Happy HELLoween!

Ok, it’s a little early for Halloween, but I saw an add for costumes and candy in the paper and it got me thinking.

Did you know that many Christians believe in witches and goblins?

A kindergarten student in Pennsylvania wanted to have his mother read aloud from his favorite book in his class as part of an activity called “All About Me.” Each child was supposed to bring in a stuffed animal, a poster, a book, or some other item for show and tell, and talk to the class about their personal interests. The boy’s favorite book was the Bible. The school said that the mother would not be allowed to read from the Bible in the class. The school was sued over the event, and in May, won its case in federal court. Of course the case is now on appeal.

I think the school and the court were wrong. This isn’t a case of a school (government institution) favoring one religion over another. It’s a case of a student (private individual) asked to tell something about themselves to the other students. If the kid likes the Bible, he likes the Bible. Sad if that’s really a 5-year-old’s favorite book. But not illegal to talk about.

I kindof suspect that the kid’s mom chose the favorite book, or perhaps the kid never gets to read anything except the Bible at home. But that seems to be besides the point. It doesn’t sound like the teacher said the children had to choose books at their own reading level.

Here’s the kicker, it seems like the real reason they’re upset, is that the teacher suggested reading a halloween book instead! It has witches in it! Oh my!

In one Pennsylvania public school, reading from the Bible is forbidden — but reading about witches and Halloween is encouraged.

I bet a lot of you didn’t know that Christians in the 21st century still think there are real, evil witches lurking in the darkness waiting to steal their children’s souls. No, I am not making that up. Yes, I believed stuff like this myself once. One commenter makes it clear:

The Holy Bible states that in the very last days most of the world will be into drugs and witchcraft. It uses the word sorceries which is translated two ways for two meanings….pharmakia (Greek) for pharmacy or drugs and witchcraft is the other translated word. If they are determined to go to hell, who can stop them?

I feel bad for the kid, really. Now he’s going to be taught about how Christians are being persecuted and he’ll be brainwashed even more.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. I'm as firm a supporter of separation of Church and State as you're likely to find. If the assignment asked about the child's personal favorite item they wanted to bring in, then pretty much anything is fair game (except perhaps a loaded gun). As you note this clearly isn't the school advocating a religious point of view, but rather a student doing so.

  2. You know, I can't think of a single book in the Bible which would have attracted my attention when I was five years old. By the age of five, I already had my planets and my dinosaurs, and who would not trade Deuteronomy for Dimetrodon?

  3. I agree with you, writerdd. There's a lot of stupidity involved in this event, but the most egregious error to me is the zero-toleranace ban on the Bible. The worst part is that many theists will ascribe that sort of rule to secularism, when it's really just the result of political-correctness-ism, or whatever you want to call it.

  4. My mother-in-law, a staunch Mormon (Christian), surprised me the other day when I came home from a viewing of the latest Harry Potter. I entered the room as she was stating to a family gathering that she felt the Harry Potter films were designed to teach young children witchcraft.

    'Funny', I said out loud, 'I don't really remember any of the witchcraft spells they used in the film, but I am almost certain (going soft) that if I did, they would not produce a dazzling display of fireworks above our heads in this room.'

    My position was buffeted with an additional explanation that 'witches really do exist and that our children should take care not to get wrapped up with them.'

    I began to spout off about how the 'witches' that were railroaded to the stake back in the day were really just women who were caught up in a terrible misuse of authority, fear, and mass hysteria.

    She accepted a degree of reason, but I am certain she, and many others in the room, believe that witches are out to get us.

    I find it remarkable that, in our age of understanding, there are people who continue the belief that there are those of us who can move objects, make things appear out of thin air, and cast effective spells. More amazing is the belief that these people would a) use them for 'evil' instead of good; b) ONLY use them in private, where the general public or other validating witness could not confirm them; and c) not use these powers to 'get stuff' that would otherwise make them super-successful, or at least drive a nice car.

    Hokus Pokus.

  5. The real shame of it is that the people who think witchcraft is real are living in fear of it. Whereas if it really were real wouldn't that be so cool? Because then I could learn magic! Which would rock!

    I so often find myself with a very different attitude to the faithful. I don't believe there is a god but if there were I still don't think I would fall to my knees and worship him (or her). Except perhaps under threat of punishment. Certainly not just for the "glory of god". And if there were witches the first thing on my agenda is learning some magic.

  6. I think it wouldn't be too far out to say that it's very likely they believe in witches and goblins because they are religious.

    Obviously, being religious is a sign of willingness to accept certain ideas as truth just because someone says they are true. Without proof. This credulity is also at the basis of belief in plenty of other silly stuff, like goblins, so the two are not as seperate as you might think.

