena. With its clumsy attempts to suppress the Da Vinci Code groundswell, the Catholic Church is not only behaving pretty much exactly the way Brown’s book depicts it as behaving, but revealing an outmoded, Hidden Persuaders notion of audience response. Far from swallowing Brown’s tangled conspiracy theories in full, Da Vinci Code fans, in my experience, simply regard the tale of Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s “bloodline” as an interesting attention grabber. In fact (and again, based only on my own experience), the farther out a person is on the hipster/nonbeliever continuum, the less likely he or she is to take any interest in the book at all. The most interesting aspect of the Da Vinci Code phenomenon is its resistance to a Red State/Blue State paradigm. The book’s fans are found overwhelmingly in the vital center, among the family-oriented churchgoers who have enjoyed works of religious speculation, New Age pop, and life management since time immemorial.

    Jesse Walker agrees. Also Razib on Dumb Vinci.

  8. Thorngod
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

    I don’t know the details, but the so-called Da Vinci Code was a scam manufactured in the Fifties. And the Deus Fuckus Society, or whatever the name is, which has supposedly conspired for 2,000 years to hide the truth of Jesus & Mary M, is not a secret organization and has never been suspected of any such shennanigans. There’s have always been rumors, of course, of the passion of the C for M. but rumor is all so far….
    Darius, the most substantive thing about religion is the emotional comfort for believers. It promises them what they cannot have.

  9. Choobus
    May 25th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    I’m surprised that RA has not mentioned the fact that Jeebus not only fucked Mary M, but that he used his magical powers to induce what may be considered to be the first ever abortion, just so he wouldn’t have to be bothered with a kid. A deadbeat messiah is nothing to be proud of.

  10. benjamin
    May 25th, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

    Christian leaders should be scared. Christians will read the Da Vinci code and hear a story about Jesus that’s as plausible as the story they’re used to. Then they might want to find out why the stories are different, and look for evidence. They’ll be quite surprised when there’s no evidence for either version.

  11. Thorngod
    May 25th, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

    That’ll be the day!

  12. PJ
    May 25th, 2006 @ 6:02 pm

    The “da Vinci” nonsense is also profoundly non-secular. It’s awash with as much woo as the Christians ever had — Dan Brown is just into (or peddling, for sales) that mystical goddess claptrap, instead of the mystical sky-father claptrap. Let the creduluous take their pick. I’d rather have nothing to do with either.

    It does rational people an incredible disservice to use a steaming pile of rubbish fiction/conspiracy theory as an argument against Christianity. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, as they should say more often.

  13. Darius
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

    Thorngod, and For That Matter Everyone: You’re talking about religion at its worst. Religion is messed up. Big time. But that’s old news, isnt’ it?

    Atheists favor reason. We have a passion for dispassionate inquiry.

    That’s a passion for truth. It comes from the depths of who we are – the courage to approach existence as honestly as possible.

    It’s one of a few great things in our nature. There’s also a lot of crap in our natures.

    Science, and all forms of inquiry and study that strive to be honest – to follow the facts rather than our preconcieved notions – is how we think about reality at our best.

    Religion, if we can ever divest it of its fundamental sin, so to speak, of dishonesty, is how we feel toward reality at our best. This includes passionate honesty – but more.

  14. tholin
    May 25th, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

    It’s expected that a story asserting a mortal Jesus as family man would provoke such defensiveness from the pious, but what’s often overlooked is the same literary liscense taken with other -albeit devotional- Christian epics which are not labeled as fiction.

    In Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”, for example, the female character in the movie’s ‘pericope of adultery’ scene is portrayed to be none other than Mary Magdalene – a popular, yet untenable assumption that is nowhere to be found in the Gospel narrative. Indeed, Mary M.’s reputation as a prostitute appears stitched from whole cloth: no such aspersion is recorded in the New Testament.
    Church fathers in the 4th and 5th centuries associated Mary Magdalene with Mary, sister of Martha, and the unnamed woman who washed and annointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, according to Luke. In 591 A.D., Pope Gregory sanctioned this view as official by declaring that all three women were one in the same – Mary Magdalene. In 1969, the Catholic Church finally declared that Mary M. was not the penitent sinner, thus dissolving the composite Mary back into distinct, canonical individuals. Through all this, one cannot help but wonder: Whence the animosity for Mary? Furthermore, where were the literalists, ever at the ready to defend any distortion of The Word?
    Putting aside the question of motive in mislabeling Magdalene as an adulterer, let alone a notorious prostitute, we can ask a question of more historical relevance: If it takes the Catholic Church nearly 1,400 years to define a central character in the Gospel account, should anyone be aghast when a writer postulates, under the auspices of Michener-like fiction, that this same character’s identity is less then well understood?
    Without lending any credence to Brown’s rendering of Jesus, it’s easy to recognize what the Catholic Church itself has wrought: ‘there’s something about Mary” after all.

  15. Darius
    May 25th, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

    It’s the same thing again and again. Twenty years ago “The Last Temptation of Christ” evoked the same reactionary response from conservative Christians.

