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Expect Attitude - Walking On The Fine Line Since 2012 | October 22, 2017

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Visions Of Religious Icons Explained Using Science

Visions Of Religious Icons Explained Using Science

Science Always Provides A Rational Explanation

The human brain is a pretty extraordinary thing. The ideas it can conjure up, the stories it can create and the ability to understand complexities like science and mathematics are only a small fraction of everything it is capable of. It’s amazing to me how differently people utilize this crazy processor we all carry around. Some are more creative while others more mechanically inclined. Some are genius, some not so much. We are taught from a young age to use our brain to question things that seem too good to be true, and to apply logic and common sense to make it through life. For the most part we all do this everyday of our life. So why is it that someone with these abilities and knowledge when presented with a so called “miracle” or “vision” from their supposed god just throws it right out the fucking window without so much a pause in thought?

You’ve all heard stories like the one of the lady with the grilled cheese sandwich with the faint image of Mary on it, or of a “miracle” such as a weeping statue or painting of Christ. Maybe you’ve heard of the “Lady of Fatima”. Or perhaps, the most famous miracle of all, the alleged burial cloth of Jesus himself, the “Shroud of Turin”. With a rise in skepticism recently, the church is hesitant to officially sanction these events with good reason. It is easy to show these claims as fraud, and the church doesn’t want anything to do with that particular word. As of right now, there has not been any scientific proof to back up any of these so called miracles that has been accepted by mainstream science. Besides, any thinking man using reason sees multiple major red flags here.

 

Let’s Start At The Top And Work Our Way Down

Might as well tackle the biggest of the bunch right off the bat. It is baffling to me how after all the debunking of this that has been done, people still buy the hype. The Shroud of Turin is a cloth of linen that many claim was used in the burial of and also bears the image of Christ. This image was supposedly created during the process of resurrection. The origins of the shroud have seen its fair share of debate over the years. Popes have called it an icon yet the Catholic church has never formally endorsed it. Funny thing though is radiocarbon testing done on the shroud back in 1988 dated it between 1260 and 1390 AD. It either truly is a miracle that the image miraculously appeared 1000 years after Jesus would have died, or it is a hoax. I’m going to go with the latter.

The tests were performed by three separate and very credible institutions. They were The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford and the University of Arizona here in my home state. Some to this day contest those tests, but unfortunately for them those tests are correct. You know, science and all… There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel. Numerous people have already thoroughly debunked the shroud. Check out this entry in the Skeptics Dictionary for all the gory details. If you believe in the shroud you won’t after reading through it.

 

Surely The Lady Of Fatima Is Legit

Nope, sorry. Some of my younger readers may not have heard of this supposed incident before. Lucky for you there was a shitty movie made about it back in 1952. Unfortunately for myself, I was made to watch it as a child while being raised in a strict Roman Catholic household. The story is basically this: back in 1917 a couple crazy chicks had two visions of the virgin Mary. They were then oppressed by the government who didn’t want the “secret” to get out, but (spoiler alert) it did. Thousands of people showed up where low and behold Mary made a special appearance through the sun courtesy of mass hysteria. Yes, you read that correctly… The fucking sun.

It was reported that the sun started to pinwheel. No where else on earth was this incident reported. You would think if the sun did weird things like pinwheeling, everyone in daylight all over that half of the globe would see it. And what the fuck is the connection between a pinwheeling sun and Mary? It’s all just absurd. Anyway, just like the shroud was debunked, this has been completely obliterated before by others. A good read on the subject can be found here at the site of the one and only Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

 

Seeing Jesus or Mary In Everyday Objects & Weeping Art

There are three different motivations or reasons that are all easily explainable for someone to “see” the image of Jesus or Mary in some sort of everyday object or to “find” something like a weeping statue or painting. Most of the time you’ll see a combination of these factors.

  • A Want Or Need To Generate Quick Found Money
  • A Want Or Need Of Fame Or Popularity
  • A Deeply Religious Person Experiencing Pareidolia

In the end it boils down to human nature. Pretend you are a minister at a church and attendance has been down. When attendance is down, the weekly take goes down as well. What better way to get a quick boost in popularity and attendance then to apply some vegetable oil to one of your statues to make it appear weeping and then claim it’s a miracle? The lie is justified as being good for the church. How about this one. Say you are just an average Jane or Joe, but have always dreamed of being rich and famous. Find a holy image in something you own, go public with it and presto! Instant fame. Oh, did I mention that the lady with the cheese sandwich I talked about earlier sold the fucking thing for $28,000 and became a bit of an Internet sensation even being featured on national news? People make money off of this stuff. I’m sure a few bucks have been made off of people making a pilgrimage to view both the shroud and Fatima. Greed and fame are a powerful motivator and understandable reason for these sorts of things.

The third is a little bit more tricky. Remember when you were a kid and you used to lay on the grass with your friends looking up at the clouds searching for pictures in them. You might have seen cars while your best friend always saw sports related stuff. Those images people see always match their personality type. People see these pictures because of the brains amazing ability to see patterns and apply them to things we take interest in. This phenomenon is what scientists call Pareidolia. It can be seen in action by a using a psychological tool called the Rorschach test. Me personally, I always see boobs when looking at those things…

 

James Randi Said It Best

The great James Randi said that people are going to see whatever their personality is predisposed to see. The reaction justifies the interpretation and the interpretation spurs the reaction. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “A true believe will never be unconvinced of anything no matter how strong the evidence is against it. The true believer will always believe because they embrace it. They have a miracle in their hand that they can clutch.” Basically, it becomes proof to them.

These visions can cause people to experience a self induced euphoria that can overtake them. That’s where my buddy PT Barnum and the Barnum Effect take over. I’ve covered this in detail here and here so I won’t go into it anymore, but the idea is that there is a sucker born every minute. You see these things because you want to see them. In this case, common sense and logic tells your mind that of course you are going to randomly encounter shapes resembling those icons at some point in your life. In addition to those shapes, you’ll also see things that resemble the shape of trucks, clowns and your favorite farm animals. That’s just the way that it is with the random nature of the universe. But it is no more proof of a god then me seeing the shape of a unicorn on a chip in my bag of Doritos and saying it’s proof of their existence.

A personal hero of mine Penn Jillette sums it up pretty well when he said, “Chances are great we’ve all probably eaten a Jesus shaped object at least once in our life.” My Jesus shaped object was a Cheeto and was fucking delicious. See, once you have thrown away reason, you become susceptible to just about anything and everything out there. Religion has an uncanny knack of doing this to people. Gullibility is not something one should wear with pride on their sleeve in my opinion, and that’s what this is. Let common sense, logic and reason dictate your life. It’s not as bad as you might think. Wait a second… Holy shit guys, I just found the likeness of Einstein on my Ritz cracker! It’s a miracle of science! Oh wait, nevermind. It’s just Don King. Move along people, nothing to see here…

What do you think? We’d love to hear you sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!

 

There is 1 Comment

  1. I always knew those people were full of shit and now I know why! Good read.

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