Last summer, in response to the vision some people in Minersville, Pennsylvania claimed was the Christian Virgin Mary, we posted the Virgin Mary Challenge. The challenge consists of five photographs, one of which is of the supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary in Minersville. No one has been able pick the supposedly real Virgin Mary out of the fakes yet.
Scientists explain that people’s brains develop in such a way as to perceive certain things, like faces, in places where faces don’t actually exist. Reading faces, they say, is essential to social success, and so sensitivity to visual subtleties that suggest facial expressions lead to people seeing expressions of humanity even in inanimate objects. That would explain why so many people are able to perceive the human face of George W. Bush in the optical illusion I posted a few months ago, but are unable to see the form of the bear, even when covering one eye, and thus shutting out one hemisphere of the brain from the process of interpreting the image.
These two experiences with optical illusions are brought together in another image, this one from a fascinating site called Mighty Optical Illusions. You can see the picture below. The administrator of Mighty Optical Illusions explains that he saw what’s pictured here in a piece of wood in a fence.
Do you see it? I got it right away, myself. It certainly stands out more strongly than the supposed Virgin Mary of Minersville, Pennsylvania.
(Psst. It’s a polar bear. See it now?)
Psychology aside, I’ve got a theological question. If the Catholics in Minersville, Pennsylvania believe that their religious faith in the existence of the spirit of the Virgin Mary is justified by the appearance of a funny smudge of light on a garage door that sort of, kind of, looks like paintings of the Virgin Mary made hundreds of years after the original Mary was supposed to have died, by people who never even saw her, then why aren’t those same Catholics revising their beliefs now that this polar bear image has appeared in a knotty piece of fence?
I’m serious about this question. These believers point to the fuzzy image of something like the Virgin Mary that they say they can see on a garage door as proof that Christianity is worth believing in. If they really believe that, then aren’t they logically compelled to accept this apparent image of a polar bear in a piece of wood as evidence of a great Polar Bear Spirit that ought to be worshipped?
The semblance of a polar bear is unmistakable, after all. So, if a Virgin Mary-shaped blurry light is all we need to declare a miraculous proof that the Mother of Jesus Christ has power over our lives, don’t the same standards demand that we all start worshipping the Great Polar Bear Spirit, who must have power over our lives as well?
If Catholic theology truly accepts blurry optical illusions of saints as proof of divine spirits, then doesn’t Catholic theology need to be revised every time someone sees a pattern that resembles something real? Doesn’t every optical illusion then make it necessary for the Catholic Church to recognize a new great spiritual being, and explain it?
If I see a smudge of motor oil on my driveway, and I think it looks like Benjamin Franklin, and I get enough people to agree that it looks like Benjamin Franklin, doesn’t the iconographic theological mania of the Roman Catholic Church, as manifested in places like Minersville, require that priests, bishops and cardinals meet to discuss the official recognition of Franklin as Saint Benjamin of the Cracked Bell?