Unbalancing Halloween

When I was a kid, Halloween "tricks" meant shaving cream, toilet paper, and a few sketchy rumors about razors in apples and spiked candies. But like everything about childhood in the United States, Halloween has changed dramatically, in ways that kids (and parents) 30 years ago wouldn't have believed possible.

Exhibit A: Sprint Nextel offers products that "Make Halloween a Treat" including the Spring Family Locator, a GPS feature that allows parents to slip a phone or PC into a child's costume and then track their location without interrupting the child's activities. The Locator gives the address and surrounding landmarks within a specified radius so you can "follow" your child during trick-or-treating, even if they're too old for you to tag along. All for just $9.99 a month.

Sprint also has FamilyWatchdog Mobile, which allows parents to use their phones to view maps of where registered sex offenders live and work. You can sign up for free text alerts when registered offenders move into or out of your neighborhood. USA Today reported that 2,000 sex offenders in Maryland will be required to post "No Candy" signs on their doors to warn children and parents. Other state-by-state protection programs have been enacted as well.

Maybe it's just me, but this negativity completely "unbalances" the fun of Halloween. Kids are supposed to get a little spooked, true. That's what the witches and black cats and howling ghouls are for. But pedophilia and child kidnappings are all too real (although also extremely rare) dangers that exist every day, not just on October 31. Are parents being manipulated into buying these new products? Or do we need to be more vigilant today?

What do you think? What practical safety tips do you put in place on Halloween? Would you get a GPS locator for your child to give you peace of mind on Halloween? Do you think sex offenders in your neighborhood should be banned from offering kids candy? Do we really need to be so very afraid for our children on Halloween -- or any other day of the year?

For those of you unable to post comments earlier today, the technological problems have been resolved. We apologize for the difficulties.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 17, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Hyperparenting
Previous: Doctor Mom | Next: Looking Across Cultures for Good Family Models


Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



"Would you get a GPS locator for your child to give you peace of mind on Halloween?" - Not a terrible idea.

"Do you think sex offenders in your neighborhood should be banned from offering kids candy?" - HELL YES THEY SHOULD BE BANNED!!!!

" Do we really need to be so very afraid for our children on Halloween -- or any other day of the year?" - Halloween more than other days as kids are going door-to-door in dark/dusk.

Posted by: r6345 | October 17, 2007 9:24 AM

Oh yea, forgot to add - "First!"

Posted by: r6345 | October 17, 2007 9:25 AM

test

Posted by: Bertrude | October 17, 2007 10:46 AM

Parents have been manipulated into making Halloween another great American party day.
We used to be a dress-up in old clothes, carve a pumpkin, hand out some home-made goodies and gather a few treats for an hour or so as the sun set.

Today it's all about buying the latest movie character clothes for one use only, running to as many haunted houses as possible and hitting up all the neighbors for a candy rush.

Posted by: HankC_57 | October 17, 2007 11:14 AM

Obviously, each child should be accomplied by a armed Blackwater employee to ensure totaly safety.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 17, 2007 11:16 AM

There will always be parents wanting their own new toys to 'protect' their children and show off to their neighbors. Usually, the ones who buy them are the least in need of them...

Posted by: HankC_57 | October 17, 2007 11:17 AM

Wow, the technical glitches on this site are so annoying!

These Halloween safety features are both tools of manipulation for gullible parents and good ideas. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I disagree with the first poster that Halloween is a more dangerous night than others because kids are going door to door. I think that parents are hyper-vigilant that night, and so "bad guys" respond to that. They're not going to pull kids into their houses the one night the parents know the kids are out and expect them to be home. They'll more likely pick an ordinary day when parents are lax and there could be any number of reasons why the kids are late.

But that's just my opinion. I could be completely wrong.

And, lastly, I don't think those safety features take away from the fun of Halloween for the kids. They don't have to know why they're carrying Daddy's cell phone or why that neighbor isn't giving out candy (unless you've already alerted them to the pedophile's house, and then they wouldn't be going there anyway).

Posted by: Meesh | October 17, 2007 11:18 AM

Sprint also has FamilyWatchdog Mobile, which allows parents to use their phones to view maps of where registered sex offenders live and work
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This works fine if you believe that the sex offenders actually accurately register and update their locations as required.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 17, 2007 11:41 AM

Well, here in NC sex offenders are required to register their place of residence with the local law enforcement officials, under penalty of law.

