1. JCowley says

    I prefer to call the sum of all things “stuff”. Or sometimes “all the stuff” if I’m in a formal setting.

  2. ZacharyNeal says

    Labels have no real sustenance, therefore labeling what we understand about reality as god, is a thinly constructed attempt to fit in with the majority of believers.

  3. JCowley says

    Matt makes a really good point about how George is probably convinced by the Fatima ‘miracle’ because it has a number attached. It’s similar to a phenomenon in advertising known as Spurious Rigor. When you see an advertisement claiming that a product is “17.7%” more effective than the leading brand, for example, a lot of people are convinced by that because the natural response is to think “That’s too specific to be made up. Someone must have tested it to come to such a precise figure.” They didn’t, of course; it’s completely made up. Like Heinz’ “57 varieties”.

  4. says

    It’s telling that this was his best argument. We keep getting arguments that critical thinking would shred, arguments without any kind of cognition of the concepts of procedure or standards.

    It keeps coming down to “Hey I believe this thing. Hmmm how can I support my belief? Oh, here’s some stuff that people claimed that sound like it supports me.” There’s no attempt to look up any rebuttals, critically think about whether the case the person is building is sound and cogent. Nothing.

    It’s be like if the whole of evidence for evolution were things like “a newspaper wrote once that 50,000 people saw an animal evolve”, or “p1: everything changes – p2: animals are part of eveything – c1: animals change – therefore evolution is true”

    It’d be hilarious if a large chunk of this country wasn’t ran by this type of thinking.

  5. says

    Only caught part of the episode but a couple of initial thoughts condensed down a bit…. Yay theoretical bullshit boooo genocide and childkilling.

  6. says

    Above I posted a link to an article that claimed 70,000 people witnessed it. On the phone the caller said 30,000, and at Wiki it says 100,000 has also been reported. The descriptions of the event also vary greatly, from the sun hurtling toward Earth, the sun spinning, the sun dancing all over the sky, the sun showering down lights…? And here is a guy “debunking” the “skeptics”… Just as Matt noted about George, he seems to think popularity makes it valid. The more people claim it, the more claims become not just claims but “evidence.” I wonder, which number claim converted these claims from claims into evidence?

    “Some people I have spoken to, who have claimed to have seen the miracle of the sun in modern times, have tried to record with a camera what they were witnessing. However, the sun appeared normal on film or video tape. Eyewitness accounts are pretty much all we have to rely on, it seems. This usually presents a problem of subjectivity.

    “However, in the case of Fatima, the sheer number of witnesses bolsters the case that something extraordinary took place. The fact that not everyone in Portugal that day witnessed the event adds to the evidence in support of a miracle, since, a solar phenomenon passing over the country could and should have been witnessed by all present at the site.”

    He admits there is nothing to validate anything actually occurred. Zero corroborating evidence. What he calls “subjectivity” cannot be distinguished from “hallucination” or “optical illusion.” Maybe some people did witness some atmospheric weirdness…”Atmospheric oddity = god”?

    Note as well, that he discounts what he admits–that there is zero support for the idea anything actually occurred, such as anyone else in that area of the world reporting similar sightings, no observatory reports of the sun suddenly shifting positions, no gravitational problems…basically his “evidence” is totally claims. And his argument comes down to — the more times you make a claim, the more true it becomes:

    “There comes a point where a skeptic turns into a fanatic. That is, one who refuses to face the truth despite the overwhelming evidence.”

    Literally he is calling claims without supporting evidence, “evidence.”

  7. says

    You are right. Nine times out of ten, if you ask them “is this what convinced you?” The answer is “no”–so you have to wonder why they’re trying to use it to convince others. And it *is* because they believe it, and really don’t know why, and they’re reaching for something–anything–to justify it and make it make sense. I was the same way when I was a Christian. I was indoctrinated via fear of hell to believe that if I just believed, all this fear would just go away (and it did–but that’s hardly surprising…”OK, I believe now…and man, this is way better than thinking I might go to hell…WAY better…all I have to do now is just keep obeying and hope I don’t screw up!”

    Looking back, I can see why I was so defensive (i.e., unknowingly terrified) of challenges to my belief. I never wanted to go back to being “unsure” and worried about hell.

  8. Lord Narf says

    So, can you clear something up for me? Were there 30,000 70,000 100,000 people running around telling everyone they knew about the miracle they saw? Or, was there some lone nut running around claiming that 100,000 people witnessed this miracle?

  9. says

    The best I can determine, there are multiple accounts of the event. Some people writing claimed they saw it personally. Others reported what people who claimed to be witnesses described. One of the articles I posted above, claimed that some people who were there said they saw nothing unusual. And not one of them has any support for a claim that the sun actually did anything.

    On the show I described that people–even trained researchers–have reported seeing things that were recorded on film, and later reviewed to show no such thing ever occurred. Exorcism specifically worked this way in my anthropology courses. People at the event said they saw levitation–but what I saw on the video records was not levitation, but contortion–at best. The body never left the ground. You could more successfully “levitate” if you jumped into the air.

    Sometimes the researchers are just swept up in the event and “go native” and begin to share the perspectives of the societies they are working with. Sometimes they are using language that is the domain of the society–so that this contortion is what the society describes as “levitation.” The researcher is just reporting what the society observed, and would describe the levitation exactly as it happens–more like a contortion. In this case, the researcher is not claiming the body hovered over the ground, but is saying, in short, “Then the boy levitated (according to what this tribe considers levitation).”

    It’s also possible there was an atmospheric event of some kind. With a load of people sitting on a hill waiting for god, it probably would not take anything that grand to be their “sign.” We see with theists today, that even the most mundane of events is labeled “miracle.” Someone survives cancer, it’s a miracle. You get that job offer you were hoping for–again, a demonstration of god’s hand. So, maybe there was some odd thing in the atmosphere that day that was sufficient for the very wishing-to-believe to have what they needed to satisfy that longing?

    Then you get people from out of your tiny village, coming in to ask questions about the event, and it’s like someone coming to film a movie in your town, and some people get swept up in that as well, and so you have people who do believe they saw something, some who maybe did see something, and some who just don’t want to be left out of the fancy thing that is the big news in their town–strangers wanting to talk to anyone who saw something unusual that day. So, you can then add, into the mix, everyone who wants attention–their 15 mins of fame in the small village–by saying they saw a miracle.

    It’s an event we can’t go back and observe, so whatever happened/did not happen is now in the real of claims that remain. Of those, none of those who say they saw this “miracle” can explain why there weren’t:

    1. Catastrophic results of the sun moving all over–no odd gravity issues or loss of rotation around the sun.
    2. If the sun moved toward the Earth at a hurtling speed–why didn’t the temp on the planet rapidly rise?
    3. Why didn’t everyone, for whom it was also day time when this occurred, report any odd observances? If the sun really did move, then anyone outside on that same day in any area of the globe where it was day time, should have reported the event as well. But nope…?
    4. No astronomers or observatories recorded anything unusual.

    So at this point, we have witnesses we can’t talk to. Claims we can’t substantiate. And we’re pretty much right back to the same “evidence” the Bible represents, plus a few people writing their own reports, claiming they saw something.

