Have you heard about the conservative Christians who are encouraging Christians to celebrate “JesusWeen” instead of Halloween? It may sound like it is a parody, but it isn’t.

What one has to understand in order to begin to make sense of this is that there are Christians who view negatively any event or holiday that is not focused on Jesus, and who actually believe in demons and the sorts of creatures that one might find people dressed as on Halloween.

A good example of this can be found in a recent post at Reflections from the Other Side, about how young-earth creationist Henry Morris tried to account for craters on the moon. Here’s what Morris wrote in his book The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth:

[T]he possibility is at least open that the fractures and scars on the moon and Mars, the shattered remnants of an erstwhile planet that became the asteroids, the peculiar rings of Saturn, the meteorite swarms, and other such features that somehow seem alien to a “very good” universe as God must have created it may have been acquired later. Perhaps they reflect some kind of heavenly catastrophe associated either with Satan’s primeval rebellion or his continuing battle against Michael and his angels.

The worldview of such Christian fundamentalists is scarier than any costume worn on October 31st, and results in more harm to the reputation of Christianity than the celebration of Halloween ever could.

Jim West shares a spoof of this proposed new holiday that Jimmy Kimmel made, featuring several JesusWeeners.

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As for myself, I’m still hoping to find time to visit Goodwill and gather what I need to dress like the Doctor from Dr. Who. Which Doctor should I dress as, though?

The whole notion of a Christian version of Halloween made me think of the various depictions one can find around the internet of Jesus as a zombie. Here’s one example:

Presumably the appropriate Christian response to that is to depict Jesus as a slayer of zombies, and perhaps wear a costume along those lines…

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  • Peter Kirk

    James, I think this post demonstrates the great gulf which is fixed between your variety of the Christian faith and the evangelical one. All evangelicals (at least all who really believe in the authority of Scripture) believe in the existence of good and evil spiritual beings, as the Bible clearly teaches about them. This is not just a view of fringe fundamentalists. Those who have taken on board the Enlightenment materialist worldview reject every possibility of activity beyond what can currently be explained by science, and that includes miracles as well as spiritual beings. As a result they have been forced to reinvent a so-called Christian faith quite different from the biblical and historical one, which is generally deistic rather than theistic. These people then ridicule the orthodox Christian faith and worldview as you do in this post. Not surprisingly in the light of such ridicule many evangelicals downplay or keep quiet about their belief in spiritual beings. But ask them straight questions and you will find they do believe this.

    It is sad that a religion professor like you doesn’t understand this worldview and its prevalence, even if you don’t accept it for yourself.I am not saying this to support JesusWeen, which seems a bit ridiculous. But I agree with the basic sentiment behind it, that Halloween is dangerous because it encourages people to get involved with evil spiritual beings, who they don’t understand but who are very real and dangerous. But, praise God, for those of us who are true Christians God is more powerful and protects us from these spiritual dangers.

    • Anonymous

      “reject every possibility of activity beyond what can currently be explained by science,”

      Rubbish, whether something can be explained by science is utterly irrelevant. What is relevant is that it must be an observable phenomenon. Unfortunately, neither demons, angels, gods, spirits, and fairies, nor their supposed effects are observable. If you can point to some particular effect they have, we could maybe take those claims seriously.

      “and that includes miracles as well as spiritual beings”

      Such as? The problem is not that science rejects the possibility of things it can’t explain, its that so-called miracles are so simple to explain, and highly reproducible by non-miraculous means.

      • Peter Kirk

        ID, I might be able to describe to you effects of spiritual beings which are observable, but not repeatable under laboratory conditions. But I don’t think that would be relevant to this comment thread.

  • James F. McGrath

    Hi Peter. I actually understand this worldview well, and used to hold it. My reasons for no longer doing so are multiple, but the main one is that, just as there is no longer a need for me to bring God into the picture to explain why winds blow where they do, so too I do not find that when one considers phenomena as diverse as mental and physical illness or natural disasters, I do not need to posit these various supernatural entities in order to make sense of them. 

    I think the relative silence of Evangelicals is telling: when someone affirms belief in something when pressed, but on a day to day level it never comes up nor seems to matter what is believed about that subject, in what sense can it really be said that such a person really believes that thing, as opposed to clinging to it as a tenet of faith merely because they have been told that they ought to?

    • Anonymous

      James then, are you arguing for nominalism? We are a “Christian nation”, not in a defined way, but a cultural way. Christianity is a meme in America?

    • Anonymous

      James then, are you arguing for nominalism? We are a “Christian nation”, not in a defined way, but a cultural way. Christianity is a meme in America?