Posted by: johnl | October 17, 2007 12:05 PM

What practical safety tips do you put in place on Halloween? My kids go trick-or-treating with an adult - DW, me, or the parent of a friend. Pre-teens are too young to go by themselves (I was never allowed to, no matter where in the world we lived.) And I don't believe in teenagers trick-or-treating; they can go to parties or steal candy from younger siblings' bags.

Would you get a GPS locator for your child to give you peace of mind on Halloween? No, it's not needed; they're with an adult or they're at parties I know about. (Yes, I have a couple of GPS locators; I'm a geek and they're my toys. But they don't get used that way.)

Do you think sex offenders in your neighborhood should be banned from offering kids candy? How could you say "no" to that one? But on the other hand, how confident are you that you know who all the sex offenders are - that they're registered; the registrations are up to date; etc.?

Do we really need to be so very afraid for our children on Halloween -- or any other day of the year? "Very afraid"? No. Reasonable caution, yes.

My biggest 'fear' associated with Halloween is that the kids who go trick-or-treating measure the candy they get in pounds - seriously. From hitting one neighborhood one year, my kids came home with 10 pounds of candy - no exaggeration! That will certainly kill them by itself.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 17, 2007 12:10 PM

johnl - sex offenders are required to register pretty much everywhere. But everytime some jurisdiction gets the idea to do an audit there's some number that turn up "missing". Quite often it winds up being "harmless" - something like the data-entry clerk typing in the wrong address. But every now and then somebody has just decided that he wants to live his own life without all this "reporting to police" stuff.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 17, 2007 12:15 PM

Well, here in NC sex offenders are required to register their place of residence with the local law enforcement officials, under penalty of law.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And this is true in most states but enforecment is spotty and I have read of problem even within law enforcement of maintaining the data that is actually submitted, much less verifying the accuracy of it.

I have read more current articles with the problems with enforcing these laws but cannot pull them up right now. Here is one article:http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=601536&page=1

Put simply, "The problem is sex offenders are responsible for their own compliance," said Donna Coleman, president of Children's Advocacy Alliance. "So you have felons that are responsible for complying to register, which is crazy because they're not exactly your top-notch citizens."

My point being a parent should not have blind faith in a service that advertises it maps sex offenders whether it be a website or other service.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 17, 2007 12:19 PM

Thank you all for bearing with the tech problems today.

Can't wait to hear your thoughts now that they've been resolved.

Love the Anon Blackwater guard comment.

Posted by: leslie4 | October 17, 2007 12:19 PM

Yeah but given Blackwater's recent actions I fear for all the other (innocent bystanding) people on the street!

Posted by: kk | October 17, 2007 12:26 PM

But the child will be safe!

Posted by: anonthistime | October 17, 2007 12:29 PM

My question is - why would you NEED one of these tracking devices??? Why would your kid, of trick-or-treating age, be out without an adult when it is dark? Even kids that are not incredibly young don't always obey traffic safety rules. And if your kid is old enough to be roaming without a chaperone, perhaps they shouldn't be trick-or-treating anyway....

Sheesh....

Posted by: robinwfcva | October 17, 2007 12:31 PM

to ArmyBrat: I had a "mean" mother -- limited radius of houses I got to trick or treat at AND three quarters of the candy collected went into the barracks for the day room for young soldiers. Of course this is the woman who will be giving small bags of pretzels this year. (It's actually appropriate since most children in her area are toddlers/pre-K age.)

Do schools still give the Halloween safety schpiel? I remember learning that lights off meant to pass the house by, not to eat my candy until parents looked at it, etc... Of course I also remember "stranger danger" lectures. ;-)

We have finally managed to make Halloween social in my neighborhood and the kids from the cul-de-sac up the hill come down to our end.

Posted by: tntkate | October 17, 2007 12:47 PM

Do you think sex offenders in your neighborhood should be banned from offering kids candy?

Obviously, Leslie is trolling for post traffic today. What's next? Should known pedophiles be able to buy children? Yawn

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 12:57 PM

My feelings regarding sexual predators are that, if our society cannot arrange for them to be imprisoned in some kind of concrete hell for the rest of their lives and I mean without any glimmer of hope of parole, they should be rounded up and shot. Castration won't work because you can still do damage to a child in other ways. Recidivism amongst this type of criminal is extremely high. Why take the chance?

(Of course, as a person with primarily liberal leanings, my ferocity on this subject shocks me, but I have come to grips with it.)

Regarding Halloween, I try not to get costumes that are marketed to my kids by Disney, etc. And all candy is gone from the house within 3 days and it's been forgotten. Halloween is fun but I don't think it's that big of a deal.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 17, 2007 1:01 PM

first, I didn't know pedophilia was rare. It seems we have an epideimc of it all over the world.

