Update: The New York Times does not like seeing National Geographic joining the for profit artifact trade.
Warning: Ranting ahead. To those who don't want to waste time reading my conservative Catholic rant, there will be a real geography post later in the day.
After winning praises from me National Geographic has joined the Da Vinci Code bandwagon (link goes to counter-argument against the bandwagon) and released a bunch of information dealing with the "Gospel" of Judas. The "gospel" claims that Jesus asked Judas to betray him to free him from his human shell (a little bit different than Jesus' "What the hell, Judas?!?" of "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" in Luke 22:48).
So who made this "gospel" you ask? The group was a Gnostic and Antinomian (bad actions are okay, no moral law binds you) sect named the Cainites (who worshiped Cain!!!). These Gnostic dastards were ethnic Greeks who tried to use Jesus as a tool to advance their belief in secret knowledge being the only way to obtain salvation of some sort or another. Never mind the fact that the Gospel was written approximately 200 years after the events by a person who claimed to be Judas. You might as well quote a book from 2076 which claims to be written by Thomas Jefferson which states Washington wanted Benedict Arnold to be a tratior.
Saint Irenaeus laid the smack down on these guys in his Refutation of All Heresies at part I.31.1.
We have always known of other gospels. Some have been outright rejected as heresies, some like a few infant gospels are considered nice stories and one was used by Anne Rice for her Christ the Lord: Out Of Egypt book, some have Jesus being saved by a family of friendly dragons, and some of the Nestorian gospels (also mentioned in the Koran) depict Jesus as the child from Hell who kills and resurrects his friends at random.
So what is the big deal with the Da Vinci Code and other books which advance a neo-Gnostic point of view? Catholicgauze senses a conspiracy! It seems that there are those who see religion as a tool to advance their own agenda. I have dealt with this issue before. Some churches have been turned towards "social gospels" and away from issues dealing with salvation. Other churches, including conservative evangelicals and the Catholic Church, have remained solid in their defense against "progressive Christianity." In order to remove opposition to the progressive agenda, those who advocate it make mass appeal for products which undermine the foundation of the traditional groups. The appeal has attracted many cultural Christians.
Do I think there is a group with actual meetings? No. There is a common movement to undermine conservative ideas in religion however.
Also, the fact that the Da Vinci Code is "sexy" and is making a ton of money plays a major role. Probably a bigger role than my first theory.
Every time the Da Vinci Code accuses the Catholic Church of covering up goddess worship, Jack Chick cries.