Almost everybody is excited about Halloween, including most of the television stations. This month, ABC will be airing “World’s Scariest Ghosts: Caught on Tape, while NBC will launch a new series, called “Cursed”, about a man who’s date got angry and put a hex on him. The Fox channel will be showing “FreakyLinks”, featuring stories of the supernatural/occult claimed to be true by actual people, and the Fox Family Network is now promoting its “13 Days of Halloween” featuring the miniseries “Scariest Places on Earth”, and the new series “Fearing Mind”. MTV will be showing “Fear”, while IFC (Independent Film Channel) will air an horror movie documentary called “The American Nightmare”. TMC (Turner Classic Movies) and AMC (American Movie Classics) will of course be airing plenty of classic horror and monster movies.
However, there is one station that is not so enthusiastic about Halloween and will not be preparing in the usual way. The special Halloween section of the CBN (the Christian Broadcasting Network) website is largely critical of Halloween. In Hallowed or Harmful?, we are warned of witches casting spells, evil spirits, babies being sacrificed and children being exposed to occult practices in school, on movies, and on television. CBN, which has recently merged with Christianity.com, also partly blames television and movies for making “witchcraft and casting spells look like innocent entertainment to impressionable young viewers”. There are even more dire warnings in Freedom from Demon Bondage of demons and evil spirits with the power to control us, make us sick, make us do bad things and even cause someone to commit suicide. It is interesting that the list of indications of demonic activity includes items such as:
- Seeking spiritual knowledge through Eastern religions and other counterfeit religious groups (TM, Yoga, humanism, etc.)
- Involvement in occult practices (fortune-telling, Satanism, etc.)
Andy Freeman wrote an opposing view that suggests handing out religious tracts along with the candy. Add that to the list of reasons why parents should check our children’s trick or treat bags.
All of this is not so surprising considering that Pat Robertson, host of the 700 CLUB show that airs daily on CBN, is both the founder and president of the station. Robertson had railed against Halloween on the 700 CLUB back in 1985 on October 29th:
“I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice… [Your children] are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don’t even realize it.”
Pat Robertson and CBN are not the only ones spooked by Halloween. Anti-Halloween articles can be found elsewhere on the internet, such as Halloween- the Most Evil Day of the Year which describes trick or treating as a “dangerous occultic practice” and claims, without any supporting evidence, that modern day Druids are committing ritual human sacrifices. The page also includes links to other anti-Halloween sites too numerous to mention here. The Spirit of Halloween , written by Johanna Michaelsen, claims ritual Satanic killings are performed every Halloween night. The Watchman Expositor published an article in favor of censoring Halloween in schools, called Halloween – Harmless Fun or Pagan Rituals? Author Ruth Gordon claims that “sordid Occultic practices lurk under the cloak of this seemingly innocent traditional festival”, such as sacrifices of small animals and human babies. All of these sites claim such events are a traditional part of Halloween that started with the Druids, but the site Halloween: Myths, Monsters and Devils tells a very different and less sinister history of Halloween.
There are many sites making claims of human sacrifices being made on Halloween, but none of them provide news sources. Certainly if this sort of thing were going on every Halloween it would be all over the newspapers, yet no evidence is given in support of these outrageous claims. There have been some associated press articles about shelters not letting black cats get adopted too close to Halloween because of cruel pranks. This is horrible, but since the vast majority of trick-or-treaters do not engage in such activities, it would be more appropriate to increase the penalties of such criminal behavior rather than ban Halloween.
Yet in some places, people do try to ban or censor Halloween. In 1995, a California school district banned celebrations of Halloween, but reversed the ban about two weeks before Halloween. The Los Altos school district had tried to ban Halloween observances after several parents complained that the events glorified Satan and the occult. Other parents and children protested the ban. Eighth grade student Kristine Kizer told them, ”Lighten up board members, before you’re known as the Halloween version of Scrooge.” Texas, Virginia and Florida have had similar bans. The Associated Press ran an article October 29th, 1999 reporting that since Halloween night fell on a Sunday that year, many communities were holding trick-or-treating on Saturday instead, “because they don’t want youngsters dressing up as demons on the Lord’s day.” The AP also reported in 1998 that the 25th anniversary of the New York City Halloween parade in Greenwich Village had almost been cancelled because of complaints.
