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Discussing Santa Claus with Fiancee

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Meta, I don't know how "acting in contradiction to reality" is defined. If it is (for man) defined as being irrational, then a Santa-believing child (not necessarily being irrational) is not acting in contradiction to reality. If it is defined as being wrong, then convincing a child of any falsehood, intentionally or mistakenly, would cause the child to "act in contradiction to reality."

Any adherence to a false idea is detrimental, all to differing degrees. To the extent that someone acts correctly on the facts of existence is the extent to which they are succesfful in dealing with reality, to the extent that they don't is the extent that they are not. There are different ways of going about acting in contradiction to reality, namely: being mistaken and being irrational. In the case of the tomato, one is simply mistaken, if they went about the right process of labeling it but simply missed something. In the case of a child believing in Santa (or God,) when they accept the existence of Santa Claus seriously, they must do so in contradiction to the evidence of their own experience which doesn't consist of reindeer flying, humans living at the north pole, fat men coming down chimneys (let alone people having chimneys in their homes), it being possible to fly around the earth and visit every childs house while not breaking the speed of light, etc.

In order for a child to really believe in Santa they must necessarily go against the evidence of their senses, which is irrational. A parent should be teaching a child how to use his rational faculty, not convincing him to renounce it because "its fun." Make-believe and pretend are fine because essentially one is telling the kid: " for now, for the sake of the game, we will pretend that the laws of this universe don't exist and that magic is possible, but of course we still know that in real life it isn't." When instead you bring into a child's view of actual existence a fantasy that is not possible, you destroy (until they find out that Santa isn't real) their sense of life, at least his sense of life based on reality. Then when they find out that you lied, it adds a different element.

Children should be able to trust their parents. They have no reason to believe that their parent's would lie to them, and their trust in them is totally reasonable, when there is no evidence that their parents would lie. They should be able to depend on them in the short run for all their higher level abstractions until they can gain the necessary experience to make those integrations themselves. That is why a parent should also be working to help them develop their rational faculties so that this dependance will be short lived. Parent's should not be making "because I said so" arguments after the kid is 5 or 6 or 7. At that age, most kids should be smart and alert enough to understand rudimentary reasoning, and if they don't its because the parent's haven't prepared them correctly. Ever wonder why a child will ask "WHY?" so often? It is because they know the necessity of understanding, and when confronted with an answer like "because I said so" what do you think it does to their view of knowledge and morality and understanding?

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Any adherence to a false idea is detrimental, all to differing degrees. ... There are different ways of going about acting in contradiction to reality, namely: being mistaken and being irrational.
Cool, so then we have a dividing line: detrimental/contradiction to reality qua mistaken, and detrimental/contradictory to reality qua irrational. One is contradiction in terms of result, the other is contradiction in terms of process.

Now, if you were to say that Santa was a contradiction to reality qua mistaken, I'd agree... but I don't agree with your argument that a child's belief in Santa is necessarily a contradiction to reality qua irrational.

When [people]accept the existence of Santa Claus seriously, they must do so in contradiction to the evidence of their own experience... In order for a child to really believe in Santa they must necessarily go against the evidence of their senses, which is irrational.
Emphasis mine.

If I tell a fairy tale about Santa that doesn't contradict the child's experiences, is the child being irrational in believing me? or simply mistaken?

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I think you are starting to see the issue here. I am saying that in order for a child to really believe in Santa, he must evade the evidence of his senses, suspend them based on the authority of his parent's word. That is irrational. There are some things which are impossible to be simply mistaken about, Santa is one of them.

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I wouldn't pretend to that [that every child has experienced the sensory evidence to know that Santa's trip is impossible]
Then how do you know
that in order for a child to really believe in Santa, he must evade the evidence of his senses
???

I would say that it is pretty central to the story of Santa that it involve "magic" or "miracles."
Ah. Hrm. Okay. Well, if it's only this idea of "magic" that makes telling children about Santa so very bad, there's a simple solution. We simply recast the story of Santa as a techno sooper-genius who uses the power of his inventions to bring toys to children. That way, instead of being irrational, the children are merely mistaken about current technological achievements, and the Santa thing ranks no worse than any other school-yard prank.
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A child who has the capacity to understand the concept of Santa and all it entails can be said to "really believe" and a child like that in every case, must evade his sensory evidence, or at least when confronted with new sensory data later, must evade it in order to integrate it with his messed up concept of Santa.