  • Peter Kirk

    Thank you, James. I understand your worldview too as that is what I was brought up in, and sometimes I struggle to accept things which don’t correspond to it. But I have seen enough evidence of things which cannot be explained by science that I have to reject Enlightenment materialism.

    But perhaps you are right about most evangelicals. Many are what Jack Deere has called Bible deists, accepting in principle that God intervened in the world in Bible times but not believing that he intervenes at all in our time. I suppose such people would believe that spiritual beings do exist, as they appear in the Bible, but that they too are not active in our world today and perhaps have been withdrawn to heaven or hell.

    • Anonymous

      Peter you must be wanting someone to “bite” on this reply. Are you suggesting that “faith” SHOULD be seen as a reality in one’s life? and not just a meme of American values? I think that is dangerous, because you are asking for radicalization. We don’t need radicalizaton in our world today! Radicalizing faith claims breeds irrational actions, which can be dangerous to others. Society needs the stability of rational people acting in rational ways that support “law and order”.

      • Peter Kirk

        Angie, I am not looking to discuss these matters here as they are off topic. But if I were, I would be more interested in finding out what is true, not just what just might be more expedient in our world today.

        Anyway we are not going to save the world by denying the experiences of those who seem to act irrationally. Rather we need to understand those experiences and use them as our starting point for winning them to the way of peace and stability.

  • Anonymous

    “What”?? Just because one can’t explain something, doesn’t mean one runs to explain it by the ‘God of the gaps”!!! And when science comes to explain that phenomena at a latter date, we redefine “God”.

    Either God exists or he doesn’t, and we can’t know one way or another, because we live in “the world”.

    Understanding the workings of the natural sciences or investigating other disciplines shouldn’t be seen as a challenge to faith, whether one believes or not. If God exists, then he created it to work according to the principles found within the disciplines . If God doesn’t exist, then the world will still works on the principles that are found in the disciplines. So either way, what one believes about “God” is irrelavant to the debate about what is, and/or what should be. And even those that are part of a certain discipine, will disagree about theories on how things should be seen, understood or fixed.

    • Peter Kirk

      Angie, I am not proposing any God of the gaps idea. My faith is not challenged by any scientific investigation. But I do think there are things out there which are in principle outside the scope of science but nevertheless real. Quite apart from spiritual beings, I might point to qualities like love and faithfulness, which cannot be explained by chemistry.

      • Anonymous

        actually, I just listened to a TED speech by a scientist who’d studied the effects of “love” on the brain”. There does seem to be a chemical componant to physical attraction, and the feeling of “love”.

        As to faithfulness, that is a by-product of what one values. Humans in free societies are allowed diverse opinions and commitments as to their values.

      • Anonymous

        “qualities like love and faithfulness, which cannot be explained by chemistry.”

        Odd choice of a specific science there where you’ve been general previously. But why do you think they cannot be explained by chemistry? We certainly know the biological basis of emotion. We know a good deal of the evolutionary basis of love and faithfulness. We have excellent anthropological understanding of the cultural basis of bonding patterns. In that sociology supervenes on biology which supervenes on chemistry, we do have good chemical explanations for those phenomenon. Even to the extent there are still questions, they aren’t over whether the remaining answers are in principle knowable scientifically, or whether they are produced by chemical processes.

        “science can’t explain love” is one of those inventions like “you’ve never seen your brain, how do you know you have one?” that doesn’t hold water.

        When I’ve actually talked to folks who’ve made the claim with some thought, usually what they mean is that qualia are non-scientific. Which is only partially true, but is untrue in the way the anti-science argument would need it to be.

        “I might be able to describe to you effects of spiritual beings which are observable, but not repeatable under laboratory conditions”

        It doesn’t need to be ‘repeatable under laboratory conditions’ – that isn’t how it works. Its much simpler: take two or more explanations for something – consider each and figure out the consequences of those explanations, because all explanations have consequences. And then you find a point where we can all agree those consequences differ, and we go and check which was right. That explanation wins that skirmish. Then repeat until one explanation dominates its competitors. You don’t need to have demons turn up to the laboratory, and perform to order, we just need to be able to figure out where the demon-explanation would differ from the psychology-explanation, and we can go check.

        We don’t even need to know mechanisms, we just need to find something, anything, where demons, angels, spirits, gods or fairies have an effect on the world that isn’t indistinguishable from common or garden psychology, biology, or chemistry.

        “But I don’t think that would be relevant to this comment thread.”

        That’s a little convenient. Its a pity it never is. Because it means folks like me who want to get into this, and really get to the bottom of the argument, have no other resort than drive by comment-sniping (which is hardly a great credit to us). Because whenever we do try to engage on the issue, the other position seems to not want to go there.