Other forms of “occult” entertainment have also been criticized and sometimes censored. The most recent example may be the Harry Potter book series by J. K. Rowling, about a young boy who is learning to become a wizard. The CBN article Bewitched by Harry Potter denounces the entertainment industry for teaching global and occult values and uses the Harry Potter series as an example. The journalist, Berit Kjos, claims the Harry Potter series trains children to see good and evil from a pagan perspective and that the Bible teaches that all “occult” forces are wrong. Kjos then falsely claims that pagan traditions have been carried through to this century. (Actually, we don’t know much about ancient pagan traditions; the traditions of modern NeoPagans are a combination of uncertain guesses about pagan history and newly invented ideas and traditions.) The usual scare tactics about human sacrifice are employed, as well as a refusal to accept that the history of Christianity is full of atrocities as well.
” The talent and knowledge of the author makes this seductive world all the more believable…The witchcraft and wizardry in Harry Potter books may be fantasy, but they familiarize children with a very real and increasingly popular religion one that few really understand…the human cruelties involved in pagan worship included torture, mutilation and human sacrifice. Many of these practices continued …until…the spread of genuine Christianity (totally different from cultural Christianity) with its emphasis on love and the value of life, made most of these cruelties intolerable.”
Logos resource pages also rail against the Harry Potter series, saying:
“Page after page after page the reader’s minds are exposed to charms and casting spells. Sorcery is an abomination to the Lord! Sorcerers are said to be deceivers, children of the devil, enemies of righteousness and perverters of the right ways of the Lord!…Harry Potter books are perverted!!!”
The website author then wonders out loud if, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is a witch, saying that she has created the perfect primer for teaching children the occult. Then he implies that she should die because of it, and says the books should be burned:
“Shame on you J. K. Rowling for promoting that which the Bible condemns! Joanne K. Rowling finds herself in the place of Simon the Sorcerer of Acts 8:9. She is using sorcery and bewitching the children!… I tell you, ‘It were better for [her] that a millstone were hanged about [her] neck, and [she] cast into the sea, than that [she] should offend one of these little ones.’ Luke 17:2…Are belief systems and/or doctrines evident or advocated that are contrary to the Bible? The answer clearly is YES! In light of that, we should follow the course of action that the early Christians followed in Acts 19:19-20 ‘Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.'”
Freedom Village USA says that witches are “put in the same category as someone who murders babies”, and rants against Role Playing Games, Pokemon and Harry Potter Books in Satan’s ABC’s of Child Destruction. Just as on the Logos Resource Pages, Freedom Village USA attempts to connect the author of the book series to witchcraft. In a stunningly poor attempt at logic, the authors suggest that since J.K. Rowlings has said in interviews that her favorite time of year is Halloween, and since modern witches also celebrate Halloween, that J.K. Rowling must be a witch. Even if she were a witch, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that the Harry Potter series is a propaganda piece for Wicca, but Rowling says that her series is about an imaginary world, and that “the children are being smarter about this than a few other people”.
Freedom Village USA, however, insists that there are hidden themes behind the fantasy, and that the series is intended to show that witchcraft, as practiced religiously by Neopagans for example, is acceptable and harmless to children. In other words, the real fear is that the book series may be depicting people other than Christians as being good, moral people while failing to depict Wiccans or Neopagans as baby eating freaks.
“The truth is that the world of witchcraft is not fantasy and it is not fun – it is very real and it is not a happy world. It is in fact a world of fear, suspicion, competition (for self-gain), disrespect for authority and evil… Witchcraft is a bonafide, tax exempt ‘religion’ in this country, with an agenda contrary to every moral Judeo-Christian fiber that built this nation and, therefore it’s precepts should not be mandatory reading in our schools…The problem is that most parents/teachers don’t even believe that witchcraft and Satanism are ‘real’ and thereby simply cannot see the imminent dangers of it.”
This site and others argue that promoting the reading of books with “occult” themes violates the separation of church and state because Wicca is now a recognized religion. However, fantasy involving magical themes such as those in “The Wizard of Oz” and most classic fairy tales, has existed long before Neo-Paganism emerged which makes the argument specious. The counter argument is that in these other stories, the main character is not the one who actually uses the witchcraft. That is not exactly true since in “The Wizard of OZ” Dorothy does use magic slippers given to her by Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, in order to return home. However that is really besides the point, since there is a difference between a religious apologetic work and a work of fiction intended to be pure fantasy. “Harry Potter” is not “Drawing Down the Moon”.
Worst of all, the article supportively includes the following Biblical quote:
“‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.’ Exodus 22:18-20.”
