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On Christmas, or No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

 

Religious Christmas is a festival of humans who tearfully celebrate unfulfilled expectations. This blog will usually contain new material. However, the following classic (hopefully) Edwinian writing has been in demand every Christmas since its first publication as a “Kagin’s Column.” In response to numerous (maybe three) requests that it be repeated now at this holiday season, here it is so you don’t have to go digging for it in the archives of earlier blogs:

 

 

ON CHRISTMAS, or
NO, VIRGINIA, THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS

 

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”
Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (not to be confused with Uncle Scrooge McDuck).

 

I can’t prove that no ungulate unit of reindeer persuasion can fly, any more than you can prove I don’t have two invisible unicorns that frolic in benign innocence at Camp Quest. I can’t prove there are no living dinosaurs (as the arkonuts challenge the skeptical to do) anymore than the arkonuts can prove the English text of Genesis they rely on is identical to the original version they hold was dictated, or inspired, by god. But if one says that all crows are black, there is no need to check every crow to falsify that assertion. All that is needed is to find one white crow, or any crow of a different color. Similarly, Santa skepticism can be soundly silenced by the production of one flying reindeer. Yet Christmasterians insist doubters disprove Santa, sleigh, and such, or keep silent, lest they destroy a child’s simple (mindless) faith. This method of proof proves useful later, as children, programmed to believe fantasy is truth, grow to adultery and unquestioningly follow the fantastic follies of faith of their fathers (and mothers–political correctness must not be permitted to fall down a personhole).

To be sure, Plato (not to be confused with Mickey Mouse’s dog) argued that, to conceive of something that is real, one must somehow get the perfect idea of that something from the place it really exits, to wit, the world of forms–a place somewhere that no one has ever seen. Reality alone wouldn’t do. Thus, everyone but philosophers know what a horse looks like, and kids know all about Santa without having to survive Philosophy 101.

Can we imagine, or even believe in, something that doesn’t exist? Sure we can. Just talk with those who have been abducted by aliens. If some unseen thing is believed by many, e.g., angels, it is called faith. If a thing is believed by only one, and is wildly outside the gates of common sense and experience, then the belief, e.g., suddenly realizing that one’s guardian angel is made of grape jelly and having him (there are no female angels–check your bible, you can win bets on this) on toast, it is called psychosis. The problem is that the invisible and the non-existence look much the same. Christmas beliefs fall somewhere between the province of priest and psychiatrist.

Christmas combines two contradictory images of godlike characters: Jesus, the Christ, who taught that to be saved one should sell all of their property and give it to the poor (the church later declared belief in this teaching a heresy), and Claus, the Santa, to whom children are taught to write letters requesting property–believed to be given by Santa, in one night, to those children of the world found worthy–in direct challenge to the counsel of the Christ. One should note, before teaching the latter belief system, that an anagram of “Santa” is “Satan.”

The day itself, meaning “Christ’s Mass,” is the same day the Romans used to honor their sun god with gift giving and feasting. Christmas is quite pagan. Its secular celebration involves rituals specifically forbidden by holy writ, like hewing down a tree, bringing it inside the house, decorating it, and praising it. This is as clear a violation of divine decree as public prayer (Matthew: 6.6), or celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of on the seventh day as ordered (Commandment IV). No wonder we are in such trouble these days with crime, inflation, and teenage pregnancies.

Unfortunate cultural consequences flow from the forced frivolity and jejune joy Christmas creates and requires. People get depressed when they don’t feel happy as they should, when they do not have their artificial expectations fulfilled, and when they cannot meet the unreasonable artificial seasonal needs of others–like their mercenary relatives, and their materialistic, greedy, spoiled children–and get even deeper in debt by trying to behave as expected.

Thanks to Tom Flynn, and his wonderful heresy “The Trouble With Christmas,” I chucked the whole thing a few years ago, and lived. Try it. You will feel better for it.

Should I be granted a Christmas wish, it would be that the holiday be canceled, and that the whole show appertaining to this business of Christmas not be done at all.

Please understand that I do not care if others celebrate Christmas if they wish, nor would I suggest that they be prevented from doing so. I just don’t want the holiday to be compulsory for me or anyone else–any more than I want other people’s prayers, that they have an absolute right to pray, to be forced upon me by public officials or upon children by public schools.

One who would rather decline gets somewhat tired of listening to those who absolutely and uncritically assume all good people celebrate Christmas, and that something is horribly wrong with anyone who ignores the invitation to attend their compulsory party.

