Halloween in the Eyes of a Christian and an Atheist

This post is by Jesse Galef

Thanksgiving and Independence Day are real secular holidays; everyone can participate.  I celebrate Christmas as the celebration of the spirit of giving and I celebrate Chanukah as an excuse to eat my Dad’s latkes, but I can understand why other atheists don’t want to celebrate days so closely associated with religious themes.

Halloween is an interesting case though – it seems to be the other way around.  Many religious people seem to take issue with this holiday, while I don’t hear complaints from atheists.  Americans United for Separation of Church and State put out a press release calling attention to a particular article at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network:

Put aside your fears of swine flu. TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Web site has just issued a bulletin warning Americans of the real threat we face this season: Demons may be lurking in our Halloween candy.

In a column on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Web site, writer Kimberly Daniels asserts that “demons” sneak into bags of Halloween candy at grocery stores.

“[M]ost of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches,” Daniels wrote. “I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, urged Robertson and Daniels to lighten up.

“I’ve heard of the devil being in the details, but to think he’s lurking inside a Snickers bar is a little too much,” Lynn quipped. “Pat Robertson has always peddled some scary stuff, but this is over the top.”

You notice there’s a link in their press release.  If you click on it, you’ll notice that the page no longer exists.  I did a cursory search, but couldn’t find an explanation.  However, I did find Google’s cached version of the page and saved it so that I could show you more juicy bits.  You’re welcome.

You may ask, “Doesn’t God have more power than the devil?” Yes, but He has given that power to us. If we do not walk in it, we will become the devil’s prey. Witchcraft works through dirty hearts and wrong spirits.

During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

While the lukewarm and ignorant think of these customs as “just harmless fun,” the vortexes of hell are releasing new assignments against souls. Witches take pride in laughing at the ignorance of natural men (those who ignore the spirit realm).

If you’re interested in hearing more, Barry Lynn is reportedly going to be on  “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” tonight on MSNBC to talk about this issue.

On a serious note, Halloween can be harmless fun – I’ve certainly enjoyed it as such.  As a child, it was an excuse to be a knight or ring wraith and get candy.  As I got older, it was an excuse to drink with my friends.  But it can be more.  Christmas can make us reflect on the capacity for generosity – and greed – in human nature.  Halloween can make us reflect on other aspects of human nature: our penchant for mischief, our fear in the face of the unknown, and our fascination with the forbidden.  And yes, our love of candy.

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lindsay.prior Lindsay

    I laughed when I read that… Demons in my candy is a pretty funny concept. :)

  • Sarah TX.

    We used to watch this video every year in Sunday School, before Halloween, about the dangers of “Satan’s Holiday”.

    Personally, I am waging a war on Christmas, which was a pagan festival long before Jesus came along. We all need a little cheer in the middle of the winter.

  • NeuroLover

    The other day I was informed by a child that Halloween is “the devil’s birthday.” That was a new one on me…

  • Matt D

    ahhh..where does it mention Halloween in the Bible?

    If the devil is at work during these festive periods it isnt in the candy – its the evil marketing guys trying to pry more money out of our wallets.

  • Rest

    Now I know why Halloween candy always tasted extra special. Yummy demons!

  • Valdyr

    Halloween used to be a Celtic religious holiday. It hasn’t been celebrated in that capacity since, what, pre-Roman times? Nowadays it’s something entirely different, with only vague references to the practices of the past (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the “carving scary faces into vegetables” tradition is authentically ancient, but they certainly didn’t use pumpkins or get as elaborate with it as we do).

    My understanding is that the ancient Celts originated what we call Halloween as a harvest festival. Cattle were sacrificed (to the sun and agriculture deities I assume) and the bones burnt in a huge bonfire, from which burning embers were taken to light fires in the hearth of every village home. The villagers would also use facepaint, shouting and possibly costumes in order to raise a ruckus and help scare off evil spirits. (I always find the sheer commonness of this sort of thing across cultures to be really fascinating. Didn’t the pre-Christian Russians and Chinese also have something about banging pots and pans to scare off evil beings? Maybe it’s just my upbringing in the culture of films with great special effects, but my mental image of an “evil spirit” is something a lot more badass than these peoples’, apparently… I mean, they didn’t try to get rid of the chick’s problem in the Exorcist by yelling loudly and trying to startle the demon.)