Although no one’s running around burning witches (yet), the Harry Potter book series has been the target of censorship efforts. The South Carolina Board of Education agreed to review complaints about the book series last year. The use of the books in public schools has been challenged in thirteen states. Last year in Zeeland, Michigan, School Superintendent Gary Feenstra placed restrictions on the use of the books, such as not allowing them to be read out loud, removing them from display in elementary school libraries and requiring parental permission to check out the books or use them for book reports. However, he later announced that he would rescind most of the restrictions. The anti-censorship group Muggles for Harry Potter also says there have been reports of the series being banned in Colorado and Kansas.
The American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999 lists at least a dozen titles, including the Harry Potter series, that involve magical fantasy, or so-called “occult” themes. Among them is also a Halloween book.
Hysteria among Fundamentalist Christians over occult themes has become so extreme, that Christian apologist Tal Brooke has recently chastized Christians for circulating a fictional story about the Harry Potter series through e-mails. The original article called Harry Potter Books Spark Rise In Satanism Among Children, published by The Onion , is an obvious satire which was taken quite seriously by many Fundamentalist Christians. Says Brooke:
“”While I have not the slightest doubt that Harry Potter books promote witchcraft among young people, the problem is that we need to ensure that we not blow our case by then falling for a sensationalistic invention that will only come back and embarrass us…The fact that so many Christians have fallen for this obvious fabrication…is a sad reflection…a deep indication of corruption within the Christian ghetto. We don’t seem to have any discernment here at all about what is truth or about how the real world operates.”
Hey, he said it; not me! Speaking of not having any discernment about how the real world operates, many among the Christian Right are also afraid of role playing games, sometimes called RPG’s, because of their supposed occult significance. In addition to the Harry Potter book series, the Logos Resource pages also warns against martial arts, Satan, witchcraft, ouiji boards, Dungeons and Dragons role playing game, Magic: The Gathering role playing game, paganism, hypnosis, Disney’s movie of “Pocahontas”, and “Pokemon” (both the game and the television cartoon).
As for the Pokemon cartoons, website author Pastor David L. Brown thinks that the television show may encourage children to carry their Pokemon cards or toys like magical charms, and set the stage for “entanglement” with the role playing game. He says the Pokemon game is a stepping stone to “harder occult oriented games” such as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, and accuses such games of causing confusion between fantasy and reality and causing the player to devalue life.
Of Pokemon powers, Brown says:
“It is the pantheistic power of the occult, not the supernatural power of God. I have found two cards that make this very clear (there are likely more). They are Abra and Kadabra. Yes, these are their actual names. ‘Abrakadabra’ (or abracadabra) has been a word long associated with occult magic… It is clear from the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) that we are neither to participate in nor associate with activities related to the occult. Some of the readers will no doubt protest, ‘it’s only a game!’ To be sure it is a game, but a game that does not glorify God!”
Four pages are dedicated to the “harder game” Dungeons and Dragons” Brown attempts to link the role playing game to violence, says it teaches witchcraft, and apparently doesn’t know the difference between a player and a character. Have people such as Brown neither played “make believe” as a child, nor acted in a school play?
“We become what we think. If we dwell on murder, rape, demonology, sadism, prostitution, witchcraft, etc. we absorb that knowledge and the thin line between fantasy and reality is removed and may leave no way out but death. If you are involved – even a little bit with any fantasy role playing, stop and ask yourself of its influence on your mind and life. “
Brown says role playing games can become “addictive”. Fundamentalist Christians seem to want to turn every interest in things they deem evil into an addiction, from games to gambling to sex. Funny how kids can become “addicted” to Pokemon cards but having an extensive stamp collection is perfectly normal.
Brown also claims that there is a vampire revival and that Count Chocula television commercials desensitize children to the dangers of vampirism.
The CBN article Introduction to the occult criticizes the game “Magic: the Gathering” which sparked a lawsuit against a school district, for “promoting occultic themes like Satanism, witchcraft, and demon possession”.
In the lawsuit against the Bedford school district, plaintiffs claimed the game, which was part of the gifted and talented students’ curriculum at Pound Ridge Elementary, promotes New Age occultism. Although the plaintiffs one on a few of the many counts in their suit, “Magic” was not found to promote New Age religions nor violate separation of church and state.
