March 11, 2008

Virgin Mary Burns Out Eyeballs: An Amaculate Conception

Just when you've thought you'd heard it all about religious fanaticism the true-believers go that one step further into absurdity. Witness this tale of "woah" from India, where fifty people so far have burned their eyes by staring into the sun in hopes of seeing a reputed image of the Virgin Mary.

50 people looking for solar image of Mary lose sight

At least 50 people in Kottayam district have reportedly lost their vision after gazing at the sun looking for an image of Virgin Mary.

Though alarmed health authorities have installed a signboard to counter the rumour that a solar image of Virgin Mary appeared to the believers, curious onlookers, including foreign travellers, have been thronging the venue of the ‘miracle’.

Yummy stewed eyeballsSt Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital in Kanjirappally alone has recorded 48 cases of vision loss due to photochemical burns on the retina. “All our patients have similar history and symptoms. The damage is to the macula, the most sensitive part of retina. They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun,” Dr Annamma James Isaac, the hospital’s ophthalmologist, said...

Though people have been flocking to the “blessed land” - hastily christened Rosa Mystica Mountain - for long, the mad rush for the image in the sky began a week ago.

There are quite a few people still seeking the miracle, despite the experiences of their unfortunate predecessors and strict health warnings against gazing at the sun with the naked eye.

“The patients show varying degrees of severity. They are mostly girls in 12-26 age group. Our youngest patient is 12 and the oldest 60. Most of them were looking at the sun between 2 and 4 pm, when UV1 and UV2 rays are harshest,” Dr James Isaac said. He added that they could identify the problem as solar retinopathy because they were aware of the local sensation.

“Most patients may hopefully improve their vision. But there may be long-term effects on the retina,” he added.
What does it take for belief to overwhelm reason to the extent that one goes blind? I'm used to asking that question as a metaphor, but apparently the answer can be very literal.

Hyphal tip to Jeff of Wormtown Taxi for the lead on this story.

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