    No clue what happened, but also no clue, as Matt pointed out, how anyone ELSE can claim to conclusively know what the explanation for this is. There are too many possible explanations to attach to one. The only thing we can say for sure is that it was not what it appeared or whatever was described. We can say will high confidence, the sun didn’t really move. What we can’t say with confidence is why all these people are saying it did. But that’s Carl Sagan’s conclusion in Dragon in my Garage–once you realize there is no evidence to consider, just claims, you have to wonder why so many people share the same delusional view…?

  10. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, I got a good dose of the exorcism inanity, being raised Catholic. I had to watch a few videos about it, in the Catholic equivalent of Sunday school. Somehow, the actual footage of the exorcism was never quite as impressive as the way that the witnesses described it, which is why the videos were usually 95% witness interview and about 2% or 3% live footage (the remaining percentage being credits).

    I still remember one of the closing statements, that now that the demon was removed, the anti-psychotic medications were starting to have some effect on her mental disorder.

    And yeah, as soon as the whole thing turns into a media frenzy, any pretext of accurate witness testimony can be pretty much thrown out.

    That one link you posted, from Mark Mallet, is pretty cracked. I only skimmed the page, but I caught bits that said something to the effect that because nothing unusual was recorded by anyone using precise tools, that made it more of a miracle, somehow. Someone needs to look up the definition of a delusion.

  11. says

    There’s so many ways that people can report something that’s false:

    1) They were tricked by a common source

    2) There was pressure to not reveal that you DIDN’T see the miracle, so they claimed they saw it

    3) Many of them decided to do a hoax, since the ends justifies the means, to try to get more people to Jesus

    4) A natural phenomenon that they mistook for something supernatural

    … or a combination of the above. Getting 100,000 people falsely claiming this event is still more likely than laws of physics being broken by universe-creating entities.

    Actual evidence would be that which was been thoroughly investigated… not because a bunch of people claim something. Testimony is bottom of the barrel in terms of evidentiary quality.

  12. Brad Elliot says

    Does Matt (or the Host) get final decision on when to hang up on a caller? It seemed like on a couple occasions that Tracy had wanted to continue the discussion with the caller, but that Matt just decided that since he was done talking to the caller, that Tracy was done too. This seems a little unfair/rude to the co-host, but I suppose I could see it being a necessary evil to keep things moving along.

  13. says

    I think this is what ultimately gets me about how they approach “investigation”. They’ve gotten a reported phenomenon, and there’s multiple possibilities for what could have led to it.

    And for some reason, they’ve decided, without any rhyme or reason, to pick the single most improbable, most-laws-of-physics-breaking, insane lunatic option there is… completely bypassing or even noticing that there’s many other, much more likely, candidates.

    If you were doing this in science, you’d be the pinnacle of what it means to be a bad scientist.

  14. Kingasaurus says


    “What he calls “subjectivity” cannot be distinguished from “hallucination” or “optical illusion.” Maybe some people did witness some atmospheric weirdness…”Atmospheric oddity = god”?”


    Right. So it’s a genuine miracle because NOT everybody in Portugal saw it? Whaaa? Doesn’t that flip our expected reaction on its head? What would be the point of a god making 30,000 people hallucinate something that didn’t really happen? It is precisely because nobody outside of this group of people saw the sun do anything strange which points in the direction of it not being genuine!

    Actually making the sun behave weirdly in its relation to the earth would be a worthy “miracle”. Fooling a few thousand people to make them THINK it did when it really didn’t? Uh….

    I don’t know a huge amount of background on this (and haven’t heard the show yet), but am I the only one who thinks if you get thousands of people to STARE AT THE SUN for an extended period, their field of vision isn’t going to behave in a normal, expected fashion? There’s a reason experts tell us not to do such things when a solar eclipse is imminent.

    It only takes a handful of people (in a large superstitious crowd saddled with expectations) to point and say, “Oh my God! Look at the sun! Look what it’s doing!!” and before you know it – as more people stare at it – more people “see” something unusual.

  15. says

    >I still remember one of the closing statements, that now that the demon was removed, the anti-psychotic medications were starting to have some effect on her mental disorder.

    This made me laugh. It reminds me of Russell’s statement that if you take two aspirin and pray for your headache to go away, then your headache will go away. 🙂

  16. says

    Yes, it is the responsibility of the host to attend to the phones and regulate the flow of the show. It’s a judgement call, for sure. I am *horrible* at it, btw. So, probably good someone is there to keep me from engaging people for too long on points that may not be highly relevant, but just what I find interesting personally. 🙂

  17. 33333333 says

    The miracle of the sun supposedly happened in Fatima, Portugal, not Mexico like was claimed in the show.

  18. says

    I also keep thinking about the caller yesterday–Kenny–saying that god was patient with the Canaanites for a long time before sending the Hebrews to smite them down. He claimed the smiting was justified because they were abducting Hebrew children and sacrificing them to their gods. I envision what I would think if it became known that some group was abducting and murdering children, and I said “OMG! We have to stop these people…” and someone else says, “Now, now…let’s not be too hasty here. Perhaps if we just watch and wait, they’d simmer down on their own eventually and just stop doing this.”

    Seriously–this god killed anyone instantly for touching a box that contained holy artifacts. But abduct and murder the children of his “Chosen People”–and, THAT, he can be patient about? WTF? Do they even think about this thing they worship and what they’re really saying?

  19. Kingasaurus says

    “Seriously–this god killed anyone instantly for touching a box that contained holy artifacts. But abduct and murder the children of his “Chosen People”–and, THAT, he can be patient about? WTF? Do they even think about this thing they worship and what they’re really saying?”


    They’ll just say anything to try and get out of a tight spot. They have to reduce the cognitive dissonance, so anything that makes their god seem slightly less morally horrible in their minds, that’s all it takes. Taking these claims to their logical conclusions (like you just did) isn’t a common practice.

    I forget who said it first, but their minds operate in such a fashion that you need to prove their faith impossible before they will consider it improbable.

    Saying something ridiculous to try and “fix” one particular “difficulty” in Scripture is totally fine, as long as it helps save the entire enterprise.

  20. gshelley says

    One other thing about Kenny that the Hosts didn’t mention was that his question about Matt wasn’t even consistent. Matt was the one arguing (and his point may have been a little more subtle) that you can apply modern morality to judge ancient stories, and Kenny was the one saying you shouldn’t do that. Somehow, in his mind, that got translated as Matt was saying people should have been left to sacrifice babies. If Kenny had been able to look beyond his need to justify the actions of his god, he would surely have been able to see that by modern standards, sacrificing babies is wrong, so there is no way Matt, who said we should use these standards to judge the ancient events, would not say the same about them.

  21. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, even at the age of 8 or 9, I sat through the videos, repeatedly thinking things like, “Wow, how gullible are you people? You’re only showing us this because the church is forcing you, right teacher? You don’t actually believe this, right?”

    Even in the carefully selected, most impressive clips from the exorcism, there was nothing even vaguely as impressive as anything I had seen in a magic show. That’s one of the many things that probably helped inoculate me against the indoctrination. I got hooked on magic, at a young age, after seeing a woman get sawn in half on a TV show or something, at the age of 4 or 5. It freaked me the hell out, and apparently strong emotional stimuli at either end of the spectrum, at that impressionable of an age, can lead to fascination with the subject matter.

    Well, all of the scantily clad ladies probably added to my interest. I started chasing girls at a very young age, never going through a girls-are-icky phase.

