I love Halloween. Sure, it has a superstitious / religious origin, like most holidays, but the cool thing about Halloween is that pretty much everyone knows it is a goof, and nothing but a goof. We get to dress in silly and/or clever costumes, which may be a nod to the supernatural while not in any way suggesting that the wearer thinks vampires or werewolves or zombies or ghosts are real.
Of course, it must be acknowledged that there are a whole lot of people who don’t have a firm grasp on the difference between fantasy and reality, who seem genuinely scared by Halloween. I refer of course to the religious, particularly some of the more simpleminded Christian sects.
They’ll be the ones who have their porch lights turned off tonight, because they think it will put their immaterial immortal souls (you know, ghost-stuff) in danger of appropriation by Satan (aka the Boogie-Man) to give out candy to neighborhood kids.
Amusingly, it was this attitude which pushed my son into full-on atheism. He was terribly disappointed in his Halloween experience a couple of years back, because a number of such believers moved into his neighborhood, and he became quite scornful of their inability to see that it was just a game, and we went on to have discussions about the failures in critical thinking that lead to people limiting themselves like that.
Last weekend I took him to a Judgment House, aka Hell House, put on by the biggest Baptist church in the area. These are heavy handed little morality plays where you’re shown vignettes from several teens’ lives and afterlives; the one who turned to Jesus gets to hang out in an air-conditioned white and pastel Heaven with Jesus and the angels singing at them, while the bad ones and, more critically, the ones who didn’t believe in Jesus go to the sauna known as Hell to be harangued and tortured (off stage, but you hear the screams).
The purpose, obviously, is to propagandize the Baptist worldview, and it’s very instructive. We went with an entire group of kids and parents from the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, and oh, was it funny when when the preacher at the end was desperately trying to get someone to raise a hand to say God had touched them tonight at the end of the performance! Afterward we got together as a group and dissected the performance and its message.
The kids universally thought it was pretty pathetic, right at the foundation, but through the discussion they picked up on some of the specific subtle messages buried in it as well. For example, there is an anti-science message deepy embedded in it – the ‘good’ girl was cutting herself because science class was too hard, before she saved herself by turning to Jesus, and the troubled nonbelieving kid shot her and the bully and himself in, of course, science class. The message that being good, no matter how good, won’t get you into Heaven unless you hand your life over to Jesus was also pounded upon both implicitly and explicitly.
Scary to think people take this stuff seriously, but the story itself is lame, heavy-handed propaganda. Shining the light of reason onto dark superstition dispels any scariness… so don’t peer too close at those ghosts tonight, wait until morning or you’ll spoil the fun!
Of course, you don’t have to stick to the supernatural for Halloween either…