        • Anonymous

          You don’t have to falsify a hypothesis to make a scientific claim?

          • Anonymous

            Well you’re always trying to decide between more than one hypothesis. In some particular cases, the “null hypothesis” is the alternative. So to the extent you are judging between competing hypotheses, you demonstrate one to be false (or at least, less likely than the alternative).

            “Falsification” has a particular meaning in the philosophy of science which is somewhat different to just saying it is false

        • Anonymous

          Or are you talking about the effects of “belief” or “faith claims”?

          • Anonymous

            and don’t belief or faith claims have to do with human conscousness, not spiritual beings>

            • Anonymous

              I’m sorry, if you’re responding to me, I’ve no idea what point you’re trying to make. Not trying to be snarky, I’ve just read your comments several times, and I’ve no idea. Can you say it again in another way? :)

  • JimII

    Edward Gibbons describes the life of early Christians in the Roman Empire as an “anxious diligence which was required to guard the chastity of the Gospel from the infectious breath of idolatry.”  The JesusWeen movement seems to be similarly inspired by fear, but curiously without the threat of a extermination.  Weird.

    • Anonymous

      JimII, In their miinds there IS a real enemy and he is UNSEEN and is named “Satan”! So any one that is charismatic whether truly believing or not, can produce a followership by promoting such fear tactics!!!

      • Anonymous

        And Satan influences eveything that is not “approved” by the appropriate authorities!!!

  • Just Sayin’

    Which Doctor?  I think you are definitely a Sylvester McCoy!

  • James F. McGrath

    Indeed, he would be the most natural Doctor for someone of my height. 

    To go from Colin Baker’s height to Sylvester McCoy’s really must have been frustrating for the Doctor… even though the change brought some improvement to his fashion sense.

  • David Coulter

    I was thinking McCoy too, actually.

  • Anonymous

    Human consciousness, just is. Therefore, what one believes is what will form behavior, regarding ourselves and others! And such beliefs are really about social conditioning, about what opinion one should hold about oneself, the world, and others.

    Alturism or compassion is innate and affected by environment. Those children raised without a nuturing mother tend toward a judgmental view of life. Those children that are innately endowed with a personality that lends itself to making judgments, or living with perceptions will be affected by such parenting. But how?

    • Anonymous

      and even with a particular tendency there are liberal and consrvative bias that also affect one’s “hermeneutic”!
      of life, value and all that is.

  • Anonymous

    When one talks about natural scence, then one has to falsify a theory for it to be considered a good theory. Since “God” or “human consciousness” cannot be falsified, then, it is not a good theory for scienctific claims.

    One can talk about probabilities, or possibilities, but why? if everything can possibly be understood within a scientific paradigm, and we can come to understand “the human” better, then why would we consider religious claims?

    I thought that you were arguing for human consciousness, as to miracles or experiencing some transcendental reality. Drugs can just as easily mimic the transcendent, as they affect the brain’s normal functioning.

    Those that are considered mentally ill do not understand or “see” reality the same way that others do. Chemical imbalances are corrected through medication and counselling.

    • Anonymous

      Gotya, no I was arguing the opposite. 

      God *may* be falsifiable – certainly most of the claims of believers for their God are falsifiable. In fact many have been exposed to empirical verification, and so far they’ve failed. If, for example, you claim that God heals those who pray in faith for healing, that would be in-principal falsifiable. If you say that being born again gives you an inner peace unattainable otherwise, that again is falsifiable. If one says that through the Holy Spirit one is given new gifts, that is falsifiable.

      If God isn’t falsifiable, then its the same as admitting that God has no effect on the cosmos, which most Christians don’t want to claim.

      Human consciousness is certainly falsifiable. There’s often a little shimmy here, where definitions of things are so vague, that they are unfalsifiable. But certainly, for just about any property of consciousness we can give, we can make it amenable to empirical enquiry. We can circumscribe (for some definition of consciousness) what kinds of human have it (sleeping?, comatose?, dead?, unborn?), for example.

      Its fashionable to claim that large swathes of stuff are not amenable to science. But it is quite difficult to think of actual things. Except, as I said in a previous comment, qualia.

      • Anonymous

        Interesting topic, qualia. I’ll have to research it more…. 

  • Anonymous

    Our personal experiences are just that, personal. So how can we know some thing in itself as Kant would argue?

    The experience of “love” is built on trust that the other no matter how different is committed to your best interest, but considers your desires, without presuming or projecting some “absolute” upon you. But, we remain individuals.

