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In defence of Santa

By Hugh Harris

By now, the elves are wrapping the toys. The reindeers are running test flights. Santa is busy double-checking Xmas lists, and plotting the logistics of the world’s greatest overnight delivery.

But a new UK board game, Santa vs Jesus, has blighted the festive season with unwelcome sectarian dissension, presenting Xmas as a pitched battle between Jesus and Santa. Cries of “insult, blasphemy” ensue: the satirical board game is accused of falsely equating belief in Jesus with belief in Santa Claus.

My blood boils at this sacrilege. Yet another example of politically correctness gone mad, and elitist intellectuals tainting our most cherished institutions. How dare they demean the good name of Santa Claus? On behalf of children everywhere, let us rise up and defend Santa’s honour. If not for own sake, for the sake of our culture, of our civilization, and by God, for the real meaning of Christmas.

That is, what Christmas really is: an end-of-year celebration, retail bonanza, and family reunion. A shop-til-you-drop procession of tinselled shopping malls, parking rage, office parties, Kris Kringles, twinkling streetscapes, Die-Hard and Love Actually re-runs, culminating in the once-a-year family get-together with the usual disputes and rows – all of the above made tolerable, joyous even, by stupefying quantities of sugar and alcohol.

Arrogantly, anti-Christmas-carol activists poke fun at the Santa story. How could anyone believe a jolly fat man at risk of early-onset-diabetes has the stamina and wherewithal to deliver gifts to every child in the world? Claiming that Santa is only Coca-Cola’s amalgamation of the yuletide characters of various traditions, these immoral, believe-in-nothings only demonstrate their blindness to the value of culture and tradition. Can they prove Santa isn’t real? No.

Frankly, I’m agnostic about the existence of Santa. But just because infrared technology fails to find any trace of an enormous toy shop at the North Pole, doesn’t mean I should rule him out altogether. Sure, I’m sceptical about Santa even fitting into most chimneys and I’ve never seen a flying reindeer. But “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, as they say.

And, since when must omniscient beings lower themselves to mere terrestrial standards of empirical proof? Why should the lowly and common measures of evidence be applied to Santa alone? Indeed, using the arguments applied to other contemporary deities, belief in Santa is more than reasonable.

As St Anselm argued: given we can conceive of the greatest possible being – and, we accept that a being which exists, is greater than one purely imagined – then, that greatest being must exist. Thus, if we accept the premise that Santa is the greatest gift-giver, then, by irrefutable logic he must exist. Never mind that this also applies to the greatest sophist, the greatest idiot and the greatest obscurantist. They exist also, and often employ St Anselm’s argument in favour of their own articles of faith.

And, as we know, faith is an element of proof in itself. Have faith and ye shall be rewarded. Where a deficit of proof exists one can legitimately insert “faith” to bridge the gap. Then – Poof! – the object of faith reliably appears!

Behold, every year, millions of children put their faith in Santa and the Christmas team dutifully delivers. After days and days of breathless anticipation the big day comes… Then, hurrah! Squeals of delight, and yelps of excitement attend the feverish unwrapping of real, actual gifts. Ask any child how convincing this is.

Further, Santa is ubiquitous during the festive season, appearing on television screens constantly. News services track his progress from the North Pole. Parents everywhere use the supervising presence of Santa to wring some good behaviour out of their otherwise insolent offspring. Either Santa exists, or most of the adults in the world are complicit in a global Santa hoax conspiracy.

If this still fails to satisfy, allow me to borrow one of the planks of Biblical scholarship. The “criterion of embarrassment” states that if historical accounts are embarrassing to their author they can be assumed to be true. Now, consider the story of a ridiculously attired and morbidly obese man who supposedly travels all around the world on flying reindeers delivering presents to children he somehow divines as good. Embarrassment galore! Increasingly, scholars dispute the validity of this criterion – justifiably so, considering debate in the Australian Senate.

Austere scientific thinkers may have trouble accepting the Santa narrative. But remember, this is a moral tale not a scientific one, not meant to be taken literally. It’s about favouring “nice” over “naughty”, “good” over “bad”, by rewarding the good children with presents and lumbering the rest with smelly coal.

But, as all parents of young children know, this begs the question as to how children actually behave. The problem of evil. Given Santa’s omniscience and superpowers, how do we explain the continued reign of terror by these frightening midgets? Free will hardly suffices to explain temper tantrums, impudence and addiction to video games, rivalling that of present-day Australian tennis stars. Seeing as the promise of gifts has conspicuously failed, and since global warming has curtailed Santa’s access to coal, a more interventionist policy is warranted. It’s unsurprising that the world’s major religions moved to slightly harsher penalties such as roasting and re-roasting in the flame-pits of hell. Likewise, it’s easy to see how the religions of Abraham condemned the whole of humanity as corrupt and fallen, requisite of salvation.