Failing the unlikely event of Christmas being made optional, I would alternatively wish, in seasonal answer to Virginia’s famous question, that we might see something in the public press, for innocent children, like:

 

Dear Virginia,

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. It is a myth that has been cruelly used to deceive children for the pleasure of adults who unwittingly destroy children’s sense of basic trust by teaching them that the world is something other than it really is.

I know this news must be a shock to you, and I am truly sorry for your discomfort. But it is not my fault. The person who tells you the truth should never be blamed for the hurt that comes from learning that others have lied.

You should not believe in Santa Claus any more than you should believe in fairies, or in demons waiting around to pull you under the earth, or in angels lurking about to transport you above it. People do not need to believe foolish things to have love and compassion and caring, any more than they need a special season or holiday to be nice to one another.

If things believed prove false, does that mean peace, and sharing, and kindness must dissolve like mist along with the untrue things? Of course not! We don’t need magic to have happiness, and wonder, and joy. Our beautiful world is full of these things, and they are very real, and our real world holds more interesting and wonderful people and things than any fairyland anyone could ever even imagine.

Some adults are afraid of things they don’t understand, and they teach children to believe in magic. But the truth is really far more exciting. Wouldn’t you rather learn what is on real planets, that are millions of miles away, than believe reindeer can fly? Have you ever seen the northern lights? I have, and I can tell you they are more beautiful, more mysterious, and more wonderful than any pretend story anyone could ever invent about elves that have workshops at the North Pole.

Is it okay to pretend and to believe things we know are not true? Of course it is! And it can be a lot of fun. Intelligent people love to play. Any time you watch a movie or a play or go to a costume party you are playing and pretending something is so that is not.

We know those aren’t real people in the TV–only images of them–but we know we are pretending, and this is fun and much different from believing a falsehood. Would it be wrong to tell a friend of yours, who firmly believed there were really small people inside the television set, that his or her belief was not true? Would it be right for you to be condemned for destroying that friend’s childlike faith? What if several of your best friends thought they could fly, and set off for a bridge over a 600 foot deep gorge to prove it? Would it be wrong for you to politely try to convince them that they just might be mistaken, no matter how firmly they believe they are right? Would you be destroying their childhood or saving their future?

Follow the truth, no matter where it may take you. And don’t pay any attention to those who think comforting falsehoods are better than understanding the world as it is.

If you ever have children, teach them trust by telling them the truth.

By the way, just in case you didn’t know, the stork didn’t bring you. You are here because your parents had sex.

Keep questioning, Virginia, and don’t feel it is the least bit wrong to demand correct answers.

Asking questions is what makes us human.

Your friend,

Uncle Edwin

Comments

  1. C says

    I know we have been round and round about this before but I think that Tom Flynn is a bit of a humbug if you ask me.
    I think that Atheists protecting the separation of church and state is importnat. Nativity scenes on taxpayer public property is bad..

    but I think that pushing against the holiday season in general is a bad move. So Santa Clause is a mythological figure. I believed in Santa Clause, I remember when I STOPPED beleiving and realised that Santa’s handwriting looked an awful lot like my parents… ahem. I wasn’t traumatized.. I wasn’t injured.. I wasn’t held back developmentally. It was a FUN TIME when I was a kid. .Many FUN memories. I loved using my imagination and the thrill of the mystery.

    It seems that Tom Flynn must of had a really traumatic childhood.. maybe he got some coal in his stocking or a pound of steak and his father came home drunk and beat his mother or something and now he is defiantly rejecting the holiday by WORKING on xmas day “that will show them!”. WHO?

    I grew up with Santa, I have a lot of cute pictures of me on Santa’s lap. It was wonderful!.

    As I grew up… I discovered a more adult orientation to the myth. The origins of Santa…

    For instance. DID YOU KNOW… that the main Santa myth came from the Scandanavian region specifcally the SAMI culture. Santa was originally a “shaman” who would gather the Amanita Muscaria mushrooms and dry them on the (Xmas tree). and then gather them up in his sack and have to go down through a hole in the Sami’s homes to deliver the entheogenic mushrooms for ritual purposes?

    Did you KNOW that the REINDEER would eat said mushrooms and start prancing around… ?

