Every year, Halloween gets scarier and scarier. I am not talking about the costumes but religious writers and activists who denounce the holiday as a pagan attack on God and faith. The creepies started early this year. Bloomberg columnist Amity Shlaes has written to denounce “the pull of the pagan” and ask people to think about how Halloween fills the vacuum left from the absence of faith.
First, I am a notorious Halloween fanatic. I have a blow up witch pumpkin on the roof and a blow up cat (with moving head and glowing eyes) coming out of the bushes. Skeletons hang from the trees, a cemetery graces the lawn, Frankenstein is reaching out from a bush near the door, webs cover the greenery, and floating ghosts hang above the door (and well as other finishing touches). If Halloween fills a void of faith, I am the black hole of faithless angst.
The premise of this column is that this is all something of a cry for help to fill such a void.
Halloween isn’t secular. It is pagan. There’s nothing else to call a set of ceremonies in which people utter magical phrases, flirt with the night and evoke the dead. . . .
There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum.
While the well-written column cites sources like psychologist Carl Jung for the “modern myth,” there is another possibility: it is fun and you get to eat huge amounts of candy. There is that possibility that these children are not performing an annual ritual of the struggle mortality and the modern myth.
It is now a secular holiday regardless of any pagan origins. The column says:
Fans of the orange holiday may want to pause for a moment to look at the empty spaces between its rituals, as with the pumpkin’s smile. Some of us forego it to dedicate ourselves to one faith or another. But you don’t have to reject Halloween to ask what it may be replacing.
True, but what if I ask and find that it is replacing a year of dieting and boredom? Humans love to fantasize and this holiday allows kids to transform themselves into something unrecognizable. It allows them to scare or humor others. Such role playing is a healthy form of expression. It is not due to the angst of faithlessness and fears of mortality but the joy of invention and imagination.