And so, a radical new plan emerges. A new prophet will arise – Santa Junior – an elfin messiah of the children. He will be seized by secular powers and gruesomely tortured to death, signifying Santa’s gift of redemption to horrid little monsters everywhere. And then, showcasing Santa’s full repertoire of magical powers, Santa Junior will be sensationally brought back to life. Although this somewhat negates the supposed sacrifice, it caps off the story nicely. And, if this doesn’t work, Santa will equip his sleigh with intercontinental ballistic missiles and commence laying waste to play centres and schools. So please, give Santa some respect. And kids, if you don’t like the sound of apocalyptic Santa, you had better actually be good from now on.

About the author: Hugh Harris is a Brisbane architect, part-time writer, and board member of the Rationalist Society of Australia..

Hugh contributes to various publications including ABC’s The Drum, The Age, The Brisbane Times, The Huffington Post Australia, New Matilda, and The Daily Banter (US) and blogs at The Rational Razor.

 

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14 comments

  1. wam

    haha my ire rose with every line till 23 when I woke up..
    I am almost in complete agreement with you except for agnostic re: santa.
    I will reveal the secret to:

    ” I’m agnostic about the existence of Santa. But just because infrared technology fails to find any trace of an enormous toy shop at the North Pole, doesn’t mean I should rule him out altogether.”

    the answer lies in geomagnetic reversal which should have been obvious when you consider there is water under the arctic????
    So the skeptics have been looking in the wrong place.
    Santa is a cunning old bastard.

  2. John Brame

    Could Santa sue anyone for loss of snowy type habitat i.e. melting of north pole.

  3. LOVO

    Oh no, does that mean Santa is going to a Climate change refugee 😯

  4. silkworm

    From the BBC article:

    “Danny Webster, spokesperson for the Evangelical Alliance, says he believes a board game helping people learn about Jesus at Christmas would be “a great innovation” but he has a problem with the Santa vs Jesus game because “it trivialises Christian belief and equates them both as fictional characters.”

    I happen to be one of those people who mistakenly believe that Jesus is a fictional character.

    The BBC may claim to be an objective, secular organisation, but it is still pushing Christian-biased pseudohistory.

  5. Miriam English

    wam, I don’t know how you found out about Santa’s move to the South Pole. He thought he’d kept it secret. (No presents from Santa for you this year.)

    There had been fears that moving the workshop from the rapidly diminishing and thinning north polar icecap was proceeding too slowly and Xmas would be skipped the year that the ice cap disappears entirely, but luckily the move has been almost completed already by using relays of elves and the reindeer teams spilt up to make the move more efficient, thanks to Mrs Santa’s logistical ability.

    Of course, the move to the South Pole has advantages and disadvantages. The South pole isn’t losing ice quite as fast as the North, but even if it does lose all its ice, the workshop will still rest on solid ground instead of sinking into ocean. Admittedly it is further to travel to most of the children in the Northern Hemisphere, though Santa’s unique, temporal-dilating, anti-inertial, faster-than-light propulsion technology is hardly impacted by this. One of the great advantages of the move is that there is no longer any risk of frolicking reindeer in the sky accidentally setting off a nuclear holocaust.

    Hugh, a small correction to your article: the expectation is that Santa Jr will be gruesomely put to death by angry religious bigots, not secular folks who have an annoying tendency be disinterested and wash their hands of the issue. We can already see the beginnings of this with angry rantings of war from Christians when they see signs spelled “Xmas”, while secular folks just blandly wish everybody goodwill and give each other presents they can’t afford.

  6. Pingback: In Defence of Santa: Why he's just as likely to exist as Jesus - Rational Razor

  7. Pingback: In defence of Santa – » The Australian Independent Media Network | Rationalist Society of Australia

  8. Annie B

    So enjoyed this article … thank you Hugh Harris. Was a lovely read, and made many great points for debate, and particularly, for thought.

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Miriam

    “The “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek , meaning “Christ”. So “Xmas” and “Christmas” are equivalent in every way except their lettering.” ( from : http://blog.dictionary.com/xmas-christogram/ ) paraphrased …. but you probably already knew that.

    If the Christians, in their zeal to promote ONLY the birth of their saving grace Jesus, were to truly study the meaning of Christmas, they might well be shocked to find that the 25th December is 99.99% unlikely to have been the actual birthdate of Jesus anyhow. September has been put forward ( by scholars and theologians ) as well as dates closer to the northern hemisphere Spring – ( February / March ) as Jesus’ actual birthdate. And it makes great sense when looked at logically, and from a purely historic point of view, that this would be so. ….. But no further definitive date has ever been agreed upon – and most likely never will be.

    Yet the Christian zealots rail against everything – sticking like glue to the 25th December, and casting out as evil, the idea of a kindly man dressed in red, flying around the world taking care of children and promoting good behaviour ( even if only for a few days a year 🙂 🙂 ). These mobs have lost their sense of humour, adventure, and delightful fantasy. …. Children do not understand nor do they need – adult ‘joys’. …. Likewise, adults are past holding child ‘joys and fairy tales’ …

    While Santa exists, there is joy and flights of wonderful and wild imagination for children – and so there should be. There are 364 other days in the year, that Christian folk can teach the idealistic situation of religion, it’s needs and wants, and the idea that they should give credence only to yet another unseen mysterious male person dressed ( usually ) in beige robes with long flowing red hair. ( the Caucasian / white take on it all ). Might be nice if these zealots did their homework and realised that Jesus was most likely quite dark skinned being Middle Eastern, swarthy with very dark hair, and not much taller than 5’7″ – if that.

