Last week I read the following blog post, http://creationbydesign.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/marian-apparitions-akita-and-the-disaster-in-japan/, which led me down a path I had not expected. It wasn’t the blog posting itself that caused the distraction, but the first comment on the post. The comment contains the following sentences.
I would ask the people of Japan to look at the history of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped and what happened. The one building that was saved was a church where the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was practised daily. The fire separated as it rushed towards the church and those priests were the only survivors for miles around.
This triggered alarm bells in my mind. I am no stranger to miraculous stories and have encountered many over the years, but this was one I had not heard. I am usually very suspicious of stories like this and need more than someone else’s word before I will believe.
The miracle that never was
Being curious I did some internet searching and discovered enough for me to doubt the story. Specifically, no evidence for a church having been spared blast of the bomb. Some churches did remain standing, but none was undamaged. In fact there were quite a few buildings that still stood, in a very damaged state, after the bomb, though the majority were flattened.
I replied with my accuracy concerns and a brief explanation as to why.
The blog owner came back with a reply that included more details on the Hiroshima miracle story and some other stuff that I don’t accurately remember. The further details are widely repeated around the internet, interestingly, mostly on catholic websites and forums, and are pasted below.
At 2:45 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber took off from the island of Tinian to drop the first atomic bomb on Japan. At 8:15 a.m. the bomb exploded eight city blocks from the Jesuit Church of Our Lady’s Assumption in Hiroshima. Half a million people were annihilated. However, the church and eight Jesuit fathers stationed there survived (four of the priests were Fathers Hugo Lassalle, Kleinsorge, Cieslik and Schiffer. According to the experts they “ought to be dead,” being within a one-mile radius of the explosion.
With this extra information I went about doing more research, because now I felt like I’d been challenged.
There were some key facts that I was able to determine quite quickly.
- The population of Hiroshima at the time was less than half a million and about 25% of them died as a result of the bomb
- One of the priests suffered severe radiation sickness and was unwell for the rest of his life, despite this he still managed to survive for 30 years after the bomb.
- There may have been only four priests, not eight.
- The church and the attached residence were both significantly damaged in the blast, though they did not collapse.
- The priests concerned were not the only survivors at that proximity to the blast.
Dramatic stories like this live and die on their specifics, so they had better be correct. In this case they are not and its ill advised to accept them unquestioningly.
I wrote a long reply to the blog (which will be repeated at the end of this post) detailing what I had found and why I questioned the accuracy of the story.
The response from the blog author is best described as a rant than a reasoned reply. At least one of my points was misrepresented and I was called a god hating atheist for daring to doubt a miracle.
Before I could compose a response, the blog owners reply was deleted, along with my long post and his previous reply to that. My original posting was edited down to significantly and a new reply was up which is an acknowledgement that the story is questionable.
Which brings me to the issue of blogger integrity. I consider it very bad form to edit down replies to your blog without making it clear what you have done and why. In this case its clear to me that its to save the blogger in question from looking a tad foolish. My answer to that is, take care not to paint yourself as a fool in the first place. Far better to leave your mistakes visible for all to see and post a retraction. That shows true integrity.
Editing down and deleting posts while a discussion is still in progress is poor, very poor, and to me that loses the person concerned many credibility points.
My refutation post that got deleted follows…
Some facts that I have been able to gather about Hiroshima.
The 1945 population of Hiroshima as less than half a million. The link in my earlier post puts the number at 255,000. This BBC page puts the number at 350,000 http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/6/newsid_3602000/3602189.stm as does this page http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/hiroshima.htm.
Several other sources put the number between 300,000 and 400,000. All of this brings significant doubt on the accuracy of this statement from your reply to me.
“Half a million people were annihilated.”
When you look for numbers perished, both in the blast and subsequently due to illness, the number ranges between 70,000 and 140,000. Most people survived. The claim of half a million people being annihilated is now no longer questionable, but demonstrably wrong.
The paragraph that you quote that contains the half a million claim is repeated in many places across the internet with very little supporting documentation. One such location is this one: http://www.hovensd.com/pdfs/Bulletins/Bulletin%20-%2011-21-10.pdf which lists four priest names Fathers Hugo Lassalle, Kleinsorge, Cieslik and Schiffer. These four names come up many times, but the names of all 8 survivors never.
The second paragraph that you quote appears to come from this source http://www.blessedmotherschildren.com/9/category/hiroshima/1.html. It says four resident priests not the eight that is widely reported elsewhere. What is also interesting is that the protection of the rosary is ascribed solely to a single priest, Fr. Schiffer, rather than everyone. Also, the amazement of the doctors at his well-being is ascribed to the immediate days following and not to years later, as reported on other websites that repeat the story. So here we have two specifics that are repeated across the internet that do not match the testimony of one of those involved.
This page http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/13833.html, specifically says that Father Kleinsorge suffered from illness in the days after the bomb, so yes he survived, like the majority did, but it didn’t escape unscathed, he suffered radiation effects too, like the majority of those who survived. He would suffer the effects of that radiation for the rest of his life, http://pketko.com/Hiroshima/survivors.htm#Father Wilhelm.
This page, http://facultyfp.salisbury.edu/tfrobinson/An%20Account%20of%20Hiroshima.htm, by a Father John A. Siemes, says that the house was damaged, with all doors and windows blown out and some structural damage. This contradicts your claim of no damage.
You’d have thought that if there truly was a house that escaped damage completely, that there would have been photographic evidence of it wouldn’t you? After all there is photographic evidence of the vast range of damage, both from the ground and the air. How did a house that supposedly escaped damage, when everything around it was allegedly destroyed, also escape being photographed? I suggest its far more likely that the house was indeed damaged but that the structure didn’t fully collapse and that it wasn’t unique in that. There is photographic evidence of buildings that did not fully collapse, but all buildings also lack their doors, windows and many their roofs too. A building that survived undamaged would stick out in all that destruction, especially one so close to the blast, and would most certainly have been photographed and further documented, yet that evidence does not exist, why is that?
You state that’s its not highly possible that anyone could survive close to the blast. This page, http://www.atomicarchive.com/Maps/HiroshimaMap.shtml, shows a small map of Hiroshima and lists some numbers of people killed and injured. What is very interesting is the numbers listed for the one kilometre zone.
Population: 31,200, killed: 26,700 (86%), Injured: 3,000 (10%)
This page repeats those numbers, http://www.hiroshima-remembered.com/maps/HiroshimaMap.html.
Assuming those numbers are accurate, that’s over 1000 people survived uninjured from the one kilometre zone.
My scientism on such a story, is that in order for me to believe such an incredible thing could happen, there should be further evidence outside of the initial claim. That evidence either does not exist or differs from the accounts given above. For me this is enough to call into serious question the existence of the claimed miracle.
Lastly, I urge you to read the following page with a genuinely open mind, it is written by someone who has put more effort than I have into checking the facts of this story http://www.lazyboysreststop.com/mary25.htm.
- Did anybody survive the Hiroshima’s atomic bomb (wiki.answers.com)