Tiffany Gee Lewis: Santa Claus: Why we perpetuate a myth

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  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Dec. 21, 2012 3:20 p.m.

    In our home, we believe in Santa -- just as we believe in good will towards others and personal responsibility and honesty and integrity; though there is little or no evidence to support any of these things, yet we continue to hope and believe.

    We recognize Santa as the personification of goodness and selfless service that has been demonstrated my many throughout history; included an Italian Catholic Bishop (if my understand is correct) who went about doing good anonymously and was dubbed St. Nicholas.

    Sure, the reindeer, sled and elves are fun, but is it such a crime to utilize this symbol in helping our children even more to grasp the concept of generosity and kindness?

    We celebrate the birth of the Savior and speak of that frequently in our home; not just in December. And I have no doubt but when the Savior returns, in addition to countless others, there will be a kindly man, once known as St. Nicholas, standing on his right hand side; along with countless others through out time who have demonstrated the pure love of Christ in their own, limited and feeble way. Merry Christmas to all!

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Dec. 21, 2012 6:34 a.m.

    @Semi-Strong (aka Twin Lights)

    Given our different backgrounds (making some assumptions here) and worldviews, that’s about as kind a way to wrap up a discussion as I can think of.

    I’ve said it in other comments that there is a level of religious certainty (unscientific in that it does not conform to widely agreed upon rules of evidence) that simply scares the daylights out of me… and I’m not alone. I guess we have 9-11 to thank for that, or maybe just reading history.

    But a lot of this fear would go away if religious people would show the respectful pluralism you have, even while maintaining their own beliefs and convictions. If not I think we’re doomed, as I think if there’s anything likely to bring about biblical prophecy (dubious as it is) it will be religious conflict.

    And “celestial lottery” is my just description of someone born to the right family, country, culture (and so they have the “right” religion), while billions of others were simply not so lucky… a notion I’ve always found completely baffling.
    Peace brother…

  • O'really Idaho Falls, ID
    Dec. 20, 2012 10:46 p.m.

    Actually, all churches may have elements of truth in them. They don't all have the full truth though.

    Is there a Santa Claus? Absolutely. Does he fly in a sleigh with reindeer pulling him through the sky? No and most children are quite capable of figuring out that its just a really cute story if we let them. I purposely get sloppy about hiding secrets and exposing wrapping paper and such. My kids have figured it out on their own just like I did, and felt pretty good about myself for being so smart. Also sorry for my pathetic parents who couldn't pull off the myth very well, but oh well. There were enough other things to respect them for. It never occurred to me till I was a parent that they may have been sloppy on purpose.

    Just like discovering the myth of Santa Claus, most people would be smart enough to find the whole truth about religions that makes sense if society and blatantly false churches would allow them to. But these false churches have folks in their greedy claws and do everything in their power to perpetuate their own myths to keep the coffers full.

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    Dec. 20, 2012 7:14 p.m.

    Tyler D,

    Twin Lights here.

    In my experience, Mormonism is rather moderate in its views on acceptable paths to God. Certainly, it claims to be the true church and that all (consistent with NT teachings) will have to acknowledge Christ and have the authorized ordinances. But, it allows for a more open timeline and bringing along of traditions that complement the LDS model.

    Compared to some traditions (Bahai comes to mind) Mormonism is conservative. Compared to others (perhaps Evangelical Christians) it is more open.

    Let me be clear. I believe the church to be true. As to anyone hitting “the celestial lottery” (a great phrase BTW) I certainly do not look at it that way. If Mormonism is in fact true, it means that we (the LDS) have huge obligations to meet against which we will be judged. Any pride associated with having the gospel or feeling superior to others means (to me) that we do not understand the gospel we have.

    If any have treated you poorly for not having the gospel, I apologize. This cannot be justified.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Dec. 20, 2012 4:17 p.m.

    @ Twin Lights

    Fair enough, since all any of us have is our own experience. And it’s nice to see respect given for those who don’t share your beliefs… something not always seen here.

    But since you did not address my last points (other than sharing your own experience), is it fair to assume that you agree that in theory it is a testable hypothesis, and further that it is likely this test (crudely, to be sure) has been going on for a long time (maybe since the first days of organized religion)?

    Granting your own epistemology or spiritual ways of knowing (which of course is debatable) and the number of people we’re talking about (literally billions), it seems to me the far more logical conclusion would be that there are in fact many paths to God and that no one group has “hit the celestial lottery” when it comes salvation.

    Feel free to answer on “Study shows large majority of world's population is religious” article if your limit here has been reached.
    And you’re right… should have said “raise” and not “beg”

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Dec. 20, 2012 3:33 p.m.

    Tyler D,

    First, please don’t use beg the question that way.

    Is there one true church? I believe so. Do others believe otherwise. Some do. I try to respect that.

    Reference the spiritual way of knowing (“a feeling in the chest” is hardly descriptive to me) yes, I suppose so.

    I can only tell you my own experience (not a large scale study but it is all I have). When I was a missionary I found this to be so. There was one outlier. He maintained his “heartfelt desire to know the truth” which confused me. His nonmember wife then disabused us of that notion. She told us he was unwilling to change. So, in my limited experience, the model seems to hold. I know that others on these boards have said otherwise. I try not to question their assertion as I do not know them.

