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A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?
October 28th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the debate: By Jim Roope, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - For many American Christians, Halloween is innocent, harmless and fun, and they trick-or-treat, carve pumpkins and don costumes with gusto.

For others, though – especially for some conservative and fundamentalist Christians - Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer.

Halloween fun facts: Spending, eating and carving

“We don’t endorse that or we don’t celebrate that,” said Joe Hernandez, pastor of Worshipwalk Church in Los Angeles, which belongs to the conservative Pentecostal tradition. “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

Halloween’s roots are believed to date back 1,400 years, to the Irish-pagan New Year’s celebration. The Celtic New Year began on November 1. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits.

Movies that scare the people who scare us

Some Christians, like Hernandez, believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil. That’s why Worshipwalk is hosting a harvest festival in its church parking lot on Monday, with kids’ games and face painting.

Hernandez calls it harvesting hearts for God.

Some conservative churches go a step further, attempting to co-opt the holiday with haunted houses - called “hell houses” - that are designed to give a glimpse of eternal damnation in hopes of strengthening faith.

“There’s Satan’s lies and there’s Jesus’ redemption and there’s a message that will change your life,” said Keenan Roberts, who says he is the inventor of the hell house, which people walk or call through, just as they would a haunted house.

I was a zombie movie extra

“It’s designed to reach the ‘sight and sound’ age,” said Roberts. “The message is sacred but the method is not.”

Hell houses can be graphic. In Roberts’ hell house – which he markets through his Hell House Ministries – live actors depict scenes of abortion, rape, suicide and murder, though the journey through the house culminates in scenes of redemption through Jesus.

Pastor of the fundamentalist New Destiny church near Denver, Colorado, Roberts said that his ministry has received a lot of criticism for what critics say is “going too far.”

But he said today’s kids are so desensitized that he will do whatever it takes to get the message of salvation to take root.

Avoiding sexy costumes for kids

Mainline Protestants tend to take a much softer line on Halloween, with some mainline churches embracing it.

“Halloween for me is a time to have fun,” said Wayne Walters, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Burbank, California. “I remember growing up - on Halloween I went trick-or-treating. I was in it for the candy.”

“And at Christmas I put out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, who always took time to sit down and enjoy them,” he continued. “None of those I think had a negative influence, destroyed or diminished my faith, he said.”

Walters says that many non-religious traditions associated with Christian holidays, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, hardly mean those holidays are non-Christian.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Halloween

soundoff (3,144 Responses)
  1. groundlerings

    When Christians portray themselves as victims of society, keep in mind situations like this where Christians are trying to force their interpretations on the rest of society and condemn people who do not agree with them. When people fight back against your attacks, you are not a victim. You brought it on yourself.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Jdomn

      Grounderlings, I accidentally clicked report abuse when I went to click reply. I'm sorry about that. My web browser froze for a second, but I didn't mean to do that. Even though I don't agree with what you said, I appreciate that we have the opportunity to disagree.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • The real john

      This has happened quite a few times.i wish they would change the location of the reply button

      October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Fred

    Get over it fellow Christians. No one is looking for the "real truth to Halloween" except radicals, fundamentalists or whacko's. Quit interpreting the bible for the rest of us and telling us we are wrong. Stay home with the lights out and don't answer the door with your kids. My kids enjoy it, parents in our area enjoy it because we all end up getting together. The rest of us aren't looking for hidden devil worship or anything else but a good time with friends, family and local goblins !!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Isaiah

      Thank you! I don't believe God would say "YOU CELEBRATED A HOLIDAY WITH CANDY?! STRAIGHT TO HELL WITH THEE!" No, its just silly.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  3. Isaiah

    I'm very much a Christian, but come October 31st, I'll be celebrating Halloween. It's true parts of it began with some not-so Christian things, but its been changed to the point to where it doesn't represent any of those beliefs. It's simply a time for kids to dress up, have fun, and for people to goof around.
    If you don't want to celebrate it, that's your choice, but leave the rest of us alone. When people attack your beliefs, you get very angry, but you seem to believe it's justified when you do the exact same thing. Hypocritical much?
    I could understand their anger if children were worshiping Satan on that day, but guess what? They're not.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  4. john

    Christians can do what they want within their own religion but they need to butt out of other peoples business as its none of theirs. Halloween is the "christenized" version of Samhain which is over 3,500 yrs old alot older than christianity.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  5. Derek

    Please....I'm a christian and I love Halloween
    !!!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  6. JiminNM

    Counter it with the truth and then people know the truth and become accountable for their own decision. But don't force Halloween on anyone.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  7. LPC

    I am a Christian...and I love Halloween. To try and find evil in little kids dressing up and adults pretending to be scared enough to offer candy to them is difficult to fathom. OK, maybe the candy is evil...for our dental bill 🙂

    October 29, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  8. Light In The Black

    *** TR6

    Please learn to use the Reply option
    ------------------------------
    Reply button only appears under an original post
    when "YOU" reply, your post no longer has a reply button....
    at least that is what i see on the screen.
    CNN problem ?

