Rebirth of Reason

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Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 2:01amSanction this postReply
Good summary of some history of the holiday. I agree with your conclusion. I find all the arguments against the holiday to be irrational, and the argument of having a day to have some themed fun is rational.

No one has mentioned this, but I don't think the roots of the holiday in mysticism and religion undermine the use of the day for celebration by Objectivists.

Post 1

Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 4:49amSanction this postReply
Custom trumps religion.  Halloween is a concrete example of people choosing to not think.  They follow custom, or cultural traditions, without much thought as to whether the custom is consistent with their religion or their stated philosophy. 
Halloween is one of many examples of a cultural tradition that has become divorced from its roots. As Hudgins' article points out, the Eve of All Saints Day has become mostly just a day for kids to dress in costumes and collect candy.  A bunny hiding eggs to celebrate Easter is an even better example.  Some pagans used the egg as a symbol of fertility and worshiped a goddess of fertility who was symbolized by a rabbit.  Yet most "good Christians" hide eggs for their kids, without any thought as to why they are doing so or any recognition of inconsistency.
I believe that everyone has a philosophy and is always acting in accord with that philosophy.  A particular individual's philosophy may be a jumble of inconsistencies and superstitions and vary markedly from that individuals stated philosophy.  Religion forms a part of that jumbled mess. 
On Halloween parents instruct their children to say "trick or treat" at every door, although the parent wouldn't allow any "tricks."  Nor would they normally encourage their children to say things they don't mean or to engage in extortion. They have no specific intention to endorse demons or saints. Generally, they just don't think about it. 
Halloween is a concrete example of a large group of people choosing to celebrate a custom without knowing the reason for it and abiding by traditions they do not understand.  It is a further example of people who claim to be devoutly religious celebrating a mixture of pagan and Catholic traditions.  In other words, they are not acting in accord with their stated philosophy, and resolve any cognitive dissonance by choosing to not think.  To borrow from Hudgins, they do pretty much the same thing the other 364 days, also.
So custom trumps religion.  Given my views on religion, that is generally a good thing.  It's not that pagan religions or other customs are ethically superior to Christianity.  It's that I view pagan religions as less of a clear and present danger than strictly enforced Christianity.  

I have chosen as one of my highest values to make my best efforts to have a philosophy formed by reason, internally consistent, and to act upon my philosophy at all times.  I choose to think, and do so to the best of my ability.
I find no harm in kids dressing up in costumes and running around the neighborhood getting candy from willing participants, as long as that is their reason. In fact I get great joy out of happily excited children coming to my door.  I do see harm in the recognition of demons, saints, or any other mysticism.  Happy Halloween.

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Post 2

Sunday, October 30, 2005 - 9:36amSanction this postReply
I always loved Halloween as sort of a rosetta stone to Christianity.  Almost all major christian holidays were merely christian attempts to co-opt and take over pagan holidays... but the seams are still showing on halloween so it kind of exposes the whole mess.


Post 3

Sunday, November 13, 2005 - 2:54pmSanction this postReply
While the occasional goth youth may become obsessed with darkness and death, I am bothered by this theme as it underscores our culture's current "celebration" of Halloween. Yes, most children don't get this obsession, but they are influenced by the focus on gore, fright and supernatural spirits that happens this time of year. Evil and horror are treated as sources of fun and entertainment, which is the wrong message for children.

This is a kind of "whistling through the graveyard" -- reflecting society's aversion to reflect rationally upon death. A healthier approach would be to place death in the context of life. In most cases, death is the culmination of life, hopefully one well lived. It is not something to be feared or dreaded.

Let's use Halloween as a time to celebrate the cycle of nature and the values of life. We can celebrate the great men and women who have passed, costuming ourselves as people we admired, great historical figures and even characters from novels we enjoy. This is how the Arizona Objectivists celebrate at their annual halloween party.

It's time to stop allowing our children to be influenced by a holiday with decidely mixed values. Let's educate them in the cycle of life and death, and the achievements of a life well lived.

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