I want to talk a little about Mary Jo Coady today. Now, for those of you who don’t hear the same news reports I do, this woman claims to have recently had a religious experience. She and her two daughters claim that the image of Jesus has appeared amidst brown burn residue on an iron and that the image actually spoke to her, telling her that he is listening and that everything is going to be alright. Hallelujah and praise the Lord, right? Right?
Heh, you guys know me too well. Would it surprise anyone to learn that Coady recently got divorced from her husband and lost her job? Can you imagine her there despairing about the future and then noticing a burn on an iron that’s shaped kind of like the traditional image of Jesus and hearing her own wishes and hopes coming from it’s mouth. Doesn’t that make more sense? Well it really should do especially as no-one really knows what Jesus looked like these days. The traditional image of Jesus that I’ve seen all over the place is a white guy with long hair and a beard. That’s also a rather vague description of me yet no-one listens when I tell them they’ll be alright. One thing that most of the traditional images of Jesus don’t look like is a Jewish man in his early thirties, which is how he would have realistically looked. There’s a lot of politics and anti-semetic feeling that went into deciding which books would comprise the New Testament of the Bible out of the hundreds of gospels that were available, and this political manipulation is also one of the reasons that traditional images of Jesus are shown more as European looking guys than the Israeli looking man he actually was. As such it’s obvious that this wasn’t a literal manifestation of Jesus that Mary Jo saw, rather the product of her own mind. This woman isn’t alone in her delusion though. Countless people around the world have claimed to see religious icons in burned foods, cookware and irons (burns seem to be a common factor here and it makes me wonder why no-one has ever thought that Lucifer was taking an interest in them rather than Jesus) as well as mouldy fruit and other things. While all these people claim that they recognise Jesus or the Virgin Mary the fact remains that no-one knows what those people actually looked like when they were alive, therefore all they’re recognising is part of the traditional representations that were part of a single artistic tradition undertaken by the Roman Catholic church at some point in history.
Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up, please stand up, please stand up
This is actually a well known psychological condition, that we all suffer from in some form or other, called Pareidolia. The condition basically lets us see significant images in random patterns, and is exacerbated during times of high emotion. If you’ve ever thought a cloud is shaped like something else or can see a picture in the grain of wood (my toilet door has a particularly disturbing face in it) then it’s actually a manifestation of this condition. Humans are inquisitive creatures and we look for meaning all around us so this condition shouldn’t be a surprise to people, nor should the fact that devoutly religious people tend to see religious icons or personal affirmations of their faith. I think it’s a good thing.
You didn’t expect that did you? I who have stood against the hypocrisies of organised religion for so long, who has been branded a heathen by so many religions, who counts himself as more spiritual than any of them can hope to be due to my own open-mindedness to other answers. I have an old philosophy that I adhere to – “Whatever gets you through the night eh?” We have enough hardships in our lives so why can’t we let ourselves indulge these harmless fantasies once in a while if it makes us happy? As long as we’re not hurting anyone with our beliefs or fantasies then we should be able to believe what we want to believe, whether that’s Jesus on an iron or George Burns watching over our lives from his cigar smoking, whiskey drinking image in the clouds.