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Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day

What various faith groups
believe about Halloween

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Attitudes of various religious groups:

Late in each October, newspapers throughout North America traditionally publish articles about Halloween. In the past, many of these have consisted mainly of interviews of local Christian leaders. They frequently contained expressions of hatred against Wiccans, Witches and other Neopagans

A noticeable trend has developed in recent years. Some newspapers now include Neopagans when sampling local religious opinions. The Bergen Record newspaper in Bergen, NJ, is an excellent example. 1They published a Halloween article on 1999-OCT-28. Their first interview is of a local Wiccan, Ellie, who apparently prefers to remain anonymous.  (This is fairly common among Wiccans; some still remain deeply in the [broom] closet and celebrate their religion in secret for reasons of personal security.)

The Bergen article included interviews of representatives of Christianity, Ethical Culture, Islam, Judaism, and Wicca. On the other hand, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune discussed only Christians' attitude towards Paganism and Halloween. The writer did not bother to ask either a Pagan or other non-Christian for their opinion. 2 An article in the L.A. Times just before Halloween in the year 2000 also ignored the Pagan view. They mentioned negative views from Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and United Methodist spokespersons. They included neutral views by a representatives of the Episcopal church and of Mariners Church, Irvine CA. But they did not include a Wiccan or other Neopagan's view. 4

There is a wide range of beliefs about Halloween among Protestant churches. This is indicative of the conservative / mainline / liberal split within Protestant Christianity. Listed below are some responses from both articles:

bulletWicca: "Ellie" said that the time of Halloween is a major Sabbat (seasonal day of celebration) among Wiccans. She was identified as a North Jersey teacher of Wicca. She wrote:

" We're light-hearted enough to understand it's [Samhain] a celebration for everyone, but we will do our spirituality work...and we will be serious. But we also like to have fun...Wicca is a pre-Christian religion that is not harmful, that has nothing to do with the devil."

bulletIslam: Armiya Nu'Man, Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Jersey City, NJ, said that Halloween is:

 "... not a religious holiday at all. It glorifies evil. It's a Pagan holiday, and it glorifies devil worship."

bulletChristianity
bulletConservative Protestantism:
bulletThe Rev. Terry Long of Calvary Chapel in Salt Lake City, UT. He responded: "Exodus 22:18 reads, 'You shall not permit a sorceress to live.' It sounds to me like God is serious about this issue...To have our kids dress up as witches or the devil, if we have paper ghosts in our windows or have tombstones in our yards or attend haunted houses, are we not imitating evil, even glorifying it?" His church will offer its seventh annual Hallelujah Party on Halloween. "There will be games for the kids and it will be a time of Christ-centered fun." He suggests that the condemnation of Wicca in the Bible warns people not to mix with Wiccans: "Witchcraft is not a game. There is no middle ground. All people, those involved in Wicca included, are either saved by grace and love of God by coming to him in simple faith, or are lost for all eternity."
 
bulletThe Rev. Ralph Fiorelli is pastor of the Bergenfield Assembly of God Church. He said: "It's a day that's set aside for things of darkness...things that are supernatural. In reality, it has nothing to do with God." The church is opposed to children trick-or-treating because of safety considerations and because it glorifies Satan. They will offer a harvest celebration at church as an alternative.
 
bulletThe Rev. Mike Braun is pastor of the Covenant Community Church in Ramsey NJ. His congregation will "play down ghoulish aspects of the media-saturated society." He added: "It's easier to put up pictures depicting Satanic designs, which are contrary to God, than to put a cross up in public." This is apparently a reference to crosses and other religious objects in public schools or other government locations.
 
bulletThe Rev. Kevin McGuinness is pastor of the Cornerstone Bible Church in River Vale, NJ. He notes that "There's nothing Christian about a Christmas tree or Easter eggs...But the church has adopted these secular customs...We try to promote the message of Christ," He is encouraging young people to dress up as Biblical figures rather than as ghoulish characters. This gives the church the opportunity to educate kids about their beliefs.
 
bulletThe Rev. Eric Frye is pastor of The First Southern Baptist Church of Salt Lake City. He attempts to ignore Halloween as much as possible. He said: "It will be business as usual at our church. There will be no official acknowledgement of the day. I don't consider it a holiday in the true sense of the word. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving are holidays, or holy days...Halloween is merely a modern cultural event that some consider great fun, and others a great nuisance." Commenting on Wicca, he said: "...their practices seem to lean toward exaltation of human pride. Christianity is faith-based, and is a quest for a relationship with God through the redemptive mediation of Jesus Christ. Wicca and Christianity are the antithesis of each other."
 
bulletMike Otterson, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that the Church takes no stand on Halloween: "For Latter-day Saints, the matter of how and if to participate in Halloween-related activities is a matter of personal choice." However, in 1999, Halloween came on a Sunday. Otterson commented: "Sabbath observances preclude any activities, whether related to Halloween or not, which tend to diminish the significance of the Lord's Day." 

