Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Turin Shroud - does it matter?

Oh yes it is!

Oh no it isn't!

Oh yes it is!

The pantomime surrounding the Turin Shroud continues with the news that the image can only have been produced by a blast of intense short-wave light. Something that only modern equipment could achieve. No fifteenth-century faker could have done it.

So it's real?

The answer is, and probably always will be, maybe.

Nobody has tested the actual image on the real shroud. The Vatican will not allow it and is never likely to. Not because 'they are scared' but because they consider it a holy relic and don't want scientists poking holes in it. So it has now been proven that no ancient faker could have made the image using short-wave light, but maybe that's not how it was made. It could be made that way but that doesn't prove it was.

There was an attempt to carbon-date the shroud using a little bit of cloth from one corner. Unfortunately the shroud was fire-damaged at some point in its history (there are burn marks still) and was repaired with less ancient cloth. So the carbon-date can't be considered reliable.

At the moment, nobody knows the how, where, when or who of this artefact. It is entirely possible that nobody ever will. I don't think it matters anyway.

Let's suppose that someone finds definite proof that the image was of an actual crucified corpse, that it dates from around 35 AD, and that there is no known explanation for the image that would fit with any technique known to have been available at that time. Would that prove that it is the image of Christ?


It would only prove that it was the image of someone crucified at roughly the time Christ was said to have been crucified. The Romans were big on crucifixion. Every Saturday night they hit the town, drank wine, ate bread, impregnated women and crucified some random men. So even if we knew the time, the place and date, that still leaves hundreds, possibly thousands of victims who could be the one imprinted on that sheet.

Remember, if we don't know how it was done, the possibility remains that some grieving relatives used a technique that is lost now, and that the image isn't Christ at all but someone who once called Caesar a bad name.

It can never be proved that the image on the shroud is Christ. Never. It has also not been proven that it is not Christ and while that might be possible, it might never be achieved.

Some people believe it is definitely Christ. Some believe it is definitely not. I doubt a single one of those people would change their opinions even if some scientist spent his whole life on it. It's a religious icon. It really doesn't matter if it's real or not, all that matters is whether the religious find it affects their faith.

To me, its existence is irrelevant. I am not going to spend time proving or debunking it because it just doesn't matter. It should not matter to atheists, although some like to target it as if by proving that it's just a bedsheet once used by a painter who never bothered to wash, they will somehow bring down the whole of Christianity. Debunking the Turin shroud would have no effect on Christianity. Many Christians don't believe it's real either.

Prove or disprove, it will not affect Christianity and it will not affect the atheists. Therefore, I should conclude that any study is a waste of time. Shouldn't I?

No study, of anything at all, is ever a waste of time. If the Turin shroud interested me I would study it but I would neither be trying to support nor debunk Christianity. I would do it for my own interest, my own satisfaction.

It's really no different to my own work. I study ghosts to satisfy my curiosity. I don't care whether any sceptic is ever swayed by what I find. Let them rage and rant that I'm wasting my time. It's my time, and that's the point. I choose to use it to investigate something that interests me.

That's why I read about research into the Turin shroud, Bigfoot and all the rest. I am interested in the research and am impressed by the tenacity and methods of many of those involved. They might find proof that they consider satisfied their curiosity and maybe I won't believe them. Maybe I will look at their photos and think 'I could photoshop that'. Many people could, these days. It's getting appallingly easy.

I hope they think as I do, that finding the proof to their own satisfaction is all it is about.

Because, really, that is all it is about.

The sceptics will never be swayed. Some people just don't want their comfort zone invaded. Leave them alone, let them live as they wish and believe as they wish.

In the end, it won't matter.

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