Second, my kids have a tracking deivce--me! Who lets their kids trick or treat alone in the dark?

Third, I get more annoyed every year when I hear my neighbors discuss how they can't bring in cookies and candy in halloween colors or cut out pumpkins into their kid's schools for the parties.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 17, 2007 1:14 PM

Western system, Halloween is typical of what Western system has become. Superstition, West has declined spiritually to superstitious level. All Saints' Day is November 1, All Saints' Eve was October 31. All saints, what all saints?, do Western children dress up as saints, Saint Peter, Saint Mary, Saint Mark, Saint Paul, Saint Elizabeth, Saint Luke, any great Scripture people? Pagan figures, superstition figures, goblins, witches, from before dawn of Crusader civilization, that is what Western children dress up as. Ghosts, imagine what real Djinn that the Holy Qur'an mentions Qur'an 55:15-16, imagine what Djinn think when they see Western children making mock of ghosts.

Darkness, Halloween is a celebration of darkness, children go from house to house, they go in darkness, they are children of darkness. «For you were once darkness» Ephesians 5:8a, «Or (the unbelievers' state) is like the darkness in a deep sea» Qur'an 24:40, danger, it hides in the darkness, why send little children out into darkness, with or without electronic monitor?

Selfishness, Western man is out for himself, greed, he who dies with most toys wins, materialism. Western children, they go from house to house in the dark, «trick or treat», gimme something or else. Some houses, the owners are generous, they go to supermarkets and buy specially packaged bags of miniature candy bars for the chldren. Some houses, there is danger, meanies put pins into candies, parents are scared of other house owners, that they may be perverts, some parents walk along and watch their children go house to house, some parents go to the electronics store, they buy fancy electronics to track their children as the children go from house to house in the dark hitting up house owners, saying «gimme!».

Halloween, typical Western superstition, darkness, and selfishness, why not replace it with a «Holiday of Spirituality and Generosity», call it HSG Day. HSG Day, children would dress up in costumes based on Biblical civilization, holy men, holy ladies from Scripture. HSG Day, children would go out in the light, not in the dark, as the Green Lantern says, «for the dark things cannot stand the light», also Ephesians 5:8b,9 «Live as children of the light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth». HSG Day, children would go only to houses of friends and schoolmates and relatives and teachers. HSG Day, children would not say, «gimme!», on the contrary, they would prepare little packages of goodies, apples and grapes and oranges «fruit of the light», cookies, bring a little package to each house, teach children true value which is, «it is better to give than to receive». HSG Day, children would give coins to charity for the poor.

Time to replace the unhallowed Halloween of superstition, darkness and selfishness with a Holiday of Spirituality and Generosity.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 17, 2007 1:24 PM

I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. I'll be in full witch-regalia, walking the neighborhood with younger son. DH will be sitting on our front porch with his guitar and bowl of treats for all the trick-or-treaters who visit.

Last year, older son started high school, which is our family's cut-off for trick-or-treating. He still wanted a costume, and got it, and walked with me and his little brother. I expect he'll do the same this year.

Worrying about pederasts just doesn't make much sense to me. (I hate the term pedophilia - it ain't about loving children!) Every year or so I'll check the Megan's law web-site, and 3/4 of the listings in my zip code say "address uncomfirmed" or something like it. It simply isn't reliable or helpful. And the more serious threat would seem to me to be the person who hasn't been caught and convicted, yet, and consequently isn't in the register.

The candy is a bigger threat to DH's health. He's diabetic, and chocolate is almost an addiction, so this is the only time of year it gets brought into the house. We try to get rid of it ASAP, without eating it!

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 1:25 PM

"DH will be sitting on our front porch with his guitar and bowl of treats for all the trick-or-treaters who visit."

What songs does DH play?

He sounds like the dude with the weed pATRICK ran into lst year....

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 1:35 PM

Ghosts, imagine what real Djinn that the Holy Qur'an mentions Qur'an 55:15-16, imagine what Djinn think when they see Western children making mock of ghosts.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 17, 2007 01:24 PM

Pot, Kettle, black.

Nice of you to share your superstitions, Abu, while criticizing others. Charming. No, really, I'm charmed. I love learning about all kinds of religious/spiritual traditions and practices. Everyone's religion can be labelled "superstition" by members of every other religion. But it doesn't accomplish anything except misunderstandings, hurt, arguments, and sometimes religious conflict leads to war, so avoiding it (by being respectful of others beliefs and practices) seems like a really good idea to me.

