Wayne Holland: The Irrational Universe

Santa Claus and God

... Who'da thunk? .... December 5, 2012


I have lately come to regard Santa Claus and God as alter egos. The similarities between them are not only obvious; they are undeniable and compelling.

Three points:

1. They are both highly exalted (even revered and adored) personalities, who are essentially unapproachable for the masses of humanity, one by virtue of a residence at the North Pole, the other by being invisible.

2. We place—at times extraordinary—expectations on them, for Santa to bring us gifts (for no other reason than that we simply ask for them) and for God to bless us in all sorts of ways (whether we ask for it or not).

3. It is a matter of some notoriety that Santa makes lists to keep track of who is naughty or nice. Does God not do the same?

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
(Revelation 20:12)

But despite these similarities, there is one clear distinction that vastly separates these two - literary - characters. (Yes, I consider Santa Claus and God to be little more than literary personages, since literature is the only source of any mention of them.)

The Santa Claus myth is easily dispelled (usually by the age of 10), but the notion of a Supreme Being persists for a lifetime.

Why is this?

Why is Santa so easily relegated to the realm of lore and literature, while God continues to resonate after the fashion of a chronic (and oozing and festering) infection in the soul? (I must note here that I am in no way referring to the real God, but strictly to the God of the so-called holy books, all of which are mere human inventions.)

I believe the answer to this question lies somewhere along the rocky, and very difficult, road that leads to maturity.

We associate Santa primarily with children, but God with everyone, man, woman and child. I am taking the position in this essay that it is just as much a mark of immaturity (childishness) to believe in God (the God of a holy book, remember, like the Bible or the Koran) as it is to believe in Santa Claus.

I will begin with a brief examination of what exactly it means to be a child, in the mental/emotional sense of course. (I will take it for granted that everyone understands what a child is in the physical sense.)

The guiding question for this pursuit is fairly simple:

Reduced to its finest essence, what is the hallmark, or stamp, of a child?

Surely the word "maturity" will be used in some way or other in dealing with this question. But it is only scratching the surface to say that a child is emotionally immature. It is obvious that a child is not developed, either physically or mentally (or emotionally). What we are really searching for is the most compelling effect, or consequence, of this immaturity.

I no sooner began mulling this over when it struck me that the most significant effect of a child's immaturity is surely their vulnerability to deception. They are easily impressed (a euphemism for duped) We even refer occasionally to those impressionable years, when we are so easily shaped and molded.

To put it more directly, a child is a person who is easily duped, deluded and/or deceived. This sentiment of course carries with it the very clear implication that a person who is not a child, because they have reached a certain level of maturity, is not so susceptible to such deceptions. It is easy, in other words, to fool a child, not so much an adult.

Enter Santa Claus.

The issue, however, is not simply that they have been so readily duped into believing in the reality of a literary character, but the ease with which it is later abandoned by them (within a few short years), as compared with the nigh-insurmountable difficulty of ridding themselves of the seemingly inexorable influence of his alter ego (God). Since they are but two faces of the same idea/person, why is it that it is so easy to turn our backs on the one but not the other?

The answer of course is connected to the parents and their influence on the child, which in most cases is considerable. This is what is essentially at the heart of the essay Maturity, in which I tried to make the case that an adult who still holds on to the religion of their youth (the religion of their parents in nearly every case) is not actually an adult, but yet a child, at least with respect to their choice/practice of religion. I even appealed to that famous verse from the bible about a man leaving his father and mother, putting the emphasis on the word man (as opposed to child).

If your parents are still at the reins in matters of religious devotion, then you are still a child. You have not left them. And keep in mind that ignoring the influence of a parent in this regard is not abandoning the parent in any pejorative sense of the word. It is to leave them in the biblical sense.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother.

In short, adults who continue to believe in the God of their fathers are doing very little that is different from believing in the Santa Claus of their fathers. On this score, I find it passing strange that adults clinging to their childhood faith in Santa Claus would likely be viewed as virtually pathological, yet holding on to a similar faith in a Supreme Being would be regarded, in many cases, as an example of embracing sound (if not praiseworthy) values.

In other words, they would be respected for believing in God, but have their sanity questioned for believing in Santa Claus. But if both (Santa and God) are merely literary characters (known only through literature), what difference does it make?

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