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Santa and God: The Nature of Belief

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posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 12:10 AM
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I'm an atheist which means I am a statistical minority here in the USA. Most American adults believe in some kind of deity and around Christmas time many religious folks cling to their beliefs even tighter. But it has occurred to me on multiple occasions while watching Christmas movies and thinking about what I was taught as a kid (I was raised a fundamentalist Christian) that Santa Claus and God are almost exactly the same. Many people have noted this parallel as well but I actually sat down and listed the similarities and soon realized that holding a belief in Santa is no more or less valid than holding a belief in God. There is no appreciable difference other than the fact that at some point in our lives Santa belief stops being reinforced while God belief typically continues to be reinforced.

God is a supernatural being.

Santa is a supernatural being.

God lives in Heaven but when we look up into space we don't see him or any evidence of him.

Santa lives at the North Pole but when we look at the North Pole we don't see him or any evidence of him.

God has supernatural helpers called angels.

Santa has supernatural helpers called elves.

God takes Elijah to Heaven in a flying fiery chariot.

Santa delivers presents in a flying sleigh.

God punishes the wicked for their misdeeds and rewards the righteous. He knows the inner workings of your mind and knows everything you do and say.

Santa punishes the naughty for their misdeeds and rewards the nice. He sees you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good.

God can be prayed to in order to gain things. Ask and you shall receive.

Santa can be written to in letters. Ask and you shall receive.

God must be believed on Faith.

Santa must be believed on Faith.

God is offered money and was, at one time, offered animal sacrifices.

Santa is offered milk and cookies.

God can be in all places at once.

Santa can visit all houses in one night.

So what do you think? Why is it that we would look at an adult who believes in Santa as being nutty or just playing pretend but when someone believes in God we don't look at them that same way?

For a further analysis check out my blog at godlessblogger.blogspot.com




posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 12:27 AM
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reply to post by Titen-Sxull
 


Agreed, it feels as if they need two myths. One for children and one for adults, as both boogeyman and protector, to keep the good happy and trick the bad into being good. This does not, however, change my beliefs, as an agnostic I believe in something greater then myself. Whether it be consciousness and the nature of the soul, or Buddha in nirvana, it doesn't matter. It's the doctrines and the zealotry I see on all sides that bothers me.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 01:01 AM
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Kids believe in Santa because their parents tell them that Santa will bring them gifts if they're good, and then those gifts appear. Kids also believe in Santa because they hear of other kids getting gifts. I seriously doubt that kids would believe in Santa very long if they were never brought gifts or knew no one else who had been brought gifts. They only stop believing because we give them a much more down-to-earth explanation that also explains everything they've observed very neatly.

I suspect that many adults are the same way; they stop believing in God when they're given a more rational explanation for everything they've observed or know to have been observed.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 01:13 AM
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reply to post by gnosticquasar
 


Absolutely. It is a shame that shedding God belief is often so much harder than shedding the Santa belief because the reinforcement is so much stronger. Having Santa reinforced as real until you're only ten makes it easy to give up believing but when you're taught about God until your thirty or forty its a much tougher belief to break out of even with all the rational explanations in the world.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 08:42 AM
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reply to post by Titen-Sxull
 
Titen-Sxull,

All Christians do not see santa claus as a great thing, I for one see it as a Pagan thing that is repulsive to Christianity. This celebration of the world should not even be called Christ-mass, as it really don't have anything to do with Christ. It is an attempt at mixing Christianity with Paganism. It is more like Satan Claus time.

Christ was actually born on or about the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. So that's the Holiday we should observe. Then thanks for the harvest and our Redeemer in the same festival. But it is a God appointed day and man steers away from them.

Truthiron.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 09:08 AM
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Well, of course, people can tell whatever Santa stories they like. In the usual American ones, those with which I am familiar, Santa was a human being, at best preternaturally gifted, and elves were not supernatural either. I never have looked upon the North Pole, and certainly didn't during the few years I believed in Santa Claus. I do not recall ever being encouarged to "pray" to Santa, unless you are using the term in its archaic sense of asking anybody for anything. (I now picture you going around saying "Pray, good lady, a kiss." Meh, I've heard worse lines; good luck with that).

The other points of alleged parallelism are equally stretchy.

I am glad, at least, that you seem able to bring yourself to say clearly "I believe that Santa does not exist." That's encouraging. It's more than some of your fellow web-atheists manage.