  22. says

    Kenny presented a false dilemma: If you’re not for slaughtering your enemies wholesale and without exception, then you support whatever your enemies are doing, no matter how reprehensible. You’re right, it’s ridiculous as well due to his earlier acknowledgement of Matt’s leaning toward “modern” morality. But it’s also an example of the black-and-white thinking I described earlier in the show: Teaching children to simply ALWAYs fear the stove because they are too young to understand the mechanism that determines when it is or is not dangerous. No in-between. The thing is, we’re supposed to outgrow this toddler style of viewing the world, but many religion encourage its continuance into adulthood. Look how the New Testament encourages people to be like children–outright in verses in Matthew 18 and Luke 18. In his mind–there are no exceptions. And yet, if someone suggested such a strategy today as a military strategy, I have little doubt Kenny would agree it’s unacceptable and immoral, even if we were confronting another Holocaust. The only thing that makes it acceptable to him is that it’s god saying to do it, not a human being.

    And this is where that saying comes in that it takes a religion (or some sort of other heavily indoctrinated ideology of authoritarianism), to get a good person to support atrocities. Kenny knows better–but hey, if it’s *god* saying so…all bets are off.

  23. says

    So, a bunch of people staring at the bright Sun, then seeing it move around is supposed to be evidence of a god. It sounds more like evidence of eye damage to me.

  24. says

    I recall I saw a meteor going down one morning while my husband and I were at a stop sign waiting to turn. It looked like a flaming black rock, the size of a basketball that fell just behind our neighbor’s house. Later it was confirmed by authorities, and determined that it fell approximately 100 miles from where we were and was likely the size of a Volkswagen when we saw it (before it broke apart). When you are looking at an object in the sky, you can’t judge size or distance, because there are no points of reference. But the moment I saw it, I shouted “METEOR!” I was so excited to see such a large one, in a day time sky. It was amazing.

    Later on the news, they were talking to other people who viewed it. I will never forget one woman who described a metallic/silver, cigar-shaped object. I turned to my husband and was just flummoxed. “WTF is she talking about? It was a flaming black rock?”

    But honestly—which story do you suppose is going to draw more attention? Meteor falling, or UFO sighting? People are just very desirous to believe wild tales. For some, they are so much more exciting than real life. Although, I was SUPER excited to see that meteor, I have to say.

  25. ET says

    I would be interested in further discussions on indoctrination vs socalization. As an atheist I some times feel guilty if I think I may be indoctrinating someone into atheism but then I don’t know why.

  26. TroopDawg says

    Good show!

    Matt sure does get steamy at foolishness. If they don’t do this already, maybe call screeners should chip in with don’t interrupt the hosts if they are talking or asking you questions? It’s funny that people still leave their TV or Radio’s on when calling into a show like this and then laugh or become confused by the delay. That has to be something the call screeners cover. Do they just not listen?

    Dear Matt, drink some tea and picture yourself at a beach.

  27. TroopDawg says

    I also thought it was funny that TEA hosts, being the youtube celebrities they have become, do not troll youtube for more atheist videos.

    It’s nice and refreshing to see that because youtube is not the most reliable place for accurate information and is frequently victim to drama between channels over BS.

    Rock on guys! I’m a big fan of Tracy’s topics & follow up questions. Same with Don!

  28. says

    Well, you could look at it this way. Matt was not ambiguous when he was asking the caller to stop interrupting – and caller didn’t listen then. The people will be themselves, whatever that is.

  29. AndersJ says

    I have always wondered why humans should ever find the need to justify the actions of a god. It’s stupid and it should trigger every alarm bell in your mind. They are talking about a perfect being, not a 5 year old child.

  30. says

    Just today I put up an example of something that drives it home. The story of the Ark of the Covenant, when it nearly fell:

    The Ark incident is particularly insidious, because it’s the ultimate “authoritarian/don’t think/don’t doubt/don’t ask” story. For anyone unfamiliar, there was a rule, “don’t touch this box.” Only the priests could touch it. One day they were carrying the box from one location to another,and it was sitting on a platform as it was being carried. It began to slip, and someone in the crowd reached up to save it from toppling over. He was killed instantly. “Don’t touch the box.” Zero tolerance, no room for your own thoughts about it or discretion, nothing situational matters…just “don’t touch the box.”

    Apparently the king saw the event and was (rightly) angry with god about it. He refused to allow the ark into the city where he lived, and it stayed instead with a citizen. When the king hears the citizen has prospered because of housing the ark, the king changes heart and takes it into his city (easily bought it seems). He praises god about it, and when his predecessor’s daughter calls him out for acting like a fool in front of the public, he says he doesn’t mind looking like an idiot for god. And then, it is implied that the woman who called him out is then punished with barrenness for the rest of her life. Nice.

    So, in a nutshell. when god says “jump”–you say “how high?” You don’t question, and you’ll be rewarded. Don’t obey, you die; don’t trust god, and you won’t proper. Don’t humble yourself before this great authority, and you’ll be cursed.

    If you are challenging theism, that is not in the least indoctrinating anyone into atheism. Asking people questions cannot even *touch* what indoctrination does. It attempts to control a person’s mind by stopping questions, not by getting them TO question. You use fear, threats, authoritarian mandates, propaganda–whatever it takes to get the person to think and believe what you want them to–except for good arguments, reason and evidence.

    You can look at it this way: If you have good, solid reason and evidence to support what you’re claiming–you don’t need to utilize indoctrination methods. You just explain your position, and it stands on its own as persuasive. Obviously this doesn’t fly if you’re talking to someone who has been indoctrinated, because “don’t trust anyone but OUR authorities” is part of that “don’t question” mode. But if it’s two people who can think freely, and evidence and reason support a position clearly, there should be no resistance to the position. A good example is the idea of a spherical-type Earth orbiting the sun. Once you understand the reasons for that model, you adopt it…unless you’re in the Flat Earth Society. Nobody has to threaten you or feed you lies or tell you to just trust it because some person claimed it long ago, and he can’t be wrong. It’s actually explained to you, makes sense, and becomes something you understand and freely adopt.

    Likewise, can you see the difference between people who live in the U.S. who teach their kids to speak English because it’s commonly spoken here, versus those who promote it’s wrong to speak anything BUT? A person who is simply socializing their kid will likely be more than happy for that child to also learn Spanish–because being English-Spanish bilingual is an asset in our country today due to heavy immigration. But a person more inclined toward indoctrination will insist that only English can/should be spoken and that Spanish is in the realm of the “damn foreigners” coming in illegally. It’s an unreasonable bias, and a fear, that they try to infuse into something as simple as “learn to speak English.” If you’re just teaching the kid a language, that isn’t indoctrination. But teaching him it’s dangerous, wrong, subversive to speak anything else, starts crossing the line.

  31. Lord Narf says

    Hell, we have many writings showing that #3 was official church policy, for a rather long time.

  32. Lord Narf says

    Heh heh heh heh heh. Yeah, I remember the show with Jen and you. You got in … one caller, wasn’t it? ^.^

    Of course that one caller was a wacky theist. If you’re going to let one call dominate an entire show, that’s the call to do it with.

  33. Lord Narf says

    They think they’re talking about a perfect being, but what they’re actually talking about is someone who acts like a 5 year-old child.

  34. Lord Narf says

    Why is it always a Volkswagen? That brand of car isn’t significantly different in size from other brands, and yet it’s always a Volkswagen. ^.^

  35. Lord Narf says

    A good section question, for a children’s Bible workbook:

    How would you feel if you were the man who was just trying to stop God’s property from being damaged and were struck dead by God, because you touched his property?

