Santa Claus and God are almost eerily similar. In my mind, they are both Anglo-Saxon males who promise gifts or a reward if you are good. Christmas celebrates the birthday of God’s only son, Jesus, and the eve is when Santa operates. Many, men in particular, once believed in Santa Claus, then, reached a maturity that told them better, but, not long after that, became Santa Claus, and later in life, looked like him. So goes the joke, anyway.
To recover from that, let me advance the logic one step higher by taking minimal liberties with the response to the following customized exchange in 1893 initiated by Virginia O’Hanlon:
I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Say, in my exercise, I had Virginia asking, instead, whether there is a God. The adjusted (for God) reply from Francis Church, editorial writer for The New York Sun, could well have been:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except that they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a God.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no God! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in God! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees God, but that is no sign that there is no God. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No God? Thank Santa Claus he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
While the above rendition has been significantly adjusted, in general, why would a responsible adult go out of his way to fool a child, as was attempted? Well, because everybody does. Clearly, he was espousing a cause for the general public, because the language is way beyond the level of an 8-year old, plus, for how many of them read editorial responses to letters. Church handled all the controversial assignments on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology. He died in 1906, having had no children, and is best known for authoring the original version featuring Santa Claus of this most famous of editorial responses. Till the end he said that all he did was share the truth. Virginia passed away in 1971 after a fruitful career as an educator. But somewhere along the way, she eventually stopped believing in Santa Claus, but maybe not, God, for 90% of Americans believe in this concept.
I sent this mischievous deed of mine on Christmas Eve of 2004 to some close friends, and there were several dozen. Not one reprimanded me for being sacrilegious and some thought I was being reverential (incredible!), although I suspect most did not bother to read and digest it. There is something about family life combined with religion, perhaps assisted by, maybe, a God gene, that obscures reality. With just the replacement of Santa Claus with God, we can somewhat understand how children grow into adults, but generally maintain a belief in God.
In December of 2007, USA Weekend provided three modern-day responses to Virginia’s letter, and all three news reporters maintained the charade, although one probably got too philosophical (perhaps he, too, forgetting that he was responding to an 8 year old) with a statement that, yes, there is a Santa Claus, but not that jolly fat man, for he is you and anyone with hope. At least this kind of makes sense. The final section of this article was written by Virginia's granddaughters and deserves a read, for this closer represents what should be the spirit of Christmas. My take is a bit grinchish, and, as I think about, probably out of place on this holy and happy day. But to go on...
...the North American Aerospace Defense Command operates a Santa tracking web site, and he can be seen on December 24 moving at warp speed from the North Pole first to New Zealand, then eventually to Hawaii. Nearly a billion hits were received from 181 countries in 2005. The Santa Tracking Operations Center, staffed by 500 volunteers, actually received 55,000 calls that year. The number of calls has increased each year, so our youngsters are certainly not getting any smarter. But, then, even I, at that age, could not comprehend the enormity of Santa and his flying reindeers needing to move at several million miles/hour to get the job done in 34 hours (yes, think about it).
Now why would NORAD stoop to all this frivolity? Well, there is a history. It was started by a Sears-Roebuck ad in 1955, with phone number if you wished to talk to Santa. Alas, there was a typo, and the number listed was that of an earlier form of NORAD, the Continental Air Defense Command. All in good fun, and now that we don’t have to worry about missiles from the USSR or North Korea, what harm does this do? Also, the military plays Santa around the world and this gentleman is a symbol of good will and cheer. Plus, he’s a good poster man for God.
AskTheAtheists.com provides a virtual exchange on this subject and Unreasonable Faith has a comparative list, with 244 comments at last check. Notwithstanding all the above, I sincerely wish you all a...