Yes, the worst thing about convincing your child that Santa is real is the magical aspect, or at least those aspects that frontally contradict reality's laws. It is bad to tell your child a lie about the actual existence of a super genius who uses his brain to deliver toys to children, only on the fact that they will be dissapointed when they find out its not real, but that I would say is not as bad as Santa.

EDIT:

I would also like to add that even though the damage to a child in believing something by being mistaken is not as bad as him being irrational in his contradictory belief, the fact of purposefully lying to a child, makes that situation all but innocent. IF one is simply mistaken about a tomato being a vegetable and then passes this mistaken view onto your children, one is innocent. But to knowingly lie to someone else, for a purpose other than to avoid a disvalue (and true metaphysically given reality is never a disvalue), is self-sacrificial, and can be argued to be a form of force upon the mind of a child who is either incapable of excercising his rational faculty, or has reason to trust the claims of his parents; the force is close to fraud.

Edited by IAmMetaphysical
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And by the way, none of us are 100% rational. We all hold some mistaken concepts and have some flaws.

Well, bulk of evidence certainly supports this, but there's nothing that rules out the existence of a completely rational person. We all have the ability to be completely rational . . . otherwise there'd be no reason to try!

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What, in your opinion, is the benefit of portraying the Santa Claus myth as real, as opposed to as make-believe?

I don't think there's any benefit from trying to insist that Santa Claus is real, but then I don't know many people that actually do this. Generally, they just do what most parents do: tell their kids the story. The kids might believe that it's true for a while (which the parents generally get a kick out of), but I've never heard of any parents insisting that their children continue to pretend that Santa Claus exists after the kids figure out that he doesn't.

So, the benefit of the Santa Claus story, in general, is that the parents get a kick out of watching their kids acting silly . . . it's the same benefit that you get from telling your kids that the computer works because there are gerbils in there making electricity on a treadmill. It doesn't seem so funny when you discover that they've filled the computer with sunflower seeds because the gerbils might be hungry.

Digression alert: given, it doesn't necessarily take any prompting from you for kids to do things like this. My mother still tells the story about the time that I put all my crayons, one by one, down the heating register and proceeded to make the entire house smell like burnt wax for weeks. I don't remember it (I think I was 2), but my reasoning (if you can call it that) was probably along the lines of: it seemed like a good idea at the time. End of digression alert.

If you can maintain your own good nature when they do things that you didn't expect with the garbage you've told them it doesn't hurt kids to tell them all kinds of ludicrous stuff. My mom was always very strict about not filling my head with B.S. and the only appreciable result of that was that I was completely unready to deal with my dad (or, later, most other people) when he would feed me some line of bull.

There's a warning for you: if you don't prepare your kids to deal with the irrational they'll end up like me, and that's not a fate I'd wish on anyone.

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I don't know if this has been brought up already, and JMeghanSnow touched on this point in the last post, but here is is again:

Being told the story of Santa and then figuring out for yourself (as pretty much all kids do) that Santa isn't real after all is certainly a good exercise in rational, independent thinking. Whether overall the entire situation is good, I don't know, but it must be valuable for a kid to realize he can come to conclusions independently of what he is told.

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I don't think there's any benefit from trying to insist that Santa Claus is real, but then I don't know many people that actually do this.

To be clear, then: what you are proposing is to put junior down on your lap and say, "Let me tell you the story of Santa Claus..." while at no point wording it as if it were anything more than a story... then, put the presents under the tree with a number of them "from, Santa." But at no point if they ask if Santa is real do you say "oh, yes Santa is real." And you let them figure it out for themselves.

Now, of course without you insisting Santa is real, I'm sure the kid will figure it out much sooner. But that seems a lot more harmless.

