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Deconstructing a Typical Atheist “Santa Claus” Argument

Deconstructing a Typical Atheist “Santa Claus” Argument September 25, 2021

Atheist anti-theist “Captain Cassidy” runs the Roll to Disbelieve blog. Here’s how she describes herself:

I post as Captain Cassidy, aka Cassidy McGillicuddy, but you can call me Cas. . . . 

I was raised Catholic by a very fervent family, converted to evangelicalism in my teens, and became a full-on fundamentalist shortly thereafter, throwing myself into religion like it was the only thing that mattered at all in the whole wide world (I’ve put a timeline at the bottom of this post). I even married a guy who wanted to be a preacher! But shortly after college I figured out that my religion’s claims weren’t true–not even the softer claims made by its nicer flavors–and left it entirely, . . . 

I’m a humanist, a skeptic, a freethinker, and a passionate student of science, mythology, and history. I’m generally friendly to the idea of spiritual stuff, but I want evidence for it before I’m willing to bet the farm on anything supernatural. It seems hugely unlikely that any of it will turn out to be true at this point, though. Regardless, I care more about what people do than on what they call themselves. I don’t think of myself as having much of a specific religious or non-religious label [not counting “humanist” and “freethinker”?] beyond “ex-Christian,” and I’m kind of enjoying coasting without one at present . . . 

I will be commenting on her post, “Jesus, Santa Claus, and the Putting Away of Childish Things” (12-9-18), which appears to be her primary deconversion story. Her words will be in blue.

Often, ex-Christians describe deconversion as being very similar to children realizing there’s no Santa Claus. I know that comparison irks a lot of Christians. And I wish we had a better comparison to offer, because hands down that is the best way I’ve ever heard of describing deconversion. 

I am unaware of a serious historical school of philosophy or religion devoted to the existence of Santa Claus, in the same fashion that we see these things (since at least Plato) with regard to the existence of God and of theism. For that matter, nor is there a “theological” field devoted to defending Santa Claus, as there is apologetics in Christianity (my own profession).

Why is that? But to make a one-on-one comparison and purported true-to-life analogy of these two things  and to call that the “best way of describing deconversion” is clearly ludicrous, judging by the history of philosophy alone. In other words, to express it very simply: belief in Santa Claus isn’t remotely similar to belief in theism and God in any way, shape, matter, or form.

If you’d spent your whole life being told by literally everybody around you that an impossibly-wise magical man could see everything you ever said, did, or thought, and that he would reward or punish you accordingly in the future, chances are good that you’d believe these ideas for quite a long time.

“We are what we eat.” That holds true for any belief-system whatsoever. But of course this phenomenon has no relation to whether the things conveyed are true or not.

It’d feel almost like betrayal to all of those trusted adults to even question this belief.

Again, that would apply to any long-held belief system, not just Christianity. Our beliefs become an important and cherished part of us.

Children adopt nonsensical beliefs and customs almost reflexively, as self-protection. 

Children don’t have the intellectual or experiential capacity to discern true from false beliefs, or fantasy from reality, until age 6-8 or so (the “age of reason”). But some myths are good, and it’s by no means obvious that they are harmful for those who don’t yet know they are myths. It’s good for kids to watch or read The Chronicles of Narnia or watch The Wizard of Oz or enter into the wonderful world of Christmas customs, including Santa Claus. It doesn’t harm them. This is the wonder of childhood. They have plenty of time later to know that some things (previously loved and enjoyed) aren’t literally true.

Now I know what the atheist mind will be mulling around (“Christianity is just like these other myths!”). It’s not, and it isn’t because it has philosophical, theological, archaeological, historical, experiential, and other epistemological supports that pure myths do not have. As Tolkien told then-atheist C. S. Lewis, Christianity was a myth that had an additional notable attribute: it happened to be a myth that was true.

To differ too much from the parents might mean disaster. 

That is obviously every child’s “world” unless they are in a very dysfunctional family, and/or are being abused.

Indeed, many older kids find out exactly how serious this threat is–way too many TRUE CHRISTIAN™ parents abandon, abuse, and reject their children for revealing their atheism or coming out as LGBT.

As I just said, a dysfunctional family would be disruptive of a child’s development. No Christian ought to reject a child due to atheism or a non-heterosexual sexual orientation. That is contrary to the unconditional love that parents ought to give (being a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us). That’s separate, of course, from one’s opinion of the truthfulness or moral status of these various categories. We may disagree in good conscience, with our reasons, but that is no warrant to reject and hate and treat horribly.

I’ve said for a while now that belief can’t be commanded or consciously created from nothing. Something has to be there to fan it to life and maintain it. It doesn’t matter what the belief is:

Largely true, although Christians believe that some things are innate within us, wholly apart from cultural or social conditioning, since we are made in God’s image and have enough knowledge to know that God exists (Romans 1).

Once in place, reality tests our beliefs. When the idea of losing a particular belief feels scary or threatening, we deploy well-honed antiprocess routines to protect it. 

Exactly right. I see this happening among atheists all the time. It’s by no means confined to Christians. Again, all that matters in the end, is evidence of truth or falsity of a belief. We must follow the true and the good, as best we can determine those things. We must defend ideas because they are true; not merely because they are ours. And if we can’t defend them, we must consider forsaking them. Not that everyone is equally equipped to defend complex ideas (which is another huge topic).

Christianity represents an entrenched belief system that we got spoon-fed from birth by entire communities of cooperating adults. These trusted adults told us that this belief was literally true, when it wasn’t.

