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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. OdysseusV

    Halloween is a celebration that dates clear back to ancient Chaldea. The day Nov. 1st was the day of the dead. What dead? The people who died in the Great Flood of Noah's day! Which included both humans and the Nephelim "hybrid offspring of angels and human females" which is where mythology gets Hercules & Gilgamesh, half god half man or demi-gods! So Oct 31st was the All Hallows eve, or the night before the great death occurred. See The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop who wrote his masters thesis on ancient religious customs and their origins.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Scott

      @ OdysseusV: I call ultra, hyper, super, alpha – omega BS on you. Please provide references. Also if you go back and check carefully you will find Nephelim show up again after the flood.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Scott

      Since you are a christian they should be biblical references

      October 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  2. Annexian

    Hey, some bible thumper says "Halloween is the Devil's Holiday!" say "Well, then give the Devil his due!"

    October 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  3. saintSteve

    I don't know where to begin, reading all these deep quotes from a book of fairytails and lies. Its really a shame that so called Evangelical or fundamentalist Christians can't seem to have any fun! What a sad life you all lead. While you are so busy planning your next lives you are missing everything this life has to offer. Christianity is not called the Immaculate Deception for nothing! Oh and Happy Halloween!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • CMW

      As a Christian and as a pastor, I disagree with "saintSteve's" conclusions about the Bible and the "Immaculate Deception," but he does make a relevant point about Christians who seem to think life in Christ is defined by everything one "can't do," whether biblical or personal choice. Ironic in light of Jesus' promise "...that I have come that you might have life abundant." Although I am not sure that "Halloween" is part of "all this life has to offer," I doubt that Jesus would approve of Christians seeming to have been baptized in "pickle juice." How coulld Steve ever be attracted to that or the Lord of that?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • TR6

      “Evangelical or fundamentalist Christians” putting the Fun back in Funeral

      October 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  4. Raydar

    Every year, the same debate. Next year, the same responses. It's all a waste of time and breath.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  5. BigRed

    No problem with Christians having a cow over Halloween. It isn't their celebration anyway. If they choose to let their kids go out and celebrate a pagan sabbat then so be it.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  6. John

    Meh, before a bible-waving inbred moron tells me what I should and shouldn't do, they had better get their own house in order. Like spend more time helping people of all and no faiths and all animals less fortunate with actual work, commit no sins

    Until they can say that, I'll stick with enjoying whatever holidays I feel like enjoying in the manner I enjoy and spending a portion of my personal actually living like these bible-wavers are supposed to (at least if they're real Christians) instead of screaming "I'm better than you because I say so" at the top of my lungs.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  7. Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist

    All i know is that Jesus LIVES, and i DON'T CARE what atheist have to say about God...you can say anything you want but i believe in a God that created mankind, the world and the universe...i don't care if you call me names and say stupidity...i love my God and i believe in Him, and i'm grateful to Him for taking care of me in Iraq, and curing my PTSD where medicine was making me worse...THANK YOU JESUS, CRISTO VIVE POR TODOS LOS SIGLOS, and no athiest is going to shut me up of talking about MY GOD.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Chad

      Well said fella!

      Those are all facts.

      Now, atheists will come on here and call you names.. That's all they have apparently.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Sean

      Great comment! Jesus is real and alive. The Bible is 100% true!

      October 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Diane

      People need to quit generalizing.

      I doubt most Christians want to be considered Westboro Baptists. Likewise, not all atheists are bad people either. If you are going to generalize, I don't care what you do or don't believe in - your opinion means nothing. Period. And you end up doing a disservice to what you're trying to support.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Your god doesn't exist and you are stupid. P!ss off.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • brian