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bulletRoman Catholicism
bulletThe Rev. James B. Sullivan is the priest at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Fort Lee, NJ: He said: "My basic concern is the loss of the religious significance and the emphasis that is placed on the 'spookiness' of the holiday celebration...It's unfortunate that honoring our beloved departed and saints has been twisted into the celebration of Halloween." He is probably concerned about lack of attention to All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day by the public .
 
bulletEastern Orthodox:  
bulletThe Rev. Paul Kucynda is the priest at the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in Wayne. The church has a fall festival at which the children of the congregation make scarecrows and play games.
 
bulletMainline Christian denominations: 
bulletThe Rev. Harold Lay, is minister of the First Reformed Church, Saddle Brook NJ: Parents in the congregation have asked the church to sponsor a Halloween party. Rev. Lay commented: "Although violent and ghoulish images are not...very healthy, the congregation does not take issue with" kids celebrating Halloween.
 
bulletThe Rev. John Lohr is minister of the Presbyterian Church at Franklin Lakes, NJ. He said: "When we hold a [Halloween] party, it's not a religious observance anymore than having an Easter Bunny or Santa, which are cultural celebrations." He suggests that Christians can learn from the Pagan seasonal days of celebration who have a deeper understanding of the cycle of the seasons. This is an apparent reference to equinoxes and solstices celebrated by Pagans.
 
bulletThe Rev. Ronald Hodges is pastor of Salt Lake's Christ United Methodist Church. He is not concerned about Halloween and its Pagan origins. He said: "If [we] believe fully in the ominipotence of God, then concern about witches, ghosts and goblins, and things that go bump in the night, is misplaced. It is God alone who rules creation, and persons need not fear...the dark side of the human experience." Referring to Wiccans, he commented: "We do not condemn [them]. Nor do we believe that what they practice brings them the peace, hope or joy of the Christian faith."   
 
bulletLiberal denominations:
bulletThe Rev. Darlene Avery, is the minister of Holladay United Church of Christ (UCC) in Salt Lake City. She said:

"To be a Christian, one must contemplate and come to some terms with concepts like life and death, sacrifice and atonement, good and evil... Halloween is a healthy expression and outlet for those experiences."

She said she was "heartfully sorry'' for the Witch craze in New England a little over three centuries ago.

"My religious forbearers in the UCC include the Puritans in Salem and other U.S. colonies who tried and executed 'witches,' who may or may not have been involved in 'non-Christian' beliefs or practices. I would also entreat other Christians to acknowledge and learn from our sad past. As an ordained minister...I am vowed to 'show Christian love to people of other faiths,' and I will love any of my neighbors and extend God-mandated hospitality to the stranger."

bulletJudaism: Rabbi Arthur Weiner is a rabbi at the Jewish Community Center in Paramus, NJ. He explained that Halloween has no significance for Jews. He is frustrated with youth who go to Halloween parties and miss Hebrew school. He is also "concerned with the mischief."
 
bulletUnitarian Universalist: No representative from this very liberal religious group was interviewed. The Unitarian Universalist Association recognizes many sources of beliefs among its members: Judaism, Christianity, Humanism, and Earth Centered traditions, including Neopaganism. A spokesperson would probably have the same positive response to Halloween and Samhain as the Wiccan representative: it is a spiritual time of reflection and fun.
 
bulletEthical Culture Society (a humanistic movement which makes no claim about belief in a Supreme Being): Dr. Joseph Chuman is the leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, in Teaneck, NJ: He said: "Although Halloween has no special significance for the Ethical Culture Society, our view is that it has evolved into an American celebration," said Chuman. The society will be hosting a party for its members. Chuman urges youth to go beyond the commercialism of the holiday and use trick or treating to befriend their neighbors.

Reference:

  1. "Halloween: harmless fun or wicked influence?," The Bergen Record, Bergen, NJ, 1999-OCT-28. Online at: http://www.bergen.com
  2. Bob Mins, "Christians long leery of Paganism, " The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT, 1999-OCT-30. Online at: http://www.sltrib.com
  3. T. Hargrove & G.H. Stempel III, "Poll indicates a haunted nation." Nando Times, 1999-OCT-27. Describes a poll by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University during 1999-SEP/OCT. Margin of error: 4%. Available at: http://www2.nando.net/
  4. Dr. Muzammil Siddiqu, "Questions of faith: Is Halloween a holiday that should be celebrated?," L.A. Times, 2000-OCT-28, Orange County Edition, Metro section, Page B-6.

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Home page >  Christianity > Practices > Holy Days > Halloween > here

Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-OCT-29.
Latest update: 2009-OCT-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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