In 1897, the New York Sun published an editorial proclaiming the existence of Santa Claus, answering the written prayer of a young girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. It announced that indeed there was a Santa Claus and that her friends were wrong as they: “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age”.
Of course, this reassurance of an 8 year old has been taken seriously by many a child and an adult since then. What danger is incurred by believing in Santa Claus to explain the appearance of gifts on Christmas morn? None, really. Eventually the child or the adolescent will figure out that the parents have been placing these presents under the tree and that they have paid for them despite any financial difficulties they may have. It will become logical that this was all a noble lie that has become apart of the North American consumer culture.
This is not very different than another illogical “truth” most parents impose upon their children at a young age. It is entirely related, as it demonstrated in the 1947 and 1994 films “Miracle on 34th Street” when judge Harper proclaims while rendering his verdict on the case that: “If the government of the United States can have faith in God by telling its treasury to indicate on its bills “In God we Trust”, then by the same faith, the State of New York can trust that Santa Claus, a person just as invisible and yet, just as present, does exist and he exists in the person of Kris Kringle”.
By this logic, when children do discover that Santa Claus does not exist, why do they not realize the same thing about God?
For one thing, people do not put the same insistence on the existence of God. We aren’t supposed to learn anything from jolly old St. Nick whereas we are supposed to base on lives on this unreachable deity named God. The bearded man in red comes once a year, while the other is, according to many religious people, ever present. But what does he give us? I see no presents, no gifts, no rewards.
On that point alone it is easier to believe in Santa Claus because we can see the fruit of his works, whereas the concepts which are brought to us by God are intangible: love, morality, peace, comfort. It has hard, possibly impossible, to know if God brings these to us especially considering the world in which we live.
The editorial response to Virginia could interchange Santa Claus and God and be the exact answer modern Christians could give. Yet, we know that Santa Claus does not exist, so why would the same words be used to describe something people invest everything into? Is it fair to their intelligence?
The author of the answer says: “The most real things in the world are things that neither children nor men can see.” What makes them real? Nothing.
Society has so fully immersed itself into religious belief that it sees itself too far in to take a real look and live through logic. Is it too hard to believe in the power of humans ourselves? Are we not strong enough by ourselves to give gifts at Christmas or love each other? Not strong enough to be born, live and die by natural causes?