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 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 (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.

  • Barbara

    you need to check your spelling and grammar

  • Adam

    @ Barbara: Please point it out and I will fix it. I barely have time to post these blogs much less to make sure they are perfect… that's why I have wonderful readers like you!

    • Heidi Lavitt

      One I noticed is it’s vs. its. A few capitals letters too, but I read it as something typed out in a hurry like a text where typos happen. No big deal really.

  • Q

    "you need to check your spelling and grammar"

    Says the one who didn't capitalize or properly punctuate.

    On topic:

    Are you telling me Krampus isn't real either? Haha.

    What about those damn Yule Lads?

  • Jude

    Santa–a lie; Jesus–a lie. The problem with telling your kids that there is such a thing as Santa Claus is that you're lying to them. I don't understand why any adult would purposely lie to a child. Why lie about something nonsensical? I wanted my kids to know that *I* was the one who worked hard and bought those presents for them–not some mythical (and to me, slightly sinister) being.

  • Vincent

    @ Jude: That's the great thing about having options and freedom. You can assess how much reality your toddler can cope with. I assume puppies also won't be going to "a farm up north" if they die, either:)

  • Adam

    @ Jude: The greatest gift you can give your child is to teach them to think critically and be rational/skeptical. I didn't think I would do the "Santa thing" with my daughter (she's 2). But, after talking with Amanda Marcotte, she made me realize that allowing a child to discover that Santa is a myth is a smart thing to do (especially for atheist parents). If they figure it out on their own, they can then see for themselves how the same rationale applies to Jesus and other gods. If they are simply taught that everything they hear is the truth, then they have no reason to ever question the "accepted" answer… which I feel is a disservice to my child. I don't need her to be gullible.

    I'll let her have her childhood fun, but I will be very proud the day she walks up to me and explains that she sees no evidence to believe reindeer can fly, a man can circumnavigate the globe in one night stopping at millions of houses along the way that he has to enter through chimneys or break into, see everyone when they are sleeping or awake and know if they are good or bad, or be able to make all the toys credited to him with an army of elves in a barren part of the world with no food or natural resources…. I'll be freakin' giddy when her critical thinking skills reach that level.

    If I tell her "Santa does not exists", then I am robbed of that important moment in her development!

  • Volizden

    Adam –

    I agree to an extent with what Amanda Marcotte was saying, however, My partner and I decided to just tell our kids straight out and helped them research the myth online and explored how and why it exists. As opposed to telling them the myth pretending and then later facing up to lying about it in the first place. It creates a margin of dissent within the child toward the parent over the lie, no matter how small it is. It leads to a logical conclusion of "other lies" existing.

    We Teach a strictly no lies policy in our home, and adhere to it adamantly. It causes problems in that the girls have a hard time lying to friends and being so truthful, but are strongly respected by their peers and teachers for their honesty.

    At least this is what we have found as parents, and ALL our friends love our kids for being awesome, I have yet to find one person who thinks we screwed up anywhere. Well a couple christians but that's because we didn't baptize and indoctrinate them…

  • Adam

    @ Volidzen: I think that principle is a great one and i don't have any qualms with how you raise your kids. It sounds like you and your partner are doing things right. I like the "no lie" policy but also don't think parents are doing a disservice for helping their kids have an imagination. I would never continue the lie once my daughter is old enough to figure it out for herself or feed her false evidence to make her think she is wrong. But, I think atheists can still talk about Santa so their kids can enjoy that part of the holidays… no Jesus required.

    I'm betting my daughter won't make it past 6 and still believe it – she's a smart little girl.

    • Askelon

      The policy in our house is teach the myths as myths to “believe” in. That is, we make it clear that they are nothing more than fairy tales, but also emphasize the fun and creativity of imagining a belief. That way there is no lying at any point, but the value of imagination is still there.

    • pok

      if she were smart she would believe in God.

  • Rebecca M.

    The big difference for me is that no one tries to dictate government policy based on their belief in Santa.

  • Heath Kirkpatrick

    What God requires of you is to believe in the one He has sent. Jesus is the end of the Law (rules/restrictions of the OT) for everyone who believes. I wanted to clarify the list you had to what God requires. You have every right to reject the historical evidence and testimonies of changed lives that Jesus has delivered, it’s disingenuous to compare Him with Santa. The most influential and proven Person that has ever graced the face of the earth verses an obvious fairy tale.

    • Jovan Jubert

      AMEN. Im watching “Merry Larry” with my daughters this Christmas morning, when I realized that Atheism is absolute hypocrisy, when they do everything to disprove the foundation of historical facts, but would rather you believe in Santa over the true meaning of Jesus’ Birth. Merry CHRISTmas. God Bless you

      • Athiest

        Haha, well logic and reason bless YOU, Jovan.. at some time in the future, before you realize your entire life was a waste believing in fairy tales.

    • Heidi Lavitt

      Jesus is also an “obvious fairytale” to rational people.

  • pok

    Y’all need something to believe in.

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  • Martin

    This is such a misinformed argument. Do some research into Christianity / Jesus next time.