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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. popeye1128

    The whole debate is boo hockey. Booooooo!!!!!!!
    I'm gonna get you! Great season to re-watch Freddy movies. Enjoy and chill out religious zealots. Or don't. 🙂

    October 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  2. Bob Decker

    Christianity based everything on the pagan churches so go ahead and take another part of the pagen past but you are still a fake religion worshiping a fake god. You are evil doers.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Chad

      An atheist cant accuse someone of being "evil". Evilness implies some standard by which someone can be judged to be evil.
      If we come from the slime, with no creator, the notion of "evil" is merely an opinion.. It doesn't exist as an absolute. The best you can do is say "by my standards, I think you are evil".

      October 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Of course, atheists can, Chad. Evil is what hurts others without purpose. Giving a child a shot to prevent an illness may hurt that child, but there is a good reason for that pain. Beating a person and leaving them to die tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere, just because that person was gay, is evil. Can you understand those simple differences?

      You don't have any special claim to morality, just because you believe in a supernatural power. Your arrogance and ignorance say volumes about your character, however.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • grande

      @Chad-You always exhibit great intellectual prowess!, thank you!. You remind us of 1Peter4:10 , Awesome!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Chad

      @Bob Decker "You[christians] are evil doers"

      @tallulah13 "Beating a person and leaving them to die tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere, just because that person was gay, is evil"

      =>so, you see beating people because they are gay as a Christian behavior? I'll call you on that for 2 reasons:

      1. Beating a person for any reason is wrong and is NOT embraced by 99.999% of Christians (yes, I am aware that the OT prescribed stoning etc as punishment, but that was the legal system of the day, we have prisons now, AND we dont live under the OT "law", we live under the NT law of grace).

      2. I would be willing to bet that MOST occurrences of anti-gay violence was perpetrated by non-religious thugs.

      Thanks grande, there are sure others that do much better than I, but I do what I can..

      October 31, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Chad

      Tallulah was giving an example of evilness, not specifically that a christian or atheist did the evil act, just that it was inherintly an evil act, can you not jump on board with that? and if a christiand and an atheist can agree on whats good and evil, does my notion of good and evil get discounted because you have imaginary characters at the end of the spectrum?

      secondly, give me stats on the "anti-gay violance being perpetrated by nonbelievers", because that my friend is simply not true in the slightest. Why is it an issue in the first place? Religion, why do gay people not have the right to marry? Religion. Sorry chad, but you are dead wrong on that score.

      October 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chuckles "Tallulah was giving an example of evilness"
      =>evil? Based on what? It's your opinion unless you are appealing to a standard established by some ent ity that has authority over all humans to say what is evil and what isnt.

      @secondly, give me stats on the "anti-gay violance being perpetrated by nonbelievers", because that my friend is simply not true in the slightest. Why is it an issue in the first place? Religion, why do gay people not have the right to marry? Religion. Sorry chad, but you are dead wrong on that score.

      =>fairly typical "religion is at the root of all evil" nonsense, never backed up by any data..

      FBI stats, hate crime is not religiously motivated.

      Hate Crime Offender Typology Offender Type/Characterization Percent of Offenders
      Thrill-seeking. Motivated by the desire for excitement. 66%
      Defensive. Commit hate crimes to protect their neighborhood from perceived outsiders. 25%
      Retaliatory. Acting in response to a hate crime — either real or perceived. 8%
      Mission. So strongly committed to bigotry that they make hate a career. 1%

      October 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • fred

      chad, let's give up on these non-believers and go slaughter us a calf.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Chad

      Elected representatives have been setting generally accepted standards for "evil" for many centuries – no god(s) required. They even have a non-supernatural way of changing them if necessary – no "son of god" intervention required.

      Your cult might claim they have absolute values and rules of behaviour but your cult members make a mockery of them every day. Just look at the number of abortions had by believers – how many of your rules get broken for each abortion?

      The probability of your god, or of any god, existing is just about zero – get over it!

      October 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Chad

      @ HotAirAce "Elected representatives have been setting generally accepted standards for "evil" for many centuries"
      =>they have? I'm aware of all kinds of laws against certain behavior, but I must confess to never having heard of one that defined evil. Can you provide a link? I would love to read it.

      @HotAirAce "They even have a non-supernatural way of changing them if necessary"
      => You mean, the definition of "evil" changes over time? That's weird...

      What you are thinking of, is the fact that society makes certain acts punishable. That has nothing to do with an absolute standard for "evil" vs "non-evil", it is just a consensus on behavior that a society has decided it doesnt want to tolerate.
      Unless, you want to call a speeding ticket an example of "evilness".

