The Barna Group released new findings Monday on the impact of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and according to the study, the novel has not affected Americans in the way many Christians have imagined.
The new Barna study found that the controversial best-seller confirmed what many people already believed, but altered the pre-existing beliefs of only a few.
The Da Vinci Code is the most widely read book with a spiritual theme to be read by Americans other than the Bible. One out of every five adults has read the novel "cover to cover" – or roughly 45 million adults.
Within the American population, Catholics are more likely than Protestants to have read the book with 24 percent of Catholics and 15 percent of Protestants having read it. The research went further into detail, noting that among Protestants, those associated with a mainline church are almost three times more likely than those associated with non-mainline Protestant congregations to have read the thriller.
The likelihood of having read the book also correlated with education and income. Those with a college degree and whose household income exceeds $60,000 are nearly four times more likely to have read it than "downscale" individuals.
The Barna survey revealed that among the adults who have read the entire novel, 24 percent said the book was either "extremely," "very," or "somewhat" helpful in relation to their "personal spiritual growth or understanding." Additionally, only five percent said they changed any of their religious beliefs because of the book's content.
Although The Da Vinci Code has sold some 60 million copies to date and has been the subject of discussion and controversy since its publishing three years ago, the research institute founder George Barna saw that it has not changed the way Americans think about Jesus.
"Before reading The Da Vinci Code people had a full complement of beliefs already in place, some firmly held and others loosely held," explained Barna, who has authored of numerous books about faith and culture. "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. And even fewer people approached the book with a truly open mind regarding the controversial matters in question, and emerged with a new theological perspective. The book generates controversy and discussions, but it has not revolutionized the way that Americans think about Jesus, the Church or the Bible."
Nevertheless, Barna did not ignore the fact that many people's view on Christianity has been affected. Altered views were mainly seen among Hispanics (17 percent), women who are three times more likely than male readers, liberals who are twice as likely as conservatives, and upscale adults.
"Any book that alters one or more theological views among two million people is not to be dismissed lightly," he said in his study. "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."