Inside the Walls: My Old Haunt

When I was a child, I loved going to haunted houses each October. In my town there was one in particular created in the basement of an old supermarket. No matter how many times I went through the attraction (which included pitch darkness, crawl spaces, and claustrophobia galore) I always managed to get scared. One night I was separated from my friends and became lost.

Instead of stumbling around in the dark, I simply backtracked through the earlier vampire display. From a short distance I watched the various ghouls take a break. Another group wasn’t expected through for a few more minutes. Eventually the vampire spotted me in the darkened doorway. I explained I needed directions and he happily obliged.

After that night I never experienced the haunted house in quite the same way; I had seen behind the proverbial curtain, and there was nothing even remotely supernatural going on. Not only were the monsters just people in costume, they were nice people in costume! Later in life I drew a parallel between that night and my discovery of humanism.

Because, you see, most people navigate a haunted house in the same way. A certain path is followed and no questions are asked. (Just a lot of screams.) This strikes me as a metaphor for organized religion and even polite society. People buy into the façade and choose not to see what others look like behind their masks. This example is fitting as the word personality comes from a Greek root word meaning “mask.”

While some may say there’s such a thing as too much curiosity, that it can ruin an experience, I see it as a natural enhancer. Knowing how and why something works prolongs my fascination with the object of my attention. I want to know how the magician does their trick. I want to know how the games are rigged. And I demand to know the truth about the lies that are told.

The pious costumes of the puppeteers of religion are starting to slip. Sex abuse, financial scandals, and a lack of conviction permeate the church. The average American is more likely to put their faith in space aliens than in a doctrine that doesn’t protect our children, our reason, or our integrity.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of make-believe. Humanists, however, will be the first to object to those who try and make us believe.