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Holiday Challenge Match: adjensen vs Hefficide: Belief In Santa: Beautiful Custom or Humbug?

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posted on Nov, 28 2012 @ 08:52 AM

Belief In Santa: Beautiful Custom or Humbug?

Greetings ATS, fighters and readers alike. I wish to take a moment to thank you all as well as the judges, staff, and fans of the debate forum. In particular I wish to thank adjensen for agreeing to participate in this seasonally themed debate with me. In the spirit of sportsmanship, I wish you the best of luck!

Opening Statements

It is a fairly well known story in the US that, in 1897, a young girl named Virginia O'Hanlon asked her father if there, indeed, was such a person as Santa Claus. Her father, a doctor, rather shrewdly suggested that his daughter write a letter to a newspaper called The Sun asking that question, and adding "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." . As fate, and history would have it, the task of replying to that little girls heartfelt letter fell to a man named Francis Pharcellus Church - a man with no children of his own, a keen mind for philosphy, and who had seen the greatest evils of man in his years as a correspondent during the American Civil War.

Church's reply to little Virginia O'Hanlon is the most reprinted editorial, ever, in the English language. The second paragraph of that editorial began with the words Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Photo Source

Mr. Church's entire editorial piece will very closely mirror my argument today. That a belief in Santa Claus is a positive thing for children and for society at large... that this belief is more profound and impactful upon us than the mere visage of an overly generous, rather plump man with a taste for crimson fur clothing, facial hair, and reindeer. The "Santa effect" is so much more than that. I will demonstrate, as this debate progresses, that it is the spirit of Santa Claus and the very real and positive messages his persona conveys that are what really matter to us - even when we are decades past having lost that magical spark of belief.

Childhood is such a woefully brief, magical, and special time in our lives. Santa is a huge part of that. In my opinion a positive influence upon us even as we age. The spirit of giving, charity, and family. Values all worthy.

Here I close my opening statments.

posted on Nov, 28 2012 @ 09:31 PM
A seasonal and topical debate is just the right accompaniment to the smell of baking cookies, holly and pine trees, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Thanks to Hefficide for proposing the topic, and the ATS Debate Forum for hosting.


Who is Santa Claus, and why is he ruining America?

The impression that most have of the man comes to them courtesy of Coca-Cola, Norman Rockwell and Hallmark, who have engaged in a conspiracy that has lasted longer than anyone can remember, to hijack one of Christianity's highest festivals, and to replace it with an advertising campaign to sell sugar water, greeting cards, and cheap Chinese toys.


Jack Chick says that this is pretty serious stuff -- his Fairy Tales tract says that if you lie to your kid about Santa (as well as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, et al) you are pretty much turning them into a child murderer. Now, Jack Chick is a certified loon, but he does make an (accidental, one presumes) point about honesty -- every child who is assured that Santa is real by their parent will eventually learn that their parents lie to them, and this is clearly not model behaviour.

Speaking of serious stuff, what about all of those elves? Forbes Magazine, while naming Santa Claus #1 wealthiest on their Fictional Fifteen list, essentially accuses Santa of treating his employees as slaves. Criticism of that, combined with the overpopulation of The Island of Misfit Toys due to elven errors, are likely factors in Santa's decision to outsource toy production to sweatshops in China, Bangladesh and Taiwan.


But on a personal level, consider your own youth… all you really wanted that year was an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time, but your pro-gun control mother adamantly refused to even consider such a gift.

So you turned in desperation to Santa Claus -- the jolly old elf could hardly refuse a request from someone who'd been as good as you had been that year. But instead of a shiny Red Ryder Air Rifle, you got a boot to the face, an anti-gun rant, and the suggestion that maybe you'll get a football.

But Christmas morning… who comes through? THE OLD MAN! Your dear old Dad delivers the goods, tells your anti-Second Amendment mother to shut her pie hole, and sends you into the back yard to shoot squirrels or Black Bart or something.

And that's the way that it really is. Mom or Dad does the shopping, this fictitious icon of crass commercialism gets the credit.


