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1 in 5 Americans has read ‘Da Vinci,’ Barna poll says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–One out of every five Americans has read “The Da Vinci Code,” and 2 million of them have changed their religious beliefs because of it, a new Barna Group poll indicates.

The poll was released May 15, just four days before a movie based on the novel hits the big screen. According to the poll, roughly 45 million people — 20 percent of those polled — have read the book “cover to cover.” Among those who have read the book:

— Twenty-four percent said the book was “extremely,” “very” or “somewhat” helpful to them in relation to their “personal spiritual growth or understanding.” That’s some 11 million people, an online analysis on Barna’s website notes.

— Five percent said the book led them to change some of their beliefs or religious perspectives. That translates to 2 million people.

A murder mystery/thriller, “The Da Vinci Code” casts doubt on both the deity of Christ and the reliability of the Bible. Although its claims have been refuted by both liberal and conservative scholars, some readers nonetheless have embraced them. The first page of “The Da Vinci Code” states that much of the background of the story is true, when, in fact, it is not. The documents that serve as the basis of the story are forgeries.

“[A]ny book that alters one or more theological views among two million people is not to be dismissed lightly,” Christian researcher George Barna said in an online analysis. “That’s more people than will change any of their beliefs as a result of exposure to the teaching offered at all of the nation’s Christian churches combined during a typical week.”

The controversy likely will only increase with the movie, which is rated PG-13. According to Barna’s research, more than 30 million people likely will see the movie in the theater, with 10 million of those viewing it having never read the novel. If the polling data for the book proves to be true for the movie, then roughly 500,000 people will change some of their religious beliefs after seeing it.

The DVD version of the movie — likely months out — also could add to the hoopla. Barna said the DVD version could have a particular impact on teens and young adults.

“We know that in a home setting, young people frequently watch movies over and over, memorizing lines and absorbing ideas that they might not have caught during their first viewing,” Barna said.

Nevertheless, Barna said, most people do not change their beliefs upon reading the book.

“Before reading The Da Vinci Code people had a full complement of beliefs already in place, some firmly held and others loosely held,” Barna said. “Upon reading the book, many people encountered information that confirmed what they already believed. Many readers found information that served to connect some of their beliefs in new ways.

“But few people changed their pre-existing beliefs because of what they read in the novel…. The book generates controversy and discussions, but it has not revolutionized the way that Americans think about Jesus, the Church or the Bible.”

The telephone poll of 1,003 adults was conducted in May.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust