23 Dec 2007

Angels & Demons: A good insight in the Believer-Atheist debate

Well it was really a long wait when I grabbed my hands on the last straw remaining though it should have been the first. I finally read the first book of Dan Brown, after having read all his works. I had always wondered the nexus between Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code but then when I was through with it, the connection was pretty obvious. I was told that Angels lays the background for the much illustrated and contagious fiction in Da Vinci Code. Pretty much true but then I have my own reflections on this one.

I find that besides the fiction, which has been added just as the cream on coffee, the perspective is more on the believer versus the atheist. Mr. Langdon (the Harvard name is just to confer the credentials) represents a sound argumentative modern rational man who has all reasons behind all things; why particulars practices came to vogue; what particular elements and spaces represent and depict; what is the source of religion and anti-religious practices and all questions which arise in a questioning mind.

Then on the other hand is the character (Ms. Vetra in Angels, Ms. Sophie in Da Vinci Code) who is a devout, finding it difficult to accept such logical reasons behind such divine practices and beliefs. And Mr. Langdon argue and puts in evidence to show that everything is for a reason, logically connected and if the reason is not too prominent, then some hidden religious motive behind it. He pulls all his cards to show that the Church, as the representative of religion in his book, has always been after and still goes on a long way against those who try to prove that all beings and actions are human and scientifically explainable and there is nothing divine in them. In two-thirds of the plot in Angels Mr. Brown has really depicted just that; how Illumunati as a scientific group was persecuted for maintaining the faiths of the unsure into religious practices.

There is no doubt interesting, in fact fascinating description, interpretation and linking of the various monuments/temples/churches and all most have seen but never bothered to find the link which Mr. Brown shows us but then the entire melodrama is just for selling the book. The heart of it lies addressing a dilemma. This dilemma is again only confined to a limited social group, which is again a practical formation.
  • For those who are truly devoted and have committed themselves in the service of the unknown who they call 'God', there is no need for finding answers. According to them all creations in this world are a part and parcel of the bigger game plan by Him, who plays for the benefit and in best interests of those of believe in Him.
  • Then there are those who don't believe in something extraordinary, something which you cannot see with mortal eyes. Makes them feel inferior and that too to an unknown, which is not acceptable to them at any term. So they don't look for the answers to the riddle that surrounds the universe, why man, why creation, what lies ahead of this life and all.
The dilemma poses only those fall mid-way, willing to believe but then no able to find the answers which will make them adopt either paths. They do not know who to believe and whom not to.
  • Science promises much but then there is no simulation of decision-making in science. No direction offered. No distinction between right and wrong. What Albert Einstein did by making the nuclear bomb may have been good for science but not necessarily good for humanity, and questions like these which science does not answer.
  • And the same for religion. Why does one need to sacrifice in order to find HIM? Why does the way to peace pass through so many dogmatic and superstitious practices? Why do we need to believe that man is internally corrupt and in order to enlighten him, strict moral control is essential? Why is everyone not God? and all.
The book goes a long way and poses many similar intriguing questions. Mr. Brown tries to answer them in his attempt to get his novel going but they may not be necessarily the best ones to the questions which he has raised. The conversations between Langdon and Vittoria offer beautifully depicted insights into some of these controversial issues but the answers are really lacking.

In any case the way in which the book ends, I am sure to classify Mr. Brown as one not needing an external guidance to offer answers to his soul. His bias (I say this upon reading all his books till date) towards the scientific analysis of things makes them over-weight the paths to bounded morality which has kept the society the way it is. Right or wrong I am no one to judge, everyone is entitled their beliefs and prejudices. But surely, it has influenced many of those facing the dilemma and given another reason to them to remain bewildered and crumble in the weight of their own indecisiveness.

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