Life After De-Santafication

Maybe the story of Santa is an innocent, sweet fable we tell our children. Or maybe Santa, in his endless gluttony, is a reflection of us.

I am so over Ordinary Time. Now on to the exciting stuff. . .

December 2 was the first Sunday in Advent, the liturgical season during which Christians wait in hope for Christmas Day: the ancient celebration of getting lots of presents.

In anticipation of this holy occasion, we stockpile things –all sorts of sparkly, fantastical things –for the day that is coming. And truly, nothing says “Thank you Jesus Christ for being born into the world to show us The Way and to die for our sins” quite like that inflatable family of penguins on the front lawn.

In 2004, Madame Tussauds wax museum in London displayed an alternate crèche scene, with the Beckhams as Mary and Joseph, Blair and Bush among the wise men, and Kylie Minogue as the angel. Church officials thought the display was blasphemous; I dissented, and thought it ingenious.

Sure, the exhibit was irreverent. But well behaved artists rarely make history. My take was that the exhibited was not intended to mock the Holy Family, but rather, it was a jab at us ‘Christians.’ The scene from Tussauds forced me to ask myself about my own idols. What do I worship in place of the great God who humbled Himself for us?

When I was growing up, my parents did their best to save me. I was an unrelenting pagan baby worshiping at the altar of American Girls dolls, hieroglyphic stamp kits and moon shoes [best Christmas present ever, Santa!] and, for the first ten years of my life, the Christmas God was overshadowed by His obese missionary. Mom and Dad took me to church, lit Advent candles and encouraged me to think of the less fortunate. My parents wanted me to understand why we celebrated Christmas and the implications of the holy day. The most sophisticated theological question I could gather regarding the birth of Our Savior was “So, when do we get the presents?

It may come as no surprise then, that being told by my mom the truth about Santa was the first spiritually devastating experience of my life. True, I had been rifling through the presents in my mother’s secret hiding place for years, but like a good fact-ignoring religionist, I had refused to accept the truth –even when I was holding it in my sneaky little hands. Besides, there was no way that my parents were as generous as Santa. And could all these people really have lied to me for this long? Even Grandma?

But one December morning, fearing that I may leak the illicit knowledge to my younger siblings, my mom pulled me into the bathroom. “I know you know there is no Santa,” she admitted. “Please don’t spoil your brother and sister’s Christmas by telling them.” Suddenly confronted with a dark, Santa-less world, I burst into hysterics, my body heat and tears steaming up the small room.

“I want Santa to be real,’ I wailed. ‘Me too,’ my mother cried. We held each other and wept.

Maybe the story of Santa is an innocent, sweet fable we tell our children. Or maybe Santa, in his endless gluttony, is a reflection of us. We created this god in our image: an overweight, well-intentioned compulsive shopper. We chose Santa because somehow we think the Jesus story isn’t good enough, or that God’s birth is really just too impractical. But flying reindeer? Totally sane.

Getting over Santa is no small task. In fact, the de-Santafication of my spirituality may be the great challenge of my life. Santa epitomizes Christianity Lite: his story is culturally created, vaguely Christian and self-indulgent. Santa encourages good behavior in fear of punishment. Santa rewards everyone who is not bad. There’s nothing not to love about Santa, which is precisely why Christianity Lite contains no depth, no challenge, no deep satisfaction.

Fortunately, we don’t need Santa. We have Jesus.

Following Jesus after submitting to Santa has taught me to give without recompense, to constantly re-evaluate my priorities and to question the authority that tells me I should feel good about participating in a particular religious culture.

De-Santafication means that if I ever am satisfied with my work as a Christian, if I ever decide that I have done enough and can rest easy, I must stir myself with the saying associated with another plump religious figure:

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

 

Image courtesy of Rosana Prada

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • Gavin082

    So basically what you’re saying is that it’s not us athiests – evil incarnate – that have been waging a ‘War on Christmas.’ All along it’s been the ‘Christian Lite’ types that have turned your holiday into an excuse to hold sales and pressure stores to put up “Merry Christmas” signs to remind those of us of different traditions who really calls the shots in America.And all along I thought it was liberals and the secular elitists…

  • Anonymous

    The evolution of Christmas as such makes sense. It began as Pagan, was Christianized, and now it is becoming increasingly secularized. Santa makes it easy for the non-religious to have a nice, jolly holiday with which to end the year and show love with materials goods. It’s all win-win. So if you, as a Christian, wish to make your holiday about Jesus it’s all good – just don’t try to demonize Santa as “all things bad about our culture” when he just represents a different form of Christmas.

  • kimo pizzicata

    hmm, don’t dismiss Santa Claus, just get it right. There *was* a saint Nicholas; his feast day is 6th December (not Christmas). To the Dutch, he comes on the 5th, is not fat or jolly but can be quite stern, rides a white horse, and comes on a ship (from Spain. why Spain I have no idea). Maybe that way he can hit the US later.

  • kimo pizzicato

    hmm, don’t dismiss Santa Claus, just get it right. There *was* a saint Nicholas; his feast day is 6th December (not Christmas). To the Dutch, he comes on the 5th, is neither fat nor jolly but can be quite stern, rides a white horse, and comes on a ship (from Spain. why Spain I have no idea). Maybe that way he can hit the US later?

  • Oort

    This is almost too easy.”Fortunately, we don’t need Santa. We have Jesus.”I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus, I guess my parents never put that one on me. I knew who the character was … is, I knew it was a cute myth. In fact I can’t remember ever believing in any of those magical characters that people believe actually exist.Maybe that’s why I don’t believe in any of them today. Why not finish the process, dump the rest of them today.

  • DCM

    I agree Kimo. Santa is real: Santa=Saint, Claus=Niclaus. He was an imprisoned Catholic Bishop until Rome became Christian and he was freed. He was known for concern for poor and particularly for bringing gifts to children.

  • John Griffith (Bright)

    The thought occurs to me to ask Elizabeth why she reserves the argument for non-belief for Santa alone? For your argument to be valid, Elizabeth, you must apply it to all instances of theoretical entities.

  • Santa

    Elizabeth,My, my, my.You have really hurt our feelings this time.Your Friends,and you thought we weren’t real.

