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MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Why do children accept that there is no Santa but not that there is no God?

Asked by MyNewtBoobs (19054points) December 25th, 2010

When you tell a child there is no Santa (or Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, what have you), they just get really wide-eyed and look sad, like they knew it all along (at least, according to all sitcoms – I have no personal experience). But when you tell them there’s no God, they get insanely defensive and insist you’re lying. What gives? What’s the difference between these things?

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49 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I think It could be several things. First, Santa brings toys, so the idea they might stop getting toys, might widen their eyes. And, they must be thinking while their eyes are wide how the gifts get there. Also, the toys are very tangible; and God, I would assume, I don’t really have experience with this :) is some abstract thing to kids that exists in a place where people are dead, or up in a place in the sky far far away. Santa comes to town. Also, when they run back to their parents and ask if Santa is real, the parents usually fess up. When they ask if God is real, the parents get freaked out, and insist he is. That is if they want their children to believe in God.

marinelife's avatar

I have no experience of children defending the existence of God. I expect that they are likely to believe what they are told.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@marinelife That one I do have personal experience with. Even when I wasn’t saying He wasn’t real…

El_Cadejo's avatar

I tossed santa and then about a year later I was really thinking about it and realized it was pretty much the same shit.

JLeslie's avatar

@papayalily You told a child God is not real? Are the parents on board with that?

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
cheebdragon's avatar

It’s usually not the parents who teach kids that there is no Santa, they tend to figure it out on their own. I’m not religious and I don’t teach my kid about god, but I’m not going to tell him that he doesn’t exist, and I won’t condemn anyone who wants to teach their kids about the bible because there are a few good points in there that certainly won’t hurt the kids. If my son wants to go to church one day, it’s fine with me, but I will never force him to go or push any religion on him.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie No, no – I didn’t tell them that God wasn’t real, and yet they kept trying to convince me that he was. The ones where I said God wasn’t real was when I was a kid, too.

JLeslie's avatar

@papayalily Let’s see if I understand. You are all a bunch of kids, and you say God isn’t real, while these other kids are insisting He is. Right? I was picturing you, or the person doing the telling as an adult in this question.

I guess it was hard for me to imagine young children discussing God and His existence. I never talked about God with my friends when I was so little. In fact I never really heard about God until I was a teen I think. God just didn’t apply to me and my family.

Rarebear's avatar

My daughter accepts both as being not true.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JLeslie Correct. I never really brought it up, but the kids next door were uber-religious and would ask me all the time if I was Christian and had accepted Jesus into my heart. I had been baptized (which was all that my denomination needed to make me Christian) and Anglican’s don’t really care about Jesus, it’s all about God, so I kept being all “Sure… I guess… Whatever”. Then they wouldn’t let it go. Over the next couple of years, our discussions turned from them trying to get me to “convert” to a religion I thought I already was to me becoming an atheist and telling them that it was evolution and not creation that brought us all here when they started in on that shit. Eventually, we stopped being friends because I just couldn’t take doing nothing but fighting about God with them.
I’ve actually seen 3 different kids from 3 different families hear from another adult that God isn’t real (or at least might not be real), and they all went freaking biserk.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear So you told them santa doesn’t exist? Did you worry they would tell other kids?

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie Well, Santa was never a problem as we’re Jewish, but yes I did tell her Santa doesn’t exist. I told her not to tell her friends, though, and she hasn’t. I also told her that her mother and I didn’t believe in God, but she was free to do so if she wished—that I don’t care as long as she believes in science. We actually send her to Hebrew school, where I occasionally have to deprogram her.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Rarebear So if you don’t believe in God, then why send her to a Hebrew school?

JLeslie's avatar

@papayalily Got it. I would never tell young children I don’t believe in God. I have had children ask me about my religion, and I tell them about Judiasm, but I never inject my beliefs in those discussions. I have never had children ask if I believe in God though, when I was kid or an adult, with one exception. A close friend of mine moved to Alabama in tenth grade, and when I saw her a year later she, with almost disgust in her voice she said, “how can you not believe Jesus is God?” She knew I was Jewish of course. We have never even talked about God before, all the years I knew her, or whether I was an atheist or not. Not that it mattered, just being Jewish was enough for her at that point in time. She had become born again in her new town. She has since let go of trying to convert, or judge other people’s beliefs.