    The overall goal of the festival was both to ensure that the sun would continue to rise after the coming winter, and to protect the village from harmful spirits during the solstice (or equinox? Whichever. Astronomy fail) period during which it was thought the “barrier” between the human world and the spirit world became weaker.

    Whenever I hear Pat Robertson or someone else railing against witches, I think of all the sweet, liberal wiccans and almost wish there were more of them so that a huge and influential group could raise an uproar whenever he says these dumbass things.

  • Kris

    I really don’t see the problem in celebrating the “Christmas” season. As we all surely know, Christmas is basically a syncretized solstace celebration, the latter being a celebration of rebirth, the new year, and the coming of longer days. I’m not so fond of the baby Jesus stories, and as long as people don’t make the celebration too overtly Christian, it doesn’t bother me at all.

  • http://anthonyrmiller.com/blog Tony

    They are on to our plans for world domination via Twizzlers mini-packs!

    Quick! Put the demons in crackers!

  • http://whoreofalltheearth.blogspot.com Whore of All the Earth

    My husband and I recently “came out” as atheists and a week later got an email from a relative who suggested that we shouldn’t come visit for Christmas since we don’t feel the same way about Jesus Christ as they do. The relative also didn’t know why we would celebrate anyway. But this relative has no problem celebrating Halloween, which originated as a Celtic celebration but was hijacked by the Christian Church, just like, hmm…Christmas!

    Boy, I can’t WAIT to watch Olbermann tonight!

  • Valdyr

    Quick! Put the demons in crackers!

    Don’t be ridiculous, crackers are inviolable. Didn’t you see that other post by Hemant about the delicacies of sharing communion cups during flu season, where some Christian dude said he would never change his behavior because the cracker is holy and will drive out any possibility of disease?

    Now, maybe if we go outside the bounds a bit… Ritz crackers? I don’t think those are made of the right stuff to be JesusLocked(TM).

  • Jerad

    Working link for the whole blog post:

    http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/prophetic-insight/23723-the-danger-of-celebrating-halloween?showall=1

    Tony, I like the way you think! PZ still has a bunch of eucharist. Now we just need to find those witches to curse them and hand out the cursed body of jesus to trick or treaters!

  • Polly

    Duh, of course there are DEMONS in candy, we just call them calories.

  • Polly
  • bill

    while there may be demons in the candy, i will be a demon eating the candy. see the costume idea i stole from jackass here. one difference though: the opposite side of the sign says, “‘Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces’ – God, Malachi 2:3″ damn i love halloween

  • Buffy

    I noticed that the RRRW anti-Haloween crusade began about the time that their “War on Christmas” nonsense did. They spend about two weeks screaming about how evil/demonic/anti-Christian Halloween is. Then as soon as that’s over they spend the next two months whining that they’re so persecuted because some people acknowledge the fact that more than one holiday exists between November 1 and January 1. Ugh.

  • http://1minionsopinion.wordpress.com 1minion

    It’s disturbing to think that this woman is invited to speak at conferences and things, as well. Yeesh.

  • Tony

    hile the lukewarm and ignorant think of these customs as “just harmless fun,” the vortexes of hell are releasing new assignments against souls.

    Of course if these christians were in any way scientifically literate they would know that it is the vortices of hell that were releasing the new assignments.

  • Richard Wade

    I did a cursory search, but couldn’t find an explanation.

    “Cursory.” Nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuk. :D

    You may ask, “Doesn’t God have more power than the devil?” Yes, but He has given that power to us. If we do not walk in it, we will become the devil’s prey.

    I’ve walked in it a few times, but fortunately I was able to scrape it off.

  • cathy

    The jack-o-lantern actually does have a christian myth behind it about some cheap dude who kept tricking the devil into buying him beer and pissed off god by playing around with the devil so he couldn’t go to heaven or hell but got stuck wandering the night with only a burning coal in a turnip for light. It’s supposed to teach you to buy your own beer or something. It changed from turnip to pumpkin in the US because pumpkins are bigger and easier to carve.

  • Gabriel

    Fuck a doodle crazy.

  • http://www.dwasifar.com dwasifar

    The source article at Robertson’s website has been taken down.

    Fortunately, we have Google cache to the rescue!

    http://bit.ly/SyVkj

  • Colin

    Can I get a job dedicating and praying over candy in the name of Satan? I hear the Mars corporation has some openings…

  • MH

    When I was a kid my religious Mom didn’t like Halloween and we only went trick or treating a few times. As an adult I’ve always taken my kids trick or treating and given out treats to the neighborhoods kids as it is harmless fun.