The CBN article also accused the children’s books “Goosebumps,” the “Magic Tree House,” “The Zack Files,” and “The Black Cat Club” of promoting “occultic themes”. Another CBN page tells the story of a man, arrested for sexually assaulting teenagers, who claimed to be a vampire. Supposedly, he used the role playing game “Vampire: the Eternal Struggle” as a lure. Readers are warned that the game could become “even more dangerous than Dungeons and Dragons”.
The now defunct anti-gaming organization BADD (Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons), and the National Coalition on Television Violence claimed that the game Dungeons and Dragons had been a causal factor in at least nine suicides and murders and called for warning stickers on the games, as well as anti-gaming advertising campaigns.
The Freedom Village USA site mentioned earlier, also attacks role playing games. Of course, the games, like everything else, are also blamed for the Columbine shootings. Saying that fantasy role playing is a “juggernaut only God can stop”, the author contends that the games employ “Experiential Learning Technologies” which he describes as “the most powerful method of altering a persons’ thought processes, beliefs and behaviors”.
“Military trainers know the subconscious mind is unable to distinguish between a real life experience and one that is vividly imagined…Fantasy Role-Playing games engulf your mind with all kinds of evil…murder, rape, demonology, sadism, prostitution, witchcraft, stealing, mutilation, human sacrifice, worshiping other gods, casting spells, using magic, and practicing necromancy.”
Wow! Better close down all the acting classes before students playing villains start becoming them! And whatever you do, don’t let your children play make believe games. Take away that cowboy hat before your child thinks he really is a cowboy! I wonder, if they are so concerned about children being able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, why is it okay to lie to kids and tell them there is a Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, and tooth fairy?
“In 1978 a newly saved former practitioner of black witchcraft named Cheryl was glancing at a copy of D&D’s Deities and Demigods in her local bookstore… She was shocked and horrified when she noticed the Deities and Demigods were in fact real demons, some of which she had previously conjured up to perform tasks for her. Both the names and the likeness were accurate to the real spirit world…The fact is these games are often inspired, marketed and used by demons to accomplish their evil tasks.”
That is probably the silliest quote on the page. Instead of worrying about the mental health of gamers, perhaps they should be more concerned about those who claim to see “real” demons.
After the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado on April 23rd of last year, the district attorney, Dave Thomas, reportedly wondered out loud about the influence of video games, movies and role-playing games on youngsters.
The Religious Tolerance website mentions a number of referenced studies with results favorable to gaming. A study conducted by Michael Stackpole in which he calculated the expected suicide rates of gamers. Out of 4 million gamers worldwide, if gaming had no effect on suicide rates then 500 gamers would be expected to commit suicide each year, yet even the anti-gaming organization, BADD, said the suicide rate of gamers was only seven per year. Suzanne Abyeta & James Forest studied the criminal tendencies of gamers and found that they committed fewer than the average numbers of crimes for people in their age group. The Association of Gifted-Creative Children has endorsed Dungeons and Dragons for its educational content, and their California chapter surveyed psychological autopsies of adolescent suicides and were unable to find any that were linked to role-playing games. The American Association of Suicidology, the Center for Disease Control in Canada and Health & Welfare in Canada have conducted extensive studies into teen suicide and have found no link to the games. Dr. S. Kenneth Schonbert studied over 700 adolescent suicides and found none linked to role-playing games.
Television is also blamed for encouraging interest in Halloween and/or occult activities in general. The Watchman Expositor’s Youth-Oriented TV and the Occult points the finger at “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, “Charmed” and the “X-Files”. The author claims the shows teach that, “Properly understanding supernatural powers gives one the ability to save oneself and others” and further comments that, “ultimate victory over Satan and his demons will be accomplished by Christ and His angels, not through human fighting ability or esoteric knowledge.” The author quotes Dick Rolfe, head of the Dove Foundation:
“When you spend that much time watching something [the average American family watches six hours of television per day], you have just developed new role models and a new window on life. During the time a Christian spends focusing on plots concerning subjects that are condemned by God, that person is tacitly following the occult rather than God.”
The Anti-Halloween Book on Logos Resources Page warns that Halloween and scary movies are bad for you because “fear has detrimental effects on people”. To advance this view, the author uses scare tactics such as unsupported claims of Halloween satanic ritual abuse, murder, suicide and demonic possession. Television and movies blamed for encouraging evil acts include: “Dracula”, “Scream”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th” and “Exorcist II”. The author seems to go beyond mere criticism by suggesting censorship:
“I have had parents and media people tell me that TV does not have any influence on people. Do you believe that? In fact that’s bunk! …Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Radecki does not believe that television is neutral either. He said, ‘every year film violence and real-life violence continues to get worse. We must protest and stop this growing sadism in our homes, schools, and on our streets.'”