      October 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Chad

      "consensus on behavior that a society has decided it doesnt want to tolerate" is all that is required.

      October 31, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  3. tnmtl

    Again a headline on CNN.com that just leads to this non-news religious blog. I really don't care what the fundie fanatics think about halloween. This country is comprised of many people with different beleifs and it's about time they learn it's not all about them and their throat stuffing dogma.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  4. SixDegrees

    The increasing intolerance and narrow-mindedness displayed by Evangelical Christians is very disturbing. More disturbing is their insistence that there is no alternative view at all to theirs, and that society as a whole must conform to their thinking or face punishment. They are precisely equivalent to the Taliban in their thinking and goals, and are the most serious threat to American ideals to emerge since the heyday of Communist power in the 50s and 60s.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  5. Argle Bargle

    People believe what they want to believe. Christmas can be construed as evil just as well.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  6. John

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dz59JANSdg&w=640&h=360]
    ..

    October 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  7. Rick

    "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."

    This is not about strengthening faith, it is about strengthening fear. Without fear, much of Christianity is dead in the water.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  8. Steven

    Since it is acknowledged that halloween was originally a Pagan holiday it can not be satanic, pagans do not believe in christian god so they do not believe in satan, therefore just for all the idiots out there trying to ruin yet another holiday, halloween is not satanic or evil for that matter. It is a pagan celebration of one of the goddesses forms for the fall shamain. So congratulations to all of you morons you have discriminated against another religion. Keep going you will get them all eventually. And you wonder why the rest of the world hates us Americans. Because for this to be the free country it is made out to be, it is the most bigoted country in the world, Hey maybe next year you can get Easter cancelled too. After all it was a Pagan holiday originally too. Great going America.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Big Al

      You have issues and need anger management. You also need to learn that Halloween is a Celtic fertility rite of autumn, celebrated primarily in Ireland.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  9. clarke

    Must take the fun out of everything.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  10. ryan

    god and satan are imaginary. Christians run their lives by fear (fear of the lord, fear of hell etc.) so halloween is serious to them. To the sane humans, its best to confront and mock fear, because it should not rule our lives.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Chrisanto

      Actually, we can have opinions of whether God exists or not but our opinions don't really matter. What matters is reality. Life obviously had its origin somewhere and the atheistic does not have any really good answers. Science can't explain it. Darwin's "Origin of Species" doesn't cut it because it only deals with natural selection of living creatures but does not address the origin of life. Happy Halloween and don't eat too much candy. Don't forget to brush your teeth.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Christanto, the difference is that atheists are still looking for answers. Christians gave up a long time ago.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • John Richardson

      But evolution does refute genesis, which refutes the whole garden of eden story, which refutes the theory of original sin, which refutes the premise for why Jesus had to be sacrificed, which refutes the whole basis of christianity.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Chad

      John Richardson "But evolution does refute genesis"

      =>example please...

      October 29, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Chad

      The request for examples will typically kill the atheist argument.. The "you're an idiot", "you worship a bronze age fable", "you have delusion we have science" arguments are really only good for mocking, there is no substance to them. It's precisely why William Craig is 50-0 in debates with atheists and Richard Dawkins is terrified of him..

      October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Chuckles

      Chad

      Please, I beg you, actually read the sound arguments that are posted to you WHY genesis is refuted by evolution and science instead of focusing on why people call you an idiot. Unlike other posts that call a believer an idiot before allowing them to defend themselves, in your particular case, you're in an idiot for ignoring the mounds of evidence and arguments against your current stance. All you have is "mistranslation" and your focus on a few parts of genesis that is aligned (sort of ) with scientific thought while ignoring all the inconsistencies and untruths

      October 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chuckles "Please, I beg you, actually read the sound arguments that are posted to you WHY genesis is refuted by evolution and science"
      => like,,, what? Example please...

      @Chuckles " in your particular case, you're in an idiot for ignoring the mounds of evidence and arguments against your current stance"
      =>Like, what?

      @Chuckles "All you have is "mistranslation""
      => What mistranslation? What specifically? Examples please...

      @Chuckles "and your focus on a few parts of genesis that is aligned (sort of ) with scientific thought while ignoring all the inconsistencies and untruths"
      =>Examples of inconsistencies and untruths?

      Then, when you have examples of all your assertions from above. Look at the evidence FOR God:

      Necessity of an uncaused cause for the big bang

      Preciseness with which the big bang occurred to enable universe creation

      Science's inability (not just now, but NEVER by definition as science starts with the laws being present) to explain why the universe has laws

      The order of creation in Genesis (yes, I am aware that birds appear to be out of order) nothing->bang->formation of stars/planets->water->fish->mammals->humans

      The fossil record showing that every species is stable for millions of years, then transforms into a new species in a period of time so short that it ALWAYS escapes fossilization, and involves a spectacular paroxysm of perfectly necessary mutations, all occurring at the exact correct time. Nothing happens for 99% of the time, then in that 1% BANG, everything occurs in perfectly timed and necessary manner.