    Church member,

    I am not saying they are equivalent. That would be like comparing a color to a sound. Just that each has their place and benefit in dealing with the world. “I would guess” is inappropriate for a discussion of logic.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Dec. 20, 2012 2:41 p.m.

    @ Twin Lights - “…many do not believe they have full truth, just the best they can get for now.”

    OK, that’s logical… but it does beg a few more questions. 1) Does that go for all churches or is there one true church? Assuming the later, does the epistemological point Church Member made below still hold – is the way to confirm this truth still involve a “spiritual” way of knowing (e.g., a feeling in the chest, etc…)?

    If so, then this seems like it should be scientifically testable. Pick a large and random sample size (with the only criterion being a humble and heartfelt desire to know the truth) and perform the experiment.

    But this experiment has likely been done by countless individuals for centuries with results as varied as the number of churches and beliefs. But given the confirmation bias of churches (only those who passed their test are sitting in their pews) the results can hardly be said to be scientific. Or if they are (scientific), then the real result of the experiment would appear to be that there are many paths to God.

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 20, 2012 2:35 p.m.

    Twin Lights:

    You are right. Sometimes people use bad logic or reasoning to come to a wrong conclusion. But just because that does happen sometimes does not make them (logic/reason) equal to feelings/emotion.

    I have heard that argument before from people, that they have both led people astray so they are equal. That is a false equivalence. They are not equal. I would guess through out time feelings/emotions have helped people make wrong choices 100 times more often than logic, reasoning and scientific thought. So don't pretend they are equal.

    False equivalence: is a logical fallacy which describes a situation where there is a apparent equivalence, but when in fact there is none.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Dec. 20, 2012 11:23 a.m.

    Church Member:

    No, they can't all be right. But my experience was that many do not believe they have full truth, just the best they can get for now.

    And, of course, feelings are not always accurate. But, then again, neither is logic and reasoning (imperfect data or unavailable data).

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 20, 2012 9:02 a.m.

    Twin Lights:

    I completely agree that intelligence is not a barrier to religious belief.

    I don't think I ever said it was, and I am sorry if I did.

    I disagree about other people thinking they belong to the true church. Everyone I talk to who belongs to a religion seems to think they belong to the one and only true church. When I ask them how they know, they all tell me because of the spirit, burning in the chest, visions, dreams, etc.....

    They can't all be right (because they all belong to different churches) so maybe they are not using an accurate method to find truth.

    Feelings and emotions are not always accurate.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Dec. 20, 2012 8:39 a.m.

    Church member
    North Salt Lake, UT
    Church Member:

    Other than some of the religious leaders mentioned, I do not think they all believe they belong to the true religion, just that God exists and the relationship to him via religion is important to them.

    As to finding truth via reason, logic, and thinking, I have no objection at all.

    As to feelings not always being accurate. True. But there are many times I wished I had listened to my feelings over my logic.

    To me, we need both. Over reliance on one or the other produces sub par results.

    But back to your statement. Irrespective of which is the true religion, you state that you were too smart to believe in religion. Would you concede that intelligence is not a barrier to religious belief?

  • War dog Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 20, 2012 7:47 a.m.

    I once had a professor in college that wrote an article saying that it was harmful to kids to believe in Santa. I thought all this person has done is trade in his childhood fantasies fo adult ones. He want's to write an article that will be nationally recognized, or someone else dreams of being a supermodel or great nfl quarterback or winning the lottery. Adult fantasy is far worse than childhood ones. We grow out of childhood, not always a good thing. I would love to wake up with my childhood peace of mind instead of my adult reality. I wish all children had a good childhood, filled with fantasies before the rude awakening

  • On the other hand Riverdale, MD
    Dec. 19, 2012 10:47 p.m.

    I don't think we need to lie to our children in order to foster or perpetuate childlike wonder. They come by that naturally. When we go to great lengths to perpetuate a myth, we may mean well, but we're not doing our children any favors. I try to help my kids understand that Santa is part of our culture and that people love the idea of Santa, but that in real life there is no such person (despite what they might hear to the contrary). As my children come to realize that in spite of what society might have them believe, Santa really isn't real, they appreciate that Mom and Dad have been forthright with them.

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 19, 2012 10:15 p.m.

    Twin Lights:

    You are making my argument for me. Yes there are smart men in hundreds of religions across the world. But they all "know" that they belong to the true church. They all "know" that they are the ones who are right. You and I know that they all can't be right because they all contradict each other. So most of these "smart" men you mentioned are wrong because there can't be one hundred true churches.

    I decided that the best way to find truth is through reason, logic, and thinking. Feelings and emotions are not always accurate.

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2012 8:03 p.m.

    When my kids asked if there was a Santa, I told them, with a smile. "No. Not really. But some people like to pretend there is, so let's not spoil it for them."

  • kvnsmnsn Springville, UT
    Dec. 19, 2012 1:16 p.m.

