Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Santa Lie

OK. I am really fed up with The Santa Lie.

In a New York Times article, the author writes of her pitiful Christmases which were the only evidence of her mother's love. Because of this, she fixated on Christmas with her own children and took it to such an obsessive degree that one of her children was humiliated on the playground due to his belief in Santa when he was in third grade (which she had encouraged).

Most alarming is her dialogue with her 9 year old daughter:

“Is Santa real?” she asks after overhearing an older girl reminisce about Christmases back when she believed.

“I guess some people don’t think so,” I answer, carefully, still chastened by the misery I caused her brother. “But I do.”

She says nothing, and her silence communicates my failure to answer the question.

“I mean,” I try again, “it’s a little like it is with God. Some people do, some don’t.”

“I don’t,” she says.

“Are you sure?” I say. “I do. Or at least I do some of the time.”

“What’s that called again?”

“Agnostic?” I say. “It means you don’t know.”

“Can you be that about Santa?”

“Of course,” I say...

Good job, mom. Now her daughter equates God with an imaginary being named Santa Claus.

What's pitiful is that this is not an uncommon problem. But Santa Claus can easily be disproved: Try being alone on Christmas Eve, bolt your doors, turn on the alarm system, and go to bed. You will definitely not wake up to presents the next morning. The only thing you'll wake up to is the cold hard certainty that you are alone for Christmas.

God is not so easily disproved. Please note that I am not speaking only of the particular God that I believe in. I am speaking of the concept of God.

Yes, there are many ridiculous myths about the various gods that are obvious fairy tales. One of my favorites is the one in which the stars were made by a goddess who flung her breast milk into the sky. And, of course, who can forget the Greek and Roman pantheons? Almost no one believes in them anymore because it is such obvious fantasy.

But the concept of a god (or gods) of some sort lives on because it cannot be as easily disproved as Santa Claus. And a god potentially has more power than Santa and can affect your life not merely on Christmas, but all year 'round.

If, as many religions teach, their god is the only way to a better afterlife, then it is highly important that we seek God. It could be our one shot! Why would we not want to allow our children this same opportunity? Why would we want to burden their little psyches with the close-minded belief that God is as mythical as Santa Claus?


daveawayfromhome said...

So, if I pray, and dont get an answer, does that prove the non-existance of God? I dont think even many atheists would say it does (okay, maybe some would, but not all). Maybe Santa didnt bring that lonely person locked in a room a present because they were on the Naughty List.
I had the same reaction when I attended a marriage where the couple linked their faith and their marriage together. I thought, what happens if they divorce? What happens if they have a crisis in faith? Does a loss of faith in one drag down the other?
Somehow, I doubt it.
I think most people, including children, know a metaphore when they hear one, and are able to seperate the two things even when they are handed such a connection by an adult. In fact, I'd guess that children are able to handle such things better than a lot of adults, since they tend to have a better imagination.

AQ said...

Exactly why I didn't perpetuate the Santa myth with my children. It's funny, they still think of Santa as a fun part of Christmas. Yet, they solemnly understand and appreciate the spiritual meaning as well. Balance, I say!