      The fact that all humans everywhere have a common understanding of good and evil.

      October 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  11. HeroicSlug

    So I just looked up "Hell houses". Wow. You Jesusers are crazier than I thought.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Mr Chihuahua

      Do they have any where the chicks dress up like sexy demons and torture you? I might want to check that kind of Hell House out lol!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Mr Chihuahua

      I...I still don't see the error of my ways! I...I think I need more punishment lol!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  12. Biggus

    Chad is fscking stupid. What a moron. He actually believes the jeebus bullsh!t he spews.

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

      Hey Biggus. Just relax. It's just a forum about halloween. Have some candy and watch a scary movie dude.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  13. lucyjudy

    The name Halloween is the abbreviation of "Hallowed Evening" (Hallow' E'en). It is the night before All Saints Day, when spirits were thought to fly thru' the air to return to their spiritual homes. Halloween is totally Christian in origin.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • James

      Hmm..interesting excuse to worship "Halloween" personally I don't see what the big deal is cause I don't celebrate it..I don't see any meaning in celebrating it...So you all just have fun "trick-or-treating" ...hahahah

      October 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • yeahno

      hahaha, if you want to think of it that way. Though most holidays that are "christian" today are based on older religions (incl. pagean) celebrations. It made sense at that time to have a "christian" holiday at the same time to prevent people from following their old religion.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Chrisanto

      Regardless of Halloween's origin, it isn't in the bible so it is a non-issue. Just have fun trick or treating.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • A Christian

      Sorry, Halloween is totally Druid and Celt in origin: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween

      October 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Steven

      wow google the origins of Halloween. It was the celebration of one of the goddesses forms that she took. It is a celebration of the fall Shamain (equinox when the crops were harvested). The "witch" is a depiction of the goddess which was deformed by christians to be an evil person that did magick and cursed people. During the reign of King James is the time that this alteration happened, at the same time he was deleting books out of the bible. yes the King James version you thump is not the complete version. But I guess you think Easter was created by christians too. Some people on here are soooo funny. It is actually pathetic that people do not research things before posting falsehoods. this is why everyone else in the world hates christians because they believe that they are the only ones right and everyone else is wrong, when in reality they are only reading part of their bible.I guess you think that christians invented medicine,science and math too huh? Please use google before engaging what is obviously a tiny brain.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  14. Bill D

    If WorshipWalk wants to celebrate Oct 31 as a Christian Holiday don't call it Harvest Day call it what it is. Reformation Day Oct 31 is the day Martin Luther tacked his 95 thesis on the church door triggering the the Reformation Movement from which eventually the Pentecostal churches arose.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  15. Kibe

    Remember we pagans did not mind christianity creep into our turf at its inception. What is the worry now if we are blooming?
    Trying to stop us when we are the orignal owners and creators of the turf? Absurd!

    October 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  16. Chrisanto

    No need for Christianity bashing here. Halloween is just another secular event like going to the movie theater or watching a football game. Everyone relax and have some good clean fun. The bible doesn't mention dressing up and trick or treating as being sinful. Go get those candies and have a blast. Then go to church on Sunday and worship God for the awesome God that he is. Cheers.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • David

      Hmm....Real christian: Party, live for the devil all the days but of course attend church Sunday..Well, I think we're responsible for our actions as much as you don't want to believe it.

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

      Wow, there's a big variety of "christian".. Here's a good question...Who is a christian & aren't christians supposed to follow the Bible, not live just as they please..

      And if you're a christian & it's hard for you to live up to God's Word, then think again...

      October 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Chrisanto

      Relax David. Dressing up as Superman and getting candy from the neighbors is hardly worshipping the devil. Maybe we should stop watching contact sports where people are out to hurt each other. Too much violence!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Chrisanto

      Hey James. A Christian is a disciple. Baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Committed to the mission of seeking and saving the lost. Sold out and unwavering in the faith. Also, an adherent of freedom in Christ and not binding silly and useless manmade rules on children.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Biggus

      Chrisanto, you forgot the part about sacrificing a goat weekly and burning it on an altar. The burning flesh smell makes your god happy, remember. God will punish you if you don't and he can be a really mean berk when he gets angry. -Leviticus

      Come to think of it, the nasty Christian god, that vicious, murderous, torturing bas-tard, fits right in as a Hallowe'en monster.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Chrisanto

      Hey Biggus. I don't think you read your bible recently. The whole sacrificial system ended at the cross. Regarding sacrificing goats, that's a Jewish thing. However, I wouldn't some yummy curried goat. Very tasty!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Biggus

      Nope, wrong, Chrisanto, Your nastly book of jeebus, in Matthew and elsewhere, says the OT still applies, so get off your lazy ass and slaughter that goat.