  36. Aaroninaustralia says

    Prove their deity impossible and they’ll either ignore it completely or call you “bigoted”.
    I use a very simple model that is essentially the logical rule that “A cannot be not-A”. If there is a being of unlimited power and its primary motivation is to know us, then such a being would be known by us. There cannot be religions, churches, or any disagreements about what this being would want, because all of these things could only exist if there were a limitation of some sort on this being’s power (e.g. to communicate), motivation (e.g. to primarily use us as playthings), or existence. Any refutation at this point will be an attempt to explain away the problem of there being no God as posited by bringing up some form of limitation, usually in the form of “but God can’t…”, “but God needs…” or “but God wants…”. These arguments are obviously, to refer back to Tracey’s recent post, confirmations of the argument and not refutations. Thus we can confidently know that there’s no all-powerful deity that wants to know us individually.
    Of course, there may be a deity known by Joe Anyone somewhere but they would discuss that deity’s motivations with the deity directly, rather than trying to prove it on the interwebs or in debates. Regardless, such a deity would be limited in motivation to know everyone and is what I term the “Exclusive or Exclusionary God”.
    If there were a limited deity of some form, it could not be taken at face value because to do so is to be irresponsible – I can take the sun at face value because it never changes, almost everyone can point to where it is, we can take recordings and measurements of it, and it has kept its routine so much that we can predict its rising and setting. I can take it at face value because of these things. I can also take my own perceived consciousness at face value, and can presume as fact that anyone I see walking down the street is alive, purely because these things never change in much the same way the sun never changes its routine. These things are mind-numbingly consistent to the point we don’t think about them (except while watching Hollywood movies or reading novels of the Armageddon or reality-usurption variety).
    Gods are never so mind-numblingly consistent. Different religions attempt to address the same questions but have wildly different, even contradictory answers showing that ‘revelation’ may be rooted in the same types of questions such as “Why do people die?” but are not pointing to a single source of an answer. Gods are far more akin to the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) of a psychologist: a vague picture with such a dearth of inherent meaning that when questioned about what the picture means, the individual is forced to project their own selves into it to produce an answer. These TATs are used to help understand the motivations, fears and hopes of indiviuals as the void of information in the picture is instead filled by the individual’s own ideas. Gods are the same: ask someone about their God and you’ll get the individual’s self-image; some idealistic, some about their fears.
    A deity that is supposedly all-powerful yet there are multiple religions, or conflicting and contradictory views of this being’s desires even within the same religion? I could not responsibly take such a being at face value, even if it existed. Once showing their deity concept is in fact false and their ‘faith’ irrational, a theist will totally ignore it, or will start a personality argument. They might call you ‘bigoted’ (which is irrelevant: bigotry is about failure to consider information on cultural or social issues; if it concerned questions of fact then I’m proudly “bigoted against a flat earth”), or they wheel out the “You can’t change people’s opinions by being rude!” as though questions of fact are matters of opinion, which I like to call the “You’re mean, therefore God!” philosophical argument for the Creator of the Universe.

  37. mooniekate says

    I think I may know what happened there. Has anyone here ever looked at a lit lightbulb, or had a camera flash in your eyes? What happens: The direct light damages your retina and you are left with a colourful light impression in your eyes, which moves when you look around. I posit that a bunch of dumb people looked directly at the sun, burning their retinas, and experienced this very phenomenon, seeing that light impression ‘dance’ as they looked around. That’s a hell-of-a-lot more likely than physics undoing itself and not destroying everything in the universe in the process.

  38. John Kruger says

    The whole call got really weird very fast. People like Kenny should really say their conclusions out loud and think about implications before using them as apologetics on TV. After quickly getting nailed on the point that his god ordered the killing of children, which is really unjustifiable in any punitive sense for any laws, I swear his brain blew a fuse. He was then all over the place, talking about how the children would be brought up, applying a bizarre straw man to Matt position that was almost exactly the opposite of what Matt said, and then changing the subject when called out on that straw man. He went completely incoherent.
    It was pretty disturbing to listen to really, in that he was so organized in the beginning. To round it up he started repeating what was previously the weak point pointed out to him in the beginning, the final death throw in his defeated argument and damaged theistic view. Cognitive dissonance can be pretty scary to watch, sometimes.

  39. jacobfromlost says

    “Later on the news, they were talking to other people who viewed it. I will never forget one woman who described a metallic/silver, cigar-shaped object.”

    There are cultural elements to this also. I teach high school English. We did a unit on “The Crucible”, Puritans, the Salem witch trials, etc, and one day a Mexican student asked me if I had seen the video of the witch on youtube. He explained it was filmed in Mexico–a witch on a broom flying through the air (he offered this as evidence witches were real).

    The video was of a crude balloon, although it is difficult to say it is the form of a “witch on a broom” since the video is too fuzzy. But I assume that’s the shape it is in. (You can clearly see it is rigid, and floating with the air currents, and NOT a woman riding a cleaning implement.)

    Whatever is in the culture that is expected to be seen in the sky suddenly becomes what one sees in the sky.

    (Also, I skimmed the thread and didn’t notice anyone mention in regard to Fatima: when you stare at the sun, your eyes stop working properly. You get a blank spot right in the middle of your vision, and your brain fills it in the best it can with whatever it is you expect to see there. Dancing sun? Sure, why not. Jesus? Mary? Yeah, that too. Whatever. Since your brain has no idea WHAT is there as your eyes are malfunctioning, it just fills it in. If you are in a mass hysteria situation, suggestion plays a big part. You can get similar effects when staring into total darkness, or into a mirror as some people suggest for seeing ghosts–your brain knows your eyes are open, but no input is being processed…so it just starts filling things in.)

  40. Renzo says

    Am I the only one who thinks that when Matt says “Kenny”, it sounds like Eric Cartman saying it?

  41. Lord Narf says

    I dunno, I found it hilarious. But then I’ve got a fairly rough sense of humor, at times.

  42. says

    They have scripts. And their apologetics and indoctrination lead them to expect certain responses–generally that they’ll lay it all out, the skeptic will see the light, and it will be great. OR, the skeptic will refuse to accept the logic, because his heart is closed and nothing will convince him god exists.

    When you just ask questions, and take them off the script–you’re right–it goes south quickly, because *anything* goes. It’s literally apologetic improv. And they don’t really practice improv apologetics very much.

  43. curiousgeorge says

    Ok, I want to be objective about this and make sure I have the facts straight.

    On October 13, 1917 we have somewhere between 30,000 – 100,000 fools gathered in a field in Fatima, Portugal. They are looking directly at the sun. This group reports seeing the sun dance, spin, and move.

    On that same day, the remainder of the approximately 5,000,000 people living in Portugal who had not gathered in this field and were NOT foolish enough to be staring at the sun report they saw nothing unusual about the sun that day.

    Have these people never heard of arc eye, welder’s flash, bake eye? Not seeing the miracle.

  44. says

    What I have heard from George, I would think if that happened today. I think many people would describe it was a natural phenomenon. No freaking was that the sun will move from it’s current position or we will get fried.

