What do you think of the Zeitoun apparitions?


In Zeitoun Egypt, 1900’s, over a million people saw what appeared to be the Virgin Mary on top of a church. The Egyptian government accepts it as authentic, Coptic Church does, and so does the Catholic Church.

Here are a few photos: link

And, here is some general info about it: link

My question is what do you think this is? Do you think it is a hoax? How did they pull it off? Do you think Our Lady of Fatima is a hoax too?

I would really appreciate any help I can get! Thanks!

Posted: September 5th 2007

SmartLX www

In the 2-3 years it was happening for hours at a time, why didn’t anyone just get a ladder and a lunchbox and stake out the roof? Out of respect? For fear of being pulled away, even lynched, by the faithful crowds?

Let’s look at this like a criminal investigation (not that a crime as such took place). The staff of the church had:

  • Means – The police determined that the images weren’t projected. The most likely explanation is that there were simply objects on the roof itself. The staff could source strong electric lights, light veils, sky-coloured support poles, an actress to move about as Mary, an unscrupulous professional illusionist, you name it.
  • Motive – The apparitions guaranteed the continued existence and popularity of their church for the life of the Orthodox Church itself. You’d better believe it still pulls a crowd.
  • Opportunity – They knew exactly where to hide evidence and what not to show to any investigators, and the rest of the time they had that roof all to themselves. As I said at the start, nobody could go up to look closely during a performance.

Stefan below gives an excellent reason to believe the apparitions were an illusion. Using that hypothesis, I’ve pondered the details and found that I don’t need to assume anything unlikely to make it work. None of this disproves the phenomenon, it just makes it very unlikely to be a miracle.

Posted: November 21st 2007

See all questions answered by SmartLX

Stefan www

'That 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….’

David Hume

So the question is: Is it more likely that somebody faked an appearing Maria in order to pursue his own interests or is it more likely that there actually is a supernatural entity proving her existence?

To me it doesn’t make sense. Either God doesn’t want us to believe because of miracles, then he shouldn’t do any. Or he does want to prove himself. In that case he should perform actual miracles, like moving Mount Everest to a different continent, healing amputees or curing AIDS. Something that we atheists can’t simply discard as a potential fake/misinterpretation/coincidence.

Also, how do you explain contradicting miracles? All major religions report miraculous deeds performed by their deities, yet the teachings of these supposedly all-knowing beings conflict with each other.

There are some other contradictions that come up if you believe in miracles, but let’s look at the other explanation for comparison:

Someone faked the Maria appearance in Zaitoun and fooled witnesses, just like millions of tourists are fooled every year by Las Vegas magicians.

So, which explanation is less of a stretch?

Posted: September 8th 2007

See all questions answered by Stefan

flagellant www

I do not, in general, bother with this sort of nonsense. My major reference for Mariology – Marina Warner’s book Alone of all her sex: the myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: Random House, 1986) – doesn’t mention Zeitoun at all, although it deals with many other ‘vision’ stories. This would not seem to count in this particular phenomenon’s favour. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, especially when the posters have a non-neutral agenda.

There are things which are alleged to have happened that didn’t and there are things that happen that can’t be explained at the time. If you want to know how it was done, assuming it actually happened, you should ask magicians/illusionists like James Randi or Derren Brown but see also the story below.

I, personally, witnessed something strange a few years ago. This is a slightly edited version of how I wrote about it very soon afterwards:

Glenelg, the seaside suburb of Adelaide, had a scare in December 2003: a mystery illness broke out in a cinema there. Was this a terrorist attack, perhaps? Fire crews searched for the source and ambulances were called to attend to many members of the audience afflicted with technicolour yawning.

The film was obviously of great appeal to patriotic audiences: Aussie actor Russell Crowe featured in the first screening of the seafaring epic 'Master & Commander’. Just the sort of event to attract terrorists, one might suppose. Several patients were whisked off to hospital for treatment. Only then was it realised that they were suffering from seasickness. Apparently, the rough-sea sequences in the film are all too realistic.

The Glenelg incident is an example of something mysterious for which there later emerges a perfectly rational explanation.

I do not accept that there are such things as miracles. People who believe nonsense of the Zeitoun sort will find that it’s the sort of thing they believe in (sic), to misquote from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

Posted: September 8th 2007

See all questions answered by flagellant


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