Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sympathy for the Devil

This Halloween was a generally pleasant and uneventful holiday. The kids picked their costumes, we overstocked with candy, Carly did a great job with decorating the house. Everything was pleasantly normal. Our neighbors came by, Carly took the kids and a couple of families from less trick or treat friendly locations (one country, one townhouse) out around our little island of a block.
I frequently speak of being the outsider or abnormal one here in the bible-belt, but this Halloween I got a sense of being on the other side. As many locations have to deal with political correctness in the form of Holiday Trees, and Spring Egg Hunts and the like (we get that a bit too) Halloween is interesting because it tends to divide two groups of Xians. The majority enjoy Halloween in all of its mischievous, sugar coated, mask wearing goodness--Just like us! But a decent sized minority (probably comparable to the number of non-religious people) does not celebrate Halloween. Their reason is not pious austerity, or austere piety, which might earn them some rspect in the way Monks and Nuns get brownie points for dedication, but good old fashion Devil fear.
In their own congregations they are probably quite comfortable and pleased with themselves for their rejecting this evil celebration, but in the bright light of community they are less boastful. They quietly admit that their children will not be dressing up, that they would prefer there be no decorations or costume parties at the school, or elsewhere. There is a real sense of palpable shame.
And the Norms do nothing to alleviate this. Oh your kids can't dress up? They can come with us to go trick or treating, or our kids can share their loot, etc.. This doesn't have the effect of bringing them into the fold. And for those quite moderate people that innocently don't already know the dark reason behind this boycott of Halloween, a simple inquiry leads to more hilarity. Otherwise quite normal and sensible people feel duty bound to admit that they don't celebrate Halloween because they think it glorifies a powerful and dark being that truly does exist and can wield power and temptation over us. Our innocent children can be swayed into darkness by these temptations. These explanations are typically greeted with a kind of pitying quick change of subject. Both sides are clearly uncomfortable with the discussion, and it is troublesome to see a person who is otherwise so normal reveal these beliefs.
Now I am quite familiar with the pitying brush off. As one who rejects anything supernatural, I am frequently on the receiving end of it. My internal response is usually either anger if they are insulting, bemusement if they ask silly questions (why do you go on living if you don't have Heaven and Hell to motivate you?), or self-irritation when I have the esprit d'escalier and think of a snappy comeback only after the moment has passed. I wonder what the fundies feel when they realize that those around them are not in accord with them?
This really ought to make me more sympathetic, but instead I feel a schadenfreude for their comeuppance. I wish I could say it was from pure compassion and empathy that I might pull one of them aside and in sincere solidarity say " I know just how you feel, I'm an Atheist, and I get those looks all the time." But, there might be something else going on as well. ;)