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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: October 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aimee’s 2005 Halloween Post: Its Alive!!!!

From the beginning of this blog, I made a decision to not put an expiration date on when readers can leave comments. Any reader who wishes can respond to any post all the way back to my first post.

I’m glad I made that decision. I enjoy reading comments to older posts; this forces me to re-read the posts to see what the readers are responding to. In the past week, I have received 2 comments (one which agreed with the post and one which disagreed) regarding my wife Aimee’s 2005 post: Sorry Kids, Halloween is Evil.

Here is the comment from an anonymous reader who disagreed with Aimee:

I grew up celebrating Halloween. Up until a year ago I thought nothing of it. But you know it is wrong to celebrate this day unless you are a satanist [sic]. And even then it is WRONG. I am not here to judge anyones [sic] beliefs, but saying that I am entitled to my opinion. I have 3 children that for the first time are not trick or treating this year. I sat down with my oldest daughter and explained to her what Halloween stands for and she made the decision to not celebrate it. We have to teach our children meanings of this so called holiday becaue [sic] the majority of kids would not do it if they knew what it was really about.
Apparently, this reader did not read Aimee’s post. Aimee pointed out that Halloween was *not* a holiday celebrating the boogeyman’s…er, I mean the devil’s birthday but a Celtic pagan holiday which had nothing to do with “the devil” (I would also like to point out that Christmas was also originally a pagan holiday…almost everything we associate with Christmas comes from an earlier pagan tradition which celebrated the winter solstice). But before either of us could respond to this absurd notion, another anonymous reader posted a very good counterpoint:

My ex and her (though mentally slow, very sweet and loving) mother were in a heated conversation with a very fundamental Christian woman and her daughter one day. The subject of Halloween and all its "evils" came up. Stories of babys being taken en masse from modern hospitals and their bloody bodies left in public places were told if it was fact. Though the absence of any proof didn't seem to matter. The woman summed up her argument with, "Halloween is the devil's birthday, and everything that happens on that day is just as bad and evil! So there!"

With a soft and almost heartbroken voice, my mother-in-law said, "But, it's my birthday too." The other woman huffed and added a new look of scorn to her face as if her rude, harsh and utterly mean attack was all the more justified. This just about brought tears to the other's face.

Every year I keep hearing stories like this one about schools taking liberties because of random and misinformed complaints. And I think it is a disgrace as to what people have let themselves become. Fearful, domineering, and all too willing to force their poor education on others. Those who hear (and sadly believe) these
falsehoods are usually children, who are now grown and continuing the counterproductive cycle.

I don't want to start keeping my children away from school just so we can celebrate Halloween. But if people can't get it in their heads that there are other people here with other looks like that's where we as a people are headed.

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of people out there who, as this reader put it “force their poor education on others.” Far too many people take claims at face value rather than take a skeptical approach. But is this really a surprise, given that most people seem to think even a modest amount of skepticism as a bad thing?

Maybe I should clarify my point a little more. All of us are skeptics about some things: “lose 20 pounds in one weekend” or “I was taken into an alien spacecraft and these little green men did experiments on me” or “I saw Elvis at the Burger King.” What percentage of the population would take these claims at face value? Very, very, few (I hope). So how is it that these same otherwise skeptical, rational people will believe such things as kidnapping babies and sacrificing blonde virgins on Halloween? I suspect that these are the same people who also see the Virgin Mary on their French toast or are told of other such “miracles” by a friend of a friend without doing any research or asking the most basic of questions.

In this information age, there are no more excuses for falling victim to outlandish claims. We have access to information as never before. Of course this also means there is a great deal of misinformation on the internet or elsewhere (still no excuse). This means we have to act as our own filters (in other words, we must be skeptical). This is where that old saying “consider the source” comes in (hint: don't trust any forwards you receive in your in-box).

The truth of the matter is far too often we want to be fooled and none of us are completely immune. We want to believe that Chris Angel is levitating in mid air or that Jonathan Edwards can really communicate with our departed loved ones on our behalf. We especially want to believe claims when such claims support our closely held beliefs whether religious, political, or otherwise. But no matter how much we wish to believe these things, we should always approach these claims skeptically. The onus should always be on the person or persons making the claim to prove the claim.

But until the majority of people start employing some basic critical thinking skills, paranoia will continue to plague our culture. The banning of Halloween is but one example of this paranoia.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Philosophy of Life, Liberty, and Property Explained

Hat Tip: Cato on Campus
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogger Meet-up in Denver

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Liberty Papers contributor and author of the blog The Unrepentant Individual, Brad Warbiany. Brad has been brewing his own beer as a hobby since early 2006. He has since refined and improved his brewing methods and entered his unique brew into an amateur brewing contest by Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams was so impressed with his brew that he made the top 4 amateur brews.

As a result of making the top 4, Brad, his teammate/friend, and his brother-in-law received an all expenses paid trip from Samuel Adams to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Though his team did not win the competition, they all seemed to be having a great time (despite the nasty drizzling weather). On Sunday, I met the trio and we had lunch. We discussed sports, politics, family, blogging, beer, etc…it was as if we were old friends. It was a great time and I hope I’ll have another chance to meet with them someday. Who knows, maybe next time their brew will be the winning brew?
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