Santa v.s. Jesus: why believing in one is good and the other is harmful.
It’s come to my attention recently after writing a blog about stealing Christmas back from Christians that many atheists support the notion that Christmas is fun and don’t like that it has to be all religious. The other blog showed how it really isn’t and used to even be banned by the church. So, I thought I would examine the similarities and differences between Santa (and the Christmas holiday) and Jesus (and the Christian Religion).
The main reason I feel that this is important is that AtheismResource.com is about to launch a new charity called “Secular Santa” (details will follow in the next couple of months). I’m sure you can guess what it’s about. It’s just good people helping people in need… no religion required. But, I know it will get it’s naysayers who associate Santa and Christmas with Christianity. I don’t think this has to be the case. what Santa represent is being good, hoping for better times, sharing joy amongst people, and receiving something for treating others well and being in need. I don’t see why secular people can’t embrace this imagery without appearing religious.
So, to steal Santa back and make it “safe” to believe in him again, we need to look at the two myths and see why one is harmless and why one is safe.
Let’s start with this chart. It’s pretty self explanatory. There are a lot of similarities in the two myths. Both seem to have this uncanny ability to know who is good and bad at all times and keeps a book/list for reference. Children are definitely more susceptible to believing in them. We have songs and stories about both. We act good to receive rewards from them and try not to be bad so as not to be on their naughty list. And, most importantly, we have no evidence for the existence of either and all attempts to contact them come back short.
The important part is in the differences. Two main ones really. What does believing in them require (thoughts and actions) and what does being bad under their paradigm get you.
What Santa and God require of you.
Santa – be good and (sometimes) put out milk and cookies
God – Well, the list is huge. You have to spread his gospel, follow his list of commandments, condemn gays, subject women, be ok with owning slaves, not wear garments of two different fabrics, not plant two different type seeds in the same field, stone people for working on the Sabbath Day…. yada yada blah blah blah. You have to pray to have your sins forgiven (better than sacrificing animals like he used to require). You can’t talk back to your parents (that’ll get you killed to) and you have to be ready to die in his name if needed.
Damn, god, that’s a lot of requirements. But, the reward is heaven… so lots of people find the outrageous requests to be in-line with the reward… or they just rationalize not following some of the requests. And, if you go to heaven, but your friends and family don’t, you get to watch them burn in hell for all eternity – serves them right, stupid non-believers.
As for Santa, just be good. No heaven. But, hey, you will get an unexpected free gift just for being a nice person. That’s easy… and no stoning.
What happens to non-believers or bad people.
Santa – You get a piece of coal… or nothing.
God – You burn in hell for all eternity in a lake of fire where demons rip at your flesh and torture you in the most horrible ways imaginable. You can see your friends and family that did believe and were good in heaven, but they aren’t allowed to help you, comfort you, or even drip water from their fingertip for you.
So, when weighing what it takes to believe in the two myths, what the rewards are, and what the punishments are… I think the clear winner is Jesus – I mean, Santa (sorry, they are so similar, I mix them up sometimes). The story of Santa is a good one. No pain, no torment, just a piece of coal if you are bad while you watch the good people enjoy their reward. But, and this is the best part… IT ISN’T FOR ETERNITY. You can change your ways and get on the good list next year.
If god did this, he’d have more followers. Imagine after a year of burning in hell, you could say, “Sorry”, change your ways, get on the nice list, and go to heaven. Rewarding or punishing people only after they die is no way to sway action. Here and now works better. So, yes, I will teach my child about Santa. I will lie to her. That may seem bad, but eventually, since I will also teach her to be a rational thinker, she will discover the truth for herself. I will be doing a bigger favor to her by allowing her to look at myths for what they are and figure things out for herself than to dash a good story to piece.
I plan to embrace the story of Santa in my new charity and show that the symbolism is good. Atheists can help people in need too. We can all be a Secular Santa in our own way. Enjoy this holiday season and check back with us for more info later when we launch SecularSanta.org (and .com in case you like that better – yeah, we bought both domain names). Share the love we have during the holidays year-round. Create change. Make a physical difference in the world around you… it does far more good than just praying about it.