      The thing that Atheists try to explain while usually sounding like jerks is that you fail to see the fact that the bible has no proof and evolution has more or less been proven. The refusal to accept anyone else's beliefs or opinions as a possibility shows that you are brainwashed and the typical, bigoted Christian who believes that your god is the only true god and no other god can possibly exist. The possibility of one god existing is just as implausible as the possibility of any other god existing. That is what you fail to see and fail to make an effort to see because you don't want to because the reality of things scares you. There is no proof to support anything the bible says. A talking snake? really? You believe that ? and then you come and make comments and expect people not to make fun of you and call you names. I accept other beliefs but I Don't respect them because I cannot respect anyone who remains willfully ignorant and blind just because you were taught that thing and born in a certain area of the world. Think outside the box and open your mind a little and maybe educate yourself. If after all of that you determine that Christianity makes the most sense to you then great, but don't just believe it because you were told to or expected to in your little conservative community. Your parents and your church don't know if there is a god or not, and that is something you have to accept because it is a fact. And because no one knows is the exact reason why you have to doubt and question it. If you don't then you are just dumb and better off being that way frankly. Faith does not equal fact. Believing in your heart does not make something true. The sooner you realize that and come to terms with it the sooner people will stop making fun of you.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Tony

      Santa Lives and so does the Easter Bunny – I hear they and Jesus are all dressing like you for Halloween because your blind devotion to a religion that has abandoned all of Jesus' teaching scares them.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • steven

      http://www.godisimaginary.com

      Wake up from the slumber.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Joe

      All Atheists want is for you to stop bothering them. They don't give a damn what YOU believe. How about you give your mouth a rest, the poor atheists ears get a rest, and everyone wins? You're so arrogant you think people actually care what you believe? Do you think you matter to the world that much? You don't. You're beyond worthless. If you croaked tomorrow, the would would barely notice. Not even your so-called "Jesus". The lights go off, and you simply cease to exist. It's depressing, but true. You're a pawn in the game of the church power brokers. A self-delusional idiot. Nobody gives a damn what you believe. Nobody.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist

      yup you are right, i was brainwashed, and not just my brain but all my with the blood of Jesus Christ...

      October 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • kirk279

      how nice of "your god" to get you out of iraq. my brother died there. i guess "your god" thinks that you are more important than my brother.
      believing in the goodness of a being that indiscriminately kills is the highest form of narcissism and myopia that there is. it is a form of evil. if you truly believe in a god that sees fit to have my brother killed, then you are misguided and living in a fantasy world. either that, or you're right, and god really does think that some people deserve to llive and others deserve to die. tell me, chad, master of "facts", which do you think is more likely?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • saintSteve

      Thank you for serving our country and putting yourself at risk to preserve our freedom to have conversations like this one.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Mark C

      Get help.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Mark C

      "That's all they have apparently."

      Actually, half-wit, we could go on and on about how just about everything in the bible is a provably false crock of sh1t, but why bother? What have YOU got? Absolutely nothing. Just assertions that your BS is true, without anything to back it up whatsoever.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • RichXX

      How many who believe the bible is 100% true have really studied how it was created? For instance the King James bible was painstakingly translated over 7 years from a Greek new testament called the Textus Receptus. The TR (as it is affectionately called) was whipped together in 7 months by one man who only used 2 rather new Greek manuscripts. His manuscripts were missing the last page of Revelation so he translated the last verses from the Latin Vulgate instead of researching to find the actual verses. Thus you have verses in the TR that don't exist in any Greek manuscript. By the way, The original manuscripts were in Greek, written by unknown people who did not speak Jesus aramaic, But back to the TR, it included the last 12 verses of Mark which were added in the 8th century by some scribe. Also it included the story of the adulterous woman in Matthew which was added much later also. So the question is, what part of the bible is original? What has not be altered by some scribe either intentionally or by accident? The more modern translations have errors also, fewer, but still have errors.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist

      no mark c, the one that needs help is you, and @kirk279, sorry for your loss but i think your brother knew that he was putting his life at risk when he enlisted, and you cant blame God for your loss, and @RichXX, yes i heard those things many times from people like you, which i don't care cause you don't know my experience and i don't know yours, i know in what i believe and i'm firm with my belief, so the bible is 100% accurate.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Atheists also don't believe in all the other gods you don't believe in. You are actually 99% atheist yourself. We just go one god more than you do.

