It is difficult for the average university-educated bourgeois to understand the depths of credulity to which people can fall. Horoscopes, alien abductions, David Icke – all of these things are truly believed. Nevertheless, as Slavoj Zizek has been pointing out recently, ascribing beliefs to other groups is a very risk business that often reveals more about your own preoccupations than it does about their actual beliefs. Indeed, when working in a public library, I was astounded by how few people read books like The Bible Code and the Prophecies of Nostradamus.
Umberto Eco, in a geriatric exercise in Christmas nostalgia, fails to realise that the majority of people who read The Da Vinci Code don’t believe that it’s true. They may wonder and imagine possibilities, but don’t believe.
A belief, whether ideological or religious, is an exception to the general rule of indifference. If you pinned people down, they might reveal their opinions on a few subjects, but people rarely are pinned down! Unconscious beliefs are important, but understanding the content of them is a matter of interpretation
What does matter, and perhaps the reason for the success of the Da Vinci Code (which I haven’t read), is wonder. For example, yesterday, I finally watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, getting quite emotional about the brutality inflicted on Jesus. But nothing in it, not even the miracles so casually performed, made me think (or believe) that he really was/is the son of God. But I did – with real pleaure – wonder.