    I'd say you're much less likely to find an atheist who believes in witches and goblins, because the step that's required to shed belief in god is pretty much the same step that would also prevent someone from accepting just about anything without justification.

  7. I agree, the kid should have been allowed to present his favorite book, whether it was Green Eggs and Ham, the Bible, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This has become a major issue now, when it needn't have been, and it makes secularism look bad when it is misapplied so badly.

    Likewise, I am skeptical that the kid was making what could be called an "informed choice" in having the Bible as his favorite book, but I can well believe that the parents use it as his primary storybook (or possibly even his ONLY source of entertainment at home), so it's possible that it is his favorite, at least by default. That does not, however, mean he shouldn't be allowed to present it. If anything, the Bible makes a worthwhile source of mythlore.

    Too many people think that the law says religion has to be kept out of the schools at all costs, which is a gross oversimplification. But what can you expect from an institution that has gone to implementing "Zero Tolerance" rules that result in kids being suspended for wearing black clothing or bringing a paper drawing of a gun to school?


  8. Oh, I've known a few witches in my time, but they weren't particularly evil. Some of them were pretty self-centered, does that count?

    Seriously, that was pretty dumb of the teacher. Not just refusing to allow the Bible, but then suggesting a ghosts-and-witches Halloween book to the same parent! Serious insensitivity there… not the sort of thing that's really worth a court settlement, but a teacher should be aware of her students' cultural mileu.

  9. Clarification please!

    Writerdd, you say that many christians believe in witches and goblins. Is that "many" as in lots of people (like a small percentage of a large group) or "many" as in a large percentage?

    I hope that it is the former. A quick check of the central tenants of the largest Christian denominations (Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist) does not show that belief in witches and goblins is a part of their religious doctrine. That would indicate that the greater percentage of christians are not being taught that witchcraft is real as a part of their religious indoctrination. I could be missing something there. It was a very quick search.

    I'm writing from Memphis, Tennessee, and I can verify that there are some misguided individuals who believe in the "evil of Halloween". I've got lots of stories of parents who insist on "Harvest festivals" instead of Halloween parties or who send their kids to "Hell Houses" instead of haunted houses (sick bastards!). There was even one parent who withdrew her kids from public school because a teacher showed Bedknobs & Broomsticks to her class. However, there are also lots christians who do not believe in witchcraft. And there are lots of non-christians who believe in witches and goblins. I get the impression from your entry that you are implying that there is a direct link between modern, mainstream Christianity and belief in witchcraft. Is that your intent?

  10. A few things I think we need to remember.

    Students do not have full freedom of speech do to the requirement by law to attend.

    How the material was presented makes a difference here. If the bible is presented simply as a book of history that is fine. If the bible is presented as belief that is unacceptable. Also think about a parent presenting this to the class.

    I have a feeling with the ruling of the courts so far that they were presenting this as a belief.

  11. durnett, I meant "many" as "lots of people." I have not done any research to know if it's a majority or not. I just have personally known and read about many (as in "lots and lots of") people who believe stuff like that. Some is even more bizarre.

    SkepticalCowboy, we're talking about a kindergaterner here. I'm guessing the mother was going to read or tell a story about Noah or Jesus and the loaves and fishes or some other kids' Bible story. If she was planning to preach to the kids, that's another issue entirely.

    I wonder if more info about this case is avaiable anywhere. I just read the wingnut version of the story, so I am not sure what the real details are at all.

  12. durnett wrote:

    A quick check of the central tenants of the largest Christian denominations (Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist) does not show that belief in witches and goblins is a part of their religious doctrine. That would indicate that the greater percentage of christians are not being taught that witchcraft is real as a part of their religious indoctrination. I could be missing something there. It was a very quick search.

    Well, I do believe there's this passage that goes along the lines of "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" or some such. If the bible says witches must die, it's pretty much certain they assume witches to be real.

    Likewise, although they never quite understand how it works, christians (or perhaps religious people in general) are the only ones who believe in Satan.

    Many religions don't have "Satan", so they don't believe in Satan/Beëlzebub/Lucifer/The Devil™, etc…

    This is a fun fact that can be used for endless enjoyment to rile up fundies :twisted:

  13. Assuming that the largest xian denominations follow the Bible, here are a few choice verses (I really prefer the King James Bible, but I found these quotes in the New International version and I'm too lazy to look them up elsewhere):

    New Testament:

    "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit The Kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)

    "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur." (Revelation 21:8 NIV)

    Old Testament:

    "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to The Lord, and because of these detestable practices The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before The Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 18:10-13 NIV)

    "For rebellion is like the sin of divination [witchcraft] and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. (1 Samuel 15:23 NIV)

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