Saturday, 7 June 2014

Dawkins and the Santa lie

There's an interesting debate going on in (of course) the USA. Is it right to lie to your children about the existence of Santa Claus?

First, let's dispose of some other arguments. Should we tell children stories about a princess kissing a frog and the frog turning into a prince? Yes. Because they know it's just a story, and stories are not supposed to be true, they're supposed to be entertaining, and maybe a bit edifying.

So I disagree with Dawkins and "There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable". Well, duh. I read a lot of fairytale books when I was young, and I don't think I ever thought it actually happened that a frog turned into a prince. It was a *story*. I could tell the difference. I also used to make up stories for my kid sister; we both knew that they were stories.

No - Santa Claus is different. Some parents tell their kids that it's no story, it's real. And that, of course, is lying. Lying is different from telling a story. So, should parents lie to their children and this?

For me, the key argument can be found on one of the Christian web sites. This points out that eventually, the children find out that they've been lied to, Santa doesn't exist. And that this "must damage their ability to have faith in the one true God who really does exist".

Here's another web site  "If you lie to your children about Santa, why should they believe you about JESUS ???? GUESS WHAT? THEY DON'T! " 

And here " If we lie to our children about Santa then how are they to know we aren't lying about Jesus?"

For me, that' a very strong argument in favour of the "Santa lie."

The children find out that grown-ups make up imaginary friends, and then lie to their children about their existence. The web sites rightly point out, that discovering that Santa doesn't exist despite parental assurances, can lead to discovering that the parent's god doesn't exist, despite parental assurances.

And that, obviously, is a good thing. Children shouldn't follow their parents' religion just because they say so.

So I think it's a good thing for parents to lie to their children about Santa. It teaches them a valuable lesson.

So what did we do with our kids? We made them a Christmas, but it was more like the original meaning of Christmas, before the Christians got their hands on it. It was a celebration of the middle of winter, the time when days start to get longer, and spring can't be far away. It was a day of feasting (meaning, over-eating), mince pies and chocolate. It was a day of presents, and a decorated tree, in the finest Druid tradition. And Santa brought the presents, carried by Rudolf and the other reindeer, and they put out the traditional sherry for Santa, and a mince pie for the reindeer. And ladysolly and I crept into their room at night and filled the stockings.

And on Christmas morning, daughter.2 dressed up as the Christmas Elf, and we sat round and opened our presents. And I can guarantee you that none of us thought that she really was an elf. It was all make-believe, and we enjoyed it a lot.


  1. I spent three hours one afternoon reviewing "The God Delusion" for the TLS. Dawkins is educated beyond his intelligence and is the type of Village Atheist who fails to see that truth can advance behind the veil of myth.

    He likes a drink though.

  2. I thought "The God Delusion" was really good, but I don't think much of the TLS.

    The veil of myth acts to obscure the truth - that's why more than half of Americans think that evolution didn't happen.