  • yoyo

    So Elizabeth,

  • keith vipperman

    perhapps the lesson i as a christians need to learn is that you don’t need to wait for one day a year…to do somthing special 4 someone… in fact if in a bizarre but seemingly true way it would be even more special to do something wonderful 4 someone else…..on purpose….for thier benifit…to instill the model of behavior 2 aspire too….the concept of building rather than destroying and leaving the concept of a fantasy of spendor 4 on the other hand the truth of giving and receieving openly especially if it were a time when the person was truley needy and the other person trulely grateful 2 be able to give.

  • TJ

    Our panelist writes: “Maybe the story of Santa is an innocent, sweet fable we tell our children. Or maybe Santa, in his endless gluttony, is a reflection of us. We created this god in our image: an overweight, well-intentioned compulsive shopper.”Maybe the story of God is an innocent, sweet fable we tell our children. Or maybe God, in his endless violence, intolerance, and jealousy is a reflection of the people that wrote the tale. They created this God in their image: a violent, intolerant, and jealous tyrant.You have a brain Elizabeth Tenety, use it.

  • Michael Houst

    Saint Nicholas is a fine example of christianity in action.

  • Tom

    I can see why so many people equate that no Santa = no God.The thing is, I don’t know of a dozen direct eyewitnesses who ever gave their lives professing that the jolly elf really came down their chimney.Direct, eyewitness testimony is considered valid evidence in court, even in the absence of hard forensics. How many of us would be willing to perjure ourselves in the face of a threat to our lives? The apostles had no long history of belief in an afterlife to cling to, only the teaching of a convicted criminal executed most shamefully. Yet they laid down their lives rather than recant their testimony. Would you do the same for the truth, let alone for a lie?But because these committed witnesses are 2000 years removed from us, we don’t consider their testimony valid any longer. Yet there is an infinite Light that all the skepticism of the “enlightenment” will never be able to darken, and it shines brightly in the world yet today for those who are willing to trust in more than what our limited minds can grasp. It calls us to love God and love our neighbor, and those who truly do so never fail to make this world a better place in the process.

  • Ego Nemo

    What makes Catholic life special?

  • Catholic Lite?

    I agree with some of the previous posters.

  • LP

    Great column Elizabeth. Thanks for humanizing your faith. There’s always the temptation to make everything into a polemic, but your self-criticism is just as compelling.

  • Old Greg

    TJ says: “Maybe the story of God is an innocent, sweet fable we tell our children. Or maybe God, in his endless violence, intolerance, and jealousy is a reflection of the people that wrote the tale. They created this God in their image: a violent, intolerant, and jealous tyrant.” TJ is alluding here to a belief we have heard in the past from three very well known champions of Atheism: Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. Although he states it in different words, the message is still the same. Feuerbach said that God (like Santa) is the projection of our own ideals. He is a crutch, something that we want to be true. Therefore, we make up God and project our own hopes onto Him. Or in “violence” we used Him (this made up idea) to suppress the masses-he is thus “the opiate of the masses” (Marx). Finally, He (this made up God) is the result of our subconscious (Freud). The overall assumption here is that because God does not exist, there is nothing else in the world but matter; and thus, these feelings and projections are the result of chemical processes going on inside of us.This argument upon first glance is compelling. The problem is that it only complicates the issue. The same can be applied to Atheism. Atheism is a crutch. It is that which we create. We hope for the death of our Heavenly Father. We try to suppress this knowledge of our creator, thus we falsely assert and hope that He does not exist so that we won’t have to be responsible for our sin and responsible to a Sovereign God who is ultimately in control, not us. Atheism is the “opiate of the masses”. It is the thing that can be used to control people and is the result of some of the greatest suppression in history. Finally, if everything is matter; then your Atheistic thoughts are also naturalistically determined by matter.This argument is self refuting. When you apply it back to itself it refutes itself. It’s like the statement “there are no absolutes” (to make this statement is an absolute). We must move beyond this kind of thinking if we wish to makes correct assertions about first people (i.e. stating “use your brain Elizabeth”), and second people’s worldviews.

  • TJ

    That’s the most compelling argument for the existence of Santa I’ve ever heard Old Greg.

  • Oort

    Old Greg, you don’t know anything at all about what atheism is, yet this certainly doesn’t stop you from asserting that you do. You spend all your time and breath describing what atheism is to yourself through your own religion-infested brain … I guess you never had a chance did you? There, there, Old Greg. Take one of these little pills, and believe some of this crap, you’ll feel better in the morning.Your attempt to demean atheism by using Marx and Freud is a backassward appeal to authority, do you understand what this means?Did you parents poison you with santa claus too, but never cleared it up?Well, you seem to be able to type for the most part. Good for you.

  • Grizzly Adams

    I move that Old Greg and TJ be locked in a cabin and given a bottle of corn liquor and ziplock bags of each other’s mother’s underwear.

  • TJ

    Works for me Grizzly Adams. By the time the liquor is gone, he might actually understand what atheism is and then the bags of underwear won’t be needed.

