Subject:AANEWS for Friday, December 10, 2004
Date:Fri, 10 Dec 2004 16:51:42 -0500
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
A A N E W S
#1152 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 12/10/04
"ON CHRISTMAS, or, 'NO, VIRGINIA, THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS"
(. . . Edwin Kagin wears many hats as constitutional attorney, State Director for American Atheists, poet and raconteur, Founder of Camp Quest and writer. His essay "On Christmas" has received wide circulation, and certainly deserves more. He declares that permission for non-profit reproduction is given, "so long as credit is given, so the villagers will not go after the wrong person with pitchforks and torches." Ed welcomes mail at [email protected].
"If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!" --Uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (not to be confused With Uncle Scrooge McDuck)
I can't prove that no ungulate unit of reindeer persuasion can fly, any more than you can prove I don't have two invisible unicorns that frolic in benign innocence at Camp Quest. I can't prove there are no living dinosaurs (as the arkonuts challenge the skeptical to do) anymore than the arkonuts can prove the English text of Genesis they rely on is identical to the original version they hold was dictated, or inspired, by god. But if one says that all crows are black, there is no need to check
every crow to falsify that assertion. All that is needed is to find one white crow, or any crow of a different color. Similarly, Santa skepticism can be soundly silenced by the production of one flying reindeer. Yet Christmasterians insist doubters disprove Santa, sleigh, and such, or keep silent, lest they destroy a child's simple (mindless) faith. This method of proof proves useful later, as children, programmed to believe fantasy is truth, grow to adultery and unquestioningly follow the
fantastic follies of faith of their fathers (and mothers -- political correctness must not be permitted to fall down a personhole).
To be sure, Plato (not to be confused with Mickey Mouse's dog) argued that, to conceive of something that is real, one must somehow get the perfect idea of that anything from the place it really exists, to wit, the world of forms -- a place somewhere that no one has ever seen. Reality alone wouldn't do. Thus, everyone but philosophers knows what a horse looks like, and kids know all about Santa without having to survive Philosophy 101.
Can we imagine, or even believe in, something that doesn't exist? Sure we can. Just talk with those who have been abducted by aliens. If some unseen thing is believed by many, e.g., angels, it is called faith. If a thing is believe by only one, and is wildly outside the gates of common sense and experience, then the belief, e.g., suddenly realizing that one's guardian angel is made of grape jelly and having him (there are no female angels -- check your bible, you can win bets on this) on
toast, it is called psychosis. The problem is that the invisible and the non-existent look much the same. Christmas beliefs fall somewhere between the province of priest and psychiatrist.
Christmas combines two contradictory images of godlike characters: Jesus, the Christ, who taught that to be saved one should sell all of their property and give it to the poor (the church later declared belief in this teaching a heresy), and Claus, the Santa, to whom children are taught to write letters requesting property -- believed to be given by Santa, in one night, to those children of the world found worthy -- in direct challenge to the counsel of the Christ. One should note, before
teaching the latter belief system, than an anagram of Santa is Satan.
The day itself, meaning Christ's Mass, is the same day the Romans used to honor their sun god with gift giving and feasting. Christmas is quite pagan. Its secular celebration involves rituals specifically forbidden by holy writ, like hewing down a tree, bringing it inside the house, decorating it, and praising it. This is as clear a violation of divine decree as public prayer, or celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of on the seventh day as ordered (Commandment IV). No
wonder we are in such trouble these days with crime, inflation and teenage pregnancies.
Unfortunately cultural consequences flow from the forced frivolity and jejune joy Christmas creates and requires. People get depressed when they don't feel happy as they should, when they do not have their artificial expectations fulfilled, and when they cannot meet the unreasonable artificial seasonal needs of others -- like their mercenary relatives, and their materialistic, greedy, spoiled children -- and get even deeper in debt by trying to behave as expected. Thanks to Tom Flynn, and his
wonderful heresy "The Trouble With Christmas," I chucked the whole thing a few years ago, and lived. Try it. You will feel better for it.
Should I be granted a Christmas wish, it would be that the holiday be canceled, and that the whole show appertaining to this business of Christmas not be done at all. Please understand that I do not care if others celebrate Christmas if they wish, nor would I suggest that they be prevented from doing so. I just don't want the holiday to be compulsory for me or anyone else -- any more than I want other people's prayers, that they have an absolute right to pray, to be forced upon me by public
officials or upon children by public schools. One who would rather decline gets somewhat tired of listening to those who absolutely and uncritically assume all good people celebrate Christmas, and that something is horribly wrong with anyone who ignores the invitation to attend their compulsory party. Failing the unlikely event of Christmas being made optional, I would alternatively wish, in seasonal answer to Virginia's famous question, that we might see something in the public press for
innocent children like:
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. It is a myth that has been cruelly used to deceive children for the pleasure of adults who unwittingly destroy children's sense of basic trust by teaching them that the world is something other than it really is.
I know this news must be a shock to you, and I am truly sorry for your discomfort. But it is not my fault. The person who tells you the truth should never be blamed for the hurt that comes from learning that others have lied.
You should not believe in Santa Claus any more than you should believe in fairies, or in demons waiting around to pull you under the earth, or in angels lurking about to transport you above it. People do not need to believe foolish things to have love and compassion and caring, any more than they need a special season or holiday to be nice to one another.
If things believed prove false, does that mean peace, and sharing, and kindness must dissolve like mist along with the untrue things? Of course not! We don't need magic to have happiness, and wonder, and joy. Our beautiful world is full of these things, and they are very real, and our real world holds more interesting and wonderful people and things than any fairyland anyone could ever even imagine.
Some adults are afraid of things they don't understand, and they teach children to believe in magic. But the truth is really far more exciting. Wouldn't you rather learn what is on real planets, that are millions of miles away, than believe reindeer can fly? Have you ever seen the northern lights? I have, and I can tell you they are more beautiful, more mysterious, and more wonderful than any pretend story anyone could ever invent about elves that have workshops at the North Pole.
Is it okay to pretend and to believe things we know are not true? Of course it is! And it can be a lot of fun. Intelligent people love to play. Any time you watch a movie or a play or go to a costume party you are playing and pretending something is that is not.
We know these aren't real people in the TV -- only images of them -- but we know we are pretending, and this is fun and much different from believing a falsehood. Would it be wrong to tell a friend of yours, who firmly believed there really small people inside the television set, that his or her belief was not true? Wouldn't it be right for you to be commended for destroying that friend's childhood faith? What if several of your best friends thought they could fly, and set off for a bridge
over a 600-foot deep gorge to prove it? Would it be wrong for you to politely try to convince them that they just might be mistaken, no matter how firmly they believe they are right? Would you be destroying their childhood or saving their future?
Follow the truth, no matter where it may take you. And don't pay attention to those who think comforting falsehoods are better than understanding the world as it is. If you ever have children, teach them trust by telling them the truth. By the way, just in case you didn't know, the stork didn't bring you. You are here because your parents had sex.
Keep questioning, Virginia, and don't feel it is the least bit wrong to demand correct answer.
Asking questions is what makes us human.