    Meantime, roll on the Santa miracle … with his particular brand of ‘joy to the world’.

  9. Miriam English

    Agreed, Annie. Well put.

    One small point of clarification. The Greek letter ‘X’ (Chi, pronounced ‘ki’) predates the Jesus legend by around 900 years. It was adopted by Christians at some point — I don’t know when — to represent him. It surprised me to find out that this is especially so when combined with the Greek letter ‘P’ (Rho), which might startle some Windows XP users. 🙂 Of course XP as an emoticon means something quite different, characterised variously as unwell, retarded, blowing a raspberry, cheeky, disgusted.

    I like to think of the Santa myth, the tooth fairy, and Easter bunny as inoculation against religion — introducing a weakened form of a disease to alert the immune system to a more dangerous form.

  10. Annie B

    Miriam …

    That’s a hoot – xP ( for XP users ) … although it doesn’t work here. !! … perhaps just as well. 😉
    I googled it. LOL. …

    Don’t know if you saw the video of some Texan blow-hard evangelist – ‘advising’ children [ all excitedly queued to see Santa ] – in a none too low voice – as to how Santa is not real, he is a nothing, he doesn’t exist, he is a bad man, dressed in red ( the devils’ colour ? ) etc. etc. yada yada … and then following with the usual proselytising nonsense about ‘Jesus’ being the only one worthy of a childs’ consideration.

    Jesus, if he were alive today, would have probably wanted to do what ultimately one father did – which was to approach the bible basher, giving him what-for verbally, in no uncertain terms. Good for him. The ‘evangelist’ shrieked like a mini-banshee – “don’t touch me” ( repeat x 5 ).

    THAT sort of thing is what I cannot stomach about so-called ‘organised’ religion. … No matter what religion it might be.

  11. Gangey1959

    An entertaining read, Hugh.
    Does Santa exist ? He sure as shit did when I was a billy lid. Nowadays, according my visa, and to my nieces and nephews he still does. I’m sure that messrs visa and mastercard are devout believers too. But I digress.
    Santa V JC.
    Santa: The whole of planet Earth in general accepts at some point that Santa is real. We have but ONE expectation of him. That on the evening/night of 24-25 December he will somehow get into our houses and deliver us and our children something. That is all.
    And he comes through. Maybe not with the new Harley, or the right Lego, but he’s there.
    Then WE take that expectation and result and following good cheer and do extra with it, or not, as the feeling takes us.
    Then hes gone for the rest of the year, until next time. But on that basis, and on that basis alone he is real. Even for christians.
    JC: Belief here has no direct cost. It can have, but it doesn’t have to. But it takes faith.
    And there is a kicker. ”Free Will”
    If JC is real and he is kind and benevolent etc etc bullshit bullshit bullshit, why do bad things happen? ”Free Will”.
    Why doesn’t JC let free will make bad things only happen to bad people? Still free will.
    So what happened to all of this ”Omnipotence” stuff that JC is supposed to be skilled at? You know, loaves, fishes, water to wine, born again raising from the dead stuff. Why can’t He just stop a couple of wars? Or more to the point, why DOESN’T He ? Then he could zap back to Santa’s lab and drink egg-nog with the big man, having just laid a concrete suggestion that there is something bigger that us out there after all. Maybe that concept would start to get through to the really bad people and start to filter up. But No. We get nuthin’. (We did get the pope blessing a table so weighed down with food and golden stuff to eat from that if he and all of the other kiddy-fiddlers sitting with him finished they were all going to pop telling the world that all was well cos they had food, just look at it all, but that was as close as we got from JC.)
    I’ll keep believing in Santa. Even with a direct cost.
    JC i’m still a little on the undecided-but-probably-not side.

  12. Miriam English

    OMG I just searched for and watched the video. What a cringeworthy exhibition of meanness. What an unutterably horrible man.

  13. Miriam English

    Gangey, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus put his finger on it way back about 300 years before the JC legend.

    Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot, or he can but does not want to.
    Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence comes evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
    — Epicurus (341-270 BCE)

    When you add to that the research showing that the more prevalent religion is in a society the more social ills they have — murder, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion, shortened lifespan, child mortality, are all worse wherever religion is strongest. Religion doesn’t provide moral guidance, but fosters moral sickness. Thank dog the world is leaving religion behind.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hugh,

    have you asked Malcolm Roberts for his esteemed advice since you have no empirical evidence?

    And, do I detect an air of sophistry when it comes to frantic Christmas buying? If so, good since naughty Santa just helps to flame the raging fires of neoliberalism, as more weary people are counted as desperate consumers in the so-called Festive Season.

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