Think Again, Virginia

Greta Christina has rewritten a letter to Virginia (as in “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”) and it’s worth a few minutes of your time to read:

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. But Santa Claus does not exist. He is a story made up by your parents. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you otherwise.

And far more importantly: You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you that you’re a bad person for not believing things you have no good reason to think are true. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you that, in order to experience love and generosity and devotion, you have to believe in Santa Claus, or any other mythical being there’s no good evidence for. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you that “childlike faith” — i.e., believing things you have no good reason to think are true — is somehow in the same category as poetry and romance. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you that the world would be dreary without Santa Claus: that without Santa Claus, the light of childhood would be extinguished, we would have no enjoyment except in sense and sight, and existence would be intolerable. That is one seriously messed-up idea.

Somehow, Greta found a way to simultaneously let children down gently about something incredibly important to them while also building their self-esteem and praising their curiosity.

That takes talent.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    There IS a Santa Claus. (Wiki Leaks 2010)
    —————————————————–
                                 “Et tu, Santa?

    Twas the night before Christmas
    And all through the house 
    Not a skeptic was stirring
    Not even a mouse.

    We awoke, and saw Santa Claus
    Trashing our gifts
    Fussing and cussing
    And shaking his fist.

    As his sleigh sped away
    To the jingle of bells
    He condemned all the Godless
    “Godspeed you to Hell!”

    So we salvaged some toys
    And patched up the tree
    Still keeping our faith
    In minds that are free.

  • Daniel Hendricks

    Wherever people are obtuse and absurd. . . and wherever they have, by even the most generous standards, the attention span of a small chicken in a hurricane and the investigative ability of a one-legged cockroach . . . and wherever people are inanely credulous, pathetically attached to the certainties of the nursery and, in general, have as much grasp of the realities of the physical universe as an oyster has of mountaineering . . . yes, Twya, there is a Hogfather.

    -Hogfather, Terry Pratchett  

  • Blargendarg

    I read this kind of thing and it really makes me wonder…

    My 4 year old daughter’s stuffed animals live a colorful and detailed existence, something I’ve cultivated – I have no trouble admitting that. I interact with them and have several different voices that I do. We’ve never openly discussed how our adventures with them are different from what is ‘really real’, but it’s clear in the way she talks about them that my daughter gets the distinction.

    We talk about Santa in this same kind of way. Sure, she can’t watch my lips move as I do the voice of Santa, but it’s really all in how you handle it. I don’t emphasize the parts I don’t like (ie naughty or nice) and I make no effort to make it seem real, or any more real than the harrowing nautical explorations we make with a crew of frog engineers. It’s a conceit that we share, and although it’s possible I’ll find out later that it was more deceit than conceit it’s a risk I’m willing to take in an effort to cultivate something I see as important as critical thinking. These things are not mutually exclusive.

    Really, whose view is so narrow that they envision only one use for a tool?

  • Anonymous

    Greta Christina is one of the most intelligent, eloquent voices out there…..why on earth isn’t she more well-known?

    • Anonymous

      She’s very good. Try Gretachristina.com for more.
      She was a featured speaker st FFRF(.org)’s 2011 convention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    As everyone in the newspaper biz knows (but nobody else seems to), the original “Virginia” letter was an obvious hoax written by the newspaper itself. What child refers to her friends as “my little friends”? That’s a patronizing term used only by adults. The letter goes on to praise the honesty of the newspaper itself. Only the newspaper’s own staff would do that. Papers used to do that sort of thing all the time – write fake sockpuppet letters to themselves. They probably couldn’t have foreseen that that one would become a holiday icon. So, bah humbug. Screw you Virginia – it’s just your parents.

    • Griffox

      You’re right. The New York Sun is famous for perhaps the greatest hoax of all: The moon hoax (1835) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Moon_Hoax). A writer claims that Astronomer, Sir John Herschel, discovered life on the moon and in a series of articles describes the animals, plants and bat-like humans that live on it. The good Christians of the time collected money so that they could send bibles to the people on the moon who were surely in need of salvation. ha! Mathew Goodman wrote a book on it, “The Sun and Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York”. It’s a good read if you’re interested in that era in America.

      • Anonymous

        Better Santa, than Jesus.

  • Becky Shattuck

    I don’t have a problem with Santa Claus at all.  There seem to be so many people out there in a huff about it, but that just seems silly to me.  I believed in Santa as a little girl, and those Christmases are among my fondest memories.  Let your kids believe or don’t, but don’t act like Santa is a dirty lie.  

    • Anonymous

      Too bad kids don’t outgrow Jesus as easily as they do Santa.

  • Kerozene

    I’ve always seen Santa as an amazing tool that Christians hand their children freely.  

    For myself, being raised in a Christian household, the first thing I ever questioned was the existence  of Santa…because it was “safe” to question.  It was like a “get out of jail free” card. Asking about him would not cause a  fit of rage from my parents like questioning bizarre passages in the bible would. The existence of Jesus and God were not safe things to question whatsoever, but Santa was a myth that everyone was allowed to grow out of. When the truth was revealed it was like a key, unlocking a door into knowledge. If this one is fake, what about that one?  Yep. That one too.Sort of strange isn’t it? Santa is fake, but he gives the biggest gift there is from his mythology. The desire to seek out what is real. 

  • Anonymous

    Greta Christina’s article is Jon-Stewart fodder for debunking the theory that bloviation is a male phenomenon.  If Virginia were real, I doubt she would bite into THIS sour Christmas cookie.  The Santa myth is a fantasy so much lighter than dogma worthy of suspicion.  Fantasy is a part of human existence, maybe aligned with being in love.  Even the more abstracted active workings of science often depend on maintaining a fantasy that can be relaxed in the face of reality.


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