Rolling My Eyes: The News Cycle of Jesus’ Wife

imageBrook Wilensky-Lanford thinks she understands. She writes about The News Cycle of Jesus’ Wife in the Huffington Post.

The sentence, “Or the Shroud of Turin?”. Does that make sense? The link in the sentence is to a CBS story about de Wesselow’s theory. I often wonder if we need something to replace the question mark for attempts at being rhetorical. Do we also need some way of showing that a link is irrelevant to the point being made?

Substance, anyone?

. . . What I do know is that whenever a scientific discovery having to do with religious texts, sites, or history becomes public, it goes through a a news cycle that’s becoming familiar: giddy excitement, intense skepticism, and cynical acceptance.

Some "scientific" discoveries are counted out by virtue of the unlikeliness of their claims. In 2007 Biblical archaeologist Eric Cline wrote in an editorial: "When most archeologists and biblical scholars hear that someone has (yet again) discovered Noah’s Ark, they roll their eyes and get on with their business." (But the lack of acknowledgement from legitimate archaeology in no way stems the tide of these discoveries and their announcements. Next month there’s another "scientific" account of Noah’s Ark being published.)

But how do I as a non-specialist know when to roll my eyes?

The so-called "Gospel of Jesus’s Wife" is now joining a storied lineup of Jesus-related relics suspected of being fraudulent. Remember the "Jesus Box? It’s still on trial. Or the Shroud of Turin? It’s enough to make one discount anything that turns up as "evidence" of anything religious at all.

No,  how do I as a non-specialist know when to roll my eyes?

Bad Science? Bad Journalism? Religious Hoaxes All?

imageAfter explaining that the film "Innocence of Muslims" may not exist . . .

Despite the outrage it’s not clear that the film actually exists; certainly a trailer for it does, but a trailer isn’t a film. Investigation into the anti-Muslim "film" is ongoing, but as yet there seems to be no evidence that the film exists other than as a deadly hoax. People create hoaxes for many reasons, but when fraud mixes with religious fervor the results can range from the comical to the deadly.

. . . columnist Benjamin Radford discusses A History of Religious Hoaxes | Anti-Muslim Film, Shroud of Turin & Elders of Zion in his column, Bad Science, for LiveScience. He lists seven in addition to the film:

  1. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
  2. The Shroud of Turin and Other Holy Relics
  3. The Cardiff Giant
  4. Indian Guru Sai Baba’s Legerdemain
  5. The Discovery of Noah’s Ark
  6. The Ossuary of James, Brother of Jesus
  7. God Speaks to Peter Popoff Via Short-Wave Radio
    Of the shroud he writes:

Though many believe that Italy’s Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of Jesus, there’s compelling evidence the shroud is in fact a hoax, including a 1389 letter from French Bishop Pierre d’Arcis to Pope Clement stating that a painter confessed to creating it. Indeed, the Bishop’s evidence was so convincing that even Pope Clement acknowledged it as a forgery — one of countless faked religious relics circulating at the time. Carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin revealed it does not date back to the time of Christ but instead 14 centuries later — exactly when the forger confessed to making it. Even more damning for its authenticity, there is no record of its existence before then; if it really is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, it seems suspicious that no one knew anything about it for 1,300 years. Though many remain convinced of its authenticity, the historical and scientific evidence suggest the Shroud of Turin is probably a religious hoax. As researcher Joe Nickell noted in his book "Relics of the Christ" (The University Press of Kentucky, 2007), the shroud on display in Turin is only one of over 40 such Jesus shrouds — all claimed to be the real one. [Who Was Jesus, the Man?]

Radford doesn’t mention “Other Holy Relics” (maybe an editor clipped his article or he forgot to mention them). Benjamin Radford, who is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, really offers nothing more than this one inadequate paragraph of what is both bad history and bad science. 

Davor Aslanovski to attend B.S.T.S. (British Society for the Turin Shroud) Meeting

clip_image001MUST ATTEND BSTS MEETING: Davor Aslanovski (pictured) has signaled, through Meetup, that he will be attending the British Society for the Turin Shroud meeting in Beaconsfield, England on Sunday, October 21, 2012 from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. With Thomas De Wesselow, author of "The Sign", as a featured speaker, this should make for a very interesting meeting.

Too bad South Carolina is so far away.

IDEA: Why not video record the presentations and discussions and put them on YouTube. They would get a lot of attention if promoted in the various Shroud of Turin blogs.

Believers and Atheists Learning from Each Other

imageInteresting piece from Science and  Religion Today, What Believers and Atheists Can Teach Each Other. This is a quotation, imbedded in the piece, by astrophysicist Adam Frank  in NPR’s blog 13.7:

Dig around in most of the world’s great religious traditions and you find people finding their sense of grace by embracing uncertainty rather than trying to bury it in codified dogmas …

Though I am an atheist, some of the wisest people I have met are those whose spiritual lives (some explicitly religious, some not) have forced them to continually confront uncertainty. This daily act has made them patient and forgiving, generous and inclusive. Likewise, the atheists I have met who most embody the ideals of free inquiry seem to best understand the limitations of every perspective, including their own. They encounter the ever shifting ground of their lives with humor, good will and compassion.

Perhaps there are some lessons for shroud authenticists and skeptics.