Little Believers

Christmas day has come and gone, though Christmas itself lasts until Epiphany (or “Little Christmas”) on January sixth, so of the twelve days of Christmas, only a few have gone by. Given the season, I thought I’d return to the subject of believing in Santa Claus.

At some point when we’re little we start to question whether or not the big guy is as real as we’ve been told, or if he’s just a story. Eventually we figure it out. We figure out that there’s no Santa Claus. We figure out that there’s no Easter Bunny. We even figure out that there’s no Tooth Fairy.

Now there’s evidence for all of these. We see Santa everywhere in the weeks leading up to Christmas. There’s the presents that show up in the middle of the night. And there’s endless songs, movies, and TV specials reinforcing the message. There’s also evidence for the other two. There’s eggs and candy for the Bunny. There’s the money under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy, though I don’t want to really think about what association that sets up for the kids’ later development.

So here’s what I asked God: When we learn so early that all these other beings don’t really exist, that they’re just a case of mass collusion, of the adults, the authority figures in our lives, seeing how long they can pull the wool over our eyes, how is it, in the face of that, that we’re supposed to keep up our faith in her?

Now she had a response that wasn’t what I expected. It didn’t directly answer the question but I think I got the point.

She told me that some kids are smarter than others. The really smart ones figure out that we’re lying to them but they also figure out that as long as they seem to believe, they keep keep getting cool stuff. She told me that a lot of people take that same approach to religion. They realize that there is no evidence to support a belief in God but that if they keep claiming to believe, they’ll get cool stuff. They get friends. They get simple rules to live by. They get to claim moral superiority.

So, so what if they have to give up a little self-respect, at least they get to be part of the club.

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