    THe FLYING was the entheogenic “trip”…

    While Modern Santa is an amalgamation of OTHER cultures and traditions as well, it is primarily via the northern cultures that we get many of our rituals from.

    yes, there were probably “saints’ that would give gifts. to good boys and girls..

    The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and the shortest day. Winter is cold, and hard.. why wouldn’t people WANT to celebrate the days getting longer???

    if you don’t believe me about the mushrooms..

    http://www.flyagaric-amanita.com/christmas.html

  2. chaos-engineer says

    Sigh, so cynical…

    I think the best way to look at it is to say that there are two stories about Santa Claus: There’s the “outer story”, about a man who lives at the North Pole and gives toys out of pure selfless generosity. (This only thing he asks for in return is an attempt at good behavior, but he’s so soft-hearted that good behavior is just a goal, and not a strict requirement for presents.) Then there’s the “inner story”, which only some people know. It’s also a story about selfless generosity, but some of the details are different and I won’t post if here out of respect for the younger readers. Learning the “inner story” makes Christmas even more enjoyable, but comes with some responsibilities and it can be considered a rite of passage.

    Sometimes a person who only knows the outer story will start asking questions like, “I’ve noticed that rich kids get better presents than poor kids. Does this mean they’re morally superior?” or “Wait a minute, isn’t this technically voyeurism and breaking and entering?” That’s a sign that they’re ready to learn the inner story.

    If things go terribly wrong, then people might start saying things like, “Santa delivers fewer toys to neighborhoods where gay marriage is legal” or “Santa prefers chocolate chip cookies to oatmeal cookies, and I must fly an airplane into a skyscraper in order to stop people from believing otherwise.” That’s not the fault of the outer story, but it’s is a clear sign that the keepers of the inner story aren’t living up to their responsibilities. In that case, we might need to ask Santa to retire for a few years and give everyone a chance to calm down.

  3. rapiddominance says

    Wouldn’t you rather learn what is on real planets, that are millions of miles away, than believe reindeer can fly?

    For example–aliens.

    Can we imagine, or even believe in, something that doesn’t exist? Sure we can. Just talk with those who have been abducted by aliens.

    For those who honestly believe they’ve experienced it, alien abduction is real for them.

    Taking this a step further, imagine what its like for “abductees” when they look on their tv’s or their computers and see some of the intriguing ufo footage that most of us simply dismiss because it doesn’t seem to be affecting our lives.

    ***

    Going back to the first quote, notice how you’re asking “Virginia” to choose between the certain belief of flying reindeer on her home world and the millions of miles away mystery box on planet PT849.

    Common sense tells us that she’s going to choose the mystery box.

  4. mildlymagnificent says

    I’m not so sure about small children being told “the truth”. They live in a world that is absolutely full to bursting with magic and invisible beings of various kinds. From the stories they make up for themselves or read in books, sometimes imaginary friendships, sometimes that their toys really, really love them back, and how do we tell a 3 year old “the truth” about electricity and how it works when the switch is flicked. Really? The truth? We can tell them that it’s dangerous but we definitely do not, never ever, want them to find that out for themselves. Telling them that people they’ll never see, in a place they’ll never visit, in other words both are invisible, are responsible for electricity or for making the appliances that the power runs might as well be magic to someone less than 4 years old.

    As far as Santa goes, I don’t hold with the “someone is watching your every move and if you make a bad move you’ll miss out on all the good stuff” approach. In our household, Santa was unconditionally kind and generous, not a mechanism for threatening children. We never threatened our children anyway – it was well-known consequences only and for specified misbehaviour only – standing in the corner was the universal punishment, and we were prepared to find a “corner” anywhere, in public if need arose. Funnily enough, we never had to follow through on that because we were entirely, totally, relentlessly, consistent right from when they were tiny. They never doubted that we would deliver, both on the good and the bad.

    Maybe if our children hadn’t been imaginative in the way they were we might have taken a different approach. But they were fantastic at making up stories and stage directions for their toys and book characters to follow, right from when they could first talk. Had they been profoundly concrete and unimaginative we might have treated them differently, but we’ll never know now.

  5. mayanskeptic says

    THE MAYAN SKEPTIC APOCALYPSE 12/21/2012

    we really enjoy your atheist forum

    do a search on youtube for skepticality

    a little souvenir

    it is the video about the PIGS

  6. says

    I kinda like the whole, ‘Santa Claus exists as long as we follow his ethic,’ tho. But then again, I like to design my beliefs off of ethical designs.

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