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As I read this, IAmMetaphysical stands alone as the only one I consistently agree with. Chops, Kevin has a point that talking down to her won't make her feel better, but you have absolutely no reason to grovel pitifully at her feet for having convictions. Only your reason and judgement can tell you whether you argue respectfully or not.

You absolutely must not yield on this issue. You must not lie to your child! You do not raise children for the sake of your partner. (This makes a good relationship between parents a necessity before reproduction, so they don't battle for influence over their children.) You do not raise children in accordance with an immoral tradition simply to avoid offending the sensibilities of the "non-crazy" parents. You do not raise children with so little respect for them you would sucker them into believing a fairy tale just to squeeze a few heart-warming Kodak Moments out of them. (Wow, it doesn't sound so "magical" when I describe it so accurately and succinctly, now, does it?) You do not do these things, or you do not raise children at all.

You and she can't "get your issues straight" without debate. Don't let anyone tell you you don't have an absolute right to speak your mind about the beliefs of another person in a respectful way, even if it means "poking holes" in their beliefs. If you want to make your stance known to her without "being a dick," you just need to tell her, simply: "I will not lie to my child. (Unless to save his/her life.)" Only a fool would castigate you for a statement so direct and righteous. She might say that telling a child that Santa exists somehow doesn't constitute a lie, or that it doesn't harm the child to betray his/her trust. But you just flatly state that when Chops Jr. asks Daddy if Santa really exists, he will say "no." The child will feel upset, probably, but he/she will learn that dear old Dad will speak the truth no matter what.

By the way, you don't have to celebrate Christmas, even if you have religious relatives. You have a choice. They don't own you.

Edited by The Passion of the Koresh
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I don't know if this has been brought up already, and JMeghanSnow touched on this point in the last post, but here is is again:

Being told the story of Santa and then figuring out for yourself (as pretty much all kids do) that Santa isn't real after all is certainly a good exercise in rational, independent thinking. Whether overall the entire situation is good, I don't know, but it must be valuable for a kid to realize he can come to conclusions independently of what he is told.

This argument doesn't work for me as I can apply it to any irrational belief system. I could raise my children with the belief that communism is a beautiful system and then once they discovered I was wrong, they would be committed capitalists. Or I could beat my children in order to fully drive home the fact that violence is the wrong way to deal with others.

The point isn't that being taught about santa clause is always bad. I'm fairly certain a child taught that santa is real and could still grow up to be a fine objectivist. But it is still worse then the alternative, because it is far more likely the child will grow up to be a fine upstanding driver of a ford freestar with a jesus fish on the back.

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I could raise my children with the belief that communism is a beautiful system and then once they discovered I was wrong, they would be committed capitalists. Or I could beat my children in order to fully drive home the fact that violence is the wrong way to deal with others.

The point isn't that being taught about santa clause is always bad. I'm fairly certain a child taught that santa is real and could still grow up to be a fine objectivist. But it is still worse then the alternative, because it is far more likely the child will grow up to be a fine upstanding driver of a ford freestar with a jesus fish on the back.

Your first paragraph is completely right, but not a great comparison, because every child figures out Santa doesn't exist, but not every child could overcome those other bromides. Santa isn't a full-blown "belief system."

And I think you're being way too extreme in the second paragraph. A child could grow up to be a fine Objectivist, but it is far more likely he'll grow up entirely irrational? Give me a break. In the long run, Santa's influence on a person just isn't that big, probably just because of the point I was making.

Again, I'm not saying overall it's good to teach your kids about Santa - I'm just saying it's not going to scar them for life, and as with any experience, they're going to be learning something.

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How are you so certain of that?

You said that it was "far more likely" that a person who was told the story of Santa Claus would grow up to be pretty extremely irrational (given your example). But living in the southern US, I'd say 99% of people I'm exposed to were told about Santa Claus, and a good deal of them aren't extremely irrational. Certainly less than 50% are Christian evangelicals of the type you described. But it is true that many are religious.

Looking at it from the other side of the coin, I don't think any of my relatively rational, atheist friends weren't told about Santa Claus, either. It would be interesting to poll the members of this site to see how many were told the story of Santa Claus. I'm sure many of us (including myself) were told the story.