Yet other pages on the same site suggest that it isn’t so much fear of violence that is fueling this, but fear of spooks. On their page listing the 4 categories of supernatural phenomena, the first two, manufactured and psychological are not really supernatural at all, the fourth is “divine” defined as caused by the God of the Bible, but the fourth is “demonic”:
“The Scriptures clearly indicate that Satan and his fallen angels (demons) are the ‘supernatural’ power behind true occult phenomena and their false religious practices (See Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Psalm 106:35-40; Acts 16:16-19; I Corinthians 10:19-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; I Timothy 4:1)… BEWARE! DO NOT dabble in occult practices. Those who get involved in the occult get more than they bargain for!”
CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) aired a news story April 29th, 1999 titled Witchcraft a Big Seller Among Teens, that seemed to suggest that witchcraft was a factor in the Littleton, Colorado school shootings. Hey, why not? It wouldn’t surprise me now if someone tried to pin the blame for school shootings on my kitchen sink. Reporter Deborah Whitson claims that television shows, books and games are deliberately marketing Wicca to teenage girls. The television shows “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Charmed” were specifically mentioned. She said:
“Satan doesn’t have little horns and a little pointed tail, a pitchfork and a red suit. He’s not dressed in a union jacket. It’s a trivialization of very real, dangerous spiritual things.”
Earlier that month, American Atheists had posted the article Buffy, Xena Become Targets of Religious Intolerance. In the article, the author noted that CBN seemed to attack “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in particular and argued that,
“…rarely do religious groups simply ask people not to watch these programs. Instead, they pressure studios to not air a particular feature, or destroy copies of a movie as was proposed with “The Last Temptation of Christ.”
That same April, the WB network indefinitely postponed two episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” because they felt it was “inappropriate” to air them after the Columbine shootings. “Earshot” was the first episode to be postponed for being too similar to the Colorado school shootings. In the episode, Buffy reads the thoughts of a student who may be plotting the murder of a classmate. Then in May, WB postponed “Graduation 2”, the second half of the season finale episode, in which Buffy and friends attack the town mayor at a school graduation ceremony after he turns into a giant, evil, heavily armed serpent.
However, Canadians were able to view the show as scheduled and made digital copies on the internet, as well as tapes through the postal mail, available to Americans. Some fans of the show formed “Stand Up For Buffy,” and raised $4000 for an ad criticizing the WB decision. WB finally did air both episodes before the fourth season of the show.
Michael Patrick, Senior Analyst for CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) news has called for government to enact “stronger protections” for children from both television violence and exposure to the “occult” saying that, “The First Amendment does not shield those who prey on children’s souls”. He specifically mentions Fox’s new series “FreakyLinks” and the SciFi channel’s “Crossing Over With John Edwards”.
Would CBN be happy with merely protecting children from such shows? Or do they have a much broader agenda? David Synder of CBN news advocates government legislation against words he thinks adults should not say in public. On a July 8, 1997 airing of the 700 CLUB, Pat Robertson said that UFO enthusiasts should be stoned to death. In a speech in Dallas in 1984 Robertson had this to say about Christians taking “dominion”:
“Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance – it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ.”
Criticisms of Halloween reveal more about the critics than about Halloween. The far Christian right claims that Halloween, other “occult” activities such as role playing games and fantasy books and television programs create confusion between fantasy and reality, yet they are the ones afraid that demons will possess them or that witches will successfully cast evil spells on them. Even though Americans have celebrated Halloween long before the emergence of Neo-Paganism and Wicca, the far Christian right is afraid that Halloween and its trappings may cause people to turn away from Christianity, in particular their version of it. In their minds, any ideas that do not “glorify God” or rather, their version of a god, must be censored.
Was “Buffy” really censored because of violent content, or because of the unsupported and bigoted assumption that Wiccans had something to do with the Columbine shootings? Exactly how many schools do have problems with students shooting giant serpent monsters? Is it really violent images from which the censors want to protect children, or do they want to “protect” people of all ages from any ideas that do not promote Fundamentalist Christianity?
Horror movies, vampires, children dressed up as ghost Pokemon and other Halloween trappings just don’t compare to CBN, Pat Robertson and other censors when it comes to being scary. Now somebody please pass the candy corn!
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