Speaking for myself, I believed in Santa at a time when my cognitive development rendered it a stretch to say that I "believed" anything at all. The case against Santa is not simply that there is an alternative explanation of the phenomena, but that the positive evidentiary corpus in favor of that alternative explanation is overwhelming and unequivocal.

The question of gods, alas, is very different. There is no direct evidence, or at best a few shreds, and if that much, then the shreds are equivocal. There are as yet unresolved foundational questions about the merits of competing epistemologies. There are even competing fables, all equally lacking in evidence, but each rich in convenience for the storyteller, about where the stories came from.

Sigh. Merry Christmas. May Santa be good to you.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 09:51 AM
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reply to post by Titen-Sxull
 


Really great points! I was also raised in a Christian home and was indoctrinated with the myths of Santa and God... It's strange to me that when we reach a certain age, our parents make the decision to stop the lies about Santa, knowing that this crazy story could not POSSIBLY be true, but they keep going with the God story, which has about as much credibility, but no more, than the Santa story. I wonder why they ever thought it was a good idea to plant this belief that they KNEW was a lie to begin with...

I really liked how you paralleled the two.
Fantasy is fun.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 11:20 AM
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Nice comparison


...to put a twist in things, Santa is also an anagram for Satan
...and his purpose is to bring you material presents to keep you occupied...
Hmm... who else puts on a friendly face while making us think that what they're doing 'behind the curtain' is genuinely good and honest...? Well, The MSM, Banks, Governments, Corporations, and Religion are some of the first ones that come to mind lol


I watched a documentary a while back which raised some questions like these and their meanings, but i can't remember what it was called, so I won't talk about it as I have nothing to reference sorry - I got it off Concen if anyone has seen it and can remind me please!!


Peace ..v,



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 12:47 PM
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reply to post by truthiron
 


I'm aware of the pagan roots of Christmas and I'm glad that some Christians are as well


My point is that there is no real difference between belief in Santa and belief in God. Both are considered supernatural beings and there is no scientific evidence to support either of them.

reply to post by eight bits
 




Santa was a human being, at best preternaturally gifted, and elves were not supernatural either.


Most of the movies and stories I indulged in as a kid seemed to suggest Santa was an all knowing immortal being. After all he sees when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake and he's been around for centuries. He also manages to fit down chimneys to deliver presents and has enchanted flying reindeer. Elves are, by definition, magical creatures, like fairies, gnomes, dwarfs, etc.

The point of pointing out the parallels is to show that there is no appreciable difference between God belief and Santa belief. Both beliefs are irrational and neither being has the evidence to back up its existence.

reply to post by Benevolent Heretic
 


Thanks. I find it kinda tragic that more people don't realize how similar the two beliefs are. If more people realized there would be a lot fewer theists and therefore a lot fewer kids being lied to this time of year. Its strange how we pick and choose which myths to believe and can even leave behind a myth like Santa but hold onto a similar one like God for the rest of our lives.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 08:17 PM
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The point of pointing out the parallels is to show that there is no appreciable difference between God belief and Santa belief. Both beliefs are irrational and neither being has the evidence to back up its existence.

I still live in America, and while I am not a full-time scholar of Santa Claus, I simply have never encountered divine claims on his behalf. Superman could take him, and Superman ain't no god.

The two beliefs, God and Santa, are as different as night and day. Only for Santa is there much in the way of evidence, one way or the other. There is a mountain of evidence and all the evidence is against. For God, there is hardly any evidence at all. There is only which opinion, if any, makes sense to each person.

In the absence of evidence, any consistent corpus of beliefs is rationally tenable. It is simply a matter of opinion. You like your opinion. Somebody else likes the opposite of yours. Big whoop.



posted on Dec, 11 2010 @ 09:22 PM
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reply to post by Titen-Sxull
 
Titen-Sxull,

Aw come on Titen ole Santa is make believe, a figament of some dreamers imagination. But now God, Yahweh is a lot different and I do for me have solid proof that He is who He says He is. I have life and that cannot be created, it has to be given. That's one thing I'm ablolutley sure of, they will never, never be able to create life.

That may be another thought to consider for you and many.

Truthiron.



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 01:29 AM
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reply to post by truthiron
 




I have life and that cannot be created, it has to be given.


I'm pretty sure it was your parents who gave you life.



That may be another thought to consider for you and many.


Whether or not we are able to create life in a lab is irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. Even if we never create life that doesn't mean life occurred via supernatural processes, after all we humans may never be able to reproduce the natural circumstances that brought about life. Supposing that life has no supernatural creator and occurred naturally we're talking about an early Earth we don't know everything about and timescales that are in the hundreds of millions of years.