How annoying those neighbors of yours. My mother-in-law who is Catholic, religious, and believes in God, read her neighbor the riot act, because the neighbor and the neighbor’s children kept talking about God and their religion to her elementary aged granddaughter, she is my niece by marriage). If they are high school age I would answer the question truthfully if I was asked directly.

DrewJ's avatar

Because it can be proven that Santa doesn’t exist… well actually you can’t prove a negative, so the better thing to say is that it can be proven that The Parents bring the gifts and not Santa.

In the case with God. However ridiculous or unbelievable the idea of a God is to you, nobody can really prove that he doesn’t exist – because, as I said before, you can’t prove a negative.

So in short…. You can prove one and not the other.

Also, keep in mind, Finding an acceptable cause for how we got here and how we came to exist is much heavier than finding an acceptable cause for how presents show up in your living room one morning.

asmonet's avatar

I don’t see God at the mall every year or ringing bells on every street corner.
Starts to wear on the credibility if he keeps changing his look and you see groups of them together. Plus, religion is set up to allow for the elusiveness of God anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I think when I was really little I just thought Santa was on tv, movies, and in cartoons. Like Bugs Bunny or Fred Flinstone. Like a story. Then I kind of became aware some kids actually get gifts from Santa, but I think my mom dismissed it as Jewish kids don’t celebrate Christmas, it just was not our gig, not part of our house. However, when I was around the age of 7/8 my girlfriends mom called and said to send my sister and I down to their apartment because santa left gifts for us under her tree since we did not have one. I remember being excited, and a little perplexed.

Is it a reformed Hebrew school?

Rarebear's avatar

@papayalily So she’ll learn Hebrew.

@JLeslie I didn’t tell her when she was a young child, we only started talking about it this year when she was 9, and only because she asked. Yes, it’s a Reform shul.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Oh 9. By then some of the other kids are figuring out Santa does not exist anyway.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie Oh, we told her about Santa around 6 because she asked. It was the atheism we didn’t bring up until 9.

Rarebear's avatar

And @papayalily I would never tell a child of a theistic parent that I didn’t think God (or Santa) existed. I only had that conversation with my own child. I also had the conversation with my nephew, but he came to me and asked me about it—and I talked to his parents first. (But he was 13 at the time).

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I’m surprised you would have much of a problem in a reformed shul. I would assume many of the families are athiests.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie You got that right. I’m in a havurah where the majority of us are atheists.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I only know a couple of reformed Jews who believe in God. I would bet 75% of reformed Jews are atheists. Maybe more. Just a guess, I have never seen a stat on that. I have ony seen stats on Jews as a group, all Jews.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie The term is Reform Jew, not Reformed Jew, but I see your point. I wouldn’t put the number that high. Most Jews I know are theistic or deistic of some kind or another. I just self selected my friends.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I have never been corrected on that. Thank you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie What does it matter if they told other kids (I’m talking about @rarebear’s kid)? These are the kids that will grow up into adults and adults interact with “scary” atheists all the time, so better buck up and learn young. And you cherry pick the beliefs you ‘inject’ into conversations with kids? Telling them you don’t believe in god(s) doesn’t mean you’re forcing them not to. My oldest is 4 and a half, he’s never asked about god or santa so it doesn’t matter either way but if he asked me whether I thought there was a god, I would never not tell him what I think and I’d do the same with any other kid that would ask me a question about what I think – not doing so, imo, is a huge disservice to kids – we, as adults, can’t just randomly decide which topics are too controversial to discuss with kids when, clearly, these topics will become relevant to them (and are to kids who freak out if someone says there is no god because they’re so terrified of what their parents have been telling them) very soon.

Rarebear's avatar

Right. Exactly so.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir When children are very young, when it comes to religion, I think the parents get to decide what is told to their young children about God and religion. I prefer adults don’t tell my children about God, so I would not tell their children there is not one. Even if I present it as I don’t believe in God, and am not trying to influence them, it still creates a conversation that I prefer not to stir up.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie Oh, I guess we differ on that – I have no issue when people tell my kids about their belief in god (s)...I encourage it…in fact, when the topic comes up, for each religion I will have them talk to a friend of mine who identifies with it so that they can hear about it from someone that believes and then we’ll talk about it…I teach my kids logic and I will encourage them to test that logic against anything they’re told, religion-related or not…I would love for them to interact with people who will show them the bible and have them read it, it’s all good…if I know my kids, it’ll be the perfect antidote. The only thing I do not accept is when people tell my kids that they must believe in god.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think the difference is I am in the bible belt and you are in NY. Evangelical Christians talk about God like it is the only truth. The people around you are more likely to talk about their religion and what they believe as a learning, to understand them and their beliefs.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I have no evangelical Christian friends…I think Nullo is my only one and he doesn’t talk to my kids (besides, he’d be fine with them, I know that)...I do tell my kids that people think all kinds of things are ‘the only truth’ – this comes up a lot in terms of gender and what others think boys should act like and how incredibly important it is to some people that this is seen as infallible. I tell my kids pretty much daily ‘question everything, question your parents, question authority, question what you’re told and use your brain’.

