View Poll Results: Should I teach my kids to believe in Santa?
No (And don't give them presents) 1 2.22%
No (They still get presents) 20 44.44%
Yes 14 31.11%
You should drown your children to stop them polluting the gene pool 10 22.22%
Voters: 45. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 01-04-2011, 04:24 PM   #226
thomastwo
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Doesn't that describe most theists?
Yes, I think it might well do. Perhaps to their benefit.
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Old 01-04-2011, 04:27 PM   #227
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My argument hasn't been that kids won't learn to distinguish fact from fiction, but that the inherent trust that kids have in their parents is undermined when they find out they've been intentionally misled.
I doubt that's a serious concern. There is much that children accept as fact that they later come to recognize as a fiction. In my experience a child can understand later that the purpose of the fiction was to create happiness for them. Don't most remember it fondly?
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Old 01-04-2011, 04:27 PM   #228
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What is this supposed to be? Bait?
No. A statement of what I intended. Why do you want me to be other than I am? Do you have some fixed idea about theists that you can't shake?
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Old 01-04-2011, 04:42 PM   #229
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Of course we all work it out. Society won't allow children-- and certainly not adults-- to go on believing in Santa past a certain age. But having been fooled in this way can have lasting effects. The effects will vary and are very much dependant on the sensibilities of the kid.
As you acknowledge below, it is isn't primarily that society that doesn't allow it. It's that the children work it out for themselves, perhaps with the help of a sibling.

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My memory of learning the truth about the Santa story is still vivid. More than 4 1/2 decades later, I remember feeling foolish, if not actually betrayed, by having succumbed to what I instantly recognized as an obvious lie. I suspect it was that experience that primed me to be skeptical about stories involving allegations of unseen magic, and why I never could fall for the white man-in-the-sky story. Oddly, I recall being introduced to that story after I was duped by the white man-in-the-red suit coming down my nonexistent chimney bearing gifts story.
I wonder how typical your experience might be? I distinctly remember more a sense of being grown up now that I was an insider on the secret. And perhaps a little disappointed that a piece of magic had been removed from the world.

It seems to me that, as an atheist, the moral of your tale would be that you would tell your children the santa myth. Then you can use the trauma of discovering the lie to inoculate them against belief in gods.

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The stories seemed to have a lot in common to me.
Many things appear to have a lot in common if you don't examine them very closely.
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:10 PM   #230
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I doubt that's a serious concern. There is much that children accept as fact that they later come to recognize as a fiction. In my experience a child can understand later that the purpose of the fiction was to create happiness for them. Don't most remember it fondly?
Most kids remember Christmas fondly, because they got presents. They dig birthdays too, and we find no need to make up a fake persona to explain where the presents come from. Why is that?

I don't remember ever believing in Santa, and I loved Christmas.

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
George Bernard Shaw
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:28 PM   #231
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Most kids remember Christmas fondly, because they got presents. They dig birthdays too, and we find no need to make up a fake persona to explain where the presents come from. Why is that?
It's a good question and I don't have an answer. Perhaps something about the social aspect of Christmas? But are you saying that children don't enjoy any extra joy or magic from the Santa fiction?

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I don't remember ever believing in Santa, and I loved Christmas.
There surely must have been an age when you weren't capable of distinguishing some fictions from reality?
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:53 PM   #232
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I think an argument that children will not learn to distinguish fact from fiction if they are fed fiction as fact is not supported by the evidence.
Though I think that being fed fiction as fact to children makes them more susceptible to falling for fictions as adults, that's not actually my biggest concern. It is true that children eventually work out that they've been told a beautiful, joyous lie all on their own, or with the (sometimes unsolicited) help of their peers.

As others have pointed out, my real issue here is the betrayal of trust. It can be a damaging experience when children discover that their parents knowingly lied to them. Personally, the beginning of my doubt in my mother's trustworthiness began with this particular revelation. And how can I expect my daughter not to lie to me after she discovers that I've lied to her? Am I not teaching, by example, that presenting falsehoods as truth is okay if you think you're reasons are good enough?

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I don't know of a single adult who didn't work out what was going on with the santa story.
Of course, that doesn't have anything to do with whether or not presenting a false, albeit pretty, story as being real and true constitutes lying, or whether that presentation of unreality as truth may have a detrimental affect on one's trust in one's parents.