      Your bible is a big load of horsesh!t. It stinks and it's loaded with germs. Get past it already.

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

      Hey Biggus. Not sure why you still think the Jewish sacrificial system applies to Christianity because it doesn't. But hey, I am all for a goat roast. I think we should cook a pig and a few chickens as well. Let's invite the neighbors and have a feast. If the vegans want to join us, I can do some baked potatoes.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Chad

      @Biggus "Come to think of it, the nasty Christian god, that vicious, murderous, torturing bas-tard, fits right in as a Hallowe'en monster."

      =>why are you so angry at something you are convinced is make believe? Are you equally angry at "the five most murderous Final Fantasy villains":
      – Vayne
      – Golbez
      – Sin (appropriately named apparently, I never played the game myself..)
      – Kefka
      – Sephiroth

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • grande

      @Chad- Your posts are such a delight! Kudos!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  17. HeroicSlug

    Who cares what primitives think?

    Your gods//spirits/pasta monsters are responsible for everything, right? Halloween is a thing.

    Love it! Your skywizard hath spoken.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  18. Aaron

    ugh. im getting tired of hearing Christian blabbering their mouth and make Christian look like an idiot. Im Christian and I celebrate Halloween and all other Holidays.

    Honestly, they need to grow up.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • James

      Hmm...I apologize Mr. Christian-cool-man...I'm tired of hearing how cool you are because "you celebrate Halloween".

      October 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • James

      Sick of hearing it, But truth hurts. Because that's the contemporary Christian "Do what you want, live your life cause we're going to Heaven anyways.".....

      October 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • sally

      apparently you are not a christian, so don't make it confusing for those of us who are

      October 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  19. Tanya

    Here's my simple opinion (Nothing extreme).

    I'm not including Halloween in my opinion. As a christian, I believe that santa claus, easter bunny & many other images that are put out during "Religious" holidays aren't just out their for the "fun of it". There's a meaning for everything. And whoever made up Santa Clause, Easter Bunny knew what they were doing. These images take away the True meaning of Christmas & Easter. Ask any kid these days, "what's Christmas about?" And they'll tell you "Santa Claus, presents". Well they might tell you Jesus was born. But nobody cares these days. We have to practice what we believe.

    As a Christian, I try to live up to God & praise Him.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  20. john

    What most do not understand is that Halloween is a Catholic creation... better known as all saints day... The catholic church wanted to draw in more pagans over in western England and Ireland where Paganism was the dominate practice. At the time the Pagan religion did have a festival at the end of October beginning of November that was popular. The catholic church wanted to do something around this time to draw them in so they also created a party or festival at the same exact time to make them seem more open and fun. At first for centuries Halloween was only an Adult festival or party. It was not until the 20th century that it became popular for kids. The day we Christians celebrate as Christmas is also a way to draw Pagans over to Christianity. The exact day of Christ's birth is unknown and has been celebrated on other days other than Dec. 25th. Once again there is a Pagan festival around this time that the catholic church wanted to draw attention from and needed a festival of there own to do so. Thus the reason why we celebrate Christ's birthday on Dec. 25th. Our celebration itself has some pagan symbols such as the Christmas tree and exchange of presents.

    So like with many of Christianity's falsehoods we can thank the Catholic church and their lies. As for the celebration itself as long as you are not holding the celebration above God and whorshipping some false icon you are ok.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • James

      Well, you're not exactly ok if you Celebrate Halloween as a "true christian" because you need to realize why you're doing it & the meaning behind it. Also, as a christian, you can't be an "in-between" You gotta know where you stand and these days it's hard to get anyone to understand that. It goes like this, well i guess I'm a christian, I go to church, blah, blah, blah. But my life shows NOTHING to prove of what a "christian" I am..

      October 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • grist

      Actually, Christians moved the celebration of the birth of their god to coincide with the Greek saturnalia. They figured they could not be persecuted for holding a celebration at the same time everyone else was celebrating. So, now that Christians are not being persecuted (at least in the West), why not move it back to when religious experts think it was. Of course, there is no historical evidence for the birth of Jesus; it is all fiction so I guess it does not matter.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Joe

      Funny John that you think the Catholic church is full of lies when the early Catholic church is the body that put the Bible together in the first place! I guess then that you also believe the Bible is full of lies????

      October 29, 2011 at 7:28 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.