  • TJ

    Tom writes: “The thing is, I don’t know of a dozen direct eyewitnesses who ever gave their lives professing that the jolly elf really came down their chimney.”I don’t know of a dozen direct eyewitnesses to the fantastic events relayed in the gospels that gave their lives for Christianity either. I might be able to think of a dozen that believed in something enough to die for it, but that doesn’t mean the thing they believed in was necessarily true.And then continues: “Direct, eyewitness testimony is considered valid evidence in court, even in the absence of hard forensics.”In a modern court of law, eyewitness testimony is highly questionable and is the least desirable kind of evidence to have. It’s well known and documented that humans make for poor recorders of what actually happened. Our brains fill in missing details. Suggestion and prejudice can color what is left. The credibility of the eyewitness is always at stake too. Further, the juries are thoroughly vetted by both sides before the witness’ credibility is vetted by both sides. Comparing the supposed eyewitness testimony that is the gospels with eyewitness testimony given in a court of law is flawed, because the conditions aren’t the same, and weak at best, because of the nature of eyewitness testimony itself.”How many of us would be willing to perjure ourselves in the face of a threat to our lives?”You’re oversimplifying because you believe that the events actually happened, direct witnesses wrote the gospels, and that these authors were the same people that later chose martyrdom. Neither you nor anyone else has proved this assertion true. It’s clear that people from all nations and all time periods are willing to sacrifice their lives for an idea or belief that may or may not be true. As an illustrative exercise, consider the stunning act of the Heaven’s Gate people. Compare the fervor and surety of their belief with your opinion on how true their belief might actually have been. Bo and Peep claimed that they were more than human, just like somebody else did. They managed to convince thirty-eight people that what they were teaching was worth their losing their lives for. Those thirty-eight took their own lives; do you believe they had their rendezvous behind Hale-Bopp on a spaceship carrying Jesus? What makes these apostles of yours any different than those thirty-eight otherwise seemingly intelligent people?”The apostles had no long history of belief in an afterlife to cling to, only the teaching of a convicted criminal executed most shamefully. Yet they laid down their lives rather than recant their testimony.”This convicted criminal had been filling their heads with a plan for a direct path to a paradise of an afterlife, no? They believed it so much they chose martyrdom for themselves, right? I don’t find their martyrdom particularly noteworthy. Sad that they felt they had to do that? Sure. Sad that they lived in a society that forced them to make that choice? Sure. Impressed? Not really. The Heaven’s Gate people were much more impressive. They didn’t wait around for someone to kill them.

  • georgepwebster

    In 2000 years, Joseph Smith will be Jesus. He had lots of eyewitnesses too.Stories in a book. Stories selected several hundred years after the “fact”, by a committee intent on control. Constantine’s Karl Roves.

  • mcbride

    “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”Huh?All this says to me is “if you encounter evidence that your beliefs have been mistaken all this time… destroy the evidence rather than admit you could ever have been wrong.”I may be missing something in that phrase because I have never heard it before… but my first impression is that it is offensive and intolerant.How would Miss Tenety take it if a member of another faith made little wise-ass quips about killing jesus?

  • mcbride

    also… Miss Tenety totally compared santa to buddha… which is… jeez, where do I begin? Insulting to buddhists? Ignorant? Intolerant (again)? *sigh*

  • Joyce

    Fortunately, we don’t need Jesus, we have rational thought—usually combined with innate compassion…

  • Nemoudeis

    MCBRIDE:You need to check the link that the “Buddha” quote is associated with. The term actually COMES from Buddhism — at least one branch or interpretation of it.Essentially, it’s about not allowing your belief system to be seduced by how you WANT things to be (spiritually), rather than with how they actually ARE.At least that’s what I get from the story.

  • Nemoudeis

    MCBRIDE:You need to check the link that the “Buddha” quote is linked with. The term actually COMES from Buddhism — at least one branch or interpretation of it.Essentially, it’s about not allowing your belief system to be seduced by how you WANT things to be (spiritually), rather than with how they actually ARE.At least that’s what I get from the story.

  • Merry Christmas

    Great article Elizabeth! It acurately reflects the stuggle of wrestling with our Christian culture versus biblical truths. Sometimes they conflict and sometimes it matters how much emphasis parents put on certain traditions.I am suprised on how many atheists are reading the “On Faith” section of the paper. Are you searching for something?

  • TJ

    Unfortunately Rafael, Tom has limited his ability to think rationally within a tiny sphere limited by his absurd belief. If we accept that the events of the gospels are true, and that they were witnessed by the writers of the gospels, and then that those writers chose martyrdom, then he makes perfect sense. This is exactly what Robert Anton Wilson meant by “Convictions make convicts”. Tom has effectively lopped off a portion of his brain.

  • John Dickert

    Being short, a bit stout,and sporting a gray beard, I have gotten to portray Clement Moore’s version of the Dutch-American Saint Nicolas for these last few years. Being a Catholic well, but also diversely, eductated in his faith, I have taken to using the experience as a teaching tool, asking those I visit both what they would like to give as well as what they would like to receive. As it is Jesus’ birthday, we should want to consider what we will give to Him, but in the tradition of there being TWO Great Commandments, we should also consider what we will give to our Neighbor.

  • John Dickert

    Being short, a bit stout,and sporting a gray beard, I have gotten to portray Clement Moore’s version of the Dutch-American Saint Nicolas for these last few years. Being a Catholic well, but also diversely, eductated in his faith, I have taken to using the experience as a teaching tool, asking those I visit both what they would like to give as well as what they would like to receive. As it is Jesus’ birthday, we should want to consider what we will give to Him, but in the tradition of there being TWO Great Commandments, we should also consider what we will give to our Neighbor.

  • esme

    “DCM”: wroteWow. Wrong. Catholic? What language did he speak? Latin? no. Try Greek. He had nothing to do with Rome.

  • Julia

    Elizabeth–Nice piece! It can be difficult to keep denying ourselves the easy answers and comforts that fantasies like Santa can provide. When I need a little nudge to keep my nostalgia at bay, I think about how the Coca-Cola company popularized “Santa” in the US and how “Santa’s” suit looks so much like a Coke can. That puts the zap on it.St. Nicholas, on the other hand, was known for his charity and for standing up for the falsely accused. I like one of the tales about him wherein he leaves money that could be used for 3 impoverished sisters’ dowries, ensuring that they wouldn’t have to go into prostitution to put food on the table. He did it under cover of night to make sure their father couldn’t refuse his generosity, leaving the gold in the girls’ stockings or dropping it down the chimney. In the context of poverty, gift-giving makes a lot more sense than the spirit in which giving tends to take place around the holidays, it seems to me.By Christianity Lite, do you mean the popular culture version of the “Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded” that is so bastardized by politicians and seems so unfamiliar to most practicing Christians and Jews? That’s more than a little tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I wouldn’t throw around the words “Christianity Lite” without explanation, if I were you. It seems like you might be able to make a really clear point with that term, but I’m not sure yet what it is.Just to respond to one reader’s concerns, the “Kill the Buddha” instruction is a Buddhist teaching about not making an idol of one’s beliefs or even of the Buddha himself. In Elizabeth’s case, seeing the Buddha on the road would be self-righteousness that tells her that she’s doing a great job and doesn’t need to keep working for the good of her neighbor.

