Throughout much of the latter part of the written word’s existence, books, especially of the science and fiction genres, have been banned for featuring content that went against the social or religious norms of society. One of the most famous conduits of these bans has been the Catholic Church, which published an index of banned books considered sinful to read, titled the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This index lasted from 1529 to 1966, when it was declared to not have paramount moral authority. Other sources of book bans throughout history have been governments, school systems, and religions. The targets of many early bans were scientific works such as those of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo in the 16th and 17th centuries. As history crept into the modern day and fiction became a more common genre of writing, banning books for sexual depictions, violence, and unpopular political views has become more common. In the modern age, with much emphasis being put on tolerance and acceptance, people may think that we are beyond the banning books, but we still see bans ranging from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, J.D. Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Authors can face bans on their books due to a book’s content and because they draw from facts in the real world.
In 2000, when Daniel Gerhard “Dan” Brown released his first Robert Langdon novel, Angels and Demons, he sparked a worldwide conversation on the content of literature and its relation to the real world. The book was a mystery which concluded in a camerlengo planting an antimatter bomb in the Vatican and faking a vision from God in order to save what he believed to be a dying Catholic Church. Brown’s consistent use of scientific facts and religious beliefs in his story added to the realism for which he became known. Many were infuriated for the insinuation that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy could be corrupt. This became a full-fledged debate with Brown’s 2003 publication of The Da Vinci Code. This novel is a mystery-thriller focusing on a murder connected to a secret society that was created to protect the Holy Grail. In the novel, Brown evokes the idea that the Holy Grail refers to Mary Magdalene and her descendants, who began with the children she bore with Jesus of Nazareth. Despite this idea being unoriginal, Brown brought it into the spotlight and offered the evidence for it in the novel. Some viewed this claim to be an affront on the Catholic Church and Christians everywhere. This led to the book being banned in countries such as Lebanon, Manila, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Samoa, Sri Lanka, and Jordan and being severely criticized by other countries including the Vatican. Brown’s books continue to use the themes of science and religion to analyze views on religion, the soul, morals, and hidden history. As movies based on his work come out worldwide, more and more governments and religions have been banning and criticizing the content of his writing.
We are now at an impasse in the debate where we can decide that Brown’s work is an example of artistic freedom and one man’s view on the world or denounce his work for going against traditional views and blurring the line between fiction and reality. This is a choice for our generation and for all future generations so that all views of a topic may be known and maybe, like in the case of early astronomers, the controversial views expressed may be proved true. This is why no book, written word, or even speech should be silenced or censored “for even the very wise cannot see all ends.”