In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many Christians still believe The shroud of Turin to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. In fact, as it went on display last weekend, it was expected that approximately two million people, including the Pope, were expected to view it hanging in the Turin Cathedral over the next six weeks. During this time, the faithful will fawn, bow, cry, prostrate and cross themselves over it. They will spend obscene amounts of money on air-fare, hotel rooms, tour fees and souvenirs and will formulate stories about being “touched by the divine” which will be relegated to countless congregations the world over. The myth is perpetuated and the media frenzy around this obviously fake relic soothes the flock into forgetting about child abuse for a while. Perfect timing.
The fact that so much time and money has already been wasted on this rag is preposterous. The image that it holds looks suspiciously like every other “picture” of Jesus that you’ll find hanging in churches everywhere, and just because this particular piece of millinery hails from a millennia ago, it does not make it “divine”. It just makes it old. For the shroud to be legitimate there needs to be two things considered. One, that the person of Jesus Christ was actually a real and extant individual. Two, either god choose another paradoxical venue of revelation in addition to the already flawed and inconsistent bible or he made a mistake by allowing Christ’s image to be magically superimposed upon a burial cloth and tried to hide it for the first thousand years or so.
Let’s go with number one, that Jesus Christ was not an historical figure but a mythical one. In fact, messianic Saviors that were surprisingly similar to Christ have existed through many millennia preceding the advent of Christianity. It needs to be thoroughly understood that the driving reason behind the perpetuation of the shroud hoax is the validation of Christianity, itself. It takes amazing feats mental gymnastics that bend logic and reason beyond the borders of sanity to prove that the shroud is the actual burial cloth of a mythical being. This is what it has come down to, because in spite of the billions who believe that Christ walked the earth, no one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus.
There are no artifacts, dwellings, works of carpentry, self-written manuscripts or contemporary extra-biblical documentation that have not been proved either completely fraudulent or later interpolations, as in the example cited from Josephus. The biblical writings are authored by unknown persons who were also not alive while Jesus allegedly walked the earth and there are no Roman documents that record Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. What we end up with is nothing more than hearsay claims of an historical Jesus. As is true in courts of law and with modern scholarship, hearsay automatically renders any accounts of the veracity of Christ as invalid because they provide no reliable or factual evidence.
The belief in mythical beings arise for a variety of reasons, and I have covered in previous entries to this blog a very plausible reason as to why religion continues to be a strong draw to so many people, as well as how and why gods came into being in the first place. The fact remains that a simple scan of the TV Guide will reveal that there are millions of people who believe in a number of other fantasies, as well.
I have had many conversations about the lack of extra-biblical eyewitness accounts to the existence of an historical Jesus. One that stands out was with a highly educated individual. Although he was otherwise lucid, well spoken and learned in a variety of subjects, he was also suffering under the delusion of religious belief. He spit out a very common talking point by asking how I could know that George Washington was real, since there exist no contemporary witnesses or photographs. A foolish argument, especially coming from someone with a post graduate degree. There exists a plethora of verified documentation and historical information from a wide variety of legitimate sources that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that George Washington existed. There are also renderings of his appearance from multiple sources that allow us to know, beyond doubt, what President Washington looked like. We even know the color of his white horse. In comparison, none of the historians who have written about Jesus give reliable sources to eyewitnesses. There sits a vast difference between historical figures and Jesus.
Returning to the actual image on the shroud, millions of people believe that it is the image of Christ simply because, as I have previously stated, it looks suspiciously like every other “picture” of Jesus that you’ll find hanging in churches everywhere. Of course, nowhere in the Bible do we have a description of the human shape of Jesus and it remains an oddity that none of the disciple characters record what he looked like. This is yet another point of reason as to the mythical nature of Christ. In fact, it was hundreds of years after the alleged crucifixion that pictures finally emerged, and these depictions were rendered according to the characteristics of the indigenous.
In the book “Modern Thought”, Moncure D. Conway [1832 – 1907] states:
The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus… The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information — not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.
Christianity depends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend even the most unreliable sources. When something as ambiguous as the shroud comes along, it provides the perfect mix of pseudo-science and mystery to perpetuate the myth because the faithful want to believe in Jesus and the fervor that surrounds these relics cause them to forget that while beliefs can live without evidence, facts depend on evidence. The fact is that there is no proof that Jesus the man ever existed
The shroud is nothing more than the horn of a unicorn.