Rarebear's avatar

It’s not a subject that generally comes up between my friends and me, actually. When it does, it’s a comfortable subject. But my friends don’t talk to my daughter about it, though.

klutzaroo's avatar

Depends on the kid.

anartist's avatar

Santa’s too good to be true.
God is sort of like a vague universal Marsha The Enormous Mother
Kids don’t dare go there.

JoseG's avatar

I think its because the existence of Santa is challengeable. No one challenges God’s existence because it is taboo.

lillycoyote's avatar

@papayalily I would really like to see some evidence, the result of some kind of scientifically sound study that indicates that “children accept that there is no Santa but not that there is no God” before I could even accept the premise of your question, let alone attempt to answer or explain it. Do “children accept that there is no Santa but not that there is no God?” Do you have evidence of this assertion? If you do, please cite it.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@lillycoyote Lol Well, aren’t you just having a ball? :D

Nullo's avatar

Because God makes more sense than Santa, anyway.
Also, parents do not believe in Santa, even if they do believe in God. Kids learn from their parents, and conviction shows.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Nullo A man who floods the Earth to kill all living things because they’re evil (except the fish and other sea creatures) makes more sense than a jolly old guy who delivers presents? To kids? I mean, hell, take out the magic and my grandfather is Santa Claus.
I think a lot of parents go pretty out of their way to convince their kids of Santa – I know mine did.

Nullo's avatar

@papayalily If you can manage to keep from being hyperbolically synecdotal in your descriptions of God, then yes. God is consistent. Santa, not so much.

Like I said, no parent (leastways, none that I’ve met) actually believes in Santa Claus. You can tell whether or not a person believes something, if you observe long enough. Kids learn from parents.

“Tell a man there are 300 million stars in the sky and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch it to be sure.”

mammal's avatar

Because you cannot conflate the two, i personally am weary of the tooth fairy, and the unicorn hypothesis too, if that is how you relate to God then of course it is bogus. They are false comparisons. But having said that, in so far as God is represented by the Mainstream Christian right in America one would have to have taken leave of their senses, both rational and compassionate in order to subscribe to such a perverse doctrine. So it’s no wonder such confusion reigns.

The American Christian right is not a religious institution at all, it is a violent anti Leftist, anti intellectual league. God is there to ensure that people don’t take the trouble to exercise their capacity to think critically, because God cannot be thunk just followed.

JLeslie's avatar

I think @Nullo has a point. Parents who believe in God and raise their children with God are talking about it a lot also. Lots of conditioning going on (please no one be offended by my use of the term conditioning, remember I am talking about 8 year olds here) and the child perceives it is important to the parent, and something which simply is a fact. Parents don’t spend tons of time mentioning Santa, or bringing their children weekly to a place that teaches children about Santa, and they don’t pray to Santa every night before they go to bed and even some possibly every day before dinner. Santa it is a once a year magical thing.

Now realize that on the recent fluther thread about whether God is a Republican or a Democrat my answer was Santa is God. Judges if you are bad or good. Lol.

Anemone's avatar

I was going to say something similar to that, @JLeslie. Santa only comes up once a year and in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a big deal. God is a year-round concern for many people, and there’s a whole lot of infra-structure built around the idea, so if the parents (or other important people) talk about it like it’s a fact, children absorb that idea.

Also, even if a family is agnostic, atheist, or just plain non-religious, the idea of God is probably more of a non-issue than something they actively teach against, so in that case the child might be influenced by other people who say God is real. The child might begin to think there is a God, it’s just not something his or her own family talks about. Santa, on the other hand, is always more ambiguous.

Justice13's avatar

…it’s because God himself still believe Santa exists!

mattbrowne's avatar

Because many parents obviously don’t know that Santa Claus actually existed and that today’s Santa remains a symbol to commemorate Nikolaos of Myra’s secret gift-giving.

The misconception that we can’t prove a negative remains also quite widespread.

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