In today's excerpt--Charles Schulz and the Great Pumpkin. Though often identified with the evangelical church, Charlie Brown's creator struggles with organized religion, stating that "[Peanuts is] not an evangelistic strip. In fact, it's anti-evangelistic." Linus's obsession with the Great Pumpkin is one way Schulz manifests his views:
"The theme of questioning and faith, which was central to his life, had emerged in the strip's Great Pumpkin sequences, where Linus, smart but simple, had gotten ahead of himself in holidays and begun to believe that an omnipotent pumpkin would appear on Halloween to serve good little children as Santa Claus did on Christmas. But, of course, the Great Pumpkin does not come to lavish toys on all good little children. Linus performs a mitzvah every Halloween in going to the pumpkin patch to do what he must to be betrayed again. The reader does not discern any radiance of certainty; the worshipper is not alight with enduring faith--he's hopelessly hyped up: his enthusiasm is a more modulated and cheering emotion. Linus is keyed to the highest pitch as he marches out with his placard: WELCOME GREAT PUMPKIN! His willed mania demonstrates that some people would rather live drunk on false belief than sober on nothing at all, at whatever cost in ridicule. Schulz is saying: be careful what you believe. ...
"[Schulz] received few serious complaints--no more than a dozen over the course of Peanuts' first fifteen years. One, in 1965, had come from a woman who asserted that the Great Pumpkin was sacrilegious. Schulz wrote back saying that he was 'basically on her side, that the real sacrilege is Santa Claus, and that [he had been] trying to show this in the Great Pumpkin strips."
David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts, Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by David Michaelis, pp. 353, 354, 371.