    October 29, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Mark

      I did use it.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  9. Scrotie McBoogerballs

    I agree with everyone who feels Halloween is rooted deep into pre-Christian history and is a harmless holiday. Alot of the evil within Christianity is self-imposed or created.The idea of Hell and Satan themselves are created my Christian "story-line" within the mythology.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  10. Aaaghhh

    Crazy christians at it again. If their 'faith' is so strong, why are they intimidated by Halloween? They know that religion is a business ($$ ching, ching $$) and virtually any distraction from it is tantamount to 'Satan worship'. So, they have to threaten small children with eternal hell. Way to go christians!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  11. Scrotie McBoogerballs

    I agree with everyone who feels Halloween is rooted deep into pre-Christian history and is a harmless holiday. Alot of the evil within Christianity is self-imposed or created. Like another comment said...the idea of Hell and Satan themselves are created my Christian "story-line" within the mythology.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  12. James

    Halloween is the old Pagan New Year's Eve – has nothing to do with evil, or the so-called Devil. But, leave it to the Christians to re-write history and put words in the Bible that don't exist. I think we should really look at protecting our children from these Christian fools and their lies, rather than worrying about what God thinks if they trick-or-treat.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  13. Colin

    There are some pretty fundamental objections to Christianity that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, sad, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections. I am tired of being told I am evil or rude, or whatever without back up. If you have an objection to what I say post it, if you only object to the fact that I said it, don't bother, I intend to keep saying it.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago, sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years, waited for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.omo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle east. While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This “all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 6 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers, so as to know if they think bad thoughts, so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages. This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant, sheep-like gullibility.

    4. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions about the transparently silly aspects of the faith(s).

    5. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Korsesh at Waco – 35 years after the fact.

    6. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something, which it most certainly is not, one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices? Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal that the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    7. The Bible is literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    8. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is be honestly not believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • LPC

      Less is more.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • franks & beans

      That was the most well stated points of logic I've heard in a long time. I too am of the same belief,
      but sometimes during a debate, the words escape me. Thank you for putting it into such easy to understand
      language. I hope you don't mind if I copy & paste it to a few of my evangelical friends.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Lizrd

      LPC – typical Christian response. Attack the fact he said it, but do not take any issue with what he said.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Colin

      Frank and beans – of course not. Go ahaed, the more people we can help get a different perspective to what they have been taught since birth, the better.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Joe B

      AMEN!

      October 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Tom

      I admire you for trying to reason with these people, but you can't reason with Christian fundamentalists any more than you can reason with Muslim fundamentalists.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Colin

      Tom, agreed. But there are many, many open minded, smart Christians who read this blog, who are capable of questioning what they have been fed since birth. That is the true audience.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Hypatia

      Thank you for being a voice of reason.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • BoDacious01

      I am going to copy and paste this argument from now on.... In other words I am stealing what you just said....Amen brother.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • pssst

      Colin... and others who copy this for future use (Yay!), you might want to fix the spelling of Koresh and the tiny typo under No. 6: "Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal *that* the language you speak or the baseball team you support."

      * that should be: than

      October 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  14. lance corporal

    radical christians should NOT celebrate holloween and they should make a big stink about it..... that way I know which families to keep my kids away from, I hate it when you let your kid start hanging out with another child later to realize his family are nutso christians and it is hard on your child when you tell them to stay away from that family, anyway that we can identify these fanatics is a good thing, isolate them like a disease and keep them from harming our children with their poisonous rhetoric and actions..... sorry but those people are just dangerous!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • tallulah13

      I feel very sorry for the children of these radical christians. I hope that they get enough exposure to the real world that they will be able to overcome the narrowness of their upbringing.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  15. GOD

    Barry G.

    Barry, i am going to turn you into a frog
    POOF !!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  16. frododo

    Its just a holiday for getting candy and scaring each other. GET OVER IT MORONS!!!!

    besides, alot of Christmas's traditions are also based on pagan beliefs.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Boogeyman

      WORD!!!...lets see Christian Pagan holidays...Christmas(winter solstice)....Easter(summer solstice)......Thanksgiving(thank you God for letting us steal others land)....etc

      October 29, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  17. whadaham, NY

    It's not really safe for kids to go out trick or treating- far better to organize a costume party instead- and pick a theme ( Noah's ark? Kids can dress up as animals, noah, ect. plenty of choices! It IS possible for Christians to have fun. That's right, you heard me. Another option is to check if there's a halloween costume party at a local mall ( stores love this, great way to get more foot traffic- each store front hands out candy)

    October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Isaiah

      Hmm fair point, but I suppose it'd be better if they were with adults.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Hypatia

      Maybe it's not safe in your neighborhood, but it's plenty safe in mine and we all love giving treats to the kids. It's only the sickos and fundie morons who make the season miserable for everyone, because they believe in a sadist and want to talibanise everything.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  18. RickRam

    Christians believe that an invisible boogeyman lurks in the shadows waiting for a chance to temp people into doing bad things so they will end up in a fiery torture chamber for eternity. Yet, they think non-believers are the crazy ones. LOL!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Boogeyman

      i guess i am said Boogeyman..lol

      October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Boogeyman

      BOOOOOOOOO!

      October 29, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  19. Hypatia

    Considering that they co-opted the Celtic New Year and turned it into All Hallow's, the same way they co-opted the Lupercalia and turned it into Christmas, I believe they should buy some candy and shut the hell up already!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  20. Boogeyman

    is Columbus Day evil crazy folks?.....it celebrates a mass murderer

    October 29, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Light In The Black

      **** Boogeyman

      is Columbus Day evil crazy folks?.....it celebrates a mass murderer

      Columbus never set foot on the American continent
      yet he has a holiday, go fig.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Mark

      If you really believe that, you need to do a little more research.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:33 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.