How Santa Claus is a precursor to Christian belief in children
Sep 22, 2010

How Santa Claus is a precursor to Christian belief in children

Most western, Christian raised children go through a process whereby they fervently believe in Santa Claus as children, then grow to discard this belief which is instead replaced with the Christian ideology. In many ways Santa Claus is a simplistic Christian allegory and it is my contention that the Santa Claus story helps facilitate the transition and indoctrination into the more sophisticated Christian belief.

Consider the similarities. For Santa Claus it consists of a supernatural, anthropomorphized entity capable of omniscient knowledge of your actions. The entity judges us based on a "bad or good" morality and then rewards or punishes us with presents or lumps of coal depending on the moral adjudication obtained by his omniscient knowledge. In the Christian case all of the above is true, it is just a more sophisticated version of it. The morality is more explicitly described than merely good or bad. The rewards and punishments (heaven and hell being the extremes) are more significant and the omniscience is described as complete, extending even into your own thoughts. Both employ, in a completely authoritarian manner, subservient supernatural creatures such as elves, flying reindeer or alternatively angels. The level of anthropomorphizing for God such as his appearance and residence are less well described but thus less supercilious. This of course is not the complete Christian message (it says nothing of original sin, forgiveness, or of the devil) but they contain many of the key ideas and in this sense the Santa Claus story can be seen as a simplistic allegory for the more sophisticated Christian message.

The result is that indoctrinating the simple - yet clearly exciting and captivating - Santa Claus story in our children preconditions them for acceptance of the more sophisticated message. The transition from the one belief to the other happens naturally and is based on similar motivations. The coincidence of the two beliefs of course only exacerbates this and from a very young age the beginnings of the Christian message focusing in the birth of Christ are being taught coincidental to the enjoyment of the Santa Claus aspects of Christmas. As one ages, it is expected that the inferior belief be dropped in favor of the supposedly superior Christian one.

The above comments require several qualifications. Firstly, I do not think this means a Santa Claus belief is necessarily a bad thing. Quite the opposite I believe it is a natural and well motivated tendency and further that the process of using objective reason to cast aside the fantasy is an important part of growing up and teaches a valuable lesson. Secondly, I do not think it necessarily leads to a Christian belief - certainly it can and is part of completely secular upbringings - I think it merely facilitates the transition to Christian belief if that is emphasized coincidentally.

Bah humbug!

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