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Is your old Richard Nixon mask really an invitation to Satanism and new age belief?

October 29, 2020


For many, it conjurs childhood memories of dressing up in garish costumes, and prowling the neighborhood in search of candy and other goodies. Halloween has also become a time of celebration for serious partying by adults as well. The International Mass Retail Association says that 32% of adults will be dressing up for Halloween this year, slightly behind the 36% of children who participate. And for retailers, the season distinguished by orange also produces a good deal of green; last year, sales and advertising of Halloween related items soared past the $2.5 billion mark.

Like Christmas, the origins of Halloween are rooted in religious belief. Our modern culture has thoroughly secularized the holiday, of course. Or has it? Fundamentalist Christians express concerns that Halloween is a “satanic” or pagan celebration, and that youngsters may be seduced into new age beliefs. Churches and religious youth groups in past years have sponsored so-called “Hell Houses” during the Halloween season, morbid displays allegedly showing the ills of a godless society -- abortion, rape, murder, drug use. There appears to be a significant reduction in “Hell Houses” this year, however, perhaps due to the complaints of parents who found them to be deceptive vehicles for religious proselytizing.
Some new agers take the holiday seriously as well. Wiccan/pagan groups DO celebrate this time as “Samhain,” which has its roots in the harvest festivals of Europe. This feast commemorating “summer’s end” marked the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere; and there is evidence that some ancient peoples considered this to be potent time for magic and communion with dead spirits. It was a time when the “veil between the worlds” of the earthly and the supernatural was at its thinnest. Since the 1970s, the spreading popularity of the new age movement, and the revival of Wiccan belief systems, has again rendered Halloween to be a mysterious time.

We’re curious to know what Atheists think about this time of year. What if your kids want to hit the streets for trick or treat? Would you allow them to dress up as gobblins? (At Christmas time, what if you child was included in a school play dressed as an angel?) With pagan and Wiccan groups seeking recognition as legitimate religious organizations, is Halloween again becoming a religious holiday? Are there constitutional concerns, similar to the type which arise during Christmas and Hannuchah?

You may enjoy reading “Witches”. A transcript from American Atheists’ radio series, from 1969, and On The Cusp Of Halloween on Flash Line.


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