  45. says

    I’ve already sent this by email to Tracie but I thought it might be beneficial to the discussion:

    I watched your last show and being an atheist and admin of a Portuguese atheist page I’m writing to you to clarify a few points 😉

    1) The Fatima “miracles” were reported in Portugal (Europe) in 1917. Paste the following coordinates in Google Earth: 39°37’52.53″N, 8°40’22.61″W
    2) They were reported in a area of agricultural simple illiterate people.
    3) They were “witnessed” by a girl and her two cousins. (there were several subsequent sightings…) and there is a lot of mumbo-jumbo stuff about this… I can make you a long list!!!
    4) Lúcia was the eldest and the main source of the story. She was born in 1907 so was 10 at the time. She went is seclusion in 1921 (13 yrs old and with silent vow) and almost never talked to anyone till her death in 2005, with exception of the J.Paul II pope in 1991.
    5) The other two died of typhus in 1920…
    7) Lúcia girl was taken in for questioning in 1917 (several week after the alleged appearance of the virgin) by the official magistrate of the Leiria county (like a judge) to question about the “agitation among the simpletons” and he testified in a written report to the central government that she was a “mental retarded child” manipulated by the priests.
    8) The priest who was the “spiritual guide” of the children had been having a 10 years “learning experience” in Lourdes (the famous french sanctuary)… His name was Formigão if you want to look it up.
    9) The alleged “miracle” of the “dancing sun” (the official name) was testified by thousand of simple illiterate agricultural 1917 people… and was denied immediately by journalists that were actually present there in their respective newspapers…
    10) The bishop of Leiria county (the location of Fátima) didn’t acknowledge the “miracles” until 1930.

    All this above are facts that can be looked up, but unfortunately the literature is mainly in Portuguese language. I will recomend one to you which is based in a pHD theses…
    Title: “O Sol Bailou ao Meio-dia – a criação de fátima” which means “The Sun Danced at Noon – creating Fátima”.

    Of course the bottom line is that Fátima has become a money making machine which last year were visited by 7,3 million people from all over the world yielding an PROFIT of 15 million Euro (20 million US dollars). And last year built a new church that cost 80 million Euro…
    Lúcia has been sanctified in the mean time…

    Other two facts, irrelevant for the above discussion 🙂
    a) the name “Fátima” comes from being the daughter of muhamed… somehow ironic…
    b) our atheist page URL is:


  46. mike says

    I was thinking the same thing when I read it! lol Always a Volkswagen when Phil Plait or NDeGT talks about these things too, I’m thinking that in America its an example of a small car. American cars were always big, foreign cars were smaller so its a fast way of saying ‘about the size of smaller car’ Though today, American&foreign cars vary in size similarly

  47. says

    I’m actually in an e-mail correspondence with George now. If he doesn’t hear reason after this, then I move to “debunking” by showing him Conformity in Groups research to demonstrate how easily people can be convinced to deny what they can plainly see–by just a handful of others claiming that’s what *they* see:

    I have used this tack with Pentecostals before, but it generally has no more impact than anything else. There is nothing you can say when someone is just bent on believing despite all evidence to the contrary…

    Here is my last reply to George:

    Fatima Miracle George writes back…My response with his comments included:

    >Thank you for your reply. I do understand what you are saying but you are missing the point I think. I am not trying to prove to you or convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this incident occurred exactly as the witnesses described. I am however hoping that you will admit that this can indeed be considered plausible evidence. Eyewitness accounts are in fact admissible in court as evidence.

    And when they conflict with actual physical evidence, then the testimony is considered unreliable and not credible. In other words, I can submit testimony that I did not rob a bank, and have 20 people confirm my alibi. But video of me actually robbing the bank, and my DNA/fingerprints all over the area would mean the testimony admitted as evidence would be demonstrated as unreliable and not credible—even if you had no reason to think the people backing up my alibi would lie. The fact is, admitting testimony doesn’t mean that testimony is reliable and credible. And when it conflicts with facts and demonstrated reality—it’s considered to be unreliable and not credible.


    “In other words, it would be as though the blind man, whom Jesus healed in the Bible stories, was still unable to see after Jesus was done with him–but 100 witnesses were claiming the man was healed. You would say that is a miraculous healing and not 100 delusional people? If the man still cannot see–how many people claiming that he was healed, would it take for you to believe their claim?”

    > As to your five points you don’t seem to get the fact that a miracle is something that which science can not explain. (Miracle: “An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.)

    What you’re asserting is that if the man remains blind, science must explain why 100 people claim he can see, and if science can’t explain it, then the man must be sighted. If the “extraordinary event” does not actually “manifest”—there is nothing to explain—and by your own definition, no miracle has even occurred. The man is blind. The sun did not move. It may seem odd to you that people would suffer from a common delusion—but we have confirmed no event occurred.

    >>1. Not everyone at the event says something odd even happened.
    > (Even if in fact half of the people said nothing odd happened, how do you explain the other half who said it did?)

    If the man remains blind, it may be odd there are people claiming he can see—but as adamant and numerous as they might be—the man has not been cured. And those saying he’s still blind are vindicated, not those claiming he’s now sighted.

    >>2. People in other areas with access to a view of the sun reported nothing unusual.
    > (The fact that only the people at the site in question witnessed the miracle only means that the others were not meant to see it. God can make it so.)

    And the fact that the man cannot see, and others can see he cannot see, then, is not evidence in your mind that he has not been cured? It’s evidence that he has been cured, but only a select few are aware of that?

    >>3. No observatories/astronomers reported the sun changing location.
    > (Because it is quite possible the sun did not actually move out of its location in the solar system.)

    Then the people who claim they saw it do this, are lying or in error. And their testimony is demonstrated to be unreliable, because it conflicts with what we can verify.

    >>4. For those who said it was the sun hurtling toward the Earth (rather than those who saw it dancing, those who claimed it spun, or those who saw showers of light), no rise in the planet’s temperature was evidenced.
    > (Once again this was not a mere natural occurrence but something which was instituted and controlled by God. Therefore no harm to the earth would occur or have been expected.)

    This becomes irrelevant the moment you admit that the sun never moved. If you believe the man can see, and we can confirm he does not—then you are suffering from a delusion.

    >>5. The Earth did not change orbit, gravity, or anything measurable that should have accompanied the sun changing location just a smidge–let alone moving all over, shattering and showering sparks, or moving rapidly toward the planet–depending on whose miracle description you incline toward most.
    > (It is not unexpected that with such a large group of people there would be many different descriptions. If the towns people had heard an earth shattering noise I am sure they would not all describe it as a boom. Some would probably choose to call it a bang,pow,roar,or rumble. And again if this was a miraculous sign sent by God as a message then why do you assume it would destroy the world? Do you not think God would have ample control over the situation?)

    Some descriptions are similar—some are not even in the same ball park. God didn’t *do* anything here, because nothing happened. The man was blind when Jesus touched him, blind afterward. Those who call that a miracle that healed a blind man, are demonstrably wrong—whatever their reasons for claiming as much, and regardless of their level of sincerity. We can verify they are wrong.

    > One of your biggest mistakes is trying to find physical evidence in order to prove or explain a miracle when the very definition of the word is something which “can-not” be explained.