So the existence of life, yours or mine or anything else's doesn't prove God... although to be fair it doesn't disprove him either.

Of course Santa is made up but right now there isn't a whole lot distinguishing God(s) from Santa, the belief is fundamentally the same - one based on faith and warm fuzzy feelings instead of evidence.

reply to post by eight bits
 




The two beliefs, God and Santa, are as different as night and day.


The two beings have their differences but the belief is the same, it is one based on faith. It is a belief in something that is irrational and magical that is also tied to punishment and reward for good and bad behavior. An eight year old hoping he was good enough to get presents instead of coal isn't fundamentally dissimilar from a ninety year old man on his death bed hoping he was good enough to get into Heaven. Both are holding faith in something for which there is no evidence, something supernatural. Kids waiting for Santa to come remind me heavily of Christians waiting for the Rapture as well.

And if you've ever been forced to watch any Christmas movies you'd see further parallels. Why just the other day my Dad, who is a fundamentalist Christian, was remarking that the movie The Santa Clause had an apt description of faith when they said "Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing"... The film the Polar Express contains similar themes.

Now its true that no one is counting on Santa to die on a cross for them or to return in glory and rule for 1000 years but at the root the beliefs are the same, irrational faith based beliefs in something that is magical.
edit on 12-12-2010 by Titen-Sxull because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 08:55 AM
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reply to post by Titen-Sxull
 
Titen-Sxull,

We need to take the thought of life a bit further. God created man and breathed the breath of life into him. Life, breath, spirit, breath is numa. When He declared to Moses I AM THAT I AM that is what He was telling Moses. Life is spirit and gives us the capabilities to breath and live and have intelligence. Life cannot be something that evolved. God Himself is Spirit and He gave life to all that live. He gave to man the ability to procreate. He was to populate the earth and replace the fallen Angels and when God finds that number has finally been reached by the ones He can Redeem out of this mess it will end. It comes down to the point where the last one who will come and be His will make up that number. This is why I see such a falling away from those that know Him and are sure of it.

They have found out how to "clone" but when it comes to making that "egg" the female has, come to a new life that is beyond man.

My testimony for today.

Truthiron.



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 10:10 AM
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The two beings have their differences but the belief is the same, it is one based on faith.

By what empirical means have you determined that a six year-old has the cognitive capacity to experience "faith?"

There simply are no grown-up "believers" in Santa Claus for you to compare with grown-up believers in gods. This hard fact prevents the kind of comparison you would hope to make. You are simply blowing smoke here.


An eight year old hoping he was good enough to get presents instead of coal isn't fundamentally dissimilar from a ninety year old man on his death bed hoping he was good enough to get into Heaven.

Eight is a little old for Santa, IMO. Anyway, as to the ninety year-old, it depends on his theism. Not all theisms offer a "heaven." Let's suppose your man believes in something that does.

If the 90 year old is a Muslim, then I agree. He expects to face the scales, and will have to wait and see how it comes out. Several varieties of Christianity, however, would have long since offered him assurances or guarantees in this regard, and so little or no suspense would remain. In Orthodox Chrsitianity, what you call "heaven" could simply be his contination of the theophany he may already have achieved in life, or more likely, might be a refinement of what he may have already substantially achieved. Theophany is not a reward for good behavior, BTW.

The fact is, theisms differ greatly from one another in what they believe. They also greatly differ in the epistemological foundation for belief. What a Muslim means by faith differs from a Baptist's meaning, which differs from a Roman Catholic's. And those are relatively similar religions. Imagine how different some of the Hindu religions' conceptions might be. Yet you would lump them all together as believers in gods.


Kids waiting for Santa to come remind me heavily of Christians waiting for the Rapture as well.

I've never actually met a Christian who believes there will be a rapture, and plenty who don't.


"Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing"

The phrase is a truism of perceptual psychology. Secular perceptual psychology. It is a good thing for everybody to know about themselves, a common source of cognitive error, so I'm glad to hear that people are being introduced to the principle early.



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 02:39 PM
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reply to post by eight bits
 




By what empirical means have you determined that a six year-old has the cognitive capacity to experience "faith?"