    As far as I can tell every ward or branch in the Church has an Activities Committee. Every year that committee chooses a member of the ward/branch to emcee the ward/branch Christmas Party. Is it that unreasonable to assume that God may Himself choose a sort of emcee for the Christmas season? Someone to sort of be in charge of Christmas? That's Santa Claus for me. When I tell people there's a Santa Claus, that's the person I'm thinking of. I have believed in Santa Claus for a very long time, and I don't intend to ever stop.

  • Wyominguy Buffalo, WY
    Dec. 19, 2012 12:09 p.m.

    Psst... Im 67 years old and I believe in Santa...I always have and always will.....Like the author I believe in Magic and Miracles.... :)

  • GFuller Mattoon, IL
    Dec. 19, 2012 11:48 a.m.

    I don't recall that I ever had a real "belief" in Santa Claus as the man riding around in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer and all that. I really don't think my parents ever intended for me to believe that. I certainly know that I never intended to teach any such thing to my own children.

    But I am almost 83 years old, so who can say what I may have once believed?

    I do think that if parents tell children well intentioned lies, that they should not be surprised when they question the truth of things that science doubts.

  • SLMG Murtoa Australia, Victoria
    Dec. 19, 2012 11:43 a.m.

    Every time in my growing up years that the question of Santa Claus came up my mother would say "as long as you believe in Santa there will be one, when you stop believing he will be gone." I am now 70 years old and my Mother will soon be 90, we both still belive in Santa Claus. As my child grew up and now my grand children growing up find out on their own weather Santa is real or not I hear my mother's words long as you believe there will be.
    Santa has never been an interference in our true belief of the Christ child and our celeration of our love for him at Christmas time. Merry Christmas to all.

  • MrsH Altamont, UT
    Dec. 19, 2012 11:16 a.m.

    Bravo, Twin Lights...I say...BRAVO!

    Church Member: You believe what you want, and let me KNOW what I know!

  • African Humanitarian ,
    Dec. 19, 2012 10:56 a.m.

    It was a dilemma we faced when considering how to treat Santa Claus with our kids. We decided to keep a foot in both camps. We didn't ever give gifts from Santa, but we didn't tell them there was no Santa until they were older. In retrospect, I'm not sure that was right. We believe Santa is make-believe, but God is real. But can children trust adults who lie to them about Santa being real? Is there a tendency for children who are disappointed to find out about Santa to also think the parents might have not been right/truthful about God? Anecdotally, we have friends whose children have chosen to leave the Church because they couldn't/didn't believe their parents about God. I have atheist friends who equate God with Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. If we're not careful, so might our children.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Dec. 19, 2012 10:50 a.m.

    Church member,

    First, an odd moniker for someone who believes as you do.

    Second, the concept that you (or any one) is too smart for religion is interesting. Was Christ then just a Jew taken with his own interpretations of the scriptures while the truly smart were the Romans and Herodians?

    Are there none in the First Presidency, Council of 12, or Seventy that could be considered "smart"?

    What of the Dalai Lama or Pope? Are they also not very smart folks deluded into religious belief?

    What about Max Planck or Issac Newton? Closer to home, what about Henry Eyring?

  • duckhunter854 Sequim, WA
    Dec. 19, 2012 10:30 a.m.

    Whaaaat? There's no Santa???? I have believed for 58 years and now this. I think someone should get their facts straight. Santa comes to my house every year even when I am alone. He only disappears when you stop believing. I make sure other families have Santa, too. Santa is a wonderful image that helps us to duplicate the love of the MAGI for the Christ child. As long as there are those of us who believe in Christ there will be a Santa.

  • GeoMan SALEM, OR
    Dec. 19, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    Help me out here. Earlier this year your second son was 8, yet you say that a decade ago you made a construction paper chimney for your two toddlers. A decade ago your second son wouldn't have been born yet. Was it not a decade ago but rather only 6 years ago, or did you only have one child at the time?

    I was lucky, I never stopped believing in Santa Claus. Others can say when they stopped. Since I have no memory of stopping, I can only conclude that I still believe. When my now grown kids asked me about Santa Claus, I could truly say that there was never a point I stopped believing. It is easy to believe the key parts of the myth because there really is a loving man that puts out presents for everyone in our home at midnight on Christmas Eve. There was a man that did that when I was a child too. I sincerely hope that there is a man that puts out presents for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. I just hope that there don't get to be so many Grinches that it raises doubts in their minds.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Dec. 19, 2012 9:16 a.m.

    The urge to comment on the story – because the author seems to not have even a twinge of irony in telling it – is almost overwhelming. But the fact is it is a very sweet sentiment that most parents can relate. No doubt lots of other folks throughout history – from Democritus to Spinoza to Bertrand Russell to Carl Sagan to most modern scientists – can relate to her often gut wrenching task of trying to wean children off of consoling myths.

  • Church member North Salt Lake, UT
    Dec. 19, 2012 8:47 a.m.

    I think you said it well when you called your belief in your church "magic". I wish more people were honest in their belief in magic and the supernatural. When I talk to my kids about why we don't believe in religion I tell them "because we are too smart to believe in magic."