    You’re pitting claims that something happened against a mountain of evidence that nothing did. There has to *be* something to explain in order to offer an explanation. If the sun had been clearly observed to move, and the Earth suffered no consequences, that would be something spectacular. But the sun remaining in it’s normal position, and the Earth behaving normally does not require explanation. That represents a normal day. You have claims (Jesus healed a blind man). Claims are not the event (saying he’s healed is not the same as him actually being healed). You have no event (the man is still blind). Not being able to explain what happened is different than being asked to explain something that can’t even be confirmed to have ever happened. What exactly are they supposed to be explaining? That the man is still blind and was not miraculously healed? That the sun never did anything odd that day?

    >To use science to explain a miracle is featherbrained.

    To look at a blind man that is still blind and call it a healing miracle is featherbrained.

    >Another point you are missing is the fact that this was not an unexplainable event which happened one day and the folks who witnessed it simply attributed it to God because they could find no other explanation. The Virgin Mother instructed the children to gather all the towns folk into that fieldspecifically to witness the miracle. How to you explain such a thing?

    You’re working from reports after the fact. You’re following hearsay. Additionally, you should take into account that if someone did prime these people for a religious miracle, that would be an indication of potential *bias* in the results. But it’s irrelevant, as nothing even occurred. We started with a blind man, ended with a blind man—and you are convinced by reports saying he’s sighted now. When I say “No, he still can’t see,” you reply with “That’s the miracle.” It’s nonsensical. Also your claim that people predicted god would do something, and that thing occurred demonstrates a god is responsible is not correct. That is not how we verify causation.

    >> “Claims never become evidence. And they shouldn’t even be taken seriously when they can be demonstrated to be in contrast to real, demonstrable reality.”

    >As you say, and you give Jesus healing the blind man as an example. Let me ask you this if I may. If your best friend told you that he saw big foot while camping in Yellow Stone Park you would probably think he was pulling your leg. But what would you then think if you heard the same thing from a stranger who described the creature exactly as your friend did?

    I watch a show sometimes called “Finding Bigfoot.” I think some of the people saw a bear most likely and were confused by it. I think others are merely attention seekers. There is no evidence such a creature exists, and claims will never demonstrate it does. Unless there was some corroboration of their stories, I would guess they must be mistaken—if I thought they were sincere; and lying if I thought they were attention-seekers.

    > And what would you think to hear a report on the news that 20 other people claimed to have seen the same creature in the same park in the same area doing the same thing. You might still not believe they were seeing big foot. But perhaps you would no longer think your friend was just pulling your leg and perhaps he did see something. How do you deny the evidence that something may be there??

    I would only find it odd, not convincing, if 20 people were there, and 10 said their camp was attacked by a Big Foot that tore everything to pieces, and the other 10 said they recalled nothing odd about that day. It would seem especially odd if the camp site situation was well documented—say with lots of people taking vacation videos, and there was no evidence at any point of any damage to the camp. It would seem to me there was something wrong with the people who thought they saw Big Foot tear up the camp. Again, I may not be sure what was up with them—but clearly they are wrong or lying. When it comes to 10 saying nothing happened, and 10 saying there was mayhem, I would need to look at the evidence to see who was correct. They cannot both be. Either Big Foot tore up the camp, or not. And if there was no destruction demonstrated, then those saying it was destroyed are demonstrated as not being credible witnesses.

    You are saying that we should believe that the 10 who saw Big Foot tear up the camp are correct, otherwise, why would they make such a claim? But I don’t have to explain why they are making nutty claims. I only need to demonstrate their accounts aren’t reliable–which is easy in this case.

    Again, if the man still can’t see, and that can be demonstrated by a physician—how many people saying that he has been miraculously healed will it take to convince you that he is not blind?


  48. Lord Narf says

    And lots of the thousands who gathered at the site didn’t see a thing. Those were probably the ones who weren’t stupid enough to look into the sun.

  49. Lord Narf says

    Heh, yeah. Just one of those conventions that caught on sometime a few decades ago and has persisted because it sounds cool.

  50. Lord Narf says

    the name “Fátima” comes from being the daughter of muhamed… somehow ironic…

    Heh heh heh heh heh. Yeah, nice little detail.

    Between this stuff and the information brought up on the Skeptoid podcast that was linked higher up in the comment section here, I don’t see how even believers could buy into this garbage.

  51. Lord Narf says

    I wish I could get my hands on some of those videos, now. There was so much awesomely, obliviously ironic stuff in them. The comment about the medication starting to work on her mental disorder (I think she was suffering from multiple-personality disorder, one of which was apparently the demon) was just the crown on a video full of inanity.

    At one point, she apparently levitated several feet off the ground, “… but we’re not going to show you that part, because it would be too traumatic for the viewers.” The priest was all too happy to talk about it in his interview, though. Riiiiiiight. Pull the other one.

    In another part of the video, the priest talked about these demonic voices that were coming out of the girl, which could not possibly be made by a human, much less a girl like her (I think she was 17 or 18). Then, they made the mistake of showing the video of the “demon” speaking through her. It … sounded exactly like a rather heavyset girl making growling voices deep in her throat.

    There were other videos, too, of varying subject matter. The one about a few witches who came back to Christ was pretty over-the-top. The stories about all of the things they did, by harnessing the power of Satan, were all kinds of crazy. Of course they were all 14 or 15 year-old girls who had probably been caught doing demonic things by their parents, then were interrogated mercilessly by their zealot parents and their priests. I’m sure that after a few weeks, the girls actually believed the things that were pulled out of them by the priests.

    I’ve done things with several local Pagan groups, since I was dating a couple of Pagan girls, in my early 20’s. If I had ever seen anything approaching what those girls described, at the many Pagan rituals, I would be a Pagan right now, not an atheist. As it is, nothing amazing ever happened. The Pagans have got nothing any more believable than the Catholics.

  52. Lord Narf says

    >>2. People in other areas with access to a view of the sun reported nothing unusual.
    > (The fact that only the people at the site in question witnessed the miracle only means that the others were not meant to see it. God can make it so.)

    Holy crap. Does George not realize how stupid this sounds to anyone not already brainwashed into gullibility? He left out the part about many people at the site not seeing anything, too.

    >>4. For those who said it was the sun hurtling toward the Earth (rather than those who saw it dancing, those who claimed it spun, or those who saw showers of light), no rise in the planet’s temperature was evidenced.
    > (Once again this was not a mere natural occurrence but something which was instituted and controlled by God. Therefore no harm to the earth would occur or have been expected.)

    I love how he completely dodged the fact that even those who experienced the event had utterly inconsistent experiences.

    Sadly, I don’t think your reasoning after point 5 is going to reach this guy. I get the feeling that he’s so determined to believe this thing that he won’t lend any credence to the huge amount of opposing testimony or even basic reason.

  53. says

    Wow – so his intellectual spinning wasn’t merely confined to the stage.

    We have a necessity to allowing testimonial evidence in court. A crime was committed and we need to figure it out and figure out who to send to jail. There’s quite a bit of urgency to the investigation. The key is that the people are actually there, and can be cross-examined. Hearsay is strictly verboten.

    One of the first things cops do when arriving on scene to some incident is to separate out the different witnesses so they don’t contaminate each other’s testimony.

    Yes, testimony is admissible in court, but only under very strict conditions, in terms of evidentiary value. The available empirical evidence always trumps it.

  54. says

    I had jury duty a couple years ago, and it was fascinating to see the whole process, from jury selection to final verdict.

    We actually came to an impasse, because out of the 12 of us, 4 or 5 weren’t really interested in merely listening to the testimony of the victims (myself included). I actually had to sort of organize the others into assessing and listing out all the objective facts of the case, which brought everyone else onboard with the guilty verdict.

