Secular morality in a nutshell »« All of empirical inference

The demonic power

Halloween wasn’t unalloyed fun for Libby Anne when she was growing up.

[Digression. Actually I don't find it unalloyed fun myself these days. I don't find all the corpses and graves all that funny, and they certainly are presented as jokey. It gets on my nerves, frankly. Just for one thing, isn't it kind of mean to people who've had people die on them recently? And I don't like all the cobweb stuff draped all over trees and shrubs and everything else within reach; they make whole blocks look junky. And I don't like the ridiculous amount of outdoor decoration there is - it seems to be more every year. Used to was, a carved pumpkin or two were all that was thought necessary; now suddenly houses are as wildly festooned as they are for Christmas. It's annoying because October is beautiful all by itself, it doesn't need a lot of stupid dreck to brighten it up.]

It wasn’t fun for Libby Anne because it was too frightening.

I grew up believing that there were real witches who worshiped Satan and communed with demons. These witches were dangerous and powerful because they got actual power from Satan himself. We believed that God would win eventually, but that for the time being Satan had a great deal of power and dominion over the world. Witches could cause real pain, because they had real power.
Demons were very real to me. I believed that they were battling with angels in the air around us, every day, everywhere. They were generally invisible, but I believed that they could make themselves visible if they wanted.
I believed that Halloween was the main holiday for witches, and that they held secret meetings with demons, conducted animal sacrifices, and carried out Satan’s work. Halloween terrified me, because I could almost feel the demonic power climax with the holiday. While I loved our church’s harvest fest, Halloween itself was a holiday of fear.

That makes me a little angry. It sounds terrifying, and children shouldn’t be terrified that way. Religious freedom and all that, but it ain’t right.

Comments

  1. Brownian says

    It sounds terrifying, and children shouldn’t be terrified that way.

    There was a fear at Halloween that I used to like. I didn’t think that demons and witches literally existed, so it was more like watching a good horror movie. As you said, October is a beautiful time of year, even here in Edmonton where the leaves turn and drop pretty uniformly and quickly, and there is a drabness about the time that I used to find spooky.

    I think that capacity for eerie declined with my religiousity, but I’d rather find other things to enjoy about autumn than have kids live in true fear of the season.

  2. says

    In response to your digression, having lived in a place in the USA where virtually no one celebrated Halloween, I much prefer the way some people overdo it to that. And actually, I do like the way it has become as decorative as Christmas with giant inflatable pumpkins and black cats and such. Also, I think having someone die near any holiday would pretty much mar that holiday for a long time no matter what people were dressing up as at the time.

    On topic, that does seem almost like child abuse. But strangely, the people who put such fear and ignorance in children like that are also probably the last to celebrate Halloween. They likely shun it, like the people did in that place I mentioned above. Their kids weren’t even allowed to dress up. I ended up giving out candy to kids dressed as kids because their parents were such hatemongers.

  3. says

    I remember I once believed in magic and witches because it talked about them as real in the Bible. So, obviously, they were real. I don’t recall it scaring me.

    Also, this:

    Too often conversations between Christians and atheists focus on the question “but how can you live without God?” You know what? Being an atheist doesn’t just mean living without God, it means living without Satan.

  4. Enkidu says

    Halloween today, is merely a further manifestation of capitalism, encouraging the consumption of useless knicknacks and getting kids hooked on sugar. Whether that counts as an example of demonic power, may be a matter of opinion, but if so it is clearly increasing.

    I notice that recently even people, who might otherwise reasonably be considered adults, dress up and party. In New Zealand this is a relatively new phenomonon, there was no such malarky when I was a child though I recall that our children used to “trick or treat” it in a minor way. No religious significance.

    Well, I’m getting old and curmudgeonly I guess.

    Bah! humbug! etc

  5. Fin says

    Hi, I just wanted to comment on your digression a bit. You say ‘isn’t it kind of mean to people who’ve had people die on them recently?’ in reference to Halloween skeletons, graves etc. I am an atheist who very recently lost a beloved family member, and I personally love all the Halloween stuff. Without the false consolation of heaven, I came to terms with my family member’s death for what it really is. I festooned my house with skulls and skeletons on Halloween and found it all rather cathartic.

    I love how Halloween, like the Mexican day of the dead, can take humanity’s primal fear, that of death, and poke good-natured fun at it, turning it into a celebration and a party. Skulls, skeletons, graves and zombies at Halloween all help to make the real thing less scary by being a bit jokey. It turns death from a grim spectre to a comfortable friend, and I for one am grateful for it.

    I appreciate your concerns, but from a purely personal perspective, looking at Halloween as a ‘memento mori’ AND as a carnival can be beneficial too!

  6. says

    I’m with Fin on the question of “mean to people who lost a loved one”.
    Since I lost my grandpa last December (and I really had one of those fairytale grandpas who climb trees with you, and teach you how to play chess and so on), every celebration is “mean” in the sense that he isn’t there, and that we remember so clearly how it was when he was there.
    But he’d kick my ass if I withheld any fun from the kids or spoiled anybody else’s fun because he’s dead.
    I, too, like the idea of the Dia de los Muertos, because it mostly celebrates life, the lives of those who passed, and the lives of those who remember them.*

    As for people who instill fear into their children: That is a form of child-abuse. Even for the real dangers in life, like cars and poisonous household chemicals, responsible parents don’t teach their children to fear, but to be aware and cautious, how to handle them and how to protect oneself.

    *Disclaimer:
    Halloween isn’t a tradition in Germany, but it’s becoming more and more popular. It’s actually one of the nicer cultural imports.

  7. says

    Hmm. Ok. I guess this is just a de gustibus thing. I’ve wondered if it’s an imitation of the Mexican day of the dead, but doubted that dopy plastic headstones stuck in the lawn were much like it.

    Perhaps I’m a secret Puritan.

  8. Your Name's not Bruce? says

    “We believed that God would win eventually, but that for the time being Satan had a great deal of power and dominion over the world.”

    Why would a god allow this? It makes no sense, just as god’s supposed incarnation as Jesus to sacrifice himself to himself makes no sense (why can’t this god just say “I forgive you all” without the charade of incarnation/crucifixion/resurrection?). I’m guessing that this is a concession to the fact that their god “seems” to allow evil things to happen, rather than an admission that evil things happen because there is no god to prevent them from happening. Satan is an invention to explain away the apparently preventable evil permitted by god. Those who have given up on Satan are compelled to use the “god’s plans are beyond our understanding” rationalization to explain away evil in the world. Either way it turns the god of the bible into a figure who, even if it actually existed, would be unworthy of worship.

  9. Brian M says

    YNN Bruce: Because Yahweh is nothing but a particularly sociopathic toddler?

    I guess what bothers me is the ongoing tacky-ification of our culture. Rather than cool carved pumpkins, harvest wreaths, colored Indian corn, etc…we get tacky Made-in-China plastic junk that requires no effort or thought and exhibits no seasonal character. Bah, humbug.

    Christmas is worse. Give me one local community’s celebration-lining the rural roadside with simple candles in bags (luminarias) to another subdivision’s choice of throwing up every possible garish elecritified and plastic holiday decoration possible.

    Now you kids get off my lawn!

  10. interrobang says

    I can’t imagine ever having believed in a literal Satan or literal demons, or what my old philosophy professor called “Christian witches.” That poor girl.

    Hey, Brownian, do people in Edmonton still say “Hallowe’en Apples!” instead of “Trick or Treat!”, or has that gone by the wayside now?

  11. martha says

    This year a Nac Mac Feagle and a Wood Elf sat on my entry roof and rained candy on delighted trick or treaters. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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