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Location:near Houston, Gulf Coast, United States

Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fact or Fiction - Blurring the Lines

Sitting at swim practice late last spring, a group of moms were talking (as we always do). For a change, the discussions weren’t about vacation schedules or swimming abilities. Rather, these moms were intensely debating a book… or rather, they were exploring their deepest core values and how they fit with the new ideas put forth. There were two copies of the book at the pool that day, and they were in different languages. Dan Brown’s "The Da Vinci Code" has sparked a renaissance of thought and debate.

Until I told them, these earnest and engaged debaters did not know that Brown’s story was born of a non-fiction research book – and while they found that information interesting, it wasn’t particularly important to them.

My copy of “The Da Vinci Code” has been loaned out many times, and it is always returned with some advance warning to set up coffee and necessary discussion time. It’s a fascinating, extremely readable novel that has broken down walls and enabled discussions hitherto unheard of in the carefully protected world of personal belief.

I mean really - how long has it been since anybody seriously questioned the foundations of the Catholic Church?

My copy of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” has also been lent to friends, but far less frequently. Even though it is also very well written, it’s not fiction, and ordinary people (busy parents and and compulsive careerists) are less likely to work through Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh's detailed, meticulously documented research into the biblical past. They are no more interested in the underpinning scholarly theories than Christian fundamentalists are in Darwinian evolutionary theory.

But while the heirs of Charles Darwin’s estate are not suing for plagiarism over the use of his theories, Baigent and Leigh are. That’s too bad, because to the many interested, but non-discriminating recreational readers of the world, such a suit is likely to blur the distinction between the two books. The Da Vinci Code is fiction, and while the other is not, suing for plagiarism will make people wonder which is which.