  • Pierre JC

    “Merry Christmas” wrote:

  • Shannon Oh!

    My mom used to make christmas special by making a birthday cake for jesus in the shape of a christmas tree. Oh, and we sang, too. We got presents from santa, and we had our advent wreath and midnight mass. It worked. Now I’m all grown up and give presents when I feel like it’s time to, not when the greater commercial “gods” tell me to. I like advent because it’s a good time to pray and reflect, and a good time to bake cookies and send cards to old friends.So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m all for killing santa claus…just when you’re old enough and ready.

  • Lu Franklin

    The Spirit of Christmas embraces Yule Logs, other remnants of Pagan Rites, the Nativity and Santa Clause.

  • Hermit Crab

    “Atheism is a crutch. It is that which we create. We hope for the death of our Heavenly Father. We try to suppress this knowledge of our creator, thus we falsely assert and hope that He does not exist so that we won’t have to be responsible for our sin and responsible to a Sovereign God who is ultimately in control, not us.”Atheism is the lack of a crutch. There is no hoping for the death of “our Heavenly Father” because atheists don’t believe there is one in the first place. As such, there is no knowledge of the creator to suppress, leaving the responsibility for one’s actions upon the individual.Belittling someone’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, or whether they believe in Santa Claus, Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha displays a lack of both empathy and simple human consideration. Not to mention the great deal of pride demonstrated by announcing that your belief is the only possible correct one.“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”Buddha will not be on the road. If you meet him there, it is an imposter.

  • FRANK

    another stupid article. santa is a fantasy and has nothing to do with Christ. if you just figured that out then i know why you bothered with this dumb article.

  • Delia Seinclair

    I do believe if you Americans gets on fighting like this, even over a simple thing such as SANTA CLAUS, America will sink into an abysm without any chance of recovering. Here in China where I live…even it is communism…Santa Claus is everywhere…making young and old alike, happy,festive,content, and looking forward to progress and health and happiness…not worried if Buddha is or is not this o that, or if Santa Claus is or not this or that. They are just rejoicing in the festive mood and thankful Santa Claus is here to be part of the Party. Wake up! you full-belly complainers!

  • Delia Seinclair

    I do believe if you Americans gets on fighting like this, even over a simple thing such as SANTA CLAUS, America will sink into an abysm without any chance of recovering. Here in China where I live…even it is communism…Santa Claus is everywhere…making young and old alike, happy,festive,content, and looking forward to progress and health and happiness…not worried if Buddha is or is not this o that, or if Santa Claus is or not this or that. They are just rejoicing in the festive mood and thankful Santa Claus is here to be part of the Party. Wake up! you full-belly complainers!

  • NoJesusKnowReality

    “Fortunately, we don’t need Santa. We have Jesus.”So you’re replacing one promises-and-cookies fairy tale for the ignorant with another.But you’ve taken a step back; because Santa is a fairy tale for the unwillfully ignorant – children – and Jesus is a fairy tale for the willfully ignorant. It’s like willfully tying off a lobe of your brain with a tourniquet in return for a fake promise that there’s something for you after you die. Jesus is make-believe for grownups.

  • brian mcc, the arctic

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Had to dig deep in the memory bank for that one. What comes to mind is a short story by Gibran. A priest walks along the road coming across a man near death. They speak to each other, as it becomes clear the injured man is the devil incarnate. ‘Leave me here to die, evil will be gone from the earth as well as your need to preach against me…help me, tend to my wounds, nurse me to health, we can work together…’The priest took the devil under his arm. This is beyond helping those less fortunate, the downtrodden on the side of the road. Kahlil Gibran, check him out, author of The Prophet.

  • No accident

    To explain why so many atheiests participate in the “On Faith” section of the paper, Pierre JC wrote”We (athiests) are searching for an explanation as to why alleged adults indulge in the patently idiotic fantasy of having an all-powerful, magical, invisible friend.”Perhaps if Pierre JC spent some time in a battlefield fox hole with real bullets flying around instead of in a newspaper taking his own cheap shots at people of faith, he might discover what he is searching for. On the other hand, he might not. The kind of ideals that would influence a person to willingly sacrifice for others in some way would make no sense to a person that wants only scientific explanation for what he opts to believe. Life in all its dignity and diversity defies the kind of scientific explanation that would satisfy me. To say that life is a pure accident is to say that life defies scientific explanation. An accident does not fit into logical formulas any more than does creation. It puzzels me how some scientists can be satisfied with such an explanation while they seeks to unravel the mysteries of infinite space and time with numbers called irrational and constructions such as “i”, the mysterious square root of minus 1.

  • Sparky

    “Perhaps if Pierre JC spent some time in a battlefield fox hole with real bullets flying around instead of in a newspaper taking his own cheap shots at people of faith, he might discover what he is searching for. On the other hand, he might not.”I did. And I’m still an atheist.So take that ‘no atheists in foxholes’ line and put it where the sun don’t shine.

  • Amwhite

    Saint Nicholas was a Russian saint. I don’t know where this link to Italy comes in. He saved children and is their patron saint. We put our shoes out on his feast day – yes even as a 36 year old woman I believe in the sanctity of giving.

  • rich

    St. Nicholas was a Bishop in Asia Minor now the country of Turkey dying around 340 AD. He was known for helping the poor in a way that would allow them dignity and not be embarrassed by the charity.Supposedly he did this by leaving money in socks so it would be easily found and later many miracles were ascribed to him. The Catholic Church later made him a Saint with his feast day as December 6th. Some say that he did not die but went on throughout the world and the centuries continuing his help of the poor and giving gifts in celebrations of Jesus’ birthday, Christmas.Whether you chose to believe it or not, there are many who feel that they are his helpers in some small way by trying to do the same that he did, helping the poor and bringing some cheer into children’s lives.You may think me deluded and ignorant but that is okay since your opinion does not matter to me, you still have my pity for your anger.

  • No accident

    Sparky,In reference to foxholes and faith, I said perhaps the one might foster the other. Clearly it was not that way with you, but why the snide remark about putting the possibility “where the sun don’t shine”? You and Pierre JC seem to have a problem respecting what others believe and value. I have not found all atheists to be that way, why you?Just as I have found some athiests willing to discuss what they believe without tossing verbal sticks and stones around you might be surprised to learn that their are some people with faith willing to do the same.