    What you might suggest is intersubjectivity where the “community” experiences “God”, or some other type of consciousness. This is human emotion gone “wild” because of a belief in “community”. In such a state many things happen that are on a subconscious level, which might be percieved as “spiritual beings”.

    The human spirit, what ever that “is”, (memory and personality) is sensitized to certain stimuli due to predispositions, and presuppositions.

    • Anonymous

      AND, isn’t memory and personality just experience and reason in a more personal guise?

  • admiralmattbar

    Of course Jesus would kill zombies–and vampires (!

    Whenever I consider dressing up as The Doctor I always go with good ol’ Tom Baker.  The kids in my youth group had no idea why I only gave them jelly babies (which are absolutely disgusting) that year.

  • Peter Kirk

    ID, you make some interesting points. Angie, you do too. But I still don’t want to debate them here. If you want to debate elsewhere, you can do so on my blog. Start with this post and comment on it. Then we can take the discussion from there. Or write your own blog post somewhere and post a link here. Anyway I would prefer to debate with someone a bit less anonymous.

  • Peter Kirk

    In the light of the admiral’s comment and the section The zombie argument in the Wikipedia article on qualia, I can’t help wondering if some atheists are in fact (philosophical) zombies, with no genuine feelings, which explains why Jesus will “kill” them in the sense of sending them to eternal destruction. 😉

  • James F. McGrath

    Peter, why don’t you want to let the conversation continue here, where it started?

  • James F. McGrath

    Peter, why don’t you want to let the conversation continue here, where it started?

    • Peter Kirk

      James, basically because I don’t want to take up a lot of space on your blog, in comments which are only peripherally related to the subject of the post. But if you are OK with that I will continue, although not at great length.

  • Anonymous

    What is you definition of philosophy?

  • James F. McGrath

    I don’t see this as off-topic – the discussion is obviously not strictly about JesusWeen at the moment, but it results directly from some things I actually wrote in my post. So please feel free to carry on. Never feel the need to cut a discussion short – if I think comments are really getting off topic, I promise to let you know!

    • Peter Kirk

      To be honest, James, I think it is a bit of a waste of time debating atheists, as idmillington appears to be. But I have put together some new thoughts prompted by this post which also help to explain where I am coming from on this. The title, a deliberate attention catcher of course, is Are atheists zombies?

      • Anonymous

        Peter what would you be debating about? Some philosophical position that is ungrounded in reality? Would you use “post modern” means to “save God” from the atheist, when in reality the Church has stolen philosophy to protect their theological project? Today’s natural philosophers or physicists have also used what is learned in the natural sciences to “promote” theology to “save the Church”! So, is the futility of debating an atheist really about reality, that the Church wants authority in and over? The atheist understands that authority is for the indivdual person, not claims of authoritarian dominance.

      • Anonymous

        Authoritarian dominance isn’t just about Church, but also about God. Humans have been made with brains, should we not use them? Or is the use of reason really a resistance to faith claims, because faith is “beyond reason”? Is this the Zombie type person you are talking about> Those that use reason, instead of experience to judge life and all that is?

      • Anonymous

        Its been a while since I’ve been accused of being mentally or spiritually deficient in some way as a non-believer.

        Of course, like most non-believers I have been on the other side. I’ve spoken with the tongues of angels, been baptised in the Holy Spirit, heard the voice of God, been lifted up in worship, etc etc. So unless virtually all Christians are also so devoid, I’d submit that this can be trivially discounted.

        “I think it is a bit of a waste of time debating atheists” – why? It is never a waste of time to actually have an open and in-depth discussion is it? As long as both sides allow anything to be in-bounds for it.

        “Our personal experiences are just that, personal. So how can we know some thing in itself as Kant would argue?”

        Well, everything, but everything comes to us via a personal experience. Your perception of any reality is equally subjective.

        But  I suspect you don’t really want to take subjectivism very seriously, other than its obvious use in waving away scientific claims. At least not if you are serious about the reality of the existence of a god or spirits beyond your own head.

        At some point, we all want to make claims about what is and isn’t, in some sense beyond just the quality of our experiences. Even if those things are in someone else’s head (like a spouse’s love for us, for example). One cannot experience consciousness from another’s perspective, but one can certainly determine that they are conscious, and determine what kinds of experience they are having. 

        As I said, qualia-based arguments are rather counter-productive theologically. Unless one is willing to say that God is all in the mind. Which, of course, I’d be happy to agree. And, which incidentally, is not a pejorative judgement. Christian non-realism is non-trivial theology, and one which (in my opinion) is considerably more honest about the quality and boundaries of the Christian experience.