Probably the fact that they believe in a myriad of magical or impossible things. Santa, the tooth fairy, monsters in the closest, fairies, unicorns, all are more likely to be believed by children. Faith, in this case, is merely a belief without evidence and that's something a child is more likely to have because they probably don't have good critical thinking skills yet. I've even heard Christians say that we should have the "Faith of a child". Many children are quite gullible , they'll believe almost anything especially from someone deemed an authority figure.



The fact is, theisms differ greatly from one another in what they believe.


I thought the OP made it clear we were talking about the Christian God. I'm well aware that other people believe different things. The nature of the belief is still one based on faith however and so its always going to be fundamentally similar. The beliefs themselves vary but the nature, the mechanism of that belief, is faith. This goes for many of the beliefs seen here on ATS, many don't have the evidence to back them up and so they must be based, at least in part, on faith.



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 03:35 PM
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I've even heard Christians say that we should have the "Faith of a child".

Do you have any evidence that when they say that, they do not mean something figurative, analogous to "I want to sleep like a baby?" In other words, do not the figures of speech in both cases connote something easy and untroubled? Surely, the adult aspirant to sleeping like a baby doesn't mean "I want to sleep all day except when I need to eat or pee."


I thought the OP made it clear we were talking about the Christian God.

That was clear. But it was also clear that your argument relies on what you perceive as resemblances between the Christian God and Santa. It is perfectly reasonable, then, to consider in rebuttal whether your arguments hold up when applied to other things which the Christian God resembles. For example, other gods, and, as in my post, beliefs within Christianity itself which differ from the example beliefs which you have selected.

I thought this examination especially pertinent, since at least with other gods and other views of the same God, we can locate grown-up believers, something conspicuously absent from the supposedly analogous Santa Claus. Since what we find is a variety, not only of creeds, but of warrants to believe and of consequences of belief, we can confidently dispose of the claim that the reasons for belief in Santa are plausibly the same as the reasons some adults have for belief in God.

Obviously, the principal factor in the always transient immature "belief" in Santa Claus is the inability of very young children to evaluate and reach conclusions about truth claims, on any subject, on a par with adults, or even with older children. That is not the case with any beliefs that adults actually hold, on any subject, including religion.


edit on 12-12-2010 by eight bits because: the typo fairy dropped in



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 04:21 PM
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Originally posted by eight bits
By what empirical means have you determined that a six year-old has the cognitive capacity to experience "faith?"


Are you kidding? Have you ever SEEN a child on Christmas Eve? Tell me that child doesn't have faith! She knows to the very core of her being that Santa exists and is on his way to her house, bearing the doll she asked for.
And why? Because her parents told her so.



There simply are no grown-up "believers" in Santa Claus


Because we were all TOLD the truth at some point or another about Santa. With God, our parents continued to tell us that he is real. Some of us went on to become adults who believe in the story of SantaGod, and others of us figured that it's not true - for many of the same reasons that Santa couldn't be true.



I've never actually met a Christian who believes there will be a rapture, and plenty who don't.


My experience is JUST the opposite. My family and every church I attended were very adamant about the Rapture. Maybe times have changed...



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 06:28 PM
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Because her parents told her so.

Gosh. So touching a word picture.

Nevertheless, the child lacks the requisite cognitive capacity to evaluate truth claims on a par with an adult. Her experience of belief, then, is necessarily different from that of an adult, independent of the subject of the truth claims.

Natural selection favors that until her own nervous system further develops, she conform to the signals her parents provide her about their shared environment.

What has successful passage through this developmental stage to do with any adult's belief in any subject whatsoever?


Because we were all TOLD the truth at some point or another about Santa.

No. First, we grow up, so that we can evaluate at least elementary truth claims. Except for the increased development of our nervous systems, telling us would be unavailing.

Then, we do not fall into the whipsaw of substituting the latest story we are told for another story we have been told earlier. We are instead immersed in proof about which story is factually correct. Many children are encouraged to investigate the question actively by a last sham of "Who told you that?" Many are also subsequently recruited into performing the charade for younger children, etc.


With God, our parents continued to tell us that he is real.

If our parents did so, then the most likely explanation is that they continued to tell the truth about a question where grown-up beliefs are relevant, as they personally believed the truth to be. In no case, unless you were the child of Mohammed or something like that, did your parents make up the story they told you.

And I don't know about you, but my parents' views about any subject became presumptively false about the same time I decided girls weren't so bad after all. All my friends, too. Just about that same time. Probably natural selection has something to do with it, that one last gasp before the nervous system is fully able to evaluate truth claims independently of other evaluators.


My experience is JUST the opposite. My family and every church I attended were very adamant about the Rapture. Maybe times have changed...