In an age of an epidemic of youth obesity, no small amount of blame can be laid at the feet of the fat man from the North Pole, assuming that one can find said feet. Subsisting on a diet of milk and cookies, at least on Christmas Eve, we can run the numbers to see the degree of overeating he encourages.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2010, there were 114,235,996 households in the United States (Source). The Pew Forum says that about 75% of the population is Christian, so about 85,676,997 households celebrate Christmas. Four ounces of skim milk is 44 calories, and two small sugar cookies are 132 calories, for a total of 176. Multiplied by the number of Christian households, we see Santa pigging down over fifteen BILLION calories in one night. At 3,500 calories per pound gained, we can see that Santa puts on 4.3 million pounds in one night.

One hopes that he's wearing stretch pants. Well, maybe not, and that's one image I can't take away now, sorry.

I grudgingly agree that Santa Claus does provide one tangible good -- the soon to be bankrupt United States Postal Service likely sees a good profit in collecting stamp revenue for undelivered "letters to the North Pole".

Beyond that, nothing. American marketers have used Santa Claus to destroy a sacred holiday that celebrates the real gift that we all have received -- the unconditional love of God. It is beyond ironic that one of the core messages of Christ is completely counter to the core message that Santa has been trotted out to deliver, that happiness is found in the material goods that you beg others, even fictional others, to pleasure you with.


posted on Nov, 29 2012 @ 05:07 PM
reply to post by adjensen

I find it highly interesting that my opponent would begin with an anti-materialism argument but then use the argument at the close of his post, by saying:

I grudgingly agree that Santa Claus does provide one tangible good -- the soon to be bankrupt United States Postal Service likely sees a good profit in collecting stamp revenue for undelivered "letters to the North Pole".

This is not a shot at my esteemed opponent. It is, for me, a clear demonstration of how the very noble and morally worthy aspects of secular Christmas celebrations have become confused in our society. This will be the core focus of this, my second post in this debate.

Christianity, Charity, Community, and Consumerism - The Confusion

By the fourth century the Catholic Church had already begun associating the date of 12/25 with Χριστόςmæsse - or Christmas, in our modern tongue. Historians tend to agree that this date was chosen, not because it was accurate - but because it allowed the early Church to accommodate and attract pagans into the flock. In short, it was their idea to expand their core base. Why complain about it now?

A personal aside: As a younger man, my first truly spiritual moment came while watching a tacky claymation Christmas special called The Little Drummer Boy. After sitting in Church pews for my entire childhood - this show was the first time I realized that the birth of a child had changed the entire world. Profound stuff.

The truth is what we celebrate today as Christmas, even with the religious trappings, is a secular Holiday for most, so why not enjoy it on that level? If nothing else the season extols the aspects of Christianity that even staunch atheists have a hard time arguing with. Charity, community, compassion, family, and giving. These are concepts that all people can relate to, enjoy, and be passionate about. It is the one season when we tend to set aside our naturally ingrained selfishness and willfully think about others. It is the one time of year when we tend to want to make time with neighbors, friends, and family - and not just excuses to avoid making that sort of time.

It is a season that promotes socializing over self. And that is something that matters very much. That, alone, is a valid reason to protect the season.

My opponent inferred that only the Post Office benefited from the season, but sources cite:

The Christmas shopping season is of enormous importance to American retailers and, while most retailers intend to and actually do make profits during every quarter of the year, some retailers are so dependent on the Christmas shopping season that the quarter including Christmas produces all the year's profits and compensates for losses from other quarters.


As a person who spent their career mostly in retail and restaurant management, I can tell you first hand that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve was, without a doubt, the most financially important month of the year. In my experience it was a one month period that represented 4-6 months of normal profits from the slower months that followed.

So Christmas is good for the economy. Plus the seasonal jobs it provides, though not a perfect answer, do help those who are in rough times and cannot find work. I am sure many ATSers have taken second or part time jobs as a result of this Holiday season. I think most would see this as a blessing.

The Lie Aspect

Yes, Virginia, we do lie to our kids about Santa...

In our modern world there are many who feel that children should be told the truth about everything... mortality, where babies come from, and Santa. It is in vogue, currently, to treat kids as adults. The theory? If you treat them like adults, they'll grow into better adults.

I say hogwash.

I can clearly remember the day I found out Santa was not real. Just as I can clearly remember the night - at about the same age - that I suddenly and starkly became aware of the concept of mortality. Those were less fun than learning about where babies come from. But still...

