All this controversy about Dan Brown's airport novel, "The DaVinci Code" had been rather passing me by. But now I've meet several people keen to discuss it - and this is in the UK where it took off rather later than in the US. Part of the reason people bring it up is that they are interested in my opinion as a historian specialising in science and religion. They have tended to be disappointed by my utter disregard for the alleged historical background, more impressed that I can reel of Brown's sources and are usually willing to admit they should have realised the book is wholly fiction rather than fiction based on fact. Note, I see nothing wrong with Brown dressing his novel up as base don fact - Umberto Eco did it brilliantly in The Name of the Rose. As an aside, the Holy Blood and Holy Grail is one of the conspiracy theories satirised by Eco in Foucault's Pendulum, so that tells you what he thinks of it.
One irony is that The DaVinci Code proves there is nothing new under the sun. The original Priory of Zion hoax dates back thirty years, the Holy Blood and Holy Grail came out in the late seventies and there has been a constant flow of pseudo-history ever since. But the timing is unfortunate for radical atheists. Their conspiracy of choice is that Jesus never existed, not that he retired to the South of France with his wife and kids. As both depend on the same Church covering up two entirely incompatible events, the head of steam the Jesus Myth has been gaining through the internet might well go to waste. At least everyone can agree that the Vatican has been covering something up, even if no one can decide exactly what it is.