Oh, and just for the record, we're Pagans. Wicca, specifically, is our religion, and DH and I are elders in the NROOGD tradition.

Happy Halloween! Happy Witches' New Year! and Happy Samhain!

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 1:42 PM

The Sex Offender Registry works only for those that have been caught. I am more worried about the ones that are out there that haven't been caught yet. BTW, a GPS will only locate your child if they haven't lost it or it hasn't been compromised. Teach your kids well and you won't have to worry about buying gadgets to protect them. Putting up a fight and making a scene would be more of a deterrent to sex offenders than a cell phone with a GPS.

Posted by: rrodrig177 | October 17, 2007 1:43 PM

Irishgirl - there was an article in one of the local rags the other day about the number of schools that no longer have anything to do with Halloween. It's an evil holiday that should not be celebrated, you see. The article focussed on one local school that has decided to ditch any mention of Halloween and replaced it with the "Fall Festival" where they carve pumpkins, eat apples, make decorations with leaves, etc.

It seems that, based on a survey the PTA did, 40 kids out of 500 in the school did not celebrate Halloween. Therefore, having the school do anything for Halloween would not be "inclusive" because it could lead to ostracism of these 40 kids. So, Halloween's gone.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 17, 2007 1:43 PM

Chitty, pay closer attention! Sue's in California, pATRICK's in Texas, so Sue's DH isn't the same guy.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 1:43 PM

"Chitty, pay closer attention! Sue's in California, pATRICK's in Texas, so Sue's DH isn't the same guy."

Thank you. The California info clears up something. Thought it was kinda kooky that Sue's DH would be sitting on the front porch with a guitar while I would be freezing my ass off in snow country.


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 1:48 PM

What songs does DH play?

He sounds like the dude with the weed pATRICK ran into lst year....


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 01:35 PM

What would you like to hear? DH usually takes requests.

He and older son have a nice cover of "Ghost Riders in the Sky". Once older son's voice finished changing, he ended up with a warm, rich baritone very much like DH's, and their harmonies with the guitar accompaniment are killer!

(My personal favorite from their repetoir is Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World", but that seems more appropriate to the Yule/Christmas season.)

No, the "dude with the weed" sounds like the guy we bought our house from - boy, were our neighbors happy to see a nice stable family replace the alcoholic, drug addict who couldn't turn down his stereo!

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 1:52 PM

Well, Chitty, if it's that cold where you are, you should have better sense than to sit outside.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 1:53 PM

"Well, Chitty, if it's that cold where you are, you should have better sense than to sit outside."

Sometimes I'm shovelling snow!! No choice!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 1:57 PM

Chitty, how do you shovel snow while sitting down in the stuff?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 1:59 PM

"Chitty, how do you shovel snow while sitting down in the stuff?"

I'm not sitting in the snow! There is some confusion here.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 2:01 PM

Chitty, why don't you just move to another part of the country if you don't like the weather?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 2:04 PM

I worry less about the sex offenders (since I accompany my kids) than I do the clever morons who decide it'd be fun to really SCARE the kids who visit their door -- you know the type who like to jump out from behind the bushes dripping with fake blood. I had one kid who was still scared to go trick-or-treating a year after this happened in our otherwise very tame neighborhood!

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 17, 2007 2:04 PM

Chitty wrote: I'm not sitting in the snow! There is some confusion here.

Obviously the confusion is yours. Go back and read your posts.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 2:09 PM

abu, your brief critique of Halloween in the Western world does not do justice to the holiday's rich pagan and Christian history. If you have time, maybe you should look it up. It's really quite interesting.

Also, we used to donate half our candy. We also collected coins for UNICEF (we had our candy bag and the coin box, so we gave people the option of giving us coins or candy). Halloween doesn't have to be a selfish holiday; you can teach your kids about helping others any time of year.

Sue, my mom is Wiccan too, so she also loves all pagan-based holidays (which are most).

I love Halloween too. I love seeing all the costumes and letting the kids pick their own candy (the most popular was Air Heads, go figure). I am of the opinion that one day of wandering in the dark and one week of sugar highs will not damage a kid for life.

Posted by: Meesh | October 17, 2007 2:19 PM

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 17, 2007 01:24 PM

as if we didn't already know that the poster posting as abu also posts as MattinAberdeen, the length of abu's post has confirmed it.

Sue - don't let the fake abu get to you.

