Whenever the topic of God or Faith comes up I always, always, always preface any of my thoughts or opinions with my statement of facts: Namely that I am in no way opposed to Christianity, nor the followers thereof. If your Belief system encourages you to be a good person and to contribute positively to the world around you, then far be it from me to stand in your way. (There is, of course, the matter of how we define “good person” and “contribute positively”, but that’s quite another matter entirely.) Though I have been labeled an atheist in the past, I do not personally identify myself as such. I will, however, admit that I deviate to some degree from traditional Christian Belief, but—importantly—I do not feel that my interpretation of God or Scripture necessarily precludes me from the Flock, let alone the mere discussion of deific topics. (God, if you’re listening, I’m sorry.)
Most of the world’s population lives in the norther hemisphere. And in the northern parts of the northern hemisphere, the world is cold and dark for a great swath of the calendar year. This cold and dark swath known as winter necessitates that folks remain indoors lest they freeze to death. This annual change from careless frolicking through long, warm days to wallowing indoors through short, frigid days is rather dismal and melancholy for humans, particularly the kids. Concurrent with the beginning of winter is the Christian celebration of Christmas—a time that most people spend visiting relatives. So not only are we forced indoors because of the weather, we must suffer the indignity of sharing this limited space with more people than we would otherwise. For obvious reasons, this is a recipe for mischief.
In an attempt to police children’s natural propensity toward listlessness and eventual misbehavior, we invented a deity of sorts—the kind of omnipresent (he sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you’re awake) and omniscient (he knows if you’ve been bad or good) character who has the ability to pass the final judgement on whether you, child, deserve the rapturous Elysium of a bountiful Christmas morning, or the abysmal, soul-crushing suffering of coal in the stocking.
Santa Claus is not real. I should think most adults have come to terms with this fact. But I verily say, if the idea of Santa Claus is enough to change children’s behavior for the better—especially at a time when they’re particularly prone to behaving like insufferable, snot-nosed bastards—then who am I to say he’s not real? After all, his effect is most certainly real, and where the rubber meets the road, what’s the difference?
Now imagine that Santa Claus held the same powers over adults as He does children, and that His Judgement is effective year-round. Imagine also that the moment of your Judgement was not Christmas Eve, but at your death and that both the rapturous Elysium of a bountiful Christmas morning as well as the abysmal, soul-crushing suffering of receiving nothing but coal lasted not for a day but for all eternity. This deity would be God. And if you haven’t made the connection yet, yes, I’m saying that God is not real any more so than the jolly, diabetic fellow at the north pole and his merry band of toy-making elves.
Now, I think we can all agree that it would be unconscionable to tell a child that Santa Claus is not real—at least not at the time in their young life that they believe, because it is this belief that causes the behavioral change that we seek as parents. But, paradoxically, I don’t think it’s unconscionable to tell a Christian that God is not real. The reason for this is because we all outgrow the belief in Santa, yet we continue to behave properly in his absence. Santa was just the intellectual training wheels we needed to make the connection between proper behavior and the Ultimate Good. This is the state of being that we all strive for; the state of being where we no longer need the threat of damnation nor the hope of salvation to be good. We just do it because it is right. This is Belief in its truest form.