This is precisely what is happening now with Christianity-free, increasingly radical secularism and Marxism being spoon-fed from kindergarten to children in the US public schools. So (not surprisingly) we are starting to see younger people reject Christianity (some 40% or more). Children aren’t taught to think critically, so they can discern true from false, facts from fantasy. They are simply brainwashed, indoctrinated, and propagandized.

They taught us that all sorts of things happened within the religion that don’t happen, ever, to anybody

How do I respond to that? It has no specific content.

And they made us feel that questioning and rejecting this belief system would bring serious repercussions upon our heads.

If one rejects God, and there is indeed a God, and if indeed the Bible is His revelation, then there are certainly serious repercussions to obstinate (“know better”) atheism (as opposed to an open-minded, agnosticism).

Slowly, very slowly, we began to sense that something wasn’t quite right about Christianity. We began to notice that miracle claims weren’t true. 

There are many documented miracles. But atheists cavalierly dismiss them because they have already decided beforehand that they aren’t possible. Anything can be wished out of existence (at least in a deluded person’s head) by arbitrary “decree” and fiat.

Maybe we noticed that testimonies were packs of lies, just marketing hype. 

Sometimes (bad apples can be found in any large group), but usually not.

Jesus didn’t change anybody for the better, not really.

That’s demonstrably false. Clearly, many Christians had transformations for the better in their lives. To deny this is simply closed-minded stubbornness.

Christians tended to be hypocrites, no better than anybody else and very often considerably worse. 

The old “hypocrisy” canard. One can find hypocrites in any group. This is not an argument for the truthfulness of any system. Christianity teaches and presupposes that we are all sinners who struggle with sin, who are frail and fall and stumble and need to regularly repent and confess our sins. Hypocrisy is just one sin in a long list that one can find very easily, anywhere, in any group. It doesn’t disprove Christianity.

Mark Twain got it right when he said, “I wouldn’t be a member of any church that would have me as a member!” Another person said they’d never become a Christian, because that group was a bunch of hypocrites. One Christian responded, “we always have room for one more!”

The death-blow to our faith might well have been learning about the Bible’s origins and history–and Christianity’s, for that matter.

Yes: the story according to cynical atheists, who distort it at every turn and presuppose various false premises.

Nowadays, I look at Christians threatening me with Hell in the same exact way those older kids looked at me for threatening them with no presents on Christmas Day.

Any Christian who “threatens” in such a manner is an idiot. We are to charitably warn people of the consequences of rejecting God, with a full knowledge that He exists and is good. That’s not a threat; it’s a positive message (offering a wonderful alternative) that is delivered out of charity and compassion for the hearer.

And WHOA NELLY, gang, Christians get angry about that comparison. They get mad like WHOA.

And WHOA NELLY, gang, atheists get angry when I analyze their deconversions. They get mad like WHOA.

Christians used to be able to murder people for not agreeing with them.

Virtually all societies at some time (more so in the past) have had death penalties, including for religious or “dissenting” reasons. That’s not so much a function of religion as it is of societies that haven’t sufficiently thought through the various reasons (besides obstinacy and bad faith) for beliefs that it considers erroneous and dangerous. This being the case, it is no argument against Christianity.

Even nowadays, way too many Christians still retaliate viciously against dissenters while continuing to seek new recruits and honing their brutal threats about noncompliance. So yes, obviously a lot of apologetics literature exists. Yes, obviously Christians still occasionally effectively recruit adults with their childish threats and come-ons.

Some fools and idiots do that. It’s a small number of extremists and fanatics, just as all belief-groups are burdened with. The fringe elements don’t accurately represent the whole. But this is a very common atheist tactic: all Christians are supposedly like the fringe wackos that they can always find.

These sorts of strategies might delay the problem, but they won’t solve the real, insurmountable problem Christians have.

That problem is that Christians don’t have any real evidence for their various claims.

I submit that my 3,800 online articles (free access) and 50 books present quite a bit of that evidence.

I say the Christian god does not exist with the same certainty that I say Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

In that case there ought to be elaborate theses and many thousands of books devoted to a serious and multi-faceted argument for the existence of Santa Claus. Please direct me to them. If the case for rejection is the same, then I suggest that the case for acceptance in both cases is also what we would reasonably expect to find, by analogy.

By insulting ex-Christians, mischaracterizing us, and denigrating us and our experiences, many Christians hope to keep their own beliefs intact and frighten those in the tribe out of examining things too closely.

Some do that. It’s the wrong way to go about things. It has not been shown that all or anywhere near all Christians act in this way. But there sure is a mountain of insults towards Christians on every online atheist website I’ve ever seen.

Moreover, they seek to maintain and enforce their imaginary superiority over us. It’s not very loving, but their version of Christianity was never about love.

See my previous comment.

It’s just so weird that a totes-for-realsies omnimax god can’t rein his “children” in a little better than this.

God didn’t create robots. We have a free will to act as we choose. That’s why the world is in the mess it’s in. So many reject God or (if believers) live as if He makes no difference in reality at all.

No apologists make a serious career out of proving that Santa Claus is real. 

Exactly my point. There is no comparison here.

In similar fashion, nothing supernatural happens in Christianity–or in any religion.

No proof is offered for such a sweeping statement.

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Photo credit: geralt (August 2017) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: I analyze and criticize atheist Captain Cassidy’s extended attempted (absurd) analogy between the evidence for Santa Claus and that for Christianity (the “Santa Claus” argument).

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