Monday, April 16, 2012

"The Woman Who Wasn't There"

I watch the "Investigation Discovery" channel quite a bit and they've been advertising a documentary called "The Woman Who Wasn't There." (link to Variety review)  It's the story of Tania Head, who claimed to survive the Twin Towers' collapse on 9/11.  She kept up the lie for several years and became a leader amongst 9/11 survivors until she was busted by the New York Times.  Online we call these people trolls.  In the psychology literature they're victims of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, or "factitious" disorder, i.e. big fat liars.The commercial is awesome.  A deep, booming voice says: "She made it. all. up."

I recently also saw a rerun of 20/20 about a hoax in which a woman pretends to be her abused adopted son.  The "son" wrote a book that was very inspirational, and the debunking inspired an HBO movie and an episode of Law & Order.  Apparently there have been other instances like this.

Snopes has linked this case to that of "Kaycee Nicole."  (they need to update this article!)  There have probably been many more of these.  The motive seems to be attention for whoever made it up.  Sometimes there may be money involved.  In the internet cases no actual children have been harmed.  In the 9/11 fake survivor story, the situation is a bit different in that the whole thing is about Tania Head, and her fiancĂ© who perished in one of the towers (a real victim, but who had never actually met her).

Why am I blogging about this?

Well, in the canon of Reasons Why the Bible is Bullshit, we fail to acknowledge the potential for one or more of the founders of Christianity to have been a big fat liar along the lines of these people.  The other reason is that Christians frequently point to the benefits of religion, which presumably would override the falsity of their basis.  Supposedly this 9/11 faker helped other people, so we're supposed to have mixed feelings about her.  Sure, she's a liar, but look at all the good she did!  I can almost hear Christians saying "Okay so you think Jesus wasn't a magical half-god miracle worker, but look at all the good that came from the fairy tale!

Imagine if this woman had managed to convince people that she died at the Twin Towers and was resurrected by a supreme being that was visible in the smoke... or pieces of toast, or whatever.  Imagine if Paul had this disorder.  Or Moses.  Or Mary.  What if Mary had made up these stories?  Nobody would question the motives of a grieving mother, would they?  What if instead of being a schizophrenic suffering from hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, Joseph Smith had simply been a big. fat. liar?  Or L. Ron Hubbard?  (heh, well...)

Somehow we imagine the people of ancient times to be wiser than us, more honest than us, yet more violent than us, and also stupider than us.  We don't consider that they might be pretty much just like us.  Some were liars.  Some were gullible dupes.  Some were vicious.  Some were kind.  Some were skeptical.  (probably)  And some could have invented entire religions out of whole cloth.  If the Christian can resort to "well, it's possible therefore believable" (or even probable), then we should counter with "It's also possible that the people who wrote the Bible made the whole thing up for their own purposes."

Wait.... there were historical events and actual kings mentioned in the Bible!  Yes, and there really was a 9/11 and there really were a few people who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers.  But everything Tanya Head said about her involvement there was totally made up.  Putting a big lie into a truthful framework is a classic technique.  In Gone With The Wind,  we call it "historical fiction."  In Acts of the Apostles we are expected to call it "history."


Mike D said...

You're neglecting the important fact that the Bible was written by God, which proves God exists. I know, I know... I'm amazed too.

Infidel753 said...

Gosh, you mean people might actually go so far as to speak dishonestly when all they could gain by doing so is power, wealth, and prestige? Who would have imagined it!

One need not even venture outside the religious sphere for modern examples. Mormonism is rooted in a pack of flagrantly ludicrous tall tales spun by a convicted con man, Joseph Smith, less than two centuries ago. Yet he won tens of thousand of converts in his lifetime, and today Mormonism has 11 million adherents. If he could do this in a society with fairly widespread education and literacy, what could a con man not get away with in first-century Palestine or seventh-century Arabia?

Chatpilot said...

Nice post LadyA! I have been saying this for years. The bible is nothing more than lot's of fiction with a dash of historical facts.

Just because the bible mentions cities,towns,kings,etc. that actually existed doesn't make the fairy tales woven into the narratives true. Some people have a tough time getting this simple fact. The will to believe is stronger than the desire for truth.

LadyAtheist said...

We trust our parents, our grandparents, and we assume our great-grandparents were trustworthy, so how much more trustworthy would people who are thousands of years older than our grandparents be?

Thanks for the comments, guys!