    Still feel bad about getting the guy 22 years in prison, always wondering if it was the right call.

  55. Kingasaurus says

    “Holy crap. Does George not realize how stupid this sounds to anyone not already brainwashed into gullibility? He left out the part about many people at the site not seeing anything, too.”

    Typical loon with another non-falsifiable claim that only make sense to them.

    Does anyone seriously think George would claim his “miracle” would be less credible if everyone in the world witnessed it at the same time? Of course not. He’d be especially convinced it was God. Who else could do a demonstration like that to the whole world? But because god “chose” to show the miracle to not-everyone, it still makes sense as a miracle? He thinks it’s God doing it no matter what happens – the hallmark of a person with compromised reasoning skills:

    If everyone sees it, it’s definitely a miracle.

    If NOT everyone sees it, it’s ALSO a miracle.

    Hoo boy…

  56. gfunk says

    I would also add that the reports of the number of people attending this event are highly suspect. This was almost 100 years ago and I’ve seen “rallies” in the last couple of years where they reported attendance that ended up being GREATLY exaggerated or reduced, often based on the bias of the reporter.

    Judging attendance to these sorts of events are notoriously difficult to judge, even today, without any ticketing system or thorough pictorial coverage.

  57. Curt Cameron says

    During the call, I was thinking that Matt and Tracie should ask George “so you’re a Catholic, right? Are you aware that most Christians don’t accept the Fatima “miracle” as a miracle? It’s just a Catholic thing.”

    And that’s his best evidence?

  58. changerofbits says

    2 Chronics 4:20 – Wheh ever two or more of you gather to stare at the sun, I will move it.

    Seriously: Staring at the sun = Jebus Miracle!

  59. curiousgeorge says

    And I would think the fact that in 1917 the average number of Last Supper renderings hanging in a Fatima living room was 3 might point towards a huge bias on the part of those gathered to witness an actual miracle. Obviously, I say this in jest and traveling to Portugal one day is on the bucket list. 🙂

  60. jacobfromlost says

    I think any story that starts with…

    So I decided to take some LSD one afternoon when I saw…
    So I was really drunk late one night when I saw…
    So I woke up in the middle of the night when I saw…
    So I was staring at the sun this day last week when I saw…

    …should be discounted before they finish. I don’t even understand how the account is entertained by the believers. If some other kind of believer came to these people and said they stared at the sun one day and saw an alien named Shoodoo who demanded we all wear our underwear on our heads, they wouldn’t suddenly put Fruit of the Loom on their heads. And they wouldn’t start making excuses like, “Hey, Shoodoo is an alien so he has the power to know stuff we don’t, like why it’s important to wear underwear on our heads.”

    They would just call these other believers crackpots…because they’d be advocating something they don’t already believe.

  61. says

    As for the numbers of people is very difficult because the catholic newspapers from the time said that there were 30 to 40.000 people present. This numbers were immediately refused by the republican press that said that there were “hundreds” of people present. I’m quoting this from the actual papers…. The number 100.000 was never mentioned.

    As for the “miracle” the non-catholic sources – present at the site as the “miracle occurred – said they saw nothing special. They said the whether was somewhat cloudy and the sun were obscured and sometimes shined trough the clouds and hypothesed that this shine/cloud effect might be the basis for the mass delusion which was completely overblown by the catholic press.

    Another curious fact: one of the things that contributed to the exponential growth of the sanctuary was the bombing of the little shrine that was constructed there and was use by the few pilgrims… This bombing attack was attributed (and not denied) at the time to atheist/anarchist forces. After that bombing the bishop and local priest issued a call to protect the shrine from the forces of evil. This echoed throughout the catholic press and pulpit and boosted immensely the popularity of the site attracting all kinds of donations to rebuild the shrine paving the way to the build of the first church there.

    As I said before I’m from Portugal and I’m reading this stuff in actual copies of the newspapers and documents from the time…

  62. wholething says

    In Mark 8:23-25, Jesus spits in a blind man’s eyes and asks if he can see. The man replies that the people look like trees. If he never saw people or trees before, how would he know that he wasn’t seeing trees that looked like people? So Jesus rubbed the spit in his eyes again and the guy was saying, “OK, OK I can see! Just stop rubbing spit in my eyes.” So they put it down as a miracle.

    Then there’s the one where everybody was so wasted at the wedding Jesus was able to pass water off as wine. Everyone said, “Tell him it’s the best wine you’ve ever had or he’ll rub spit in your eyes.

  63. sonorus says

    Many comments:

    1) I don’t believe that people can’t actually tell the difference between socialization and indoctrination. I suppose they are related but it’s like not being able to tell the difference between having a boyfriend and having a stalker. Tracie unfortunately got roped into a debate with someone who just wanted to be a jerk. Been there.

    2) Yes, George is indoctrinating the children he teaches. If the worst of it was the Fatima “miracle” I wouldn’t be bothered but since he’s probably Catholic and we all know what kinds of needless guilt and shame (telling children it’s a sin to masturbate, for example) and you only have to ask any lapsed or ex-Catholic about that experience for many examples. You can tell he’s fully indoctrinated by his use of a term (Miracle of the Sun) that he just assumed everyone would have heard of by that name. I would never have known what he was talking about even though I’ve heard of Fatima. This is typical of people who exist in a closed community where they hardly ever discuss anything like this except with people similarly indoctrinated. Where I live I find it among fundamentalist Christians but it is something that can plague any group that is excessively insular.

    3) The radiation guy…oy. No idea what he’s talking about but I suspect he doesn’t either. Looks like quotemining to me but it would be good to hear from someone who is an expert in that field.

    4) Genocide is always wrong. Always. The Nazis did horrible things but we didn’t murder their infant children on the assumption that they’d grow up to do the same thing all over again. Looks like we made the right call since that generation is quite old now and they didn’t. It just shows what lengths people who have been indoctrinated will go to rationalize indefensible acts. The Bible is full of them. They mostly ignore them except when acting as apologists. Come to think of it, that’s a good word for them since they have a hell of a lot to apologize for.

  64. sonorus says

    14-15 girls getting adults all in a tizzy over claims of witchcraft and satanic power? Didn’t those people have to read The Crucible in high school?

    Seriously there is a reason they make us read all the literature in school. Didn’t anyone pay attention back then?

    It’s like the time I pointed a stick and shouted “Expecto patronum” and…nothing happened.

  65. says

    As for the numbers of people is very difficult because the catholic newspapers from the time said that there were 30 to 40.000 people present. This numbers were immediately refused by the republican press that said that there were “hundreds” of people present. I’m quoting this from the actual papers…. The number 100.000 was never mentioned.

    As for the “miracle” the non-catholic sources – present at the site as the “miracle occurred – said they saw nothing special. They said the whether was somewhat cloudy and the sun were obscured and sometimes shined trough the clouds and hypothesed that this shine/cloud effect might be the basis for the mass delusion which was completely overblown by the catholic press.

    Another curious fact: one of the things that contributed to the exponential growth of the sanctuary was the bombing of the little shrine that was constructed there and was use by the few pilgrims… This bombing attack was attributed (and not denied) at the time to atheist/anarchist forces. After that bombing the bishop and local priest issued a call to protect the shrine from the forces of evil. This echoed throughout the catholic press and pulpit and boosted immensely the popularity of the site attracting all kinds of donations to rebuild the shrine paving the way to the build of the first church there.