Slightly to the left of the topic: it strikes me as ironic that adults are expected to eventually work out what's going on with the Santa story -- anyone much older than their middle-teens who still believed in Santa Claus would be regarded as quite strange indeed -- but are condemned for working out what's going on with the Jesus story.

Perhaps, then, lying to children about Santa Claus isn't so detrimental after all. It may lead them to question what their parents have taught them as truth. Religion in particular.

atheist (n): one who remains unconvinced.
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Old 01-04-2011, 06:21 PM   #233
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I guess I don't understand why you call out this particular fiction as a lie. Do you feel equally morally queasy about reading books about fictional characters to children before they are old enough to distinguish the fiction? Is that lying too?

I would think the most parsimonious reason that people carry beliefs about the divine into adulthood and not beliefs about Santa is that only one of them is a sufficiently obvious fiction.

And following your turn of topic; I agree that the historical existence of Jesus leaves some room for doubt, but personally I think it is credible. I haven't seen the movie that you referenced but the wikipedia page leads me to believe it makes some of the usual schoolboy mistakes. In particular the idea that Paul did not believe in an historical, physical Jesus doesn't stand up to an examination of the text.
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:20 PM   #234
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I guess I don't understand why you call out this particular fiction as a lie.
Just another of my semantic tap-dances I suppose.

Fiction: presenting untruths to an audience that understands and consents to their unreality, with no expectation that the audience accept those untruths as true.

Lie: presenting untruths to an audience that does not understand nor consent to their unreality, with an expectation that the audience accept those untruths as true.

The difference between fiction and a lie, for me, is not in the story, but in the presentation.

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Do you feel equally morally queasy about reading books about fictional characters to children before they are old enough to distinguish the fiction? Is that lying too?
Is there an expectation that my daughter believe the story is actually true in the real world? The story, after all, describes the illustrations printed in the book, and I am not presenting it as describing anything more than that (not that it would matter much because, as you say, she's not old enough to know the difference).

Perhaps you make a good point, however. Might it not be said that many of the problems in adult romantic relationships stem from unrealistic expectations that children grow up learning from the fairy-tales they're told? Is it possible that girls who are fed stories of princes sweeping them off their feet and living happily-ever-after wind up unprepared for complicated relationships with real men?

Perhaps you're right, and it is lying, and perhaps it is just as detrimental. Perhaps we need better children's stories.

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I would think the most parsimonious reason that people carry beliefs about the divine into adulthood and not beliefs about Santa is that only one of them is a sufficiently obvious fiction.
I'd disagree in that Santa is only different because he is sufficiently obvious fiction to the largest majority of people.

Because a majority of the population agrees that every religious figure is obvious fiction. 65% of the world, for instance, agrees that the supernatural claims applied to Jesus are sufficiently obvious fiction (the number of people claiming that Jesus, himself, was fiction is obviously far smaller). 74% agrees that the supernatural claims applied to Mohammed are equally sufficiently obvious fiction. And so on.

For every theological claim put forward, far more people discard it as sufficiently obvious fiction than accept it as truth.

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And following your turn of topic; I agree that the historical existence of Jesus leaves some room for doubt, but personally I think it is credible.
Fair enough. I'll agree to disagree. That's a point on which I can't convince you otherwise, because I can't force you to trade my standard of credibility for your own.

atheist (n): one who remains unconvinced.
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:45 PM   #235
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A quick note - I do think it's extremely important that the stories we feed our children are good ones. Us humans do a lot of our learning and understanding from stories. Even though that isn't strictly rational.
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Old 01-05-2011, 12:01 AM   #236
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As you acknowledge below, it is isn't primarily that society that doesn't allow it. It's that the children work it out for themselves, perhaps with the help of a sibling.
The children work it out in the context of a culture that does not condone belief in Santa Claus for older children and adults.

Realizing on one's own or learning from someone else in the know that Santa does not exist and, indeed, is not believed to be a real live entity by anyone sophisticated enough to know better is an explicit rite of passage in Christian-dominated cultures where adults encourage very young and inherently guileless children to believe in Santa.

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I wonder how typical your experience might be? I distinctly remember more a sense of being grown up now that I was an insider on the secret. And perhaps a little disappointed that a piece of magic had been removed from the world.
I suspect mine was not the typical experience. But at the time, I was a little black kid growing up in an entirely black, urban community in the early- to mid- 1960s where nothing remotely like Santa Claus even existed in my everyday world.

