Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and current bestseller Inferno, was interviewed June 7 by NPR's John Dankosky at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Conn. The on-stage conversation and book-signing event benefitted the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
The conversation turned to religion and science, topics Brown has dealt with in his novels. Brown’s parents exposed him to both from an early age: At an Episcopal church, he read the Bible and sang in the choir, accompanied by his mother, who played the organ and was known as the “church lady.” His math-professor, textbook-writing father took him star gazing and told him about the Big Bang Theory. (Brown’s recurring character of Harvard professor Robert Langdon is an amalgam of his father and some of his best teachers and professors, he said).
The two worldviews collided for Brown when he was 13. He had always been encouraged by his parents to ask questions, and he asked a priest which view was correct. The priest responded, “Nice boys don’t ask that question.”
That episode nudged Brown away from his childhood faith. But a deeper exploration of science brought him back to the conclusion there must be a god. “The more I find out, the less I know,” Brown said. He wishes the two sides in the debate could engage in more civil dialogue and “learn to be friends” but noted this is difficult when people get dogmatic. For example, claiming the Bible is the only truth means that nothing else can be true, and the discussion ends.
Dankosky asked Brown whether he would rather live in a world without religion or without science. Brown would choose a world with religion, as long as that meant spirituality more broadly and not just institutions. “We’re all looking at the same god, whatever he, she, or it is. It’s all just a different language,” said Brown. The big questions are spiritual ones, he said, and “I fear science doesn’t have all of the answers.”
Since science and religion use “two different languages to tell the same story,” Brown said his books are a “quest to fuse those two worlds.” He expressed surprise at the furor raised by The Da Vinci Code--the fact that some people feared a popular thriller could undermine thousands of years of church history was “a head scratcher.”