I love holidays. But I hate the word "holiday". The reason must be obvious; I hate the origin of the word itself, "holy day". An origin dripping with the very meaning that this carnival stands against; god, religion, superstition, etc.. So, I love celebrations, I enjoy the seasonal distinction associated with celebrations, and I have strong emotional ties to them derived from fond childhood memories. But, I still hate perpetuating their religious origins. It's a nasty paradox for atheist. In preparing for this addition of COTG I was faced head on by this paradox, and I pondered what I should do. Do I follow with tradition, and perpetuate a holiday that originated from pagan religious ceremonies, and was later subverted by Christianity, or do I ignore societal expectations and dismiss with the Halloween trappings and focus simply on the content that has been submitted?
Phil for Humanity suggests that we should not only condemn out-dated religious beliefs, but we should also refrain from bestowing upon those that hold those beliefs a respected place in society. And, that instead, we should Support New Atheism a more stringent form of atheism. I'll interpret this as one vote against Halloween tradition. Daylight Atheism holds a similar view, and extends the thought to advocate repealing tax exempt status for churches in Tax the Churches.
My support of a Halloween decor would be a purely secular one, would that make it OK? If I don't attach any spiritual meaning to it, does that make it acceptable? Salto Sobrius doesn't know what spiritual means, and suggests that nobody else really does either. Are You Spiritual? So, while Martin apparently can't recommend the use of the word spiritual, he does recommend the most recent Roy Zimmerman album. Over at 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish, olly suggests that "secular spirituality" can be expressed through creativity and music, and begins A ‘Rush’ of Emotion from Sean Prophet with a reference to Black Sun Journal's Rush 'Saved' Me (And My Kids). Olly thought it was worth a link, and I thought so too.
Along a similar vein, Reason and Rhyme serves up an article by Dan Barker discussing the agnosticism of Irving Berlin: Patriotism Was His Religion. "Christmas, for Irving Berlin, was not a religious holiday: it was an American holiday. [...] The words to 'White Christmas' are not about the birth of a savior-god: they are about winter, the real reason for the season." All in all, I'll take that as two votes for a secular interpretation Halloween as a seasonal celebration.
However, I wouldn't want to force anyone into a Halloween celebration that makes them uncomfortable, or makes them feel unwelcome. Barry of Staring at Empty Pages discusses a similar dilemma in The Dinner Game.
Perhaps a better way to approach the holiday is to consider real horrors as opposed to imaginary ones. Rather than discussing ghosts, or demons, or other make believe maladies, we should instead consider the very real nightmares that our society has created.
Whether you agree with the Iraq war or not, it would be hard to argue that what's happening there is not horrible. Westminster Wisdom discusses one aspect of the very real problems applying religious belief to government can create in Faith in Politics, and references Tony Blair's purported faith based decisions regarding the conflict. Part of Blair's justifications for the conflict, were assertions that he had knowledge that was both secret and or "private". Richard of Philosophy, et cetera isn't buying it. In Experience and Testimony he expresses his dissatisfaction with the whole notion of "private evidence".
For those that have been slow to enter the political fray, or may still be trying to get off the fence this election season, Stephan of Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds offers up several good reasons why he won't be elected to public office anytime soon in a Personal Attack Ad….Against Myself!
Intentional misinformation is a horror often perpetrated by religion. Hell's Handmaiden offers one example in Evolution Isn't Theology, while The Greenbelt offers another in Enter the Ark. Mojoey of Deep Thoughts exhibits another type of horror, that of morality of personal convenience, in Abandoned Meat.
So where does this leave us? We can't escape our history, as a society we are a fabric woven from the actions of those that came before us. We can only hope to change our future. The fabric of my past enjoys the Halloween holiday. So, (obviously) in deference to the past, I have decided to use the traditional Halloween color theme for this post. But, out of a desire to see a future decoyed of religion and religious influence, I am leaving out the ghosts, goblins, and witches. They don't exist, so why should we honor them. I do think pumpkins are OK, because they evoke the flavor of the season.
If then we can only change the future what do we have to look forward to? I'm left with two different takes on our possible future: The Skwib takes a more pessimistic (though very literary) outlook in The Empty Arches, while Wad's Place offers a more opportunistic outlook in I Bring News.
Ultimately, it may not matter if, as suggested over at Avant News, it Turns Out God Doesn't Particularly Care About Humans.