8 Reasons Kids Grow Out Of Santa But Not Jesus

8 Reasons Kids Grow Out Of Santa But Not Jesus November 27, 2018

I dunno about you, but I had a fantastic weekend. I got so much done, swam some laps, cleaned house and even painted a portrait of Anthony Bourdain. The highlight was probably when I taught my kiddo how to play The Settlers of Catan and he proceeded to school the adult Catan vets. By Sunday night, I was exhausted and dropped into my cozy bed for a deep, satisfying snooze.

Yesterday morning, I finally sat down at my computer again and was quickly reminded why it’s so nice to get out from in front of the screens. A wave of nonsense came rushing at me so fast, full of missionaries selling salvation who couldn’t be saved by Christ themselves and videos of Americans elbowing each other for the Samsung Smart TV they’ll replace in a year. There were trolls and anger and shaming and, of course, the usual messages in my inbox damning me to hell. In and amongst it all, I found this meme being shared:

and I thought, to myself, “self, that’s a darned good question. Let’s discuss it on the ol’ bloggerooni” and so, here I am.

Why is it that kids appear to grow out of Santa with ease but so many cling to Jesus for the remainder of their lives? What are the differences between the Santa myth and the Jesus myth? Here are some of my ideas:

Their parents don’t believe in Santa – Mom and Dad already know that Santa isn’t real, while they may still believe in Jesus. So, when little Timmy finally says he doesn’t believe in Santa one day, they’re less likely to react poorly and more likely to accept that their little dude is just doing some growing up. Reversed, if Timmy comes to Mom and Pops and calls Jeeby a pile of hogwash, there’s likely to be tears, punishment and anger.

Their parents are in on the ruse – Keeping up the fib all those years, making sure you’re not leaving clues revealing the true identity of Santa can be exhausting and eventually, you want your babies to sort it out. In fact, if they seem to be taking longer than other kids to figure it out, some parents might get concerned. They might start dropping hints or they might just sit the kid down and tell him outright. With Ol’ Jeeboner, though, Mom and Dad are being duped themselves!

As you get older, questioning Santa’s existence is welcomed – When you’re a kid and you go to your parents with questions about the truth behind Santa, they’ll welcome it. They’ll likely be honest with you. They might feel some pride that their little dude is clever enough to sort it out. But question Jesus in a religious household and you’re going to be met with, at the very least, disappointment. In almost all of the stories you send me for Your Stories of Atheism, you mention that your questions about God and the Bible and religion etc. were often met with the brush off or hostility. As a child, you learn pretty quickly to stop asking about those things.

Santa doesn’t threaten eternal hellfire – If you question Santa’s existence, the worst outcome is that this happy part of your childhood is over. That, or you get a lump of coal in your stocking. If you question God and Jesus, you face being brutally tortured for the rest of time. You can see how one might be a little scarier than the other.

You won’t lose family or friends over your loss of faith in the fat man – people who stop believing in Jesus often find themselves on the outside of a community that encompassed their entire world before. Sometimes, they get disowned and shunned. Friends who once meant the world them no longer want to have anything to do with them. If you stop believing in Kris Kringle, on the other hand, no one judges you at all.

You don’t have to change much about your worldview to accept Daddy Jingle Bells ain’t real – Nothing much changes when you finally know the truth behind where the gifts come from. There are still gifts. You still tell the same people what you want for Christmas and you still hope those same people get them for you. If you stop believing in Jesus, however, your prayers are just floating out in the ether, directionless, with no one to hear them. You no longer have an eternity of bliss awaiting you after you die and you have to accept that this life is the only life we truly know we have. You have to accept responsibility for your own actions and can no longer leave things in the “hands of God”. You must plot your own path and write your own story because there’s no magic man in the sky to do it for you. This is a much harder pill to swallow than knowing the man in red doesn’t bring the prezzies.

Nowhere in the world is it punishable by law to stop believing in Jolly Old St. Nick – In 13 countries in our modern world, people who no longer believe in a supreme being can be killed for it, by law. In 40+ countries, they can be imprisoned and beaten for it. You stop believing in Santa and there might be a slight sadness at most. No one will hurt you for it. No one will threaten you for it.

You can prove Santa is a lie – as one of my Twitter friends pointed out yesterday, Santa is a falsifiable claim. You can catch your parents in the act. You can set up a GoPro before bed on Christmas Eve or you can test Santa’s in-depth knowledge of you at the Mall. There are a hundred and one ways to sort out the truth behind Santa, but the Jesus myth is crafted in such a way that there’s no way to prove it wrong. He’s invisible! He works in mysterious ways! Sometimes his answer to your prayer is no! No matter your objection, there’s always some absurd way around it.

I don’t really see many parallels between the Santa myth and the Jesus myth. That’s why I never had a problem doing the whole Santa thing with my babies. I think sorting out who Santa really is can serve as an excellent critical thought exercise for kids when they’re rewarded with the truth for asking good questions. Jesus, on the other hand, doesn’t like critical thought at all.

Why do you think kids grow out of Santa but some don’t grow past belief in Jesus? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Kevin K

    Quite a number of years ago, when I first started my journalism career, I did a little feature story where I interviewed a psychologist who said it was OK for kids to believe in Santa. I didn’t think much of it at the time — it was just 8 inches of copy that filled a hole in the B section of the paper sometime in late November/early December.

    Man — that story got picked up by the Associated Press and was run in pretty much every other AP subscriber in the country. Hundreds and hundreds of papers.

    Of course, due to the AP contract, I got squadouche out of that. They didn’t even give me by-line credit.

  • Raging Bee

    Why? that’s easy: their parents LET them outgrow Santa, but not Jesus. I suspect lots of kids outgrow Jesus too, but aren’t really given a lot of space to admit it outside their own heads.

