October is here…full of cinnamon winds and long shadows. But before we get to the rejuvenating revelry and the weirdest month…I just read a web comic. It’s a strip, warning kids about what Halloween “really” is. Here’s the link: DEVIL’S NIGHT

Go ahead…read it. I feel a rant coming on and my words won’t make as much sense otherwise…

…read it? OK. I’m just going to ramble (but I’ll try to do it with a modicum of eloquence)…

FEAR isn’t a good emotion with which to base an important decision on (spiritual or temporal). And yet that’s what the pamphlet uses as it’s medium. Sudden, paranoid fear – not using positive emotions of love or enlightenment to draw folk to it, but more like “evil things are going to get you…quick…jump in…don’t think about it…”

What’s more, it uses the fear of children, particularly vulnerable to boogie-man and guilt tactics (very adult). Now…I won’t take this journal to go ahead and say the devil is a boogey man and doesn’t exist. What I mean are these comic book’s “boogie-man” tactics of conjuring, in the minds eye, monsters and demons behind every shadow, every piece of candy, every costume. I’ll give example –

The girls talk about all the “witches” that sacrifice animals and children in order to cast rituals to serve Satan (never mind that animal sacrifices play a part in Christian/Judeo theology…and, as I recall, almost one human sacrifice). I can’t say that sacrifices never happen (I can’t account for the statistics of the occasional crazy). However, it is not the main course of the merriment celebrated by those who celebrate Halloween. Most towns (my own included) have their vague stories of a dog or a cat that got sacrificed not so long ago (it’s always a year or two ago…no matter how many years later you hear the tale). When every town has a similar tale, always witnessed by someone who knew someone (the person you talk to is never the one to have seen it), it’s usually an urban legend (these follow the same basic laws of word of mouth physics as old fables and fairy tales of the old country). This comic “boogey-man’s” these common urban stories by just stating that it does in fact, happen and happen often. State something like that (especially an urban myth) as factually as that and then someone says, “yeah…that happened to a friend of mine” or “I read that in the New York Times (they probably never did…but they think they remember reading it somewhere and so just say that rather than explain further….or maybe a relative said they read it there, but never did…and so on…and you see where facts leave the picture quickly).

Now throw in children always disappear before every Halloween and that they are surely sacrificed by Halloween Witches. Now…let’s take this sentence apart with a critical thinking scalpel. First…what facts does the writer of this comic have? He knows that children disappear before Halloween. OK. He assumes what happens to them…so lets cut that piece off (snip). Now…let’s take the actual fact. It is true, children do disappear before every Halloween. However, it omits part of the truth. Children disappear before every Halloween because children disappear every freaking month! It happens all the time and it is usually a separated parent who wants custody or a pervert…no rituals…no devil worship.

This use of a half-fact only serves as a prelude to the writer’s research. Religious recruiters can’t always be bothered with good research (faith being the important thing). The little girls in the comic discuss the pagan rituals of “old England.” One girl mentions that there was a night (proto-Halloween) where the souls of the dead come back and terrorize their poor, godless family members. The writer is correct, there are many such nights in many such cultures. What he did not look up (or purposefully omitted) is that in almost all cultures that have a day that dead family members come back to visit their family – it is a celebration of happiness, either the dead come back as guardian angels to protect family members or share wisdom or it gives family a chance to remember what was lost. The writer uses his bit of Christian-Logic™ that says that if it isn’t a Christian ritual it is bad – so of course the spirits of the dead came back terrorize the families (why else would they?). The writer doesn’t take into account how many of these cultures don’t have the same fearful look at the dead and death (funny…since Christianity is supposed to be about paradise awaiting one after life, that they should fear the dead so much). In fact, many Latin cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead (which is pretty much what I described above) and they are very Catholic (notice no dissected cats). The writer’s research resembles the fact gathering of an unscrupulous media reporter – grab just enough facts that are juicy…don’t concern yourself with the ones that weigh down the story or make it less captivating.

Also note that part of Halloween comes from a Christian practice (many Christian rituals, being derived from older pagan ones) of dressing up like saints and angels (sometimes devils) and walking about the town.

There are also a sprinkling of statements for added fun. “Halloween pulls kids into witchcraft.” You are reading the journal of the BIGGEST fan of Halloween in the free world and I have never (and never plan to) sacrifice a cat or child…I have many friends who like Halloween and I don’t know one witch, let alone the animal sacrificing kind. Of course, I like Halloween which means I’m a witch which means I’m certainly lying about this…in fact, that child abduction you read about last week was me…the thing about a separated father nabbing the kid was just a clever cover story placed by high ranking Satanists…and that cat that used to wander around your town, the one that disappeared, I cut it up with a razor while singing backwards Beatle’s lyrics, naked, my body covered in Lime Jell-O (Bill Cosby is also a Satanist).

I like how the comic lumps spiders along with demons and ghosts as “ugly” things (an eight legged, living creature…and who created those?).