I can accept that our experiences are different. Just because belief in the Rapture is a minority view within Christianity globally, that doesn't mean it isn't the local majority view in some places. Obviously, if someone hangs out in fundamentalist-oriented churches, then they will probably have better luck meeting rapture advocates than I have had.



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 06:33 PM
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reply to post by eight bits
 




Do you have any evidence that when they say that, they do not mean something figurative


Some Christians might believe it to be figurative in a sense. Ones I've talked to about being born-again believed they were infants spiritually speaking and they had to trust God, their Father, with a child-like faith. The same way a child accepts what their parents say as true (usually) they would accept the Bible. Jesus himself says that no one will enter the kingdom of heaven unless they humble themselves and become like a little child. So essentially they are saying that they should forgo reason and doubt and just believe, when an adult does this they often have to suspend natural skepticism but many children at the Santa believing age don't have the skepticism or critical thinking skills to question.



Since what we find is a variety, not only of creeds, but of warrants to believe and of consequences of belief, we can confidently dispose of the claim that the reasons for belief in Santa are plausibly the same as the reasons some adults have for belief in God.


I never said the reasons for belief were the same in all cases, merely the mechanism: FAITH. Reasons for belief may very from not wanting to go to Hell or wanting to go to Heaven, others get stuck because their religion is just a part of how they were raised and they never bother to question it, others have seemingly "miraculous" conversions or use religiosity to overcome addiction. Whatever the reason for belief the mechanism remains the same, faith, and in that way the nature of a belief in Santa is essentially the same. Its the same exact thing with fairies or mermaids or any other magical creature, god, spirit or entity, faith is involved as opposed to evidence.



Nevertheless, the child lacks the requisite cognitive capacity to evaluate truth claims on a par with an adult.


Which is exactly my point. Faith is a suspension of the ability to evaluate truth, it is believing something without evidence. The difference is the adult often chooses, whether subconsciously or consciously, to suspend disbelief while the child, as you said, lacks the ability to evaluate truth claims.



In no case, unless you were the child of Mohammed or something like that, did your parents make up the story they told you.


They didn't make up the story of Santa either, the only difference is they believe the God story. The fact that they still believe it is the problem, at some point they should have, as you said, been able to evaluate the truth. The problem is that self same mechanism we've been talking about, Faith.
edit on 12-12-2010 by Titen-Sxull because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 12 2010 @ 07:19 PM
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Some Christians ...

Fair enough, but the apostolic-succession churches (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox are the two biggest) have the majority of Christians (about 1.2 out of the 1.7 billion, obviously dependent on who's counting and how).

The Orthodox are very strong on direct spiritual experience, with continual critical scrutiny being emphasized. The Roman Catholics have heavily intellectualized the same deposit of faith, to the point where that is an impediment to full communion with the Orthodox despite the strong parallels in their doctrines.

Neither of these churches, then, encourages "childlikeness" in its adult believers, except in the most fulsomely figurative usage. I'm not saying Protestant critics are wrong about the apostolics. Maybe they should encourage "childlikeness" based on Jesus' teaching. But I am just observing that the apostolics are the majority among Christians, and they don't.


I never said the reasons for belief were the same in all cases, merely the mechanism: FAITH.

Then if you wish to discuss Christian belief, you really need to find out what faith means in a Christian context. Denominations differ in the details, but "warrant for belief" does not exhaust its attributes. It is typically used to denote a gift from God, a virtue to practice, and a prerequisite for salvation.

I have never encountered a claim that belief in Santa is a gift from God. I have never encountered a child who was praised for the virtue of believing in Santa. I know of no child who has ever been told that the alternative to believing in Santa is eternal damnation or the death of their soul, after personal judgment by Jesus.

It follows that no child has ever had faith in Santa as Christians use that term in connection with their religion. That in itself is fatal to your claim in the OP, of course.


Reasons for belief may very ...

... or, having thoughtfully considered the alternatives, the adult person has formed a belief, consistent with their experiences and other beliefs, that Jesus (or whoever) is God.

You know, a thread about Santa Claus may be a good time to tell you the hard truth that ordinary, healthy, logical and intelligent people will disagree with you about matters of opinion. That's how it is among grown-ups. Whether or not there is a god is an unresolved matter of opinion. And that's all it is.

Like whether or not the extension of the Bush tax cuts was a good idea. There's a Santa Claus angle there, too. Also blowing smoke, and smoke regardess of who's right about the cuts.




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