The decay of reason.
David Klinghoffer points out why the success of the Da Vinci Code is the symptom of a broader problem:
Consider that the alleged conspiracy underlying the “biggest cover-up in human history” bears a remarkable resemblance to another phony conspiracy: the famous hoax called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Apparently authored by Russian monarchist and anti-Semite Mathieu Golovinski in 1898, “Protocols” tells of a secret society of Jewish elders that work to keep gentiles ignorant of a plot to rule the world through “Darwinism, Marxism and Nietzscheism.”
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Besides highlighting the word “Zion” or “Sion,” the two conspiracy theories share an understanding of how to deal with ideas you disagree with. Rather than taking traditional Christian beliefs at face value and arguing against them (as I do in my current book, by the way), Brown portrays the religion itself as resting upon a conscious deception. That excuses him from having to make arguments at all.
Anti-Semites do the same thing. Rather than coming out honestly against Darwinism or Marxism or modernity in general, they concoct a story about Judaism as a lie and a conspiracy. “Protocols” remains a global phenomenon of staggering popularity, especially in the Arab world.
I emphasize that Brown never intended to foment bigotry. Yet to the cause of conspiracy theorizing, he has done a wonderful favor, training his readers in the habits of paranoia and gullibility. For people committed to finding the truth through investigation and argumentation, that’s depressing.
As for Jews, we haven’t fared well when the culture we live in turns to entertaining fantasies and delusions at the expense of an unfashionable religion. The success of Brown’s book, now transformed into a movie blockbuster, is bad news indeed.
[Thanks to Bill Cork for the link.]