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600+ years of fakery: the Shroud of Turin


By MarieAlena Castle
Communications Director, Atheists For Human Rights

Face on the Shroud
Is This the Face of Jesus?

Of course not, and the Pope knows it, and so do the media. But every year as Easter approaches, the "Shroud of Turin" is trotted out in news stories speculating about whether the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus.

The usual format of these seasonal articles is to report on some religionist's unshakable conviction that the Shroud is genuine. Then the matter of carbon dating is mentioned, which dates the cloth to the Middle Ages. Then this evidence is brought into question by religious spokespersons who suggest that smoke from a fire had damaged the cloth and skewed the carbon dating results.

With essentially only one side of the issue presented, readers are led to believe the Shroud may be authentic. The Vatican is always careful not to assert authenticity but not to deny it either.

Readers of this annually rehashed propaganda would be better served if the media told the truth about the Shroud, which is this (and it is only part of the evidence against the Shroud):


There is much more scientific evidence, all of it fully supporting the medieval origin of the Shroud as an artistic creation. Interested persons should refer to the book, Looking for a Miracle, by Joe Nickell. One of the things they will find is a negative photograph showing the face on the Shroud — an exact duplicate created by Nickell as an experimental rubbing image from a bas relief. Making a fake Shroud was no problem for a medieval artist. It was part of long artistic tradition of creating such simulations.

The media are not ignorant of these facts. It may be they are taking their cue from the Pope and don't want to appear to be calling him a liar.

For example, on June 26, 1998, the Minneapolis Star tribune, in its "Q & A on the news" section, responded to a reader's question as to whether any miracles had been attributed to the Shroud. The paper described several miracles that were claimed but not verified. It reported that after the Shroud was saved from a 1997 fire, the Pope said, "A miracle. A holy icon venerated by so many over the centuries has again been saved from the flames."

Nowhere did the Pope acknowledge the testimony of two of his own church's bishops — who were there when the Shroud first appeared — that it is fake "attested by the artist who had painted it." They were honest bishops, intent on seeing that the faithful were not defrauded. If only the Pope could be as honest.

And if only the media could be as honest. Of the vast amount of evidence against authenticity, they usually focus on the carbon dating, then undercut this by saying that only "some" experts consider the results accurate. The media do not point out that the experts on the side of accuracy are fully experienced, unbiased forensic scientists while whose who doubt the accuracy are church affiliated people with a theological position to uphold and little or no expertise in forensic investigation.

Meanwhile, the Vatican regularly puts this "holy icon" on display, careful not to claim too much for it but equally careful not to discourage veneration. Religious people, eager for some shred of physical evidence to support their otherwise unfounded faith, see that they want to see and believe what they want to believe.