‘So That All May Believe’

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by Krystian Zawistowski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 5, 2021   

Refuting Fatima skeptics

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In 1917, three shepherd children from Fatima predicted a massive anomaly witnessed by thousands of people. Numerous witnesses reported a multicolored sun dancing in the sky at a given time and place. Many Catholics consider this an obvious miracle, many other people do not. Let us examine it.

To make this short, we look at the article published two days after the miracle in O Século by editor-in-chief Avelino de Almeida. This has numerous advantages:

  • Almeida was an unbeliever and an anticlerical activist. O Século was an organ for Portugal's anticlerical Republican Party — no one involved with the publication had any reason to lie in favor of a miracle or be biased toward it — quite the contrary.
  • The authenticity of eyewitness testimony can be easily verified. It was published immediately after the miracle, and photocopies are easily available today.
  • The article is a professional piece, written on the basis of the author's experience and testimonies of other people he considered "reliable freethinkers, without concerns of religious nature."

We will try to answer arguments from Brian Dunning's article on skeptoid.com. He is strongly convinced that it was not a supernatural event. 


 

Argument 1: It was a natural atmospheric phenomenon like a dust cloud or sun dog or rainbow.

Response: It does not explain how children predicted it with great accuracy. Falsificationism, a strict methodology of natural sciences, states as follows: An unlikely prediction that comes true is strong evidence, post-factum explanation is not evidence at all. This alone supports supernatural explanation. Almeida described it as "the sun trembled, the sun had never-before-seen brusque movements beyond all cosmic laws" — clearly this was a very dramatic, unprecedented event that doesn't fit the cloud or sun dog.

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Pilgrims beholding the Miracle of the Sun

Argument 2: The children had delirium or were making up stories.

Response: Same as 1. Delirium certainly should not predict anything reliably.

Argument 3: Staring at extremely bright light could produce visual mirages which could be falsely taken for a miracle, with some crowd psychology.

Response: Almeida directly denies any such influence: "The star resembles a plate of opaque silver and it is possible to stare at the disc without the most minimal effort. It doesn't burn; it doesn't blind."

Argument 4: A religious crowd was preconditioned to see something; devout Catholics who gave testimonies were extremely biased; Giovanni de Marchi cherry-picked convenient evidence; there are contradicting testimonies.

Response: It is possible De Marchi accounts written a few decades later have flaws. And that's why we look at an article from an atheist newspaper, written immediately after events and easily verifiable. Almeida was a skeptical atheist himself and mentions numerous other scoffing nonbelievers present at the site supporting his testimony.

Fatima is supported by strong evidence according to scientific methodology, and arguments against its validity are seriously flawed.

Argument 5. Photography of the sun taken shows nothing special; photos don't show that large crowd or crowd with umbrellas.

Response: These are absurd. No wonder that static, grayscale photo shows nothing unusual about colorful, moving sun.

Thus, we show the miracle of the sun of Fatima is supported by strong evidence according to scientific methodology, and arguments against its validity are seriously flawed.

Why 'The New Atheists' Are Wrong

Famous author and New Atheist's informal leader Richard Dawkins, in his bestseller God Delusion, writes on Miracle of The Sun:

It is not easy to explain how 70 thousand people could share the same hallucination. But it is even harder to accept that it really happened without the rest of the world, outside Fatima, seeing it too — and not just seeing it, but feeling it as the catastrophic destruction of the solar system, including acceleration forces sufficient to hurl everybody into space.

This contains no slightest bit of effort to scientifically investigate what could have possibly happened there, it is just an absurd straw man easily refuted even by words of Dunning when he writes about the sun dog: "It's also been pointed out that observatories around the world reported nothing unusual that day, so whatever it was had to have been a localized phenomenon."

Image
Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens

Thus Richard Dawkins is wrong. Of course, he is also right on many things, and no wonder that he is. With thousands of religions and denominations that contradict each other, obviously the vast majority of what they say is false, and finding nonsense in it is hardly a surprise.

But when it comes to evaluation of evidence for supernatural faith, it is Dawkins who gets very irrational instead and rather revels in cheap sophistry as we have just shown. This is manifest also with other activists — Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens to name a few. They sometimes attack the Roman Catholic Church for disagreement with their values or for being an alleged den of corruption and moral decline, but what's the point of it? Corrupt doctors wouldn't make you lose faith in penicillin and great witch doctors wouldn't make you believe in bat soup. It is a matter of evidence, so it should be evaluated most carefully. In this case, it is not.

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