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The Halloween you didn’t hear about

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As Halloween looms, you’ll no doubt hear the usual crossfire: conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews damning the “satanic” holiday, while pagans and secularists rant at “intolerant” fundies. But there are other viewpoints.

For religious opponents, surprising support comes from American Atheists. The article notes that Christmas nativity scenes are often banned from public property, but Halloween decorations are allowed. Yet Wiccans and pagans say Halloween is a holy day for them. “What does this say about the First Amendment aspects?” the article asks.

Last year, Halloween themes became all too real for theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite when she heard of lynching nooses appearing on American campuses, and news of torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. She saw no use for a day of make-believe evil when real horrors haunt us every day.

More general ethical issues pop up on the Santa Clara University site. University fellow Rob Elder asks: Should Americans spend $6.9 billion on a holiday that promotes greed, vandalism and stomach aches?

Then there are the ecological evils of the holiday, according to MSNBC’s Marisa Belger. You know, all those plastic costumes and pitchforks and candy wrappers. Belger suggests some ways to celebrate a green Halloween.

The day does have its defenders, such as psychologist Richard Beck. His blog says Halloween helps us “collectively process our eventual death and mortality” and “work through our fears of the uncanny.”

Meanwhile, blogger and mother Diane Laney Fitzpatrick figures “if you can’t beat ’em . . .” — so she offers a Catholic activity for Halloween. She suggests religious education teachers actually set up graveyards for their students to walk through, shining flashlights on the headstones. There, they would read epitaphs of departed saints like Francis of Assisi.

A little weird, maybe, but still in the “spirit” of the original All Hallows Day.

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Written by Jim Davis

October 31, 2008 at 1:48 am

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