I had a vision that bullshit would sell very well….and other stories from this Diwali weekend

Local news from this weekend is that between 50 and 100 people continue to visit the Zachey home in Benoni, South Africa, two years after then 18-year-old, Francesca Zachey claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary.

And despite advice that allegedly caused one of her mesmerized followers to be blinded after she obediently gazed into the sun, in an attempt to glimpse the Virgin Mary, Francesca maintains that she is god’s vessel who is changing people’s lives for the better. Not surprisingly, these days, the Zachey home spots a gift shop selling rosaries, prayer books and 120-Rand T-shirts. Perhaps she would have us believe that a rosary and a T-shirt make-over can work wonders for your life.

Maybe Francesca really thinks she had a supernatural vision, but the cynic in me concludes that ultimately, that vision became the realization that bullshit sells, and very well too.

In a non-related incident, Hindus celebrated (or not) Diwali, on Saturday, October 17th  this weekend. Better known as the Festival of Lights, this religious observance happened to fall on the same day as the religious month of Purtassi was ending. Purtassi is apparently observed in obeisance to the planet Saturn (which supposedly represents a trinity of Hindu gods and goddesses), and is marked by abstinence and strict fasting, while Diwali is more joyous and associated with feasting. Cynical Hindus would be inclined to believe that either the gods were playing a cruel joke on them to curb their merry-making, by causing the two religious festivals to clash, or that the Hindu priests who interpret the solar and lunar movements in the heavens, and set dates thereby, had got it a tad wrong. I’m inclined to go with the latter interpretation.

And on this particular Saturday morning which was overcast with intermittent rain, I happened to overhear my friend’s wife who is incidentally a staunch Hindu [rather forced to overhear, as she is inclined to speak rather loudly], mention that it was an unlucky day and Hindus were not permitted to do anything until midday, but all feasting must be postponed until the next day entirely. She backed up her assertion by saying that even the sun was not shining as usual. Evidently, the overcast and rainy nature of the day was merely coincidental. She then went on to proclaim that since  rain was symptomatic of the Diwali festival [not in those exact words], she was thus assured in her conviction that the timing of Diwali was right. Yet again, the seasonal rain at this time of year was merely coincidental. Apparently, she had also forgotten the many years, I can clearly remember when there was not a spot of rain about, during Diwali.

Francesca is representative of many others who apparently have supernatural visions, and the people who flock to them are symptomatic of the intense desire to believe, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. My friend’s wife is also representative of many people from various different religious persuasions who still believe that the stars and the planets somehow influence their lives and destinies.

It’s rather sad that in spite of all the information available so widely and freely, superstition and irrational thinking still plays such a dominant role in the lives of ordinary people. Perhaps that’s the problem; people are quite satisfied to remain ordinary.

2 thoughts on “I had a vision that bullshit would sell very well….and other stories from this Diwali weekend

  1. Doubtless many of these alleged happenings aren’t. But all of them???

    I offer the “event” of October 13th, 1917, for example. Something predicted beforehand in both time and place – and experieneced by over 70, 000 — many as intellectually skeptical as you.

    David in AZ

    PS — Please don’t discriminate! I insist you include a pentagram with your other trash barrel symbols. There are greater numbers of superstitious pagans and santanists in some countres than there are old-line religionistas! : )

  2. Hello David,

    Yes, that famous Fatima vision of 1917 in Portugal, which has variously been reported as being witnessed by anything between 40 000 to 100 000 people.

    Unless you’ve read only the religiously corroborating (apologist) accounts (or evidence), you should know that the eyewitness accounts of the event varied in great detail.

    There have been many (non-religious and scientific) explanations offered, which could just as easily make sense as the religious explanation. Many people however choose to accept the religious explanation. Who can blame them? It fits it neatly with their world-view and it’s less taxing on the old grey matter.

    The explanations vary from optical effects caused by prolonged staring into the sun (not very healthy that) to stratospheric dust that caused the sun to appear the way it did, to a phenomenon known as the “sundog,” to the ridiculous assertion that it was a UFO sighting. So for the 100 000 believers who think they saw the sun tear away from the “heavens and dance around close to earth,” there are 100’s of thousands more who believe any (or all) of the above explanations.

    The interesting thing to note is that the sun could not have possibly moved the way it was described because it would have resulted in the catastrophic destruction of the earth, not to mention the other planets as well.

    There has even been a Benedictine physicist priest who suggested that the event was a natural phenomenon, but that the miracle was that a few kids predicted it. Pretty straight-forward after that…

    David Hume’s comment about miracles should conclude this rebuttal: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

    Oh yes, about that “trash barrel.” The symbols are all of accepted religions. You will agree that most religious people would not consider satanism or paganism to be accepted religions; thus they don’t feature in the drawing. However, to me they might as well be religions for all they’re worth.

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