  • Illithid

    Dang! I almost never get messages damning me to hell…

    Though this morning, I did get called lying atheist scum, and a science-denying genocidal maniac. Brings a surge of dark joy to the frigid void where my heart would be if I had one.

  • Albionic American

    You could make a funny skit about a kid who figures out the truth about Santa, becomes a Clausphemer and then experiences the cartoonish kind of existential crisis that Christians imagine about atheists: He suffers from meaninglessness, anomie, angst, nihilism, despair and so forth.

    BTW, I find it interesting that the first Protestants became “atheistic” towards the Virgin Mary and all the other saints that that Catholics prayed too. Protestants might believe that these biblical and early Christian figures existed historically, led exemplary lives, and that their souls went to heaven after they died. But the Protestants generally stopped trying to communicate with the saints and asking them for favors. Nothing horrific or spooky happened to the Protestants as a result of their selective unbelief regarding the roles and powers of the Catholic Church’s minor supernatural figures.

    Atheists a few generations later just extended the unbelief higher up the hierarchy of Christian supernaturals to include Jesus and God.

  • Some guy

    Dropping Santa for me was at least partly a matter of peer pressure. It’ll be a happy day when the same applies to Jeebus.

  • adhoc

    I was a Clausist when I rejected the bible as being true.

    Why? Because there was no more proof of Yahweh than there was proof of Odin, Zeus or Ra. (Zeus and Hercules were more exciting than boring old Yahweh and his kid Jesus) With Santa, I had TONS of proof- presents, half eaten cookies and milk, and, most importantly, every one of my peers had the same experiences- powerful stuff.

    When I found out Santa wasn’t real last year, I didn’t have a void to fill. There was no Santa shaped hole in my heart.


    Growing out of Santa is socially acceptable and expected, while growing out of Jesus, isn’t. Additionally, there is mp well entrenched social mechanism, a.k.a. religion, to reinforce the Santa story year around.

  • Is that what “AP Staff Report” means? That really stinks.

  • If the Catholics would have put a book in the Bible that talked about praying to the saints, the Protestants would still do it.

  • My parents never made us believe that Santa was real. I don’t know why I didn’t “spoil it” for the other kids at school, but I don’t think it ever occurred to me that anyone believed he was real.

    With my older son, I told him that it was just pretend when he was 2, because he got scared of someone coming in the house at night. Then when he started kindergarten he really seemed to want to believe it again. When he asked, my wife just asked him what he thought, and he said he thought Santa was real. We let it go. A couple of years later when his friends were starting to figure it out he asked us again, and he was really, really angry at us for having allowed him to believe it in the first place. And I felt bad about it, because I was never comfortable with it. This happened in front of his brother who was 2 1/2 years younger (in kindergarten at the time, IIRC), and he just took it in stride.

    What they’re doing now is making it a sort of game where, when the older one figures it out they get to be in on the game. It seems like a good way to make it fun for them and avoid the conflict.

    I think your first answer above is the biggest reason: The parents actually believe in Jesus, so that myth just keeps getting passed along. A lot of people just never find a good reason to question it, since it seems like something that everybody knows to be true. Might as well question whether the sky is really blue.

  • Derek Mathias

    Your article talks about the differences between Santa and Jesus. I, OTOH, made a video about the similarities between Santa and Jesus:



  • Brianna LaPoint

    the real irony is, that if you research Nicholaus of Hungary, he had a grave. Jesus did not, unless you support the Dan Brown theory that his body was moved to france. Meh, doesnt matter, hes not my savior.

  • Kevin K

    The AP does have their own cadre of reporters, but the vast majority of what they distribute comes from people like what I was … a reporter at one of their “member” papers. The AP just picks it up, slaps an “AP” logo on it, and sends it out over the “wire” (more like “fiber optics” these days, I’m sure). The only thing they do to it is strip off the by-line, so millions and millions of readers had no idea who actually produced that report.

    Works out great for the AP and the papers — not so much for us drudges in the trenches.

  • DrSkeep

    Your final point — that Santa is a falsifiable assertion and Yahweh/Jesus/the BVM/Allah/Elohim/Slenderman ain’t — bumps up against the key truth here: those currently fashionable gods (and goddess) ain’t falsifiable . . . . because, unlike Santa, they’re words-only constructions who don’t do anything in our common-ground, third-party, shared reality, and, thus, there is nothing in reality to falsify.

  • Kendall Fields

    Santa Claus isn’t real. You can’t grow out of Jesus because God is real. God doesn’t threaten you with damnation but he warns you about it. He lets you know the consequences of it. You try to say Christians aren’t responsible for their actions yet that is one big lie. Everyone is responsible for their actions which is why everyone will answer for their deeds on judgment day. And yes people lose direction when they abandon God and those who don’t are happier with the truth that God is real. Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins so that we may not perish but have everlasting life.

  • What if we had Santa Claus fundamentalists?

    Atheist Parable: The Patripresentists

  • These days the AP doesnt usually strip the name off, but the client paper can still choose to.

  • Raging Bee

    WHICH god is real? Got any evidence to show which god is real and which aren’t?

  • You don’t read very well do you

  • Kendall Fields

    God is real. Why do you want evidence when you already have it?

  • Kendall Fields

    Sure I don’t.

  • Raging Bee

    What evidence are you talking about?

  • Kevin K

    That’s good. Even though it doesn’t mean anything in terms of $$$$ to the reporter, it would have been nice to get recognition for all the times my stuff went out over their wire.

    Would also have been nice if the local TV stations had given me credit every time they read my story over the air as if it were theirs. That never happened either.

  • Kendall Fields

    What do you think it is?