I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for pareidolia, that phenomenon wherein people see things that aren’t there because human brains are wired for pattern recognition. As a child (and even as an adult), I loved lazily looking up at the clouds and envisioning animals, objects, and people in the clouds. That’s why very early on in the history of this blog I started posting about pareidolia, starting with an appearance of the Virgin Mary in Chicago under a freeway underpass for the Kennedy Expressway near where I used to live in the late 1990s, with my most recent installment having been a vision of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus in a Lava Lamp.
Thanks to revere, however, I now have access to a retrospective of the best Christian pareidolia stories in the news for 2008. Man, oh, man, I never knew Jesus and Mary showed up in so many places in just one year:
I bow before the face of so much pareidolia goodness. I do, however, disagree with revere when he says, “But their stations keep shoveling it out. Because really stupid shit is OK if it’s in the name of religion.” Actually, “really stupid shit” is OK as long as news producers perceive it as being interesting to their audience–in other words, as entertaining–and thus likely to improve ratiings, hence the continued proliferation of stories about ghosts, alleged sitings of Bigfoot, and, as I had some fun with about a year ago, even orbs.
Pareidolia stories are perceived as fun, and TV news only uses such nonsense with a
Christian basis because the pervasiveness of Judeo-Christian religion in our culture makes such images always among the most common ones that people are likely to impose on various objects and among the ones their viewers would be most interested in hearing about. If the U.S. were a completely atheist nation, people would see something else in potato chips, Lava Lamps, pieces of wood, dirty windows, and various other objects.
But what, I wonder? Richard Dawkins? Charles Darwin?