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I have not come to praise Santa, but to bury him

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 November 2004

A priest tells kids the truth and gets in trouble for it. (Link from Amy Welborn’s blog.) IOW, the alleged followers of “the Way and the Truth and the Life” think that perpetuating silly lies about demigods and heroes is a good thing for kids.

Balderdash. Children can enjoy Santa just fine without believing in him. Just as they enjoy Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine and Spiderman. Santa is great make-believe, but telling children that he’s real is a horribly stupid thing to do. I attribute my early skepticism and atheist directly to having been lied to about Santa, and I’ve met loads of people who say the same thing.

If you want to raise skeptical atheists, by all means tell them Santa is real. Go ahead. Destroy your credibility with the kids. Teach them they can’t believe their own parents. What a great idea!

2004-11-22  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 5

  1. Dave H
    22 November 2004 @ 9:22 am

    Thank you, Greg! This is exactly they approach we take with out almost 4 year old. I remember when I was about 7my mom told me there is no Santa, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. Well I remmeber very clearly ahving a crisis of faith even then. If they lied to me about those guys, what about God? I am grateful that you articulated so well what me and my wife have been criticized for.

  2. Rosemarie
    22 November 2004 @ 10:59 am


    Thanks, Greg and Dave! Whenever someone says, “I don’t want my kids to believe in Santa because when they find out he doesn’t exist, they might just question the existence of God!”, the pro-Santa crowd just poo-poos that statement. “I wasn’t tramatized by finding out there is no Santa,” they say, “and I don’t think anyone ever was!”

    It’s good to hear from people who actually were thrown for a loop by that revelation. Granted, I didn’t question my faith either, but I did have a hard time letting go of Santa Claus as a child. My husband had similar difficulty, so we’ve decided not to give our kids the impression that Santa is real.

    In Jesu et Maria,

  3. EHamilton
    22 November 2004 @ 12:07 pm

    I’d say exactly the opposite. I think it’s important to give kids a chance to think critically in a controlled environment (with people who love them, and don’t mean them any real harm), rather than being too trusting and being fooled for the first time by someone who genuinely means to cause them harm. At some point in life, someone will attempt to dupe them with a really good story, and you’ll want them to have learned the value of a healthy skepticism by that point.

    I’m not really persuaded by the idea that all skepticism is equal. If the evidence for Santa Claus were as plausible as the evidence for God, then I might go on believing in him as well. I think it’s actually good to train people to approach propositions critically, so that they won’t be so vulnerable. Figuring out that Santa is a hoax is a good lesson for kids to be taught on their own, to make them less likely to be suckered by strange cults and political activists. It’s part of a normal maturation process to discover that even nice people will sometimes give you false information. Of course, the advantage you have with your parents is that they will confess to the fraud with good humor, rather than getting defensive and locking themselves into a pattern of denial. I think that actually provides a satisfying process for kids to go through– “I can use my growing awareness of the world to see through flaws in this story I’ve been told.” The best answer to “Is Santa real?” isn’t “Yes” or “No”, but “What do you think?” (Plus, that allows them to move directly from being “duped” to “playing along with the trick for fun”, rather than going into an arrogant “my parents are above all that nonsense” mode that wears tiresomely on their friends.)

    I don’t know. It sounds to me like you are saying that the best way to keep your kids away from atheism is to keep them in a place where they believe everything you say. That seems like a fragile basis for faith, at least in the long run– if that’s your only reason to be a Christian, you’re going to be picked apart by sophisticated-sounding experts when you go off to college. Better to train your kids to be shrewdly skeptical, and hope Christianity is what rises to the top of the sifting process, rather than to train them to be overly credulous, and run the risk that they will place a blind faith in intellectual agnosticism.

  4. Greg Krehbiel GregK
    22 November 2004 @ 12:22 pm

    I agree that kids need to be trained to be skeptical in a friendly, loving environment. I just think the whole Santa Claus thing goes way too far.

  5. Jeff Culbreath
    23 November 2004 @ 3:00 am

    EHamilton: It ought to be possible for parents to train children to be skptical without purposely deceiving them (apart from an innocent joke now and then). Greg is right: parents model God. Just as God is absolutely trustworthy, so should parents be.