      :p

      October 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist

      @JonSnow, you are funny, atheist are suppose not to believe in anything, they even question themselves if they really exist, and believing in one god doesn't make 99% atheist, it makes me stand firm in my belief...and plus it looks like you are really confuse...let me tell you something, God loves atheist and non atheist

      October 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Chad

      Diane “People need to quit generalizing, [not all atheists call people names].”

      Atheist: “Your god doesn't exist and you are stupid. P!ss off.”
      Atheist: “brainwashed and the typical, bigoted Christian”
      Atheist: “blind devotion to a religion”
      Atheist: “Wake up from the slumber.”
      Atheist: “give your mouth a rest… you’re so arrogant… A self-delusional idiot”
      Atheist: “misguided and living in a fantasy world”
      Atheist: “Get Help”
      Atheist: “half-wit… your BS”

      Diane: If atheists are so rational, why are they so irrationally angry?

      October 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Chad

      @Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist "yup you are right, i was brainwashed, and not just my brain but all my with the blood of Jesus Christ..."

      POST OF THE YEAR!

      October 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Get Real

      Chad, and I suppose you don't hear the anger in the Original Poster's message?! I'll bet you just call it 'fervent', or something.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Chad

      @Mark C. “just about everything in the bible is a provably false”
      =>example please..

      @kirk279 “how nice of "your god" to get you out of iraq. my brother died there. i guess "your god" thinks that you are more important than my brother”
      =>very sorry to hear about your brother, sincerely. And no, God doesn’t think your brother is less important.
      I know you’re going to hate to hear scripture, but I couldn’t have said it better than this:

      Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices[Pilate had killed them in the temple]. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

      @RichXX
      =>one of my best friends believes the KJB is perfect and inspired, which is fine. I don’t believe that, rather I believe that the bible is perfect in its original Hebrew/Greek. Christians differ on this, however, the important thing everyone realizes, is that Jesus, the Son of God, died for my sins.

      @Brian “bible has no proof and evolution has more or less been proven”
      =>example please…

      October 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chad

      @Get Real "Chad, and I suppose you don't hear the anger in the Original Poster's message"

      Educate me, wat is angry about "All i know is that Jesus LIVES, and i DON'T CARE what atheist have to say about God"

      is he calling people names? Insulting them?

      October 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • TR6

      @Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist: “, i know in what i believe and i'm firm with my belief, so the bible is 100% accurate”

      And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about. (I Kings 7, 23)

      Pi does not equal 3.0 (thirty cubits divided by 10 cubits).

      October 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • TR6

      @Atheist don't believe in God, so God doesn't believe in atheist : “God loves atheist and non atheist”

      If your god loves me 0.01% as much as you say he does, then let him give me any testable, verifiable evidence that he exists and save me from the hell you say he has prepared for me.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  8. Alex

    I'll take the Green Man any day!!

    October 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  9. Sigrid

    "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."
    Well, those traditions are not " non-religious, they are in fact rooted in false worship. They mean that those holidays too are non-Christian. Period.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • grist

      It is just great that you are the ultimate authority. The funny thing about religion is that everyone thinks they know the truth. The realty is that all religions are mythology. Halloween is just a fun holiday.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Mark C

      He didn't say he was the ultimate authority, half-wit. He quoted someone else and stated a couple of simple facts.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  10. Josie Behnkeer

    If you don't want Halloween, can we Pagans have Christmas back as well? That means no more holly, no more Christmas Tree, no more Manger....Jesus wasn't even born in the winter...so what now? Look up your history and really find out where your holiday and their symbols and decorations come from. Why have the Easter Bunny on Easter, unless Jesus was an bunny, what about Santa Clause? I will gladly keep it all and actually keep up with the meaning of them...on that note...Happy Samhain and Happy Halloween!