Posted by: mn.188 | October 17, 2007 2:27 PM

"Irishgirl - there was an article in one of the local rags the other day about the number of schools that no longer have anything to do with Halloween. It's an evil holiday that should not be celebrated, you see"

This irritates the sh%t out of me. As a christian, halloween is no big deal, our Lord can handle little kids in Transformers suits OR princess outfits begging neighbors for candy, now satanism or something is a different matter.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 2:49 PM

«It's an evil holiday that should not be celebrated, you see. The article focussed on one local school that has decided to ditch any mention of Halloween and replaced it with the "Fall Festival" where they carve pumpkins, eat apples, make decorations with leaves, etc.»
«Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 17, 2007 01:43 PM»

This logic, it would not allow my «Holiday of Spirituality and Generosity» to be mentioned in local schools, either. Cannot we all get along?

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 17, 2007 2:53 PM

Actually, abu, your holiday would be safe because people are allowed to celebrate marginalized holidays out in the open. Just the holidays of the majority are targeted (well, and probably pagan ones too). pATRICK, I'm sure you agree.

Posted by: Meesh | October 17, 2007 3:22 PM

Religion fascinates me. All religions, all beliefs, and nearly anyone's spiritual practices will get me asking questions. In the interfaith community it's called appreciative inquiry. I'm still looking for the Qu'ran translation DH says is somewhere in our collection.

One of the very few beliefs I'll inflict on others, is my belief that religious respect and tolerance is vital to the survival of the human species. And when I see someone being intolerant - like calling something "superstition" - I'm going to express my view on the lack of respect.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 3:40 PM

abu_ibrahim

I do not have time to educate you on the why, the how, and the beginning of Halloween, but I will tell you that it did not start as a Western holiday and that your post is offensive whether you mean it to be or not. Perhaps you should look up some "Celtic" history and the word "Samhain."

And no, we cannot all get along when you want people to respect your culture and religious ideas, but you don't respect those around you. If you don't like Halloween that is fine, close your door turn off your porch light and don't hand out candy. Gee, that was simple.

Army brat I love Halloween and I think it is sad that schools are doing what they are doing. If there was a holiday I didn't want my kid involved in, I would pick her up from school as to not ruin it for the other kids. However, I want a well rounded, diverse child who accepts and appreciates other people's cultures and beliefs, so it would have to be something crazy for her not to be there.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 17, 2007 3:45 PM

Sue wrote: "And when I see someone being intolerant - like calling something "superstition" - I'm going to express my view on the lack of respect."

So if posed a choice between science and faith, you'll always pick faith over reason?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 3:45 PM

"Do we really need to be so very afraid for our children on Halloween"

Ummmm, no. I figure Halloween is about the safest night -- precisely because so many parents freak out about it. I wish the grownups would watch out for the kids the rest of the year as intently as they do on Halloween.

"Halloween has changed dramatically, in ways that kids (and parents) 30 years ago wouldn't have believed possible."

Umm, not really. The fact that we now are more aware of the threats doesn't mean that they didn't exist before we had CNN and GPS.

Bigger issue: why does every generation seem to think that it invented problems, or that it has it so much worse than the generation before? I remember complaining about that to my mom (drugs, threat of nuclear destruction, etc.), and got in return a lecture about what it was like to live through the Cuban Missile Crisis. And I'm sure when she complained to her own mom, she got the "I lived throught the Depression and WWII" lecture. Perspective, people. It's a silly fun holiday, so let's just go enjoy it.

Posted by: laura33 | October 17, 2007 3:47 PM

Oh and one more thing, I am superstitious and proud of it. I am not sure you can be Irish or Celtic for that matter and not be. However, I am not afraid of dead people. My dad always said it's not the dead you have to worry about, it's the living.

Doesn't help you much though when you reside in a family who sees dead people.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 17, 2007 3:50 PM

"Doesn't help you much though when you reside in a family who sees dead people."

My Irish grandmother sees dead people & fairies(?) when she boozes it up.


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 3:55 PM

My Irish grandmother sees dead people & fairies(?) when she boozes it up.

Probably so she doesn't have to see you.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 4:05 PM

So if posed a choice between science and faith, you'll always pick faith over reason?

Science is merely the mechanics of how God gets things done. They are not incompatible. Btw you said science and faith and then faith and reason. Two different terms

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 4:07 PM

"My Irish grandmother sees dead people & fairies(?) when she boozes it up. "

"Probably so she doesn't have to see you."

LOL ! Could be.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 17, 2007 4:08 PM

Without reason there is no science.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 4:16 PM

It seems pretty obvious to me that abu_ibrahim is a fake. Am I wrong?

But it is kind of funny to watch people get riled up about the things he's saying.

Posted by: JEGS | October 17, 2007 4:31 PM

So if posed a choice between science and faith, you'll always pick faith over reason?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 03:45 PM

I guess I don't understand your question. Why would I need to pick anything?