I remember clearly that there was nothing charming to me about the realization that Santa was not real. Even at my young age (I was about 5 or 6), I recall thinking: "Of course! How could I have ever fallen for that? That's some TV shit." Because, at the time, the only rosy cheeked white people I ever saw were on black-and-white TV and in picture books.

Again, when the adults in my world tried to introduce this invisible, yet rosy-cheeked, bearded man-in-the-sky as a real being, I just knew that it had nothing whatsoever to do with me or anything in the world that I inhabited.

Of course, nobody in my world tried to make him black, like us. Had they seriously attempted that, everybody would have known that that was an impotent god.

When I was older-- say, 11 or 12-- and some devout Christians, in more grownup conversations with me, tried to pass this god off as something not male, white and bearded, but as something else more nebulous and elusive, well, I knew they were bullshitting, because what they were talking about was not a knowable thing. Nor could any of them explain in any coherent fashion how they could know about it. It was then that it became clear to me the power that society had in keeping certain myths alive. Questioning some obvious myths too vigorously earned one harsh rebukes.

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It seems to me that, as an atheist, the moral of your tale would be that you would tell your children the santa myth. Then you can use the trauma of discovering the lie to inoculate them against belief in gods.
There is no moral to my tale, because my personal experience is my own. Millions upon millions did not experience the "trauma" in the same way that I did. I have one adult daughter, and she does not share my experience. When she was a young child, her nominally Muslim mom encouraged her to believe Santa was real. I played along by not telling her the truth, though I never explicitly encouraged her to believe in this myth.

At about 6-years-old, her skepticism was kicking in and she asked me if I believed in Santa? I told her the truth: I did not. I then asked her if she believed in Santa? She replied yes, and I did not argue with her. I realized that by that time she likely knew better, but the belief in Santa was still comforting to her and I let her have that for as long as she could sustain the belief which, as I recall, wasn't very long afterwards.

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thomastwo wrote
Many things appear to have a lot in common if you don't examine them very closely.
Well, the thing that Santa and gods have in common is that they cannot be examined.

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Old 01-05-2011, 12:31 AM   #237
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Do you have some fixed idea about theists that you can't shake?
Yes. It's obvious I do. From what I have learned here and elsewhere, they jump to the conclusion that the universe in knowable in a way that I don't think it is.

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:41 AM   #238
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It's a good question and I don't have an answer. Perhaps something about the social aspect of Christmas? But are you saying that children don't enjoy any extra joy or magic from the Santa fiction?
Children enjoy fiction, as do adults (I know I do). The only reason the Santa fiction is elevated, is because it is associated with getting lots of presents.
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There surely must have been an age when you weren't capable of distinguishing some fictions from reality?
I'm sure there was. How is that relevant in this case?

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
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Old 01-05-2011, 01:30 PM   #239
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A quick note - I do think it's extremely important that the stories we feed our children are good ones. Us humans do a lot of our learning and understanding from stories. Even though that isn't strictly rational.
Quick note - no they don't, (humans may, but children don't)

Just a thought tho, you could try what my old Dad used to do. He used to get us kids to try and convince him that Santa existed... He didn't believe in Santa and didn't know where the presents came from......

We had to come up with some really good arguments for the existance of Santa, year after year after year...

Mind you, my Dad was not really the full shilling

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Old 01-26-2011, 01:23 PM   #240
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Nice thread, although it got real tedious when thomastwo showed up. It reminds me of a few memories.

Regarding where babies come from, a few years ago, my mom told my nephew, "babies come out of the mom like poop." He was probably 6 or 7 at the time and surprisingly he seemed satisfied with this answer.

When I lost teeth, I would put them under my pillow as instructed, but the "tooth fairy" kept forgetting to bring me my money. Sometimes, I would get my dollar after a day or two. But often, because of my tossing and turning, the tooth would end up disappearing from under the pillow. Of course, I would be upset due to having neither tooth nor money. Sometimes the "tooth fairy" would bring the money eventually anyway, but on a few occasions it was simply forgotten permanently.

The tooth fairy wasn't nearly this flaky for my friends which soon led me to the conclusion that the tooth fairy was my mom.
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