The point is that I came to these conclusions on my own, when the time was right. When I was mature enough to understand. I did not feel as though my parents had lied to me once I understood these things. In fact, I was thankful that they had protected me from the uglier truths of the world. This gave me a chance to be a kid. To enjoy the world in an innocent and magical way that would otherwise have been impossible. It was a great gift and I appreciate it still.

As for holiday weight? All mammals bulk up for cold weather. It's natural!

With this I close my second post.

posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 01:00 PM
My opponent appears to be attempting to shift the topic of this debate from "Belief in Santa" to a more general "Value of Christmas" one -- the problem with that is that, while Christmas is a long revered festival of the Christian faith, Santa is not. Santa is indicative of the changes that we have seen in the past hundred years, and while many Christians (predominantly Evangelicals) express disfavor for the increasing secularization of the holiday, the abandonment of Christmas celebrations is not a likely future for the majority of Christians.

As I noted in my opening post, the original purpose of Christmas was a high festival of the church; there are two special periods for Western Christians -- Advent, when we anticipate the Christ, which is culminated by Christmas, and Lent, when we witness the sufferings of the Christ, which is culminated by Holy Week and Easter. While the date of Easter is known (and varies, as it is based on the Hebrew calendar,) no one ever seemed to know when Jesus was born, so an arbitrary date was chosen, which "happened" to coincide with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia and other pagan winter festivals. Though conspiracists see something nefarious there, that's not the case, as the church openly admitted that it chose that date because if you're telling people not to do something (attending the pagan festivals) you're more likely to succeed if you give them something else to do instead.

Over the course of the next 1,700 years or so, the various Christmas traditions that we consider to be typical -- such as gift giving, special meals, caroling -- were introduced and adopted throughout Christendom, often tempered by cautions that the true spirit of the day was love for one's fellow man. Radical reformers such as the Puritans, in fact, condemned the trappings of the holiday and, in many places, the celebration of Christmas was banned (it was, for example, illegal to celebrate Christmas in England from 1647-1660, and was not a public holiday in Scotland until 1958.)

This brings us to the modern era of Christmas, which, as I noted earlier, rode in on the heels of a refashioned Catholic saint, Nicholas (little known fact -- St. Nicholas is the patron saint of thieves!) who has mutated in Europe into someone who wanders around, giving minor gifts to good children, and often accompanied by a helper who beats bad children, or leaves bundles of sticks for their parents to use in beating them.


"Everyone knows that Santa keeps lists of good and bad children. If you are good you get a visit from Santa and he leaves toys. But in turn -of-the-century Europe, if you were bad you got a visit from KRAMPUS! Originating in Germany and the Teutonic countries, KRAMPUS acted as Santa's servant. As time passed KRAMPUS developed a rather malicious disposition and became almost an Anti-Santa.

While jolly St. Nick delivered gifts to the good, KRAMPUS gave coal and rocks to the naughty, beat the bad with switches, and if a child was especially naughty, he would shackle them in chains, stuff them in a bucket and throw them into the fiery pits of hell! (Source)

In the United States, the Nicholas myth evolved into Santa Claus, an omnipotent being who sees you when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake. In spite of the obvious privacy concerns, few seem to be phased by a super spy who preceded ECHELON by a hundred years. Unlike the Europeans, however, American Santa handles good and bad kids on his own, and rather than savage beatings, he doles out the (arguably useful) lump of coal for those on his arbitrary "Naughty List".

But it isn't just the perversion of Christianity, with the introduction of a secular counterpart to Christ, it's the modern twist of turning Christ's message of peace and love into one of sloth and avarice. Along with sugar water, let's check out some of Santa's other endorsements over the years…





In short, unlike the wistful imaginings of Francis Pharcellus Church in the 1800s, the very notion of Santa Claus has been hijacked over the years and now has as much relevance to childhood innocence as he does to the splatter-film and pornography (no link, sorry
) industries. As with all good things, once given into the hands of adults and Madison Avenue marketeers, Santa has been turned into a tool for the establishment, no matter how sleazy.

posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 11:22 PM

The "value of Christmas", as my opponent phrases it, is the very essence for a belief in Santa to be part of our culture. It's the values of this season that make it a cultural and secular phenomenon as opposed to a strictly religious one. Over the course of my life I have known many non Christian families who allowed their children to believe in Santa Claus, and who engaged in familial practice of the season as a means of embracing our culture - not because of any religious connections.