If one believes that rubbing blue mud in one's navel will please the great flying spaghetti monster and will protect one from tigers, I won't be so rude as to tell the believers that this is "superstition". I'll probably ask them to tell me more about the great flying spaghetti monster - I bet it'll be a great story - and might ask about the prevalence of tigers in the country-side.

Doesn't mean I share their belief. Just means I try to treat others' beliefs with the same respect that I hope to be shown to mine.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 4:32 PM

"If one believes that rubbing blue mud in one's navel will please the great flying spaghetti monster and will protect one from tigers..."

No, that person's belief does NOT deserve respect, because it will not hold up under scientific scrutiny.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 4:39 PM

If one believes that rubbing blue mud in one's navel will please the great flying spaghetti monster and will protect one from tigers, I won't be so rude as to tell the believers that this is "superstition".

Just because you pull a belief out of your ear does not mean that it is as valid as any other. I personally think wicca is not a religion, but it at least has some cohesive thoughts behind it. Praying to a spaghetti monster is not the same and your post is really demeaning to equate the big religions to it.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 4:42 PM

No, that person's belief does NOT deserve respect, because it will not hold up under scientific scrutiny.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 04:39 PM

So we determine whose faith we will respect by exposing it to scientific scrutiny? That is the equivalent of determining beauty by weighing it on a scale.

Posted by: mn.188 | October 17, 2007 5:04 PM

Knowledge must be scientifically testable, whereas beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:07 PM

Knowledge must be scientifically testable


Mankind's greatest folly is his (and her) belief that we know everything. We can barely get off this rock we live on and yet we are end all be all of knowledge.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 5:11 PM

Knowledge must be scientifically testable. That means it's subject to constant examination and refining, not set absolutely in stone for the ages.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:13 PM

Okay, let's pick on a major religion:

If one believes that a cracker can turn into the flesh of one's deity, and that eating this flesh will bring one "grace", which seems to mean making one closer to the diety, I'm not going to be rude to them either.

I find ritualized cannibalism to be vulgar and repugnant, even though my mother raised me as a Catholic. And transubstanciation (sp?) certainly doesn't hold up to scientific examination.

Have I offended anyone yet? I can keep going... but my goal isn't to offend just for the sake of being offensive.

By definition, religious beliefs are articles of *faith*, not subject to proof or disproof, or rational and reasoned discussion. People simply *believe*. Challenging them is not going to change their beliefs, but it might get you punched in the nose.

The point here is really simple - Don't mess with (or disrespect) someone else's religious beliefs. As I said before, "...it doesn't accomplish anything except misunderstandings, hurt, arguments, and sometimes religious conflict leads to war..." So, in the interest of peace, I try to respect everyone's beliefs.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 5:17 PM

«Knowledge must be scientifically testable, whereas beauty is in the eye of the beholder.»
«Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 05:07 PM»

Knowledge, it can come from the senses, from revelation, and from reason. History, it happened in the past, long ago. Gaul, is it «scientifically testable» that Caesar conquered it, that Gaul was divided into three parts? Or do we just take Caesar's word for it? Revelation, the same thing. Angel Gabriel, he dictated the Holy Qur'an to the Prophet (SAWS). Is revelation not knowledge because we cannot scientifically test it? Will we take Caesar's word about Gaul but not the word of Prophet Musa or Prophet Issa or the Prophet (SAWS) about revelation?

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 17, 2007 5:20 PM

"Challenging them is not going to change their beliefs, but it might get you
punched in the nose."

So I can't challenge someone, on the off chance they might turn out to be a bully? And don't confuse people with the facts, because they're entitled to their ignorance?

"...religious beliefs are articles of *faith*, not subject to proof or disproof, or rational and reasoned discussion."

So it was just to punish Galileo for using reason and scientific method to challenge the heliocentric view of the solar system?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:23 PM

"I try to respect everyone's beliefs."

So you don't mind when the local Christian Science family sends their children to school with a contagious disease your child could contract, be it a cold, flu, chicken pox, polio and the like?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:25 PM

"If one believes that a cracker can turn into the flesh of one's deity, and that eating this flesh will bring one "grace", which seems to mean making one closer to the diety, I'm not going to be rude to them either.

I find ritualized cannibalism to be vulgar and repugnant, even though my mother raised me as a Catholic. And transubstanciation (sp?) certainly doesn't hold up to scientific examination.

Have I offended anyone yet? I can keep going... but my goal isn't to offend just for the sake of being offensive."

