In his column in the New York Times, Ross Douthat shows himself to be the living definition of Republican obtuseness. Obtuseness: Not quick or alert in perception, feeling, or intellect, not sensitive or observant; dull.
Douthat has apparently read the book, but not all of it. Not being observant, he missed the most important thing about the book, the publisher's page on the reverse of the title page. That's where it says clearly and unambiguously:
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To give you an idea of just how completely Douthat missed the meaning of that statement, take a look at how he conflates fiction with fact:
"But if you want to sell a 100 million (novels) you need to preach as well as entertain - to present a fiction that can be read as fact, and that promises to unlock the secrets of history, the universe and God along the way."
Not having read the disclaimer on the publisher's page, Douthat is unaware that Brown is not preaching, he's writing fiction, that you can't present fiction that can be read as fact, it can only be read as fiction, and that fiction does not unlock any secrets of history or anything else, because it is self-confessedly, upfront about it, it is fiction.
"He's writing thrillers , but he's selling a theology." No, he's not selling a theology, he's selling fiction.
"This explains why both 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons' end with a big anti-Catholic reveal (Jesus had kids with Mary Magdalene! That terrorist plot against the Vatican was actually launched by an archconservative priest!)."
Note the exclamation points to accentuate the "reveal" and the "actually" in that sentence. Fiction doesn't reveal anything, and there's no actual to anything in fiction. That's why it's fiction.
"But the success of this message - can't be separated from its dishonesty." Imagine that, Douthat thinks that Brown's fiction is dishonest, not realizing that Brown is not trying to or has any obligation to be honest when writing fiction.
This inability of Republicans to separate their fictional view of the world from the world of fiction is best expressed by the arch-conservative Republican Supreme Court judge (only judges are appointed to the court, not justices) Scalia's flight into fantasy by using the fictional character Jack Bauer from a TV show:
"Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? You have a right to a jury trial? Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so. So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought to believe in these absolutes."
Judge Scalia speaks of a fictional character as if the fictional events described actually happened. If there was ever any statement that a member of the Supreme Court could make that would immediately disqualify him from holding that position and justifying his immediate removal, it's this one. Scalia is saying that the constitutional right to trial by jury is not absolute. And yes, a jury would convict a character like Jack Bauer of any crimes he committed, but Scalia makes it plain that it would not happen in his court.
Why? Because to Republican Scalia, the constitution is not the law of the land. His fictional Republican hero representing fictional Republican lack of values takes precedence over the law.
A TV show, of all things! A judge is patterning his judicial thinking on the actions of a fictional TV character.
I wonder if the Republicans have ever gotten over the fear of going to the beach after the presentation of the fictional shark in Peter Benchley's "Jaws." They know for sure that the shark was a Democrat and was as evil and malevolent as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.