Religion, Lately: Doing Halloween Biblically, Ghosts v. Religion, and Cannabis for Shiva


By Kenny Smith

This year’s Halloween’s top-ten Biblically themed costumes? Pharaoh, Naughty Nun, Priest with Enormous Erection (cleverly packaged as “Keeping Up The Faith”), and of course Zombie Nuns (said to be marked down 20%!). What do practicing witches actually think about Halloween? Some hate it. Some love it. In Mumbai, Wiccans used the holiday Samhain (also on October 31) as an occasion for casting protective spells for the benefit of women in India. And while many continue to lump Wiccans. Pagans, and Satanists together, Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’ Carlton Gebbia stakes out a religious identity not reducible to any of these exactly: “I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry.  And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan… There’s no one defined answer.”

Not to be outdone by Halloween, the trailer for pastor Marc Driscoll’s new book, A Call to Resurgence, shows Driscoll driving a hearse and bearing a rather grim message: Christianity is dead, and he’s taking us all to its funeral, and its rebirth.

Nearly one in five Americans have “seen or been in the presence of a ghost,” and one in three “say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died.” Interestingly, those who attend religious services more often were less likely to report such experiences than those who attend less frequently.

Speaking of Americans, has the number of “nones” (those entirely uninterested in religion, some 20%) increased markedly in recent decades, or have Americans simply started telling the truth about their religiosity, and “stopped pretending they are linked to faith traditions that they have no interest in practicing”?

The late Lou Reed said often and publically that “rock and roll is my god.” Still, one writer argues, his Jewish roots informed much of his private life and music. In Hungary, a former leader of a far-right, neo-Nazi political party has converted to Judaism after discovering that his immediate ancestors were Jewish and that “the Holocaust really happened.”

Does bullying among school children take on a distinctly religious dimension? One Hindu writer argues that it certainly does. In Bali, some communities grow weary of the “colonial gaze” in the form of the contemporary Western tourist, and consider plans to open up Hindu sacred sites to “development” degrading. Worldwide, Hindu communities get ready for Diwali, the festival of lights! Not sure what this holiday celebrates? Read here.


In Northern California, a Sikh community continues a century-long tradition of Sikh religious practice in America. Not sure what Sikhism is or how it came to America? Read here.

In Pakistan, Buddhist rock carvings are in danger of being lost forever, not merely from weathering, but from local religious authorities who teach that defacing them (e.g., throwing garbage and urinating on them) represents the doing of good deeds. Again, hmmm.

In France, one of the Europe’s top soccer players talks about how his conversion to and practice of Islam has made him a better family man but also a better athlete, “physically and mentally stronger.”

In Gloucestershire, England, a proper middle-class English family appeared in court, after a police raid discovered a considerable amount of marijuana which the family had, apparently, grown themselves and intended to smoke and offer to the Hindu deity Shiva.

In Madison, Wisconsin (on U.S. highway 14 east specifically), a 10-by-30-foot billboard offers some existential advice from a local atheist…



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