After all, this debate is called "Belief in Santa: Beautiful Custom or Humbug?" If it were called something else, I may not dared have take it on. As it happens, our debate is upon that first stated notion, One that I feel quite confident arguing on behalf of.

Belief in Santa involves so much more than just a Madison Ave or Coca-Cola hijacked image of a man with a white beard in a red, fluffy suit. That's what they do and proof of the power of Christmas! It involves so much beauty. The light in the eyes of children as they wake on the morning of Christmas. Family dinners where even the most anti-social of family members feel compelled to attend. That doesn't even begin to address the Salvation Army kettles, Toys for Tots bins, and "Feed a Family bins" that we see at our stores during the Holidays.

Why these are things we tend to only see during the Holidays is another debate entirely, but that thought speaks directly to why the season matters so much and to so many.

I find it ironic that my opponent argues that Christmas is something hijacked away from the Church - but then mocks the notion that kids are told that Santa Claus can see them when there sleeping and knows when they're awake - and compares this to the NSA Echelon program. I know of another entity who I am told sees me, even as an adult, 100% of the time. And the judgment he threatens me with is far more frightening and lasting than a lump of coal in my stocking. That aside, of course Santa Claus retains some vestiges of the Christian God in his persona - after all, Christians molded him into an allegorical symbol of their beliefs. Even in a secular society, echoes of that will, of course, remain.

Still, this notion of a naughty list is a good thing. It helps prepare children for the realities of the world. As adults, we have real world naughty lists too. They're called "wanted lists" - and are things no parent ever wants to see their child's name end up on. Teaching kids that good is rewarded and bad is punished is not just good for the children. It is good for society as a whole. Santa and his naughty list benefit us all in the end. Right and wrong are necessary lessons.

In Closing

There are sociological reasons why our earliest ancestors - even before the days of religion - would have had motive for making mid winter a period of charity and giving. Necessity would have made it so. Early men, huddled in caves, or dugout huts, forcibly grouped together and sharing their warmth and food as a means of surviving the harsh season of ice and cold. A necessity of keeping the tribe alive.

The tradition of gifts? Maybe born of a need to keep the peace during those forced groupings. A way of keeping men, filled with cabin fever, from murdering one another out of frustration.

All traditions have deeper meanings behind them. Ancient knowledge beneath the modern facade.

As it happens, Christmas embodies some of the better angels of our nature in both that facade and it's origins. The recognition that individuals matter as much as the group does, because the group is made up of individuals. A message quite lost today in our political bickering over taxes and social services.

Yes, Virginia... there is a Santa Claus...

...and you, as a child can imagine him a magical and jolly elf, dressed in red, who lives at the North Pole and rides in a sleigh powered by flying reindeer. You can believe that he visits every home in the world and, for a single day per year, makes every child smile and laugh. You can believe these things because you were born with an imagination that wants and needs to believe such things. Once you grow, your entire life will be spent remembering those magical moments from your childhood - and then wanting to share and recreate them with your children, and then their children.

You don't have to grow up and become a Grinch. You can carry this magic with you, for your entire life, and share it freely with others. In so doing, you can hold onto that magic you felt as a child and, if you're lucky, that sense of wonder might revisit you from time to time, even as an adult! This is a wondrous gift you can give others and to yourself.

One day, Virginia, you will discover the most magical of truths...

Everybody is Santa Claus! We have the power to make everyday as special as Christmas!



Happy Holidays ATS!

posted on Dec, 2 2012 @ 03:54 PM
As we wind down this special holiday themed debate, the subject of which is Santa Claus, belief therein, and not general Christmas cheer, we need to keep in mind the Santa Claus of 2012, not 1897. While belief in the elf of the North Pole may have been the epitome of childhood innocence a hundred years ago, does it remain that way today?

My perspective is that it does not. Over the ensuing century, the image, memory and claims of Santa Claus have changed so profoundly that, as a purely secular icon of one of the highest Christian holidays, he represents the antipathy of Jesus Christ, not his modern day representative of morality.

