Santa & God: A Rationalist Meditation for the Christmas Holiday

Santa & God: A Rationalist Meditation for the Christmas Holiday December 17, 2016

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So, here we are in the great mid winter holiday season. Pretty much all religions have a holiday or two to mark this time of year. And, of course, in our culture, Christmas looms largest of them all.

I’m always interested in religion, but it does go into overdrive during these holidays.

One thing it sparks is the whole question of God.

Let me make a small confession. Me, I’m a big fan of critical thinking. I believe it has a central place in all aspects of our lives, and that definitely includes religion. Reason has been a big help for me along the spiritual way. There is so much being sold as religion and spirituality one cannot dig deep into every claim. So, some rational rules can help with a first sort. Breatharian? Maybe. But, based on everything we know about biology it is so unlikely I don’t really need to dig too deeply into it.

And then we come to questions of God.

The problem is there are so many gods, so many assertions. Here I think a small consideration of Santa is in order. If you think about it, Santa Claus looks like god. He appears in history and fixes things. At least he brings gifts to children. If they’re good. At least, that is, to some good children. The lack of consistency is a problem here. And so for all of us over time Santa becomes increasingly unlikely. At some point someone whispers into our ears there is no Santa. And whatever our level of denial the evidence continues to pile up. And, at some point for everyone, Santa stops coming…

For some this is also a description of God, an entity who fixes things and intervenes in history. Despite what seems to me overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this is the God many people believe in, God as Santa. The contradictions nag at our hearts, and for some despite all efforts to the contrary, at some point there’s no good justification for believing.

For many of us Santa is the God we start with. And for a certain subset among us, this is also the path to unbelief.

However, definitions of the divine are too numerous to extend criticism of one view to all the possible variations of meaning for the word god in actual use. And even with bigger claims like intervention, I find some caution necessary. Not knowing is a great power, and so for me I find agnosticism critically important. Personally, I think the reasonable way to approach the idea of a conscious deity who intervenes in history is agnosticism. I happen to be an agnostic who leans atheist. But, I find it impossible to argue with a sister or brother agnostic who leans theist.

And this openness, this willingness to dig deeper can reveal things. For instance from very long ago there is another understanding of the divine that has never been part of the Santa Claus version. This is the God I’m interested in. The god behind god. The god that is everything. You, but more. Me, but more. This is not a god that is dragged out to explain how things happen, or, why. This is the intuition in our hearts of some great connection.

This is the experience of our world as alive. As holy. I notice that god every day. And, actually, even more in this season of greater dark, of cold, where no doubt our ancestors had reason to question whether it would ever get any better. And yet in the midst of the darkness hope births. As naturally as a breath, hope arises. And out of this experience songs are sung, stories are told.

Lots of stories. One, I find particularly helpful is that of the Buddha, actually I like the story of Huineng even better. But, those are stories of analysis, of looking deep and figuring things out. They work, but there are other ways in, that should not be despised.

One of the birth of a child as the birth of hope. Hope rooted in some deep body knowing that we are all of us connected. It is a burning realization. A fire in the center of our hearts. Good, evil, everything burns away in the face of this fire. It is the fire of creation. It is the fire of the end. It is the energy that links all things and the spaces in between.

This is not Santa Claus.

It is a fearsome thing, it is our beginning. It is our end.

It is our eternal life.

And my rational heart sings. Which feels the only thing to do. I mean, in the face of this divine, how can I do anything but sing praises?


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