From The Register Mail:
By William Urban
I listened to “The Lost Symbol” (Audiobook from the Warren County Library) largely out of curiosity, to see if having an editor would help Dan Brown write better. Nope. He still cannot pass up an unnecessary adjective, his dialogue is breathlessly wooden and he uses words ending in –ly far too often. Occasionally adverbs are necessary or useful (see previous sentence for how to use one with an adjective in a way that might initially seem as contrived as any of Brown’s plots, but which makes sense in context). Almost every good author warns against overusing adverbs, most importantly Mark Twain, but Dan Brown seems to have read almost everything except advice on how to write well…
Judging by the millions of people who bought the book (No. 1 on the NY Times best-seller list for weeks), the public is willing to accept the idea that Christianity and all other religions are perverted shadows of early wisdom that has been lost to ambition, greed and superstition. Only the Masons hold the key to this wisdom — and they guard it carefully, warning initiates repeatedly that death awaits those who betray their secrets.
Now, a good deal of this mumbo-jumbo has a slim basis in fact, but the reality is as meaningless today as are his supposed revelations. Masons, despite having been so feared in 1828 that a political party sprang up to remove all their members from public office, may worry about being photographed wearing funny hats and aprons, but that would be to avoid the public thinking they were members of Ralph Kramden’s Raccoon Lodge, not because they would be denounced as participants in a satanic ritual. Fortunately for us, the concept of a masonic conspiracy had not appeared by 1787, much less prevailed, because many of our Founding Fathers would have been kicked out of the Philadelphia Convention, and Dan Brown would have had to look for something else to write about.
The Masonic Conspiracy Theory reappeared in the 1870s, led by former Knox College president Jonathan Blanchard. However, the idea that masons went around murdering people eventually succumbed to a lack of bodies; it revived in the 1980s when a financial scandal at the Vatican revealed the existence of a masonic lodge there, P2, and suspicions arose that masons were eliminating possible witnesses to the embezzlement. An anecdote of the time had the pope asking, “Is everyone here a mason?” The purported response was, “No, not everyone.”