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The Reason Sightings Of Jesus Can Be False

By Andrea Davidson
Many sightings of Jesus have occurred in the last few years. Many people claimed to have seen his face in objects such as a frying pan, peanut butter and the bark of a tree. Some say this proves that Jesus is all present but others say that these sightings are fraudulent.

One explanation could be that the person sees Jesus’ face because of pareidolia. Pareidolia is about perceiving patterns from apparently random information, especially faces in inanimate objects. The human brain is excellent at recognising faces but the downside is that we sometimes see a face where there isn’t one. Since pattern recognition can be influenced by a person’s ideology, it makes sense that a religious believer might perceive Jesus in random objects such as a cup of coffee.

One of the most famous examples of religious sightings being connected to pareidolia, is The Shroud Of Turin. It’s a piece of linen which contains the face of a man who may have been made to suffer in a crucifixion. The image dates back to the Medieval era and is exhibited in Turin Cathedral.

There has always been debate about The Shroud Of Turin’s authenticity. For example, many say that the brown stains on the cloth are in fact blood marks which correlate to someone who has been crucified. However, after substantial forensic tests, these stains were found to be red paint.

There have been many other instances of the influence of pareidolia. In Limerick there is a church which has a tree stump. Many people think the stump contains an image of the Virgin Mary with a child. People flock to the site every year to pray. In 2009, some people in Donegal claim to have seen crosses forming in the sky over a statue, causing it to cry.

Pareidolia can help to create visions about all sorts of subjects and not just religion. It can cause people to see Unidentified Flying Objects as well as Elvis Presley. The Loch Ness Monster is another famous example. People claim to have seen it but what they actually saw was a shadow hovering over the water.

There have been many explanations for the causes of pareidolia. One of the strongest was offered by the American cosmologist, Carl Sagan. He said that the human propensity for seeing faces is an important tool for survival. In poor weather or whenever our view is impaired in some way, pareidolia helps us to determine whether someone approaching us is a friend or a foe. The problem is that we do make mistakes and sometimes we see faces where there isn’t one.

Pareidolia can affect not only sightings of Jesus but artistic experiences as well. An artist can splatter paint all over a wall randomly and yet the viewer might perceive in it a landscape or a mountain. Some artists put hidden imagery into their work in order to affect the viewer subliminally. Some people say there have even been hidden messages in the lyrics of popular music.

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