    October 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  11. John B

    We have a group of people down the street that leave their lights on for Halloween. When you ring the bell they come out and yell at you for worshiping the devil. Every year we used to have one guy ring the bell and then egg the hell out of them as they came out to yell at him. Good times....gooooood times.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Christians should get egged on a lot more, especially the preachy fundy ones.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  12. cjonline

    This one is not hard to figure out. There is no debate. Read 1 Corinthians 10:21

    Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

    Make your choice.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • TS

      I think the debate is that Christianity is stupid for believing Halloween is oogy boogy bad. Lighten up and eat some candy.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Diane

      You *actually* think that modern Halloween is about devil worship?

      October 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Mark C

      You really are a freak. Get psychiatric help now.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Yea, anytime I see someone enjoying Halloween I say to myself they must be devil worshipers. Your head must be a scary place.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mark C

      I had no idea that that "table of the devils" contained so much candy corn and miniature snickers.

      What a moron.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Brian

      My 4 year old loves devil worship, and all the evil candy and wicked socializing that goes with it.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Kenneth

      cjonline, you can go home and do your weekly slaughter of a calf for your god now. Don't forget to build a big fire near your house to burn the calf on. If the fire isn't big enough, the smoke might not reach god and he'll be real angry with you.You know what an azzhole god can be when he's angry.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  13. popeye1128

    Why does everything have to be dissected and evaluated in religious terms nowadays? Whatever happened to the days when Halloween was just a fun time to dress up and get candy? Trust me, that is all the kids care about. It is the adults that have to go nuts over the true meaning of all of it. Those pumpkins are the devil's work I tell you! Jeez, get over it! Talk about un-American.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  14. Grace Of The Witch

    Jesus just left Chicago
    bound for New Orleans.........................

    October 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  15. amac

    Leave it to fundamentalist conservative Christians to suck all the fun out of what should be a harmless time epsecially for children.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Jose

      your right

      October 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Keep in mind, these are the same idiots who are fearful of the Harry Potter books and movies.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Todd, very good point about the Harry Potter thing. I couldn't believe it when some of the fundamentalist groups got all goofy over something that is basically new age fairy tales.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  16. fastball

    Face it, no matter what – there's gonna be some small percentage of people who have their own views and beliefs on pretty much everything. That's fine, I suppose – do what you want in the privacy of your own homes.
    I just want to keep those people in the minority...and out of public office. The trouble with that is that politicians today will cater to ANYONE, just to get that vote. Then when they get elected, the bill comes due...and BOOM, there goes Halloween and Valentine's Day.
    Keep the extremists in their compounds, waiting for the Rapture.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  17. julie s

    history of Halloween and its Christian outworking: http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/open-book/no-28-concerning-halloween/

    absolute best synopsis I have ever read.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Ahmad

      I think you will find a more accurate depiction of the real roots of Halloween and why it is harmful 'fun' here: http://www.reviewofreligions.org/5071/halloween-harmless-or-harmful-fun/

      October 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Stan

      Wow, good article. Thanks Julie

      October 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  18. Jose

    Ok, so i believe in god but come on people are making a silly day to have fun into big things, i will be laughing if the people talking all this crap go to hell, take the stick out your freaking ass and have fun dont be a geezer and dont let your kids be sad while they have to watch all the other NORMAL kids go and have fun......to get to the point f all you christians, believe in god but also you only have 1 life enjoy it.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  19. Joseph E. Brown

    I take great pleasure in reminding Christians that their religion was plagiarized from pagan religions by the Roman Empire to convert the pagans to Christianity.
    They don't appreciate hearing that fact.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Ahmad

      Yes that is completely true. Christianity over its history has stolen from pagan traditions to try to appease them. This article covers this pretty well.

      http://www.reviewofreligions.org/5071/halloween-harmless-or-harmful-fun/

      October 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • trav

      Christianity is not a religion...religion is man made to find God

      October 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  20. Grace Of The Witch

    I had a statue of Jesus on my dashboard.

    Driving for Jesus
    Driving for Jesus
    Making all the lights !!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • George Carlin's ghost

      Gimme that back!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
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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.