  • mark

    Well, first off, you don’t understand the meaning of killing the Buddha. It means that one should kill in oneself the ego-self that tells us that we are God-like, which makes it fairly ironic that you would metaphorically use it, because, God knows, you seem to be caught up in making sure your “God” is cleansed of all “non-God’s” in our minds. What’s that sentiment again? The one about the log in one’s own eye…?What the Zen saying means is that one can only finally transcend into union with “God,” Yahweh, the Emptiness-that-contains-all-things, whatever plow you want to semantically hoe,when you finally let go of wanting to divide “God” into “non-God.” This true meaninmg would be instructive for you with some self-reflection.As far as pagan goes, I’m certainly no mythologic regressive, but it would be equally instructive to know that the Council of Nicea, with a little compromising from Constantine (because he was broke and needed cash to replenish his mercenary army…no conversion there) decided to make Sunday the day of the Christian holy day as a concession/incentive for the pagans to join in the new club. You see, the Pagans at that time prayed to the Sun God; that’s right, Sun-day. Before that, the Christians did their thing on Saturday.Then again, you’re right, let’s just take all of the fun out of everything in some religious fit of self-importance. I’m sure “God” would love that…

  • Sparky

    “Clearly it was not that way with you, but why the snide remark about putting the possibility “where the sun don’t shine”?”Because you insultingly insinuated that 1) atheists won’t fight, 2) fear for life makes everyone believe in your god. “You and Pierre JC seem to have a problem respecting what others believe and value. I have not found all atheists to be that way, why you?”Excuse me? It’s not that I have a problem respecting what you believe. You have a problem respecting my beliefs, since you presume that “when you’re afraid for your life, you’ll turn to God”.If you think I have an attitude, it’s only because you’ve been an asshole to atheists all up and down this thread, and have earned attitude back. “Just as I have found some athiests willing to discuss what they believe without tossing verbal sticks and stones around you might be surprised to learn that their are some people with faith willing to do the same.”If you weren’t insinuating cowardice or convenience to our belief, perhaps you wouldn’t get snapped at back.You threw the first stone, glass-house dweller. Deal with it. You were only willing to insult us; not discuss reasonably. When you wish to apologize, then we can talk.

  • SteveL

    Tom said: “Direct, eyewitness testimony is considered valid evidence in court, even in the absence of hard forensics.” and “… because these committed witnesses are 2000 years removed from us, we don’t consider their testimony valid any longer.”Who are these witnesses? The chapters of the Bible was written after the events, up to several hundred years after the events in fact, and has been significantly modified through translation and deliberate editing. This “evidence” does not even rise to the level of hearsay, which is inadmissable in court. Furthermore, even if it were the direct written testimony of those individuals, it would not be admissable unless those people were available to be asked about their experiences, for reasons others have already covered in the thread above.This is not evidence that could be brought up in a court of law, but then again it doesn’t have to be, so admissability is irrelevant. What should be of concern to those who believe is the complete lack of reliable evidence (i.e. what would be considered reliable evidence) for those beliefs. For no other aspect of anyone’s life would they accept the kind of evidence they accept for their belief in god. Yet still they do, blinded by something (perhaps the threat of eternal damnation?), unwilling to accept the inevitable conclusion that their god, like santa, does not exist.

  • Koan

    The killing the buddha line is a koan. It’s a brain teaser of sorts. There is no right or wrong answer. The point is to exercise critical thinking, a skill that has gone entirely out of favor with the majority of the pious types. I interpret “if you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him” to mean: don’t be so eager to follow someone. It can also mean: let go of your ego. Like I said, there’s no right or wrong answer, only enlightenment. If you meet the Marlboro man on the billboard, set it on fire.

  • Kevin

    Elizabeth,Looks like you took a beating from most of the comments here. I just wanted to chime in to let you know I enjoyed the article and agree with you. Obviously there is a good tradition of St. Nicholas but the whole “Santa” thing has strayed from that greatly and become too commercial and selfish. So despite many of the posters’ criticisms, I got the spirit of your argument.

  • wm

    “Fortunately, we don’t need Santa. We have Jesus.”At first I thought that this article was satire … please, let it be satire …

  • yoyo

    One of the worst arguments Christian’s make for believing in a god is the old foxhole one.

  • VeganMilitia

    Oh you’re so cute. You gave up Santa to find Jesus. Oh you’re so holy. You gave up one childhood myth to find another childhood myth. Oh you’re so clever. You gave up pretend to find blessed pretend. Oh you’re so WHATEVER GET OVER YOURSELF DUH!

  • You gotta be kidding me…

    This column isn’t befitting a leading national paper like WaPo, this is teen blogger blarg.Any kid with half a brain figgers the santa caper early on… when first able to comprehend the physics that a 60-inch girth cannot fit a 4-inch chimney flue…sure it does, its magic, Disney SAYS SO….and arrives at millions of homes…all at the stroke of 12…yes dear, he’s VERY fast…The older I get, the less I spend this time of year. I hope one of these years we Americans finally say ‘enough’ of this brain-dead orgy of spending on meaningless crap, conned into believing its our patriotic duty to consume consume consume. I’m tired of hearing about Black Friday and all the hand-wringing on the evening news about whether or not sales are up this year or down. Who cares, go live your life and forget the screaming ads for the 5AM door buster special. Go be with your family instead of those mobs of run-you-over morons clawing at “bargains” like the Vietnamese clawed to get on the last helo out of Saigon….

  • andrew

    Thank you for a great article and stimulating some pretty predictable conversation. I agree with the gist of the piece that “Santa” has been morphed into the burl ives-y nostalgia. You rightly take issue with this but you seem unaware that St Nicholas of Myra (Santa) is, in fact, a saint of the Church. Instead of throwing the suit and boots out with the bath water, why not urge us all to reconsider the Saint, himself?