So I don't have concrete statistical proof that you were overestimating the influence of Santa, but I have pretty strong anecdotal proof.

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Does anyone here have experience with being lied to about Santa? I mean, did your parents talk about Santa without some type of wink that indicated that it was "pretend"? Was there a point when you believed that Santa existed? If so, when you found out that he did not, what was your thought then? Did you feel let down, confused, angry, betrayed, what?

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As a sidenote, I think of Santa Claus basically as a game of pretend. My parents pretended he existed, and I did too, and this made my childhood brighter, and to be abstract, I think it improved my sense of life. I don't know if I ever really believed he existed; my parents never presented Santa as existing the way God existed, so probably not. I haven't decided if I'd engage in this game of pretend about Santa Claus with my children or not. But the point is, it's a leap to say a person is unwilling to be rational and doesn't hold rationality as an absolute just because they pretend with their children about Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a symbol of human kindness

BrassDragon, I think you have said the most important thing in this thread, and everyone has completely missed it. You have hit on all the most important points -- that Santa Claus is nothing more than a benevolent symbol, that parents don't try to physically demonstrate his existence too hard, that kids don't believe it that much, that it is nothing other than a game of make believe and shares status with all games of that kind, and that it serves (and has served, for centuries) to better the child's sense of life.

If people are going to come down against games of make believe, then there's a bigger problem here than just merely Santa Claus.

As a sidenote, your quote should not have been a sidenote; it's the actual subject being now discussed in this thread (relationships) that is off-topic.

Edited by Free Capitalist
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Like every child I knew, I was told the story of Santa Claus. My parents were more amused by my regular behavior in life I guess, and there wasn't much vigor in their explanation. In fact, I distinctly remember them saying, "If you want to believe it, go ahead." That was evidence enough for me not to believe. I was never convinced, and so there was never a let-down of truth.

Religion was extremely influential, however, but that was something my parents were adamant about.

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Does anyone here have experience with being lied to about Santa? I mean, did your parents talk about Santa without some type of wink that indicated that it was "pretend"? Was there a point when you believed that Santa existed? If so, when you found out that he did not, what was your thought then? Did you feel let down, confused, angry, betrayed, what?

Yes. I learned of his nonexistence at the age of nine, a little later than many of my peers. They had, actively, told me that he was real with a straight face. They even made up stories of their own about how, since we didn't have a chimney, he went through the keyhole of the front door. They said the Santas at the mall were admittedly not Santa himself, but were actually his elves in disguise. Maybe it seemed a little far fetched, but hey--if you can't trust your parents, who can you trust? I felt let down, confused, and betrayed. Then I took the lesson they seemd to be teaching me to heart: all the fun/good things in life are constructed with lies. I wouldn't have used those exact words back then, but I can remember thinking something along the lines of "if it makes you happy, someone's playing you for a fool."

An amusing side effect of this was that I became an atheist only two years later, at the age of eleven. "An invisible sky wizard, omniscient yet forgetful enough to need rainbows to remind himself not to drown us all, wants us to be good little boys and girls so when we die we can go to a magic place called "Heaven"? Ha! HA HA HA! I get it. I get it! Very dry."

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I am going to come down on the side of having Santa Claus for one's young children. But I think Santa should be presented to kids in the exact same way that Woody Woodpecker, Batman and Little Miss Muffett are: as story and fantasy. I think one easy way to do this is for "Santa" to make an in-person appearance to deliver the gifts on Christmas - with "Santa" being a very thinly disguised parent or relative. Doing it this way should pretty much give even a young child enough evidence to have an accurate understanding of what Santa is all about - a fun example of make believe.

Why bother doing it at all? Because, unless the child is very sheltered, he will otherwise see that all of the kids he knows from conventional families get to have Santa and and will sense somehow that his Objectivist parents are "different" than other kids parents and, because of these differences, he is deprived of all the fun that other kids are having.

