Recently, a man in Texas woke up on a Sunday morning and decided to wash the family truck. He had been in an accident a few months earlier, and this was the first time he had looked at the truck since then. Once outside he noticed some bird excrement on the truck that he found interesting. He called his family over to look at it. "I told my brothers come over here and see what this is, and they say this is the Virgin," said Salvador Pachuca. Yes, you read that right, the man thought the bird crap looked like the Virgin Mary. Since then people have been coming to look at the bird crap and even pray to it. Again, you read that right. They are praying to the bird crap. You can check out a video about this on ABC news here and a text story on it here (though a search for “virgin mary bird poop” will give you plenty of sources reporting on the same thing).
There are couple of things I want to point out about this. The first has to do with the assertion that this looks like the Virgin Mary. I suppose I could be more specific in pointing out that people think that it looks like the Our Lady of Guadalupe. However, the point I want to make will not be dampened by this. The bird poop does not in any way look like a person, much less the Virgin Mary, whatever she might have looked like (putting aside the historical question of whether or not such a person actually ever existed). Do you follow me here? The bird poop in no way resembles a person. When you look at it you do not see the outline of a body, a face, hands, or anything else that might suggest a person. The only thing you might get out of it is an oval shape with blue and gold in it. That is supposed to be what resembles the Virgin. Just a couple of colors in a vague shape. So we go from some bird excrement that dried in a somewhat oval shape to a painting done in the 16th century that is supposed to be what appeared on the inside of a peasant’s cloak as proof of personage by an apparition of the Mother of God to the Virgin Mary.
I must confess to some level of head-shaking over this.
Funny enough, a comic video was made just a few days before this news story came out that has an atheist finding the message “THERE IS NO GOD” inside a watermelon. You can see the video here. The joke, of course, is that no atheist would actually think such an arrangement was evidence of there, in fact, being no god. Nature, the Universe, the World, or whatever does not communicate these kinds of things. Further, the atheist’s position is not one of faith, so there is nothing to affirm by mysterious messages in fruit (or bird poop).
The other issue I want to address is tied to this idea of faith. Upon hearing of finding a distorted representation of a painting of the Virgin Mary in dried bird excrement, a representation of Jesus’ head on a piece of toast, or words written in fruit, one is inclined to wonder what the purpose of such a representation might be. Believers believe by faith, so the most obvious answer is that this sort of “miracle” is a way for God (or the Mother of God, as the case may be) to demonstrate His power and existence to us. This is certainly the kind of answer I’ve received when I’ve asked those around me what the significance of such imagery is. But does this make any kind of sense? Does the picture of dried bird crap above fulfill such a goal? I don’t see how it does. That is because one has to have faith that the crap is actually a representation of a magic painting of the Virgin. It certainly is not a clear representation of such. In order to buy that this crap is representative of something holy and mystic one must already have faith that such a thing exists, that such a thing wants to show its existence, and that such a thing would use crap to accomplish that goal. But if you already have enough faith that dried crap would suffice as evidence of all the above, then you likely do not need such evidence in the first place. The only reason anyone would think that the above picture of crap in any way signifies the Virgin Mary is if they already believe that the Virgin Mary is hanging around doing things like appearing in bird crap.
The point here is that as a demonstration of power, existence, or anything, the crap above fails completely. It requires that one already have sufficient faith in the thing represented such that there is no need for the demonstration. As for the rest of us who lack such faith, well, the crap is just that: crap.