    Though they nominally believe Jesus was “God and man,” believers have essentially presented him as a God in man’s clothing, so to speak. Any fiction about Jesus is going to involve presenting the kind of human details no one knows concerning the historical Jesus – it can’t just retell the gospel narrative, because that centers on the theological Christ, and everybody knows that story anyway.

    So as soon as you make up any sort of human narrative around Jesus, it makes many believers uncomfortable. Whatever human details are presented clash with the other-worldy, omniscient miracle worker who is only nominally human.

    To me this looks like the basic problem believers have with movies about Jesus, and it just surfaces again and again.

    But of course there’s more to religion and spirituality than nonsense. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior are a couple indicators of what’s authentic.

  16. Some Guy
    May 25th, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

    Complementary idea: Buy Danish. Products from the country, not the pastry (in particular). The secular cheese is excellent.

  17. Thorngod
    May 26th, 2006 @ 8:07 am

    Darius, I’m not sure what notion of things you’re hinting at. The fact that Ghandi, M.L. King, Gautama, and a thousand other humans were admirable people has no bearing whatever on the question of the nature of things. I have spent a great portion of my consciousness looking for answers to existence, and it seems to me that life is an anomaly, that human level intelligence is the result of the long and excruciating struggle of organisms to gain dominance, and that the story of life is thoroughly Darwinian. As to the universe in toto, I see no warrant to attribute intelligence or purpose to its essence or to its imagined “origin.” The origins of religion, however, are fairly obvious, as are the aspirations of human beings to be buddies with gods and to live forever.

  18. Jody Tresidder
    May 26th, 2006 @ 8:19 am

    Wow, Darius and Tholin! Really cracking comments that bookend each other too.
    There’s something about Mary, indeed. (Loved it).

  19. tarkovsky
    May 26th, 2006 @ 8:34 am

    I am surprised The Da Vinci Code hasn’t spurred a proper discussion yet on atheist boards.

    Hasn’t anybody noticed how Dan Brown and Ron Howard go through the trouble of saying (during the Constantine scene): the Church, in its early centuries, as it was trying to start up, established its organization and its dogma, including, most importantly, inventing stuff along the way. (It doesn’t matter what Buddy Jesus really did or did not do, in fact what we atheists are worried about is the resulting dogma and its impact on politics.)

    Doesn’t the western public shudder at this sort of affirmation? I mean don’t they realize that there is a big difference between dogma and faith? And that the Catholic Church (any Church really) is just one big scam? exploiting faith just to cash in?

    And stretching this to muslims, I apply the same piece of logic: faith coupled to politics and to this huge power structure is really a big scam too and a dangerous one too (because it is rigid and powerful). I respect the fact that Islam is adhering strictly on their prophet’s sayings, but it is the surrounding dogma associated with Islam that is troubling.

    Well at least we know Mohammed had kids so we need not worry about this specific bloodline issue.

  20. diogenes
    May 26th, 2006 @ 9:28 am

    Hey Thorn,

    “The origins of religion, however, are fairly obvious, as are the aspirations of human beings to be buddies with gods and to live forever.”

    While I suscribe your atheist creed, is not for me “fairly obvious” why the nonsense of the majority of humans beings “to be buddies with god and to live for ever”. Consciousness is still terra incognita. I´m expecting news from that land, and among those news I don’t expect god, but I believe some parrots and indians will come when the ship returns.

  21. Darius
    May 26th, 2006 @ 10:51 am

    Thorngod: I totally reject the theological/belief aspect of religion too. You’re right, my remarks only hint at my perspective. No handy label, and I can’t develop it in a comments box although I am on my blog, which eventually will include the parable of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and Saint Paul’s actual appearance on one post. He was hard to book.

    Diogenes: There’s more to religion and spirituality than fear of death, which, yes, is a big part of the motivation of believers to believe.

    I don’t believe anybody’s creed and haven’t made one up myself. I don’t fear death, and actually look forward to it in a lot of ways. Less to argue about will be one of the relatively minor positives for me.

    The creeds I don’t believe in include atheism in its manifestation as an ideology that states: Because religion contains a lot of bullshit, there can’t possibly be anything to it but bullshit.

    I don’t share that belief, and see plenty of evidence to the contrary.

  22. Thorngod
    May 26th, 2006 @ 11:05 am

    Darius, I have no “creed.”
    Those organisms that survive the struggle are obviously equipped with the will as well as the physical equipment to persevere. This will to survive is unlimited, and the limit decreed by nature is only overcome by the fantasy of an afterlife. One point I did not address before was your concept of “religion.” It is a matter of definition, of course, but mine restricts the concept to the realm of superstition. I do not subsume such emotions as “love of life” or “exhileration” or “awe” or “ecstasy” etc under the rubric of “religion.” These are natural exuberances that arise from our capacity to appreciate and feel. I would not label Einstein’s feeling of humbleness at the vastness and complexity of the cosmos as “religious,” nor the “reverence for life” of Albert Schweitzer or William Blake. I experience both feelings, but I see no reason to look for a supernatural cause for them. The vague term “spiritual” has also been applied to such experiences, but I avoid its use because of it’s implication of the nonmaterial. Finally, while the precise nature and mechanism of consciousness remains a mystery, I have no reason to suspect that it is anything more than another level of physical capacity evolved for the same purpose as all preceeding adaptations.