Hmm, you are so far out there, it might not be possible to reel you in. Communion is a symbolic partaking of the body and blood of Christ shed for sin. It is NOT ritualized cannibalism. I think i read that your mother was mentally ill and saw angels or something, I think that might have knocked you off kilter to Christianity. However,that does NOT make it any less true.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 5:25 PM

I agree with pATRICK's point about the word "symbolic." A chemical assay can demonstrate that a wheaten wafer is NOT flesh, but this doesn't lessen the symbolism of taking it for the communicant.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:31 PM

"So it was just to punish Galileo for using reason and scientific method to challenge the heliocentric view of the solar system?"

No it was not. It was wrong. Reason and scientific methods were given to man to help seek God. When I watch the discovery channel and see how the laws of physics and science perfectly shape our universe, my faith is increased, not decreased by science. The majesty of life is no accident, but carefully designed by God. The tilt of the earth, the magnetic fields which protect us, the chemical composition of the air we breathe, the atmosphere so unique to earth, it was no accident but a careful construct from God for his children. God's clues are found in science all around us.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 5:34 PM

The problem arises when someone like Sue sets herself up as being so "open-minded" that her brains risk falling out.

pATRICK, I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but I take from what you've just written that if scientific inquiry disclosed information contrary to what one particular religion was teaching, you would say that the scientific information was right, and a manifestation of your system of beliefs? Is this more or less what you were trying to say?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:38 PM

The problem arises when someone like Sue sets herself up as being so "open-minded" that her brains risk falling out

You put it better than me. I am not sure about your question. I think that the mystery of faith can never be completely proved or disproved. Which also tells me God has a delicious sense of humor.......

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 5:52 PM

Hey pATRICK, let's go get some virtual flan now, OK?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 5:56 PM

In defense of Sue - Tolerance is key. No particular religion, even our big mainstream ones, can prove scientifically that they are any more true or valid than the other myriad religions that have existed as long as humans have needed an explanation as to why things happen. Faith is faith, and reason is reason, and while they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, religious belief is based on faith, which is a leap from reason. To people in our times, perhaps Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim etc, beliefs may sound more valid and reasonable than perhaps some other less known or less mainstream religion, but that's only because we already know about them and are familiar to them. A hypothetical objective anthropologist who has never been exposed to any human religious beliefs might find Christianity to be as equally wacky or as equally valid (depending on how you look at it) as the Azande who believe in magic, oracles and witchcraft. And to be perfectly fair, even "primitive" religions have symbols, archetypes, and beliefs that in the context of their cultures and lives, make a lot of sense, as long as you understand what their context is. Campbell's The Power of Myth will give you a good sense of how powerful these symbols and archetypes are, and how valid they are in the context of the cultures in which they exist. So I for one, do think that tolerance is key, and that most religions have some wisdom and useful guidance for people. Humans have existed for thousands and thousands of years. Mainstream religions are pretty new, in the scheme of human existence, and I find it pretty hard to believe that they are the only answers to questions that have been around throughout the millenia. To think that one particular religion has a monopoly on access to God, in my view, is the epitome of arrogance and error.

Posted by: Emily | October 17, 2007 6:43 PM

"Communion is a symbolic partaking of the body and blood of Christ shed for sin. It is NOT ritualized cannibalism."

Patrick, to you, communion might be symbolic, but I believe that Catholics truly do believe that the wafer is transformed into the literal body of Christ. They do not think of the wafer as a symbol, they think of it as the actual body of Christ. So Sue is not so far out there. I am going to do that Matt from Aberdeen thing and quote Wikipedia:

"Transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio) is the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurring in the Eucharist according to the teaching of some Christian Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church."

Posted by: Emily | October 17, 2007 6:50 PM

Have a nice evening and to all a good portion of flan

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 7:07 PM

So I can't challenge someone, on the off chance they might turn out to be a bully? And don't confuse people with the facts, because they're entitled to their ignorance?

"...religious beliefs are articles of *faith*, not subject to proof or disproof, or rational and reasoned discussion."

So it was just to punish Galileo for using reason and scientific method to challenge the heliocentric view of the solar system?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 05:23 PM

This is really puzzling. I think I'm being clear, and yet people are completely misunderstandign what I'm saying.

Let's take this one step at a time.

It's rude to challenge someone's religious beliefs. I don't do it for that reason, and because I would be offended by someone else doing it to me. That golden rule thing, ya know.

If one chooses to be rude, i.e. challenge another's religious beliefs, one ought to expect the predictable consequences.
(See how my earlier challenging of a Christian belief got a bunch of people all upset and saying snarky things about me?)