    A neighbor hands out Jack Chick tracts every year. I swing by with the kids to pick one up as they’re a riot. However, she generally annoys the rest of the neighborhood with her behavior.

  • http://redheadedskeptic.com/ Laura

    MH,

    haha, my parents didn’t like Halloween, either, and we handed out tracts for a few years ourselves (though with some candy to make it go down better). We got to be the annoying neighbors! :S

  • MH

    Laura, our neighbor hands out Christian themed candy with her tracts. One year she gave out Testamints which were a hoot. In a odd way I look forward to stopping by because I have no idea what’s coming year to year.

  • http://www.aperfectfool.com Codswallop

    HOLD ON THERE!

    Thanksgiving is a secular holiday? Sure, secular people celebrate it, but only in the way they celebrate Christmas. I mean, exactly who are you supposed to be thanking?

  • http://www.belovedspear.org Beloved Spear

    Well, if we’re keeping to the purpose of the pagan Samhain, I think Halloween is more a time to contemplate your own mortality.

    Not that that’s a fun one for atheists, but it’s worth doing nonetheless.

    Interesting that, as is usually the case in stuff referenced here, we find that the most relevant and pointed criticism of Christian nutjobness comes from other, actually sentient Christians.

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    Reading that article, I couldn’t help but think that somebody has been watching too many “Children of the Corn” movies.

    And making up their own definition of ‘halloween’. Yes, hallowed can be understood as holy or sacred but, in this instance, hallow e’en is simply shorthand for “all hallows evening”…the day before all saint’s day. A construction of the church itself.

  • http://blog.lorner96.com Lorne

    Demons in my candy? I want some. Haha. But seriously I feel sorry for this guy, he needs to get help.

  • mbx24

    [T]he real threat we face this season: Demons may be lurking in our Halloween candy.

    Oh, well. The demons are probably all in the chocolate. I’m a vegan, so I’m probably safe. :D

  • muggle

    Oh, well. I sold my soul to the Devil a long time ago for large quantities of chocolate. Worth it.

  • Razack

    Here’s a link to the chached story, if anyone wants it.

    http://tinyurl.com/hallowscandy

  • http://www.hugogrinebiter.com Hugo Grinebiter

    I live in a European country that has adopted the American Halloween without really understanding it; for example, there is no householder opt-out mechanism, the kids merely beg (as opposed to the indigenous custom of Guisers, who have to sing for their supper), no adults accompany and so forth.

    My own reason for disliking the institution is that the kids who consider themselves entitled to candy are, on the other days of the year, by no means fellow-members with me of a community. They don’t think of themselves and me as fellow-beings either; I’m just this wrinkly who comes and goes from the apartment block. We don’t have a Norman Rockwell-type community any more, if we ever did: what we have is age-cohort apartheid. So what’s to open the door for? I dislike anyone who only recognises my existence when they want something. I think the kids should be encouraged to celebrate among themselves and leave us householders out of it.

    As for religion, the Halloweeners’ notion of the spirit world is so tediously parasitical on Christianity. No, boys and girls, the spirit of Uncle Fred isn’t coming back to give you a scare: there is no Uncle Fred, he never had a soul, he was a process, and the process you used to call Uncle Fred is no longer running. So a dead person is no more to be scared of than a crashed app.

  • http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/ James F. McGrath

    I’ve attempted to offer an Onion-style bit of satire on this theme on my blog: http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2009/10/news-from-future-pat-robertsonn-blamed.html

    I thought you might find it amusing.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Thanksgiving is a secular holiday? Sure, secular people celebrate it, but only in the way they celebrate Christmas. I mean, exactly who are you supposed to be thanking?

    Each other?

    “Thank you farmers, for growing the food.
    Thank you Grandma, for cooking the turkey.
    Thank you Uncle Steve, for traveling to be with us today.”

    Or you can just feel a general sense of appreciation for the good things you have in your life.

    I grew up atheist, so I really didn’t have any idea that people considered Thanksgiving a religious holiday when I was young. My impression was that the Pilgrims threw a big feast to thank the Indians for helping them with their harvest. I seem to have totally missed (or my school did not emphasize) the “giving thanks to God” part.

  • Lev Bronstein

    Uh, I was looking for the Halloween in the Bible. Can’t find the verses.

    Any leads? Some damn fundie told me its not in the Bible.

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