        • Peter Kirk

          ID, there is nothing “Of course” about it. I was completely unaware that you are a former believer. My blog post was about those who had never been true Christian believers. Your own situation is different, so please don’t take offence. But I simply cannot understand how someone who has once been a genuine believer in the way you claim can become an atheist.

          I am not sure who was promoting subjectivism here, but it was not me. Arguments about qualia may have some relevance, but I would never want to claim that God or spiritual beings are in this realm.

          • Anonymous

            Peter, “genuine believers” has to have qualifications/standards upon which you base your judgment. And what would those be?

            Because Protestantism is SO diverse, there is no Standard, except what one’s denomination or independent Church establishes as “the check points” to/for genuine faith! (I’m sure you know this)

            Catholicism has “grown up” or developed from a Jewish sect, which some believe was gnostic in origin. And Judiasm is “a question” in and of itself. All religions grew up as man’s attempt to understand, as this is man’s nature to discover and understand.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Peter – btw, comments have very little human nuance, so please don’t feel like there is offence meant or taken in this thread. I’m genuinely more interested in having good conversations. 

            “But I simply cannot understand how someone who has once been a genuine believer in the way you claim can become an atheist.” I guess that’s why talking and discussion is important.

            “I am not sure who was promoting subjectivism here” – I was responding to the issue, now probably lost back in the thread, that emotional phenomena like love or faithfulness are immune to science, which I thought you’d justified by saying they were inherently subjective (i.e. “personal experiences”). Just making the point that even when something is a personal experience, it can still be amenable to empiricism, unless one wants to adopt a rather distasteful extreme on subjectivism (which I was assuming neither of us would).

        • Anonymous

          I was arguing for subjectivity, not for “God”‘s purposes, but for man’s. This is whe “God” exists within minds, as it is a projection of “self”, when “self” hasn’t been owned up to!

           I think it is delusion, because it is really a way to project what one has been taught, or what one wants to control or understand (in the world or another person) or what one wants to believe (for personal/emotional reasons). Therefore, “God” is about an individual’s cultural/familial upbringing, personal values and interests, and personal opinion about himself and others.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, I take you at “your word”, James.

    Faith in our context has to be nominal in the public sense because of the implications of public policy for everyone. Our public policy is not run on “faith” but on rationale, and reasonable explainations about “how the world works” and what best will benefit society in the long run.

    Those that are concerned for our nation in regards to “faith claims” or the reality of faith, because of the corrupt or immoral influences in our society need to believe in a revival, as John Wesley taught. Then, “hearts” will be strangely warmed. Heads are what we need in the public forum!

    The reason I argue against radicalized faith, is what we are seeing in our public square today! Two Mormons are running for office but are suspect because they don’t have the “right kind of faith”, theologically! Yet, many Presidents in our past have had diverse backgrounds that were not ‘orthodox’ in their day! We as a nation, affirm free thinking, as it is the basis of the creative and experimental sciences that brought about our innovative spirit! The culture wars are tearing the fabric of our society where people are at war and tribes become more tightly knit in defining their “in group”!!! This is dangerous for the nation, itself, and lends itself to a “crack-down” against faith claims altogether for the “sake of the nation”!

  • Anonymous

    The personal side to this discussion in my case is that “Halloween” was viewed as a pagan holiday, just as your post claims, therefore, the Church was to “Christianize history”!!!! That meant that the Church uses philosophy to promote a “worldview” that is supernatural, or “God sanctioned”! The natural world, or “what is”, in regards to knowledge or life, is seen as a threat to the “supernatural revelation” that is in the BOOK! Unfortunately, such a view is VERY limiting to many aspects of life and all that is!!

    One can “hold to faith” as a nominalist, and accept what the Academy affirms. This view embraces life, not segments it into “sacred/holy and worldly/pagan”!

  • Dave Burke

    @ Peter Kirk, I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in evil spiritual beings. That sounds suspiciously like polytheism to me. Halloween is just a corny cultural tradition, with no more threat to Christians than Mother’s Day.

  • Peter Kirk

    Dave, as a Christian I suppose you follow the teachings of Jesus. So how do you understand his clear teaching on spiritual beings, and practice of casting out demons?

    Angie, I agree that there is an issue about who is a genuine Christian, but I would say the deciding point is not denomination or doctrine but having a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.

    ID, I’m glad we have continued the discussion about former believers on my blog.

  • James F. McGrath

    @789c41354d57d6d37a7837a5ba883ec4:disqus , we could also talk about Paul’s “clear teaching” that the locus of thinking in human beings is the heart. But so-called Biblical literalists don’t, because they know they can’t win that battle, and people are so used to using “heart” as a metaphor that it is unlikely to ever occur to them that people in Paul’s time meant it literally.