-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The World Trade Center cross was discovered in the debris of the collapsed buildings by construction worker Frank Silecchia who declared “it’s an act of God.” The cross was removed from the debris pile, erected on a concrete pedestal, and placed nearby in a prominent position during the years of reconstruction. During the removal, Fr. Brian Jordan, a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, blessed the cross with holy water. In june, 2002, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking cleric, and New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan participated in a ceremony at the cross.

Jordan wants the cross to be part of the WTC memorial because most of the victims were Christian and the plurality of those were Catholic, and most of the rescue workers were Catholic.

The efforts of the Catholic Church to promote a random piece of debris to a Catholic icon is a stroke of advertising genius. The media coverage of Jordan’s blessing and the Vatican ceremony is worth millions in free publicity. However, the efforts to include the cross as part of the memorial have failed. The cross will be displayed to a far smaller audience in the museum.

Jordan has been quoted saying the WTC cross “… stands as our symbol of hope, our symbol of faith, our symbol of healing.” The ability of the human mind to associate natural occurrences with familiar objects is called pareidolia. A naturally occurring debris cross, with its simple shape, would not be unexpected. As a matter of fact, several of these debris crosses were found in the rubble.

If the debris cross was a natural occurrence, then its elevation to the level of a Christian icon is a pure fabrication of man, and the motives behind the elevation must be considered. Icons have long played a tangible role in religions whose gods are hidden from our senses. Icons simply highlight the problem of divine hiddenness.

If the debris cross was a supernatural occurrence, then God has the ability to control the physical forces necessary to create and place the cross in the debris field. Therefore, God also had the ability to prevent the 9/11 attacks, and chose not to do so. This leads to questions regarding the presence of evil, which has long posed a problem for Christian apologists, and still does.

At the base of the cross is a plaque saying the cross is “a sign of comfort for all.” It is a sign of discomfort to those who value rationality.

H/T: Pharyngula, Snopes, Snopes, Gotham Gazette, American Atheists, James Croft, The Guardian, 9/11 Memorial.

38 thoughts on “Pareidolia”

  1. I happily prefer tolerating the foibles of Christianity to the idiotic ramblings of know-it-all bigots.

  2. At the base of the cross is a plaque saying the cross is “a sign of comfort for all.” It is a sign of discomfort to those who value rationality.

    I disagree with you about ‘rationality”. For those who us who have a religious belief and conviction, many will tell you they have a rational basis for that belief. However, the cross is not a ‘sign of comdort for all” but only for christians. I am so tired of this effort to make christianity the defacto faith.

  3. “The way out of it, IMO, is to question all of it, with all the common sense, wit, analysis, and experience we can muster for ourselves.”

    This is the primary American value. Directive, even. The willingness to set aside what came before because it no longer works — or worse, can be shown to be damaging — is the true measure of character, reflecting our ability to adapt, and adapt well. When we stop asking questions, we halt.

    There exists zero sacred atoms in the local universe.

  4. “Jordan wants the cross to be part of the WTC memorial because most of the victims were Christian and the plurality of those were Catholic, and most of the rescue workers were Catholic.”

    People see what they want to see. No doubt had anyone been looking for them there would have been clumps of twisted and battered girders or other debris that did look like a Star of David or a Crescent and Star-like appendage, Vishnu, and I suspect the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Also, I think there was plenty of debris that resembled the classic shape of a ‘dog-bone’, a long central member and stubby cross-members on both ends. One of those would have been a fitting tribute to the canine rescue dogs that have given their lives due to their searching through the debris. Where is their dog-bone debris memorial? Why is no one speaking for the heroic doggies? Oh, the humanity!

    Yes, IMO the controversy is just that silly.

    OS, not only is there a Jesus Toaster but there is a Virgin Mary and an Obama Toaster! All are available on Amazon (but their link sends my posting to moderation). Here is a link that also sells the incomparable peace symbol toaster, pot leaf toaster, dog paw toaster and custom toasters as well as the Jesus and Mary toasters. 🙂

  5. Nal: “Not true.”

    “Absence of Evidence is a condition in which no valid conclusion can be inferred from the mere absence of detection, normally due to doubt in the detection method. Evidence of absence is the successful variation: a conclusion that relies on specific knowledge in conjunction with negative detection to deduce the absence of something. An example of evidence of absence is checking your pockets for spare change and finding nothing but being confident that the search would have found it if it was there.”

