A couple of weeks ago I decided to give my blog a “decent” and “humble” title. So I chose to call it “Mass delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking”. An appropriate and proper title IMOHO. How can anyone dislike such a title?
Talking of mass delusions – have you heard of a site called Dictionary of Hallucinations? For details, see http://hallucinations.enacademic.com/ .
Hallucinations are the mother of many (mass) delusions. A very famous example of mass delusions (or mass hallucinations or mass hysteria) is the Miracle of the Dancing Sun at Fatima on October 13th, 1917. The dancing sun at Fatima that day was seen by around 70,000 people, most of them pious God (and Virgin Mary) believers.
Was it a divine miracle? Yes, of course! But only if you’re a true Bible believer. (Why not have a closer look at the True Believer Syndrome, click this link, http://skepdic.com/truebeliever.html .
BTW, here’s a Q&A post/article from QUORA about the dancing sun at Fatima, http://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-scientific-explanation-for-the-Miracle-of-the-Sun . My own answer to that question (stated in the link text) is the same as Travis Bauer’s, i.e. “It didn’t happen. […] Hasn’t it ever struck you as odd that these things always happen in extremely poor, uneducated areas where people are extremely religious and widely illiterate?”
Even the RCC is skeptical. In another answer to the asked question about the miracle at Fatima you can read: “The Official Vatican line on visions is skepticism. You’re right to be cautious. That’s the attitude of the Church, which knows that, historically, most purported apparitions — whether of Mary, Jesus, an angel, or one of the saints — have been spurious.”
My own favorite (neuro)scientific answer goes like this: It’s all about mass hysteria, mass delusion and/or mass hallucination.
So let’s have a look at what the Dictionary of Hallucinations says about that explanation:
EPIDEMIC HALLUCINATION: Also known as popular hallucination and mass hallucinosis. All three terms are used to denote a hallucination shared by a relatively large number of people, who typically believe the content of the hallucination in question to be “veridical or at least “coincidental in nature.
The French alienist Alexandre Jacques François Brierre de Boismont (1797–1881) gives the following examples, derived from the workof the French chronicler and physician Rigord (c.1150 – c.1209): “On the day Saladin entered the Holy City, says Rigord, the monks of Argenteuil saw the moon descend from heaven upon earth, and then re–ascend to heaven.
In many churches the crucifixes and images of the saints shed tears of blood in the presence of the faithful…
These examples, which we have selected from many others related by the same writer, clearly prove that hallucinations may affect a number of persons at the same time, without there being any reason to accuse them of insanity.”
In biomedicine the mediation of epidemic hallucinations is associated primarily with phenomena such as mass hysteria and mass hypnosis.
Paranormal and religious explanations for the working mechanism of epidemic hallucinations typically range from telepathy to divine intervention.
The German hallucinations researcher Edmund Parish (1861-1916) distinguishes the epidemic hallucination from the collective hallucination, reserving the latter term for a type of hallucination in which a limited number of people are under the impression that they share a common hallucinatory percept.