Perhaps we deserve it. With an eye toward conformity, inclusion and tolerance of diversity, the United States has gone over the deep end in its rejection of Christian tradition. Students no longer have "Christmas Holidays". they have "Winter Break". Companies no longer have "Christmas Parties", they have "Festive Gatherings". "Christmas trees" have been replaced with "Holiday trees".


That Santa is simply another one of these secularizations should come as no surprise. However, it has gone beyond basic renaming, in that case, and become a clear and deliberate repositioning. Walmart and Target certainly can't use Jesus to sell cheap Chinese toys, but they surely can, and do, exploit Santa for their cause.


Last evening, I did a bit of traveling to have a splendid dinner, followed by a two hour concert at a small Christian university. While the chapel at Crown College was festooned with Christmas trees, garlands and lights, and filled with the heavenly sounds of choir and orchestra lifting renditions of Christmas hymns in praise of God and his gift, there was nary a sign of the jolly old elf, whose post-Christian message of greed would run counter to the solemnity of the moment.

He was not missed.


Still, this notion of a naughty list is a good thing. It helps prepare children for the realities of the world. As adults, we have real world naughty lists too. They're called "wanted lists" - and are things no parent ever wants to see their child's name end up on. Teaching kids that good is rewarded and bad is punished is not just good for the children. It is good for society as a whole. Santa and his naughty list benefit us all in the end. Right and wrong are necessary lessons.

Perhaps this is where Jack Chick (whom I cited in my opening statement) stands some sort of ground, in his own deluded way. Santa Claus is a myth, a lie, whether white or otherwise, told to children by their parents and the world around them.

If a system of morality, a framework of telling right from wrong, is predicated on a immoral basis -- a thoughtful and deliberate lie -- can it be said to be legitimately moral?

And, despite the threats, I have never heard of a kid, no matter how naughty, receiving coal in their stockings, savage beatings from Krampus or being stuffed in a basket and cast into hell. As noted in my opening post, what a kid gets for Christmas is dependent on their parents, so it is no lie to say that Santa gives more to rich kids than poor kids.

Where's the morality in that?


I'd like to once again thank Hefficide for a "spirited" debate, and to the ATS Debate Forum for following alone.

And remember, Happy Holidays...

… is what terrorists say!

Merry Christmas from Oscar, his friend the giant dog, and me!


posted on Dec, 5 2012 @ 04:30 AM

Round one:
Hefficide starts out with the positive aspects of Christmas, closing out with the charity and giving involved.

adjensen counters with the commercialization aspects, plain facts of who Santa really is, and gives what I thought where some amusing details on how much weight Santa gains every year.

Definite tie for round one.

Round two:
Hefficide counters his opponents claims by dealing another solid round of charity and giving. He ties in the fact that consumerism is beneficial to the economy, a plus for his position. Also dealt out is that the fact that we all grow from children, to adults, and accept the myth, which in turn perpetuates the charity and giving.

adjensen leans heavily into a historical explanation of the holiday season, and adds in some rather disturbing advertisements, buts does little to refute his opponent's overall position of charity during the season.

Hefficide for round two.

Round three:
Hefficide finishes off with a clever supposition that pre-dates even the early church, with a reference to the necessity of sharing and giving during the year's end, for a tribes very survival. He leads me to believe that the magic of christmas perhaps is something more deeply ingrained in us than just the modern interpretation of the rituals we follow.

adjensen counters with a plea towards "political correctness", and personal experience, then finishes with a brief discourse about morality. His "humbug" stance wasn't sufficient to dislodge all the pleasant thoughts his opponent presented.

Hefficide for round three, and the debate.

This debate was so funny to read. On the one side Hefficide glorifies Santa to the epic extreme, invoking the "Santa effect" and the spirit of Christmas overall. On the other side adjensen paints a dark picture of consumer exploitation,destruction of culture and mocking of religion. Its very difficult to define this debate in terms of "winner/loser" because both so deliciously put forward very true and compelling observations about Santa. But if I absolutely MUST pick a winner, I reluctantly choose Hefficide for a slightly more informative look at History and adjensens argument appears to be slightly over-hyped...that is, I get the feeling that he was exaggerating and sat behind his screen with a slight smirk while writing, not fully believing what he was saying.

Hefficide wins this Debate.

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