Of course, his Objectivist parents are different from the parents of his peers. The problem is that a child young enough to believe in Santa is not old enough to understand how and why his parents are different. Until the child is old enough to be able to do so, I think it is very important that those differences be handled in such a way that the child does not feel that he is, in some way, being deprived because of them. The danger with the child feeling deprived is that it will make him less receptive and appreciative down the road when he does become old enough to understand how and why his parents are different. At some point, a child is going to have to choose between the more rational upbringing that his parents have provided him with and the value systems he is going to be exposed to through school and such. To the degree that a child feels like his upbringing has turned him into some sort of "freak" the more likely he is to rebel against it out of a juvenile and misguided sense of what he might mistake to be integrity.

Presented properly, the story of Santa is no more damaging to a child than is seeing and being greeted by a walking and talking Felix The Cat at an amusement park. All the child needs to know is it is an example of make-believe for fun.

One additional point: children sometimes invent imaginary characters on their own initiative. When my little brother was a kid, he had a whole bunch of stuffed animals. All of them had names along with voices and personalities that he gave them. One Easter, he and I both got stuffed rabbits. His rabbit was called "Flopsy" and she immediately became foremost of all of his stuffed animals. He carried "Flopsy" everywhere - if we left the house without her, he would begin crying and we would have to go back and get her if we were going to have any peace. Over time, Flopsy developed like a story book character - she was from Louisiana and whenever we saw a train in our travels, it was Flopsy who made the trains appear. The problem with Flopsy was the fact that, after a while, the toy rabbit started to fall to pieces beyond what my mother could fix up. Unable to find an identical rabbit, my parents started what became a family tradition that lasted for several years: The night before Easter, "Flopsy" would hop down the bunny trail to the "beauty parlor" in Louisiana - and that is what explained how my brother woke up with a brand new toy rabbit every Easter which was, nevertheless, the same old "Flopsy." I will never forget the time when he became a little bit older and, in response to something I said about "Flopsy," he replied: "But Flopsy isn't really real, is she?" I probably somewhere between 8 and 10 years old and was not sure how to answer. The thought that went through my mind was "Gee - this is kind of sad. I have the power to 'kill' Flopsy." Since I didn't want to be the one who killed Flopsy I answered: "Of course she is real" and that kept it going for a while longer. Years later, my brother told me what eventually happened is he came across my parents' stash of old Flopsy that they had hidden away. Sure, some of the legend of "Flopsy" undoubtedly came from my parents such as the explanation of how she looked different every year - but most of it came from his own imagination.

It is perfectly normal for children under a certain age to play "make believe" and, since all children are going to eventually hear about Santa Claus from someone, it makes sense to me that the someone be the child's parents and that Santa is presented as being nothing more than any of the many other fictional fantasies that children are exposed to.

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I don't think there's any benefit from trying to insist that Santa Claus is real, but then I don't know many people that actually do this. Generally, they just do what most parents do: tell their kids the story.

Looking back at your post, I notice it kind of sidesteps my question. (nothing wrong with that as such)

What I want to know is if anyone can come up with an explanation as to what is so great about presenting the Santa Claus thing to kids in any way other than flat-out telling them that it's a myth (i.e. make-believe, for fun).

Edited by Inspector
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The Santa Claus issue really doesn't concern me much. I would guess that most kids figure out through rudimentary investigation and reasoning that it's a myth long before they actually have to be told. I don't think that I have ever met anyone who was "damaged" by having the "Santa Claus experience as a child but I've known many folks who to this day enjoy the "magic" of that myth themselves and with their children. Nobody is staking their life on the claim that Santa Claus is "real".

I rang "sleigh bells" early in the morning followed by a hearty "Ho ho ho" and a door slam for my son for many years. He knew before we told him and was neither upset nor traumatized. But during Santa's reign, there were some enthusiastically joyous mornings.

Likewise, I can see in some instances (depending on the child and parents) where such experience could be detrimental and perhaps best avoided.

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You said that it was "far more likely" that a person who was told the story of Santa Claus would grow up to be pretty extremely irrational (given your example). But living in the southern US, I'd say 99% of people I'm exposed to were told about Santa Claus, and a good deal of them aren't extremely irrational. Certainly less than 50% are Christian evangelicals of the type you described. But it is true that many are religious.

Looking at it from the other side of the coin, I don't think any of my relatively rational, atheist friends weren't told about Santa Claus, either. It would be interesting to poll the members of this site to see how many were told the story of Santa Claus. I'm sure many of us (including myself) were told the story.

