In 1997 I was having dinner with film director, Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma, Chasing Amy). I was a few years into my first marriage and we several years away from having our son. During that dinner conversation, the topic of Santa Claus came up. Kevin asked me if I would tell my son about Santa Claus. I went on a long rant about how I thought Santa was “The Big Lie” and that I thought, when the time came I would not teach my son to believe in Santa. Kevin laughed, “But it’s Santa, man.”
That conversation stayed with me. Before my son was born I wondered about the lie vs. the experience. I certainly enjoyed the myth of Santa as a child. And even though it ended in tears when my parents finally told me the truth, was it right for me to deprive my son of the Santa Claus Experience (kinda like the Jimi Hendrix Experience but with toys).
My son was born and shortly after my first wife and I divorced. And when Christmas came, along came Santa too. Maybe my ex and I both felt our son could use Santa in his life. And when children are really young, it is a delight. You watch the magic and wonder in their eyes as they see the lame department store Santa. They don’t really know what to ask for and you can stay within a budget. But when they get older–those strange years when they are smart enough to know but haven’t even bothered to question it yet, Santa can be a real pain in the ass. Trying to tell a child that Santa has a budget seems strange.
“Don’t the elves do all the work?”
“Well, Santa has to pay the elves.”
“They can’t work for free. There are laws. It’s illegal.”
The truth is much worse.
Maybe if we didn’t have the Santa lie, we could work out more humane ways to have toys produced?
When telling all these lies to keep Santa alive, it can really becomes messy and if you don’t remember all the lies you told you can find yourself in real trouble with your children, who remember every single detail you ever told them about Santa from day 1.
Now my son this year finally knows that Santa isn’t real. He doesn’t want to quit believing. I’m sure he misses the magic. But the truth is, he is old enough to know now. It is time to let go and grow up. He isn’t forthcoming with his feelings but I told him he can talk to me about it if he feels sad. I know I felt sad when reality hit. But after that, when I knew the truth, Christmas meant more. Of course, I hope you know, I don’t mean in any wacky Jesus or Christian sense. I mean that it became about family and friends. I’d like to say it means something to humanity but I think that whole “Special Time of Year” for society is complete bullshit. People are assholes in the stores, they spend more money than they can afford and put themselves in debt, and not everyone celebrates Christmas. I think the only way it could mean something for humanity is if it became completely secular on a global scale. But the holiday season can be a time for reflection and slowing down to spend time with the ones you love. And I’d take that over some fat, overgrown elf who is a cog in the wheel of capitalism.
I think God is humanity’s Santa Claus and Atheism is the parent telling the world that it is time to grow up. We as a species are so far ahead of the religions of the world. We are morally better, intellectually better and technologically better than the world religions. They have nothing more to offer humanity except damaging ancient beliefs. Religion serves no purpose except for the extreme fundamentalist and for the criminally insane. What is happening now is that atheism is taking the religious aside and telling them that “there is no God.” Just like parents realize it is time for children to stop believing in Santa, it is now time for humans to stop believing in fairy tales as well. In order for humanity to make a giant leap into the future, one that is positive and moving toward enlightenment, we must let go of the ancient myths as truths.
You can hold on to tradition. I know many cultural Jews and most Catholics are so naive about what they believe and why they might as well be labeled cultural Catholics. Religions can adapt to function as mythical rituals. If we can have a Christmas Tree in our house that holds no religious meaning, other traditions can follow the same way. And the ones that can not will die out.
I can’t say that I regret telling my son about Santa but I also can understand any parent who decides not to lie to their child. I don’t know if any studies have been done to see the emotional after effects of the Santa lie but I’d be interested to know the results if one was to be done. I could see atheism as a positive after effect. It isn’t a stretch for a child to say, well if Santa is a lie maybe god is too. And if that child isn’t lazy or hasn’t been filled with too much fear and/or guilt, they can do the research and find out that, “Yes, Virginia, there is no God!”