Vital Signs

Materialist Dogmatism

We all know that religious believers are fools who will tell themselves anything to prop up their preconceived notions, while atheists are hard-headed rationalists who look the evidence in the face and follow the Truth no matter the cost.  Still, one’s faith in this common narrative of the chattering classes is shaken from time to time.  Consider the case of Matthew Parris, a columnist for the London Times who demonstrates the fact that some allegedly rational people are every bit as bull-headedly resistant to the blandishments of empirical evidence as the most hermetically closed-minded geocentrist or six-day creationist.

Parris, a self-described unbeliever, is much exercised over the healing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre of Parkinson’s disease, which is currently under investigation by the Catholic Church.  According to CNN, the 46-year-old nun “was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2001.  Her symptoms worsened with time: Driving became practically impossible, she had difficulty walking, and her left arm hung limply at her side.”  Then she prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II:

Her cure came on the night of June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the pontiff’s death, she said.  In her room after evening prayers, she said an inner voice urged her to take up her pen and write.  She did, and was surprised to see that her handwriting—which...

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