    “This proposition is outside the field of possible experience, and therefore beyond the limits of all human insight.”

  6. AY-

    You must be thinking of the aluminum statue of the “Spirit of Justice”, the bare-breasted Art Deco female embodiment of justice. It stood on view in the auditorium of the Department of Justice until it was hidden behind an $8,000 blue curtain during the reign of the hymn-singing Attorney General John Ashcroft. Of course, we all remember the embarrassing incident when AG Ashcroft was discovered apparently fondling the bare aluminum breast. It was later revealed that prankster George W. Bush had told the AG that the breast could be unscrewed by turning it counter-clockwise and that it was filled with M&Ms.

  7. , “…i.e. equating atheism with rationality and religion with irrationality…”

    It isn’t framing. those are facts. I didn’t equate the pairings, the indesputable facts of their definitions do that. Faith is the antithesis of logic and rational thought. It is, therefore irrational and illogical. It does not require and in fact often resists reason (as in the example of the cross-shaped girders found in the rubble of the WTC buildings) and operates aside from, often blissfully devoid of and in opposition to facts. It cannot be compared to logic, reason or a factual analysis of the question. Theists’ attempts to redefine or dislodge the pairings is a disingeuous and futile effort to bring illogical irrational faith to parity with reason. The fact is that saying it doesn’t make it a fact. The above pairings are facts.

    Until shown facts to support theism, there is simply no good reason to deliberately engage in that fantasy. We teach our young kids about God, Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny and then make them disbelieve all but one of those fantasies. With all the options human history has offered for gods to believe in, when theists figure out the logic of why they rejected all the others, they’ll understand why I reject that last one as well.

  8. Apropos of Henman, Greenwald in Salon has an excellent argument on why the Ron Paul candidacy is important, and it leads to other similar, interesting articles by Matt Stoller and Conor Friedersdorf with an interesting tweet by Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

    Each of these articles takes on directly the newsletters and explains the important failure represented by the newsletters as well as discussing how we’re being fooled by the focus on the newsletters and why.

  9. Bob,Esq.,

    Dog-gone it, Bob. If we’re going to have a really meaningful discussion on religion and man and use the edification brought to the subject by persons like Kant … why must it be on New Year’s Eve when I have so damn much work to do?!!

    The proper proportioning of happiness to virtue for all moral agents taken with the perjury example Kant used thus trying to lead a moral life and finding oneself faced with a dilemma in which the practical use of reason produces a contradiction in the object of willing … damn good stuff!! And I have no time!

    (And then, then we have the self-serving corruption that is the mark of radical evil explained in the light of organized religion … )

    I swear, that Nal has more than just a bit of the devil in him! 😉

    Happy New Year, darlin’ and I must get back to the kitchen.

  10. rcampbell,

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. By framing the argument in terms of definition, i.e. equating atheism with rationality and religion with irrationality, all you’ve done is attempt to dodge the point Kant was making regarding the limits of pure reason.

    Loosely translated: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Not to mention the fact that you’ve resorted to quite a few informal fallacies in your argument as well; e.g. false dichotomy, appeal to ignorance, etc.

  11. “…as reason is incompetent to arrive at affirmative assertions in this field, it is equally unable, indeed even less able, to establish any negative conclusion in regard to these questions.”

    Why is reason ” incompetent to arrive at affirmative….(or)…any negative conclusion in regard this question?” Why further would reason be considered “even less able”? Those seem quite self-serving statements for believers to try to frame the conversation but they lack any justification.

    It is by applying the simplest of test of reason and thereby completely reasonable for us to conclude that unless and until concrete evidence of the affirmative is provided, it is undeniably unreasonable, illogical and without any imperical basis to arrive at the affirmative. Therefore the negative is the only possible reasoned and reasonable conclusion.

    The concept of faith by definition is anethema to fact, reason or logic. Faith defies and ignores logic and reason. That by itself doesn’t make faith a bad thing, but it should not be given consideration on the same level as reason. Faith is far more akin to fantasy or whimsy or desire or wishfulness. These are all fine ways to occasionally spend time and mental energy, but cannot be considered on a par with fact, reason or atheism.

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