Now the comic ends with a choice: A and B (no other options) either you follow Jesus or you celebrate Halloween and worship the Devil. It leaves out the logic leap of why celebrating Halloween worships the devil. It gives the bible quote that says you should believe in Jesus…but there’s no quote saying Halloween is evil (not unless you mean indirectly and with a nice stretch of interpretation). Well of course someone is going to choose A and not the Devil. But that is the psychology of the question. Ask it straight away and forcefully, make the choice now. Look in what’s in my hands (and not behind my back). Never mind the logic jump. Tell them what you want them to see…

I know a little something about magic tricks, sleight of hand, pick pocketing and the strategy of the con. The interesting thing, for me, about all those activities is that the fundamentals and philosophy are the same – palming, misdirection, showing point A and C so audience doesn’t even see point B, sizing up a mark. It’s all the same, whether you’re vanishing a quarter, making someone look the other way, taking their belt, convincing them of something that didn’t’ happen, or leading around an impressionable mind. It’s interesting that the same tactics (at there base form) work well with certain types of evangelism.

The same people, usually will tell you that the Devil’s greatest trick was convincing man that he does not exist. I say the devil’s best trick is over convincing people he’s real, until they see him behind every decision, shadow, and impulse, every enjoyment – until they are made to hate their base, “animal,” selves. When fear and self-hate become theology…that’s when the arch-demon laughs his truly satisfied cackle.

I’ve never been a fan of “that thing simply IS evil” side of spiritualism. I was fed it, as a boy, by my grandmother (who, despite this rant, I love deeply). This was evil and that was evil and never mind why. For example:

“Grandma can buy that board game?”
”No, it’s fantasy…that’s magic and devil worship. That’s evil.”
“But I don’t understand…it doesn’t do anyone any harm.”
“That’s how the devil works dear.”

Never mind that modern fantasy, as a genre, owes most of its existence to J.R.R. Tolkien who was himself a MEGA Christian and who helped C.S. Lewis (one of the biggest Christian authors and intellectuals of the 20th century) to come back to Christianity as an adult.

By this “evil contracts through cooties” theory, I can convince someone in turn that a bicycle with a banana seat is evil:

“You can’t ride that bike anymore…it’s evil and witchcraft.”
“But Josh, it doesn’t seem evil…I just ride the bike…it doesn’t cause harm.”
“That’s how the Devil works. It seems innocent and doesn’t cause any apparent harm…but all the while Satan is shooting evil up your rectum.”
“But…I like riding my bike. I really enjoy it.”
“Pleasure is tainted – the Devil is only tempting you with the enjoyment you feel. But I guess…I’ll just leave it up to you. It’s your choice. Is riding your bike more important than God? Choose. Either ride your bike or believe in Jesus.”

You’ll note I was brought up Catholic and we are the UNDISPUTED masters of the guilt trip.

No…for me I think evil is as evil does. Yes, evil can be a subtle influence (that first hit of coke…that first crime…etc.), but real evil is actual evil. Genocide, rape, and torture are evil…a pumpkin with a candle in it is not evil, certinly not “just because.”

But it brings us back to the con. The magic trick. The writer sized up his mark, children, and they are indeed an open target. Then the misdirection, the palming, and the snatch and he makes kids afraid and guilty of a very innocent and childlike thing – running around, with friends, in funny clothes, collecting candy. A comic strip that speaks out against an “ugly” holiday of “fear” by using fear tactics itself.

I will say this for the comic though…it had one pretty positive thing in it. The girls decide to give trick or treaters little comic strips explaining their stance. They turned a perceived negative into a positive. A very healthy tactic and outlook…but the only one I saw in the whole piece. Of course those were comics passed out to scare other little kids into religion…

Ah…but this is NOT a rant against Christianity or religion (despite appearances). Some of the best Halloween parties I’ve had were at my old church. One of the wisest men I knew was a priest. It’s more a rant against those who value faith to the total exclusion of common sense or critical thought. One without the other is like a kid playing with a gun and both cases, eventually leads to someone (maybe the user or someone standing next to them) to loose their brains

Ah…but this subject is making me bitter…being bitter makes me blunter, less clever. I’m at my best with sarcasm, laughter, and sardonic grins. Better to ridicule and laugh at the evils we perceive. It was in fact, Martin Luther who said:

“The bet way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

And it was Thomas More who said:

“The devil…the prowde spirite…cannot endure to be mocked.”

So on that note…go out and have a fun Halloween! Put on some horns and laugh at the devil instead of hiding in your home afraid of evil candy.

This was where I was going to list the schedule of fun events coming up this month…but this post is already way too freaking long (so I’ll do it in my next post). Speaking of which, Rich (and fellow Eureka folk) we need to pick a night to watch scary movies in Pritchard with that wonderful new TV.

OK. Goodnight folks.

I’m going to go sacrifice a cat…

…hope they have more grape flavored ones…