  • andrew

    Thank you for a great article and stimulating some pretty predictable conversation. I agree with the gist of the piece that “Santa” has been morphed into the burl ives-y nostalgia. You rightly take issue with this but you seem unaware that St Nicholas of Myra (Santa) is, in fact, a saint of the Church. Instead of throwing the suit and boots out with the bath water, why not urge us all to reconsider the Saint, himself?

  • andrew

    Thank you for a great article and stimulating some pretty predictable conversation. I agree with the gist of the piece that “Santa” has been morphed into the burl ives-y nostalgia. You rightly take issue with this but you seem unaware that St Nicholas of Myra (Santa) is, in fact, a saint of the Church. Instead of throwing the suit and boots out with the bath water, why not urge us all to reconsider the Saint, himself?

  • cab91

    “Fortunately, we don’t need Santa. We have Jesus.”Here’s a tip: You can have both. You can enjoy the secular nature of the season without forgetting the religious nature. Clearly, you still have much to learn. Don’t divest your life of Santa just yet.

  • Proxl

    Good lord. What the hell is the matter with the atheists on the board here? Go hang out with Susan Jacoby. Don’t believe in God? Good for you. Hooray.But why why WHY do you insist on chiming in to belittle people’s consideration of faith? I’m glad you’re a BRIGHT. Really. But let me persist in my ignorance, OK? I’m not gonna go post a missive on my beliefs in the Jacoby line, OK? Let’s call a truce.You’re never gonna change my mind. I’m not going to change yours. And what’s more, your attitude here makes me a million times more resistant to hearing what you might have to say.

  • The SON of GOD

    You Religious Sicko Freaks need to wake the fuck up! And stop living in a make-believe world!!

  • proxl

    Nice one. Very thoughtful comment, TSOG. That’s really going to open my eyes. Can’t believe I never saw it before.Again, I say, why are you commenting on this particular post? If you want to take on the Existence of God, maybe the posties can have a page for all that debate to take place.But why do you get off on this?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the article. From looking at the other comments here, it seems like people don’t like being reminded of their faults. We all push God out of our lives in little ways, this is one more.

  • Proxl

    Hey, Jacques Berlinerbrau nailed my point over on his “The God Vote” secularist-oriented blog:”If Romney is especially lucky, nonbelieving secularists will prove my point that they lack political cunning, organization, and most importantly, effective leadership. They will troll Evangelical chatrooms across the web ceaselessly pointing out how much brighter they are than believers–a specialty of contemporary American atheism.”He did a better job than me of making my point. Maybe atheists ARE smarter. 🙂

  • Old Firehand

    No Accident wrote “You and Pierre JC seem to have a problem respecting what others believe and value. I have not found all atheists to be that way, why you?”He is playing the world’s smallest violin now that the “faithful” have had their fangs pulled. It must have been much more fun in days of yore to simply have the speaker arrested on a charge of blasphemy. A little waterboarding and there’s no telling what the miscreant may confess to. But now we are supposed to respect every bizarre idea that is put forward as long as it’s packaged as a religion, including Lord Xenu of Scientology. In my opinion, the only reason to respect the religious is the ferocity that they have traditionally displayed once they got the upper hand somewhere.As to Merry Christmas’ question “I am suprised on how many atheists are reading the “On Faith” section of the paper. Are you searching for something?” – you bet I am. I am keeping an eye on you religious b*stards to see what you’re up to. I don’t want to wake up one morning to find myself in a theocracy through the credulousness and ignorance of the American public. Wasn’t there a report some time ago that 70% of Americans believe in angels? This mind-numbing absurdity tells me Enlightenment, not to mention basic common sense, are under attack. One has to be attentive to one’s freedom from religion, after all, in order to be able to keep it.

  • Drew

    Old Firehand;

  • Holydoughnut

    To Anonymous,at 10;18pmI say yeah.I pushed Jupiter out of my life years ago.Zeus too.And Apollo.And that dirty rat Cupid.

  • TJ

    Reasonable not hateful writes: “Perhaps God is a loving Father that sent His Son to save us through the Cross Jesus died on.”Save us from what, exactly? From the bad guy that this same loving father allows to heckle and harass us so that we have something to be saved from?My heart steers me away from protection rackets.

  • AK

    Santa’s as real as Jesus.

  • AK

    Santa’s as real as Jesus.

  • fsp

    Elizabeth – Giving up Santa finally after reaching college. What happen did the gravy train from your parents dry up? Is this kind like Bush giving up alcohol and cocaine after he has party for 30 years? Why is it all these religious drones have their fun and benefit from the systems they later derogate?Oldfirehand – totally agree with your reasoning.You got to be kidding… “I’m tired of hearing about Black Friday and all the hand-wringing on the evening news about whether or not sales are up this year or down.”That mass consumerism create jobs. It pays for basic necessity of life. What goes around comes around. If we all stop buying at christmas there would be alot of starving people with no roof over their heads come January and Febuary. Its kind of like the old catholic ritual of eating fish on friday encouraged by the church to support the fisherman.

  • Phil Ogilvie

    I believed in Santa longer than I believed in God. After all, Santa is a warm, generous sort of fellow. Whereas God is an insecure yet narcissistic tyrant.

  • Kate

    This personal essay reminds me of my long-ago CCD teacher who related a Christmas story about her own family. She and her husband were students at the time and hadn’t much money. Rather than let their very young children believe that Santa was disappointing them with few gifts, the parents told their children the truth about Santa. I have never forgotten these selfish, idiotic parents. When my own 10 year old asks whether Santa is real (so many of her friends say he’s not), I say of course he is. I remember asking my own mother about that age, and she just said “What do you think?” in a nice way. I was so disappointed. I would have preferred to believe for one last Christmas. Santa was a real person (St. Nicholas), but he is also a spirit. I shop for Christmas, I donate, I try to be generous all year long to strangers and friends both. But for all those who say “Jesus is the reason for the Season,” and “Keep Christ in Christmas,” I respond with a big, fat “Duh.”We can have both a merry time, and a reflective time. We can help others and celebrate with our families. Santa and Jesus are not mutually exclusive.

  • Reasonable not hateful

    Well, Tj you can call it what you want- protection racket, whatever.Let’s see, God offers you forgiveness, love, peace,joy and all the things that make humans internally prosperous. Like I said, you have a heart.Learn to use it. The alternative makes no sense at all. The ego part of your brain is getting in the way. To chose your own way is lunacy.