  23. Darius
    May 26th, 2006 @ 7:57 pm

    Thorngod: Ok, I see. The language problem in this area is huge. I reject the idea of a “supernatural” realm too, and “religion” understandably has that connotation for you. And yeah, “spirituality” is problematic too. It has associations of “spirit” as “soul” meaning belief in an afterlife. Or “alternative belief systems” that are as wacky as traditonal ones. It’s hard to pick words well in this area.

    My concept of religion, if we can ever seperate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak is, as you suggest, in the realm of feeling. I think there is an area of feeling and motivation in us that runs deeper than psychology and is highly consequential for the survival of our species. It’s quite the opposite of superstition and consists of powerful domains of feeling that connect us with realities in the wider world. One of them is love, and that very much includes the love of truth.

  24. Crosius
    May 27th, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Neither the Bible, nor The DaVinci Code are good literature, and since movies adapted from poor literature rarely improve on the source material, I’ll be keeping my money in my pocket for this latest summer snoozer, as I did when Gibson’s “Jesus Chainsaw Massacre” was playing.

  25. Dean Pettit
    May 28th, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

    For me, the movie said little new. Of course, a vote at Nicea in the fourth century c.e. decided that Jesus was the son of god; that Mary–after another vote in 1600 c.e.–was made a virgin, and went bodily to heaven; and that now–since the papal decision was made in 1952 c.e.– the world whips around the sun, rather than vice-versa. The nice thing about the movie is that most people had not been allowed to experience such information. These matters are probably not mentioned in middle school world history classes. The movie may have given some people a few seeds which may sprout into critical thinking. My guess is that after the world has doubled again in population, abortion may become a sacrament for those church members able to become pregnant. Again, the church will be in the forefront of telling the world what to think. Be sure to tithe.

  26. bernarda
    May 29th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    Dean I agree wholeheartedly. I tell you because I think that posters don’t often enough give encouragement to others who present things well.

    I might just add that the Council of Nicaea ended up accepting the arbitrary choices of Iraneus in the second century. It doesn’ matter that Iraneus did not know anything about the real events. He just decided what was gospel and what was not.

    ignotum per ignotius.

  27. Christopher Rhoades Dÿkema
    May 29th, 2006 @ 6:24 pm

    It is fairly important, I suspect, that so many people are interested in this probably inferior novel. (I ordered a second-hand copy, but haven’t gotten it yet.). I anticipate, when I read it, that it will seem like an indication of the general decomposition and decadence of faith in the US. It’s true that polls show a still-large percentage of Americans professing faith, but under the surface a lot is changing.

    Actually, I did read the insane book whose authors sued Dan Brown in England for plagiarism, even though Dan had acknowledged their allegedly important data about how Jesus’ progeny have been living sub rosa in France for most of two millenia, even after the last Merovingian, the sad-sack Chilperic, lost his hair, to a Carolingian upstart.

    Imagine if this book had come out in the fifties. It wouldn’t have, but imagine if somebody had bruited its ideas about. What kind of reception would they have gotten? It means a lot when someone can attack Christian mythology as a scam and have one out of five Americans read the resulting book, silly though I suspect it will seem when I finally do read it. Even with having read a bit of the hype on both sides, it seems clear to me that this book is a positive development.

  28. Lily
    May 30th, 2006 @ 11:06 am

    This book did come out in the 50s. And in the 40s and the 30s, etc. Obviously not DVC but the same ideas have been around forever. There is nothing new under the sun and this tired plot device is one of the *really* not new things. It is just that in a much more biblically literate time than the one we live in now, it was too silly a plot device to generate the kind of buzz a biblically illiterate generation has accorded it.

  29. hermesten
    May 30th, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

    Choobus 7, you’re just trying to make Jeebus sound cool. Jeebus told me yesterday that he was coming back, but he’s anti-Bush (the bad kind), and he’s afraid the faithful, like Lily, who love the Chimp, will string him up like they did the last time. It’s a legitimate fear –how can Jeebus compete with the Chimp?

    I’ve never read the DaVinci code and never will. I wasn’t going to see the movie either, but I have reconsidered on the basis that the movie is supposed to be anti-religious. I suspect a scam though, like with “Dogma” –a god loving movie if there ever was one, sold as anti-religious on the basis of some very mild implied criticism of the Catholic church.

  30. C.T. Veritas
    May 30th, 2006 @ 6:38 pm

    Like THE Church, we should demand a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie: “This is a work of fiction: Christianity has no basis in fact and exists only for entertainment/world domination purposes!”

  31. jahrta
    June 1st, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    I’m sorry, but the words “biblically” and “literate” have no business appearing in the same sentence together.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sorry at all :)

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