Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and the fundamentalist inability to distinguish fantasy from reality

While the rest of us gather 'round every October 31 for parties, dressing up, taking the kids (if you got 'em) trick-or-treating, and watching scary movies on DVD till all hours, it's easy to forget that there is an entire segment of the populace — Christian fundamentalists — who go out of their way to avoid Halloween altogether on the grounds that it really scares them. Scares them because they think Satan and demons are really real, and that the guy with the pitchfork and his wicked minions actually walk the earth on this fell night.

A recent article on points out:

Out of 2,000 Christians surveyed, an overwhelming 66% believed that all Christians should avoid the celebration of Halloween all together. One poller said, "Halloween is evil. It glorifies the Devil!" Others made references to the original roots of the holiday, "Halloween was a Pagan festival and still is. If we participate in it, what are we teaching our children?"

This last quote is particularly funny, because as anyone should know, Christmas and Easter were originally pagan holidays too. Christianity didn't exactly introduce any new holidays into the calendar. It merely co-opted those that were already there.

As for the question of what they may be teaching their children (and I pity those children), the best guess I can make is that they're teaching them that their family are a bunch of killjoy weirdos who make them stay home while all their friends get to go out, play dress-up, grab loads of free candy, and have a good time.

Here's the Good News, folks: demons and monsters don't exist. The kinds of ooga-booga creatures of the night we all have fun dressing up as on Halloween have always been mere externalizations of humanity's inner demons, those neuroses to which we affix labels and faces, to detach ourselves from them and make them easier to deal with. Zombies take humanity's innate fear of death and make it ridiculous by representing it in the form of pathetic, shambling flesh-eating automatons who are easily dispatched with a shot to the head. Ghosts represent people's belief in (and desperate need for) an afterlife, and though their presense is usually in a scary context, most often, they're simply trying to reach out to us, to let us know, hey, don't be scared, there's life beyond the grave, it's not all going to end.

Understanding why our cultures come up with such boogeymen in the first place is a helpful way of loosening up and understanding that, on Halloween, we are all getting together to thumb our noses at our fears — death and what may or may not lie beyond — and, in turn, celebrate life more gratifyingly.

But this understanding is lost on those poor saps indoctrinated into fearmongering belief systems that take all of those helpful metaphors and literalize them, until one is so deluded one sees "reality" where sensible people see the smoke and mirrors and wirework. Only this can explain why offers its readers, with a completely straight face, a "Free Demons Quiz," to "help educate Christians on the topic of demons..." Seriously.

Oh well, while all you fundies are out there girding yourselves for the final battle against Satan's demonic minions, I'll be over at the punch bowl. Do give me a sitrep now and then, won't you?


  1. Sadly, my parents were the sort of people who felt Halloween was bad, and I missed out on a fun bit of childhood. Happily, at the age of 31, I recently carved my first Jack-O-Lantern!

  2. My parents were lucky and let me go get candy... but all the fun stuff like pumpkins and stuff I didn't get. Oh well, anywho nice blog. I'm new to the neighbourhood of blogs. Check mine out and let me know what you think.

  3. I know this post is late-coming, but I added a post about Halloween to one of my blogs.

    I admit that it's fun to scare people by telling them that my children will be dressing as something sinister. Fun at others' expense never gets old.

    Forgive my rudeness, but I just finished a debate on a message board and have been viciously attacked by the rudest fundies I have ever come across in my life. I didn't know that Jesus could cry for me. Learn something new everyday!


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