So I don't have concrete statistical proof that you were overestimating the influence of Santa, but I have pretty strong anecdotal proof.

I think I have not explained myself well. First, I do not make a big differentiation between rational and non rational religious people. The very fact that they are able to accept such a rediculous notion as a belief in god, tells me in a word that they are capable of any other sort of irrationality. Whether or not they accept any particular bit of nonsense is not very relevent. Being either mis or disintegrated, any proper view of reality they happen to hold traces back to god as a metaphysical premise.

Second, I do not think that believing in santa is a one way ticket to seminary. It's just a step on the road. The primary epistomological damage is that it causes a child to doubt his senses. To doubt, in other words, his primary means of gaining knowledge about the world. Before the age of 4-6ish, children, even very bright ones, do not have the context necessay to distinguish between fantasy and reality-especially when a trusted adult tells them that it is true. Children are not small adults. Their brains are functioning in as very different way then adults.

By way of example, my girlfriend teaches 3-6 year old montessori. I come in occasionally to do science projects with them. An assistant(not monetssori trained) at the school had recently performed a slight of hand magic trick and let the children believe it was truely magic. Several of the brighter children came to me(the science guy who explains all of the "why's") very disturbed and wanted to know if you can really make things disappear. It contradicted what they understood about reality and it bothered them. Fortunately, I had a very good friend in high school who was a magician. So I was able to reproduce the trick as well as a number of others and explain the obfuscation and redirection of focus(in 5 year old terms). This put them at ease and kept them as interested as the tricks themselves. What bothered me was the twenty other kids who did not ask about it. They just accepted that their are certain things about the world they don't understand, and that thats ok.

Mysticism is dangerous in a general way. By iteslf, santa does not lead to god. But it is an important step on the way. Before you buy into the mystical, you have to doubt your perceptions and your ability to reason. Both of those are damaged by this little game at a very foundational level. You could hobble a child's legs before the race and not worry about it much since the ropes will loosen and fall off after the first lap...but why hobble his legs?

Dismuke:

I assume by, santa as a benevolent symbol, you mean telling them the original story of the real person, saint nick, and his benevolence toward others, apart from the mysticim?

You said that it was "far more likely" that a person who was told the story of Santa Claus would grow up to be pretty extremely irrational (given your example). But living in the southern US, I'd say 99% of people I'm exposed to were told about Santa Claus, and a good deal of them aren't extremely irrational. Certainly less than 50% are Christian evangelicals of the type you described. But it is true that many are religious.

Looking at it from the other side of the coin, I don't think any of my relatively rational, atheist friends weren't told about Santa Claus, either. It would be interesting to poll the members of this site to see how many were told the story of Santa Claus. I'm sure many of us (including myself) were told the story.

So I don't have concrete statistical proof that you were overestimating the influence of Santa, but I have pretty strong anecdotal proof.

I think I have not explained myself well. First, I do not make a big differentiation between rational and non rational religious people. The very fact that they are able to accept such a rediculous notion as a belief in god, tells me in a word that they are capable of any other sort of irrationality. Whether or not they accept any particular bit of nonsense is not very relevent. Being either mis or disintegrated, any proper view of reality they happen to hold traces back to god as a metaphysical premise.

Second, I do not think that believing in santa is a one way ticket to seminary. It's just a step on the road. The primary epistomological damage is that it causes a child to doubt his senses. To doubt, in other words, his primary means of gaining knowledge about the world. Before the age of 4-6ish, children, even very bright ones, do not have the context necessay to distinguish between fantasy and reality-especially when a trusted adult tells them that it is true. Children are not small adults. Their brains are functioning in as very different way then adults.

By way of example, my girlfriend teaches 3-6 year old montessori. I come in occasionally to do science projects with them. An assistant(not monetssori trained) at the school had recently performed a slight of hand magic trick and let the children believe it was truely magic. Several of the brighter children came to me(the science guy who explains all of the "why's") very disturbed and wanted to know if you can really make things disappear. It contradicted what they understood about reality and it bothered them. Fortunately, I had a very good friend in high school who was a magician. So I was able to reproduce the trick as well as a number of others and explain the obfuscation and redirection of focus(in 5 year old terms). This put them at ease and kept them as interested as the tricks themselves. What bothered me was the twenty other kids who did not ask about it. They just accepted that their are certain things about the world they don't understand, and that thats ok.