"Confusing people with the facts" is pointless when the topic is religious belief. The only relevant fact is "I believe... " something-or-other.

On the other hand, if I listen to the story of the great flying spaghetti monster (I like him, he makes me smile), and I'm polite and respectful to the person telling me his/her belief, the chances are pretty good that s/he is going to ask me some sort of question about what I believe, and then I can share that. But if they don't ask, then I know they aren't really interested, and I don't have to waste my breath, or annoy, or bore them with something they aren't willing or able to listen to or understand.

Punishing Galeleo was the action of a religious hierarchy, it wasn't an individual's belief. Actions aren't the same thing as beliefs. I haven't said anything about actions. I'm still on the subject of religious belief.

If we're going to discuss the actions people take based on their religions, I have a long list of things I oppose which were done in the name of someone's religion. Harmful actions are forbidden in my religion.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 7:24 PM

Hmm, you are so far out there, it might not be possible to reel you in. Communion is a symbolic partaking of the body and blood of Christ shed for sin. It is NOT ritualized cannibalism. I think i read that your mother was mentally ill and saw angels or something, I think that might have knocked you off kilter to Christianity. However,that does NOT make it any less true.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 17, 2007 05:25 PM

I don't think I want to be reeled in, thanks.

I picked the communion/ritual cannibalism example for a very specific reason. I knew it would push some people's buttons. Yeah, I was deliberately rude, and challenged mainstream religious beliefs (twisting them from your prespective) to be able to invoke the golden rule.

You don't like what I did to your religion, so how can you knowingly and deliberately do the same thing to someone else's religious belief? How do you justify doing to others what you don't like having done to you?

And I apologize for my rude comments earlier.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 7:33 PM

So you don't mind when the local Christian Science family sends their children to school with a contagious disease your child could contract, be it a cold, flu, chicken pox, polio and the like?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 05:25 PM

Yes, I do mind. Again, you are confusing actions with beliefs. If someone has a religious objection to vacination, that's their belief. If they refuse vacinations for their children, even the government has to respect that religious decision. However, as a parent, I think a sick child should not be sent to school, or should be sent home if they become sick while at school.

And just for the sake of full disclosure, younger son's best friend since toddlerhood has not been vacinated, and best friend's older sister isn't vacinated either. But my kids are, and none of us has compromised immune systems, so the health risks are so minimal that I hadn't even thought of it until you raised this subject.

Posted by: sue | October 17, 2007 7:39 PM

"I think a sick child should not be sent to school, or should be sent home if they become sick while at school."

But if the parent sincerely believes on religious grounds that their child is not sick (or that illness does not exist), by your model the child ought to be allowed to go/stay at school.

"...you are confusing actions with beliefs."

Well, if a parent believes one thing but does the opposite, then s/he's a religious hypocrite.
"If they refuse vacinations for their children, even the government has to respect that religious decision."

1. Such a child (and, by extension, its parents) benefits from the majority of other children being vaccinated, because the disease isn't circulating as much in the population.
2. If such a child does get sick and requires medical care, then society in one way or another pays an economic price, whether in terms of rising health insurance premiums, charity or reduced productivity (including, in the child's case, school absence).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 8:29 PM

Shut up mehitabel. You have to be the most annoying person to post on all of the Wash Post blogs. Quit picking apart every little detail that some writes.

Sue is saying we should have religious intolerance. Oh the horrors that someone would say such a thing. Its time to go back to the rock that you crawled out from under.

Posted by: youareannoying | October 17, 2007 8:47 PM

youareannoying, your vitriol speaks more volumes about your intolerance than others ever could.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 8:53 PM

And by the way, "Sue is saying we should have religious intolerance" -- actually I thought she was saying we should have total tolerance, not intolerance. Or are antonyms just more picky little details in your book, too, youareannoying?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 8:57 PM

"Quit picking apart every little detail that some writes."

Actually, I was analyzing Sue's major points. If you can't discern the difference (and don't know the difference between tolerance and intolerance), you're not ready for primetime yet, youareannoying (how aptly you named yourself, ironically).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 8:59 PM

Please - your such a loser that you have to analyze my entire post over three messages. What you can't come up with everything all at once that you have to posting?

Posted by: youareannoying | October 17, 2007 9:04 PM

youareannoying, You have nothing of substance to say, so I wear your impotent sputtering as a badge of honor.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 17, 2007 9:21 PM

Another victory for the total lack of moderation on the On Balance blog!

Posted by: burntnorton | October 18, 2007 7:32 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company