    As I said before I’m from Portugal and I’m reading this stuff in actual copies of the newspapers and documents from the time…

  66. says

    Always wondering–of course. And this is because the trial system is a necessary evil. We can’t verify, and we have to work on probabilities. This is one big thing I dislike about religion. It tries to say that we should form our “believes”–that which we assert at *true*–using this deeply problematic process. The best thing to do when determining your beliefs is to wait for verification–for any truly important decision you’re making. That is why religion plugs in threats and rewards and tries to pressure people into making decisions without sufficient evidence or capacity to verify…”You only have this one life…what if you’re wrong???” It isn’t any different than the used car salesman pushing the contract at you and declaring this price is only going to last through today! And you better act fast! The fact is, you can wait for good evidence for most things you are trying to decided, religious claims included. The pressure only applies if you already accept it as a given.

  67. says

    I should note, sometimes we can verify. But in cases were it’s really a judgment, that’s how religion promotes deciding if its claims are true or not. And it’s a piss poor method anyone should avoid if they can. You are forced to do that sometimes in life–but should never simply opt for it when you don’t need to use it. Going around simply saying “seems reasonable…OK I’ll say that it’s true and base my life on it now…” Is mad.

  68. sonorus says

    My bad. He belongs to the church that is still on the Julian calendar and therefore celebrate all their holidays almost two weeks late. LOL

  69. Lord Narf says

    I’m not so sure it’s required reading, nationwide. I read it and listened to it in high school. Awesome play.

    Anyway, having them make a connection between the two would require rubbing two neurons together and having them engage in thinking, beyond opening up their minds and having the authority pour the dogma in. Not gonna happen, for most of them.

  70. codemonkey says


    I’d suggest Hume’s criteria. Which is more outrageous? Which is harder to believe?

    1- God actually made the sun move, or something. Of a group of ~30,000 people, some saw it move this way, some saw it move in a contradictory way, some didn’t see it move, etc. Only those who were prepped saw something. Those who were not prepped saw nothing.

    2- Or a Catholic priest, a newspaper, and a few people embellished, exaggerated, or outright fabricated tales of ~30,000 seeing a miracle, for their own personal biases and reasons? And/or the people started to behave in well known ways because they were prepped to observe something, and thus they thought they did. I point you to Tracie’s material on how easy and plausible this is.

    Hume’s criteria: For us to even consider believing the miracle as true, you have to demonstrate that it’s more absurd for the miracle to not have happened than for it to have happened. Otherwise we’ll always take the easy, plausible way out. Where I sit, you have not done that. For example, I can cite more than 30,000 people who will attest to the modern day miracles of some modern day Hindu fraudsters. Your evidence is uncompelling. Let us know when you get something better.

    PS: Start with why you actually believe in god, and save these dishonest rhetorical tricks for the garbage.

  71. Lord Narf says

    For example, I can cite more than 30,000 people who will attest to the modern day miracles of some modern day Hindu fraudsters

    You’d cite 30,000 of them? Dude, you must have a lot more time on your hands than I do.

  72. egross says

    For those of you old enough to remember (I was 12 at the time), the community of Exeter New Hampshire, in 1965, claimed that they saw UFOs. They cited credible sources, such as the local Sheriff and other reputable people. When investigated, many who claimed to have seen saucers eventually admitted to seeeing lights, and some others admitted that they heard others shouting but didn’t see them themselves. And the “Incident at Exeter” exploded, and the UFO craze mushroomed. And you have true believers in that stuff.

    Coming from a rational point of view, so long as you begin with “it’s bogus”, then the truth is that their lied (some did), or they saw something that they incorrectly processed, or they got caught up in a mass hysteria and reliable people became unreliable witnesses.

  73. mattmeeks says

    You don’t even have to go to things like UFOs or religion to see that behavior. There are something like over 48 million people claiming to have been at Woodstock (and the number climbs a bit every year, apparently). Never underestimate the “me too” factor in human psychology.

    On an anecdotal note, back in the 80s I worked at a small hotel in Glacier National Park. A favorite pastime of the hotel staff was standing out in the parking lot and pointing up at the mountain, claiming to see a grizzly bear when, in fact, there were no bears in sight. Within minutes, tourists would be claiming to see the “bear” and try to point it out to other people.

  74. DelSolar says

    All this reminds me of some UFO con artists in the Spanish speaking world (I was one of their junkies). They are not so much into the abduction nonsense; rather they present themselves as “contacted” who have received a message from concerned aliens. For them, every mythological trait of the past, every holly book, every mysterious event has an extraterrestrial explanation and is proof of that constant “foreign” intervention in human affairs.
    Of course the Garden of Eden was a lab where these aliens genetically engineered the Homo sapiens, and Satan was the rebellious director of the project. Even the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the world are holograms set up by these diligent visitors. Can you guess what is their explanation for the dancing sun of Fátima?
    Bingo! That day in Cova da Iria what people witnessed was a spaceship with its headlights at full power performing an air show! So the ‘charlatanes’ say.
    What George is trying to do is playing by the rules of reason and logic in order to confirm his unfounded belief. But he fails miserably not only by relying on anecdotal and irreproducible evidence, but also in connecting the event with what he is trying to prove. Even if for the sake of argument we accept that 30,000 people witnessed a sun-like object moving in the sky… What does that have to do with the bearded and jealous god of the bible? Nothing!
    I think the UFO crowd has a better case here in presenting the Fatima sighting as proof of alien visitors. By that standard of ‘proof’ you can also say that the dancing sun of Fatima is proof of the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the orbital Tea Pot. But in all honesty, a confirmed sight of a hovering light in the sky is evidence for … a sight of a hovering light in the sky. Stop there George. You can’t attach additional unsupported conclusions until new data comes up.

  75. Lord Narf says

    Well, some children said it was the Virgin Mary who did it. That’s always been enough for Christians. The loosest connection to their deity confirms it, obviously, since the only alternative is Satan, who causes all other unexplained phenomena.

  76. Wayne says

    re: the miracle of the sun.
    The equivalent of ‘because I said so’ is not a valid scientific argument.
    Hearsay is not a form of empirical evidence.
    History has many examples where the majority was wrong even though there was an established consensus.
    But we are humans and humans are emotional creatures that want all their questions to have assuring answers. Humans do not like ‘I don’t know’.

  77. Wayne says

    When I hear people claiming one word means the same as another, I suggest that person open a dictionary and find out why the 2 words exist separately in the first place.
    I’m a firm believer in encouraging people to learn for themselves rather than rely on someone’s opinionated definition.

  78. Lord Narf says

    Not always a guaranteed issue, given the great deal of redundancy in the English vocabulary, because of the mashing together of several languages. But odds are, there’s going to be significant difference of usage, even in two similar words that were variously taken from the German and the French.

    Of course, in cases like this, in which we have two significantly different words … yeah, there’s a lot of nuance.

  79. Hermes says

    The story is consistent with other pre-science mythic/magical thinking. Think homeopathy; do something that is associated with the ailment and the ailment will be placiated.

    Total BS … and no different from other shaman/priests.

    See James Frazier’s The Golden Bough for many examples.

  80. Oliver. says

    By the way, Fátima is not a Mexican town, it’s convincingly anchored in Portugal.