Mysticism is dangerous in a general way. By iteslf, santa does not lead to god. But it is an important step on the way. Before you buy into the mystical, you have to doubt your perceptions and your ability to reason. Both of those are damaged by this little game at a very foundational level. You could hobble a child's legs before the race and not worry about it much since the ropes will loosen and fall off after the first lap...but why hobble his legs?

Dismuke:

I assume by, santa as a benevolent symbol, you mean telling them the original story of the real person, saint nick, and his benevolence toward others, apart from the mysticim?

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First, I do not make a big differentiation between rational and non rational religious people. The very fact that they are able to accept such a rediculous notion as a belief in god, tells me in a word that they are capable of any other sort of irrationality. Whether or not they accept any particular bit of nonsense is not very relevent.

I am afraid that I have known religious individuals whom I have considered to be extremely rational individuals and have had a great deal of respect for. Indeed, I have known a number of such people who were far more rational than certain people I have come across who were very familiar with Ayn Rand's writings and labeled themselves as Objectivists. It simply does not follow that a mere belief in god translates into a person being "capable of any other sort of irrationality" (unless by that you mean capable of any sort of irrationality in the same way that you and I are "capable" of such irrationality in that we have free will and always possess the capacity to decide to no longer live by reason). It is not at all uncommon for people to be highly compartmentalized and to be extremely rational in many parts of their lives and less so in others. And the form of a particular person's belief in god is a major factor as well - does the person believe in the god that Thomas Jefferson did or the one that Osama Bin Ladin believes in? There is a HUGE difference between the two.

Second, I do not think that believing in santa is a one way ticket to seminary. It's just a step on the road. The primary epistomological damage is that it causes a child to doubt his senses. To doubt, in other words, his primary means of gaining knowledge about the world. Before the age of 4-6ish, children, even very bright ones, do not have the context necessay to distinguish between fantasy and reality-especially when a trusted adult tells them that it is true.
Which is why children of that age DO engage in fantasy all the time - and why fantasies such as fairy tales and Santa Claus are ultimately harmless. As children grow older, their ability to think critically grows. And, as someone previously mentioned, the process of coming to the conclusion that such things ARE nothing more than mere make believe is probably quite beneficial.

Several of the brighter children came to me(the science guy who explains all of the "why's") very disturbed and wanted to know if you can really make things disappear. It contradicted what they understood about reality and it bothered them.

I am inclined to agree that 5 years old is WAY too early to be exposed to such tricks. Stories about Santa Claus and animals that talk and other such things that are the subject of childhood fantasy are things which are never experienced in reality - which is one of the factors that enables children to eventually discover that it is nothing more than mere fantasy. Magic tricks are something which can seem to provide evidence that blurs the difference between reality and fantasy. But for older kids, magicians can be lots of fun. One came to my elementary school every year. I think we started going in either the 4th or 5th grade. I remember being one of the kids who laughed at a girl in my class when she said she believed in magic - and thinking that she was a bit of a baby.

Dismuke:

I assume by, santa as a benevolent symbol, you mean telling them the original story of the real person, saint nick, and his benevolence toward others, apart from the mysticim?

What do you mean by the mysticism? The sled pulled by flying reindeer? The timeless old man who lives at the North Pole? If that is mysticism, well, then so is Charlotte's Web and Superman. No rational person can believe that the things described in those stories could ever happen.

My take is that Santa Claus, like Charlotte's Web and Superman, properly presented, are harmless and entertaining fantasies. And, for many children, I suspect that Santa Claus is their first introduction on a very primitive basis to the moral principle that good behavior results in positive, selfish, material benefits whereas children who are naughty end up getting nothing but a lump of coal. In that respect, properly presented, the Santa Claus story could even be used towards a positive end.

Edited by Dismuke
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