  • Waimea Williams

    Please get your Buddha reference straight. The “plump religious figure” you refer to is Ho-tai, a lesser Chinese folk deity of prosperity, symbolized by obesity and gold coins. Figures of him are sold in souvenir shops worldwide, and are only confused with Buddha by people who don’t know.

  • Waimea Williams

    Please get your Buddha reference straight. The “plump religious figure” you refer to is Ho-tai, a lesser Chinese folk deity of prosperity, symbolized by obesity and gold coins. Figures of him are sold in souvenir shops worldwide, and are only confused with Buddha by people who don’t know.

  • Jmarkoff

    Before Jesus was praised, 12/25 was the birthday of Mithra, a god who was born of a virgin, adored by shepherds, given frankincense by eastern astronomers, and had 12 disciples at his Last Supper, before being delivered up in an act which led to salvation. His priests were called Father, wore tall caps called mitres, and were headquartered at Rome’s Vatican Hill. Jesus was a transparent copy of Mithra.

  • montag

    Thank you for the story.The scene where you and your mother cry:Now, tell me why we cannot create a feeling of joy and love and warmth based on truth rather than a fabrication?Why can we not have all that wonderful Christmas spirit without the inevitable discovery that some iconic figure does not exist after all?Why not create a story and incorporate it into our lives, a story that we do not have to get over, we do not have to forget?Or is it impossible?

  • TJ

    Reasonable not hateful writes: “The alternative makes no sense at all.”Clearly it isn’t this loving forgiveness that really motivates you; your god’s violent vengeance motivates you.

  • David Spero

    It is apparent, that presently, you have no children. Unlike you, as a child, we had no Christmas hooplah.Just the religious side. It is sometimes just as painful. What I hope you realize,is that, the Bible and even the pagan based holidays, were presented to the illiterate population to help them learn concepts in a pleasant and less traumatic way. Doing good works and having faith is learned. Compassion and acceptance comes from the heart. Now as a parent, we have Advent,Christmas and both the religious and secular traditions. My children learned that Santa Claus is the spirit of generosity and love. As they matured and realized that this was Santa, there were no tears, they understood.We are givers not takers

  • ED

    Flying reindeers are insane but a virgin giving birth and a man rising from the dead are not? I like Santa. Many of the best and most beloved things about Christmas are the pagan traditions not the Christians one. It is the pagan traditions of celebrating nature and life in the dead of winter and giving gift to children that has made Christmas beloved in so many parts of the world. Paganism humanizes Christianity. Without the pagan traditions making Christianity more palatable the biggest holiday in Christianity would be the morbid holiday about a man being tortured and killed before rising from the grave. Christmas is far less gruesome than Easter. Thank goodness for Christianity lite.

  • Reston

    “Wow. Wrong. Catholic? What language did he speak? Latin? no. Try Greek. He had nothing to do with Rome.”Thank you. At least one person on this board knows their history.

  • Beth

    You know, Elizabeth, you took the wrong lesson from that epiphany moment about Santa. What you did was addiction replacement: Suddenly learn that the improbable, illogical figure of a widely shared collective fiction was…ummm…fictional? Well! Better to throw yourself much more deeply into believing in another improbable, illogical figure of myth and brainwashing! Believe HARDER this time! Don’t waste your time on cookies… just light CANDLES! Talk to the new fictional character in your head! Avoid all evidence to the contrary! Post your irrational beliefs on a REAL Newspaper in the section on maintaining false belief systems! Yep. That must be the ticket.

  • Bill

    1. Dear Atheists: Please switch to decaf, pet a kitten, and settle down. All sorts of people who you might actually like believe in God or something like that. Also, keep in mind that, to the religious mind, your inability to understand faith seems equally ridiculous/stupid.P.S. For a group of people who ridicule others for belief in a God, some of you guys do seem to be pretty enthusiastic in your worship of a Straw Man…2. Dear Ms. Tenety: While I sympathize with your repugnance towards the commercialization of Christmas I would say that Santa Claus is a European tradition that I know gave me much joy as a child. At five, the metaphysical reasoning behind the Trinity and the whole Crucifixion deal was a little heady; Santa Claus made Christmas fun, even though I knew at the time that no overweight dutchmen were responsible for my receiving the bike I’d requested. Maybe Christmas trees, inflatable penguins, and gift-wrapped video games should be allowed to exist alongside the birth of Christ under that whole “Render unto Caesar…” clause.Merry Christmas!

  • LJ

    Really, everyone should get a grip here. The aethists are just responding because they keep trying to justify their NOT believeing in God and the other religious people (because there could be other religions and denominations) here are just worried about loosing Santa. I think that Christmas is ok if you accept it for what it is. December 25th is not Jesus’ birthday. It was a compromise set up by Constantine to appease both the Christian’s need to celebrate their savior’s birth and the pagan’s already existing celebration of re-birth for the winter solstice. Regardless of beliefs, I think that having a “gift” day for everyone is great although we should be generous year round and not just with money. We have Valentines day even although you are suppose to show love to people year round too, not just taking one day to say “I love you” or to show you care about someone. In regards to Santa, there are a lot of stories about his origin and his true purpose and all of them aren’t sweet. He is assimiliated into various cultures in different ways. So he is what he is.However, I think the conflict comes when people try to associate a day with religion like its very existence was impartial, especially one of such significance to Christians. Especially since many Christian observances and figures use to come from paganism anyway. Christians use to just knock the heads off of pagan statues, put a different head on it and then call it a saint. When you do things like this, Suddenly Christmas becomes about money and extravagance. Suddenly a nice thing in spirit becomes tainted and I don’t think that Jesus would’ve begrudged a “gift day” since they certainly do give a lot of gifts during Hanukkah and I’m sure he participated. So people should lay off Elizabeth. She is just reconciling a spiritual conflict that many people have. For some, realizing that some big guy really isn’t coming down your chimney at night because he pre-judged you to be a good person, ate up your food (cookie offering), and then left you a trinket; or, that rabbits don’t lay eggs and that Easter was a celebration to worship the goddess of birth, Aster. So just lighten up.

  • Mikey

    Her blog, Campus Catholic, will cover her life as a student of religion, a roaming Catholic, and an eyelash-curling, high-heel wearing, wanna-be mystic.Elizabeth,I’m not sure if you read any of these comments. Obviously a public forum will invite the “public” and all the bad writing, nasty, bitter attitudes that often come with that on the web. Sorry for that.That said, why insist on trying to be so cute and so pious at the same time? Your personal story is honestly delightful and touching but smacks of a certain degree of self-satisfaction. You still come across as someone who wants to look good to the establishment rather than challenge it. Going to elite, high-end, private universities and defending a traditional conservative faith and outlook as being brave is like looking for redemption from the comfort of the ivory tower. This article very much makes you seem more like a child of privilege than a pilgrim on the road to Gehenna. People’s need for Santa isn’t just because they’re well-intentioned but greedy. Consumerism often has its roots in people trying to aspire to reflect the kind of wealth, happiness and advantages in life you sound like you’ve already enjoyed yourself. Maybe some more thought should be put into how we can better be of service to each other and take care of the world we have rather than the world we yearn for.Quite frankly, Jesus and flying reindeer seem equally sane to me. I had my own story of moving forward from illogical faith except it wasn’t with Santa. It was with trying to make sense of Christianity itself. That’s not just a matter of faith, however. For me at least, it’s been a matter of trying to kill my own Buddha.Don’t be afraid to continue challenging yourself. Don’t be afraid to get those high heels dirty.

  • Uknown

    Elizabeth,

  • Kris

    I find it VERY interesting and telling that so many people who say they don’t believe there is a God would take the time out to respond to an article written on the faith pages by a college student. I don’t like sports, so you’d never see me writing in a sports blog. Hmmmm. Interesting.I totally get what Elizabeth was saying. The lie of Santa is not the fact that St. Nicholas was actually a person in history. She’s talking about the fact that parents tell their kids that this same person lives at the North Pole and makes a trip to every home in the world on Christmas (tell that to some of the Aids orphans in Africa). THAT’S the lie she’s speaking of.

  • kemurph

    I am going the opposite tack and removing Christ from my Xmas. Winter celebrations predate Christ by many many thousands of years, and the prevalence of things like Xmas trees, yule logs, chestnuts roasting, etc, are winter festival traditions. Similarly bunnies, pastel colors, flowers and eggs don’t need a maudlin death on a cross to have resonance. I object to the corruption of my perfectly sensible and enjoyable seasonal festivals with the agenda of deists.

  • mcbride

    krisatheists frequent many of the religious postings on this blog for the same reason people study mythology and folklore. it’s a fascinating window into the evolution of human behavior and belief.

  • Jmarkoff

    I was once a Christian, but then some atheist websites showed me how to remove my faith-colored glasses and see how much of the Bible is deceitful, mistaken, self-contrary and often just plain hateful. The real world is fascinating and complex, with over a billion years of history behind it and marvellous creatures such as Anomalocaris, Dimetrodon, Parasaurolophus and Andrewsarchus having been around in the eras and periods before our kind arose from among Koko’s brethren. The Biblical world is childish and simplistic, insisting we were molded from mud by a vindictive, tantrum-throwing deity who repeatedly “saves” less than 10% of the populace from massacres he deliberately orchestrates, than gets the masochistic idea that he has to kill himself to “save” us from his own “eternal punishment” threat. He can’t even communicate his message clearly, so people kill each other in the Crusades and the Inquisitions to decide who interepreted the message correctly. But God is nonexistent. If God existed just as George W. Bush or Lindsay Lohan exists, we would not have this debate, and neither I nor anyone else would be atheists. The problem would be solved.Santa Claus and Jesus are harmless fantasies which do not cancel each other out. Someone here wisely compared there separate spheres to Jesus’ own “Give unto Caesar” speech. I myself repeat what Sarah Silverman said of Santa: “What has Jesus got to do with you? You’ve got as much to do with Jesus as you do with Scooby Doo.”Yes Virginia (Elizabeth), there is a Santa Claus. We are all Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a metaphor of the better qualities that any of us can choose to display to our kindred. Jesus is a similar figure to Santa Claus, but he is much more problematic–whereas Santa (in his vilest incarnations) simply withholds presents from unbelievers, Jesus says anyone who overlooks his “love” will be cast into eternal hell! It is time to retire Jesus from his pedestal in our lives, and reassign him as a literary figure to be studied nostalgically but not worshipped, along with Osiris, Jupiter and Thor. We are better than Jesus, and we can be gods. Once we give up magical two-faced saviors and become true respecters of persons (which Jesus admitted he was not), we can put aside our imagined differences, abandon the fairy tale of the Kingdom of Heaven, and, says Philip Pullman, work together to build the Republic of Heaven here on Earth.

  • Friend

    Elizabeth,

  • Old Greg

    This is unfortunate. I responded to TJ with an attack on Atheist beliefs. Attacking the assertion that it is not possible to assert that Christianity is a crutch or make belief without also grouping yourself and your own beliefs into this category. If you do not do this then you have a problem philosophically. Meaning, what basis do you have to make your claims moral or philosophical? It is either:1. Says II am not saying it has to be Christianity. But in order to have an absolute basis for your claims you must have an infinite reference point. Again it’s like saying “these are no absolutes”, this is self refuting because “there is no absolutes” is an absolute statement. You must refute the beliefs and statement. It gets you nowhere to attack the person who you do not know. The assertion I made is valid because I asserted a correct belief about Atheism. If I misunderstood Atheism please show me how. What do I not understand about the Atheist person? Just for starters: Is he or she not the materialist who believes that we came from a series of random processes; who believes that God is the result of a psychological projection or wishful thinking? And even some who think that religious person’s in authority use religion to suppress the masses? Again, if that is true of the atheist. My argument above states that it is not possible to assert these things without applying them to yourself.

  • Purplemartin

    Elizabeth,I don’t know about anybody else, but I would like an update on your posting from October 17, 2007 “Love at First Insight”. How are things progressing with